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August 28, 2017

Anchorage Elder Law Attorney Warns: “Adult Children May Be Responsible for Their Parent’s Nursing Home Bill!”




Most people don’t realize the high cost of nursing home care until an aging parent’s health declines to the point that they need to move into one. As an Anchorage elder law attorney, I can’t stress enough that this is a really bad time to learn that your family could need to come up with almost $100,000 per year for a room that is not covered by Medicare or private health insurance.

 

Considering the astronomical costs, it’s easy to see how a nursing home stay can deplete your parent’s assets seemingly overnight. So, the obvious question is, “What happens when their money is gone?”

 

In some cases, government programs such as Medicaid will pay. That’s provided that your parent’s facility even accepts Medicaid, or has an available “Medicaid bed” when their money runs out.

 

However, more recently, nursing homes are turning to Filial Responsibility laws which force children to pay their parents’ nursing home bills.  Such laws exist in 30 states and have been on the books for years, but rarely enforced—until now.

 

Filial responsibility laws state that adult children of a destitute parent have a legal obligation to pay for the necessities of the parent if they are unable to pay for themselves. In these cases, the courts do not need to divide the liability evenly between children but may choose to sue the child who has the greatest ability to pay the debt.

 

Consider a recent Pennsylvania case where an adult son was sued because his elderly mother left the country while still owing $93,000 to her nursing home. The mother had actually filed an application for Medicaid to help cover the costs, but the application had not yet been approved at the time the nursing home demanded payment.  The son argued that he should not be responsible for the debt, especially since he didn’t sign the admission form or any other nursing home documents to begin with--but his responsibility to pay the entire bill was still upheld under such laws.

 

Our Anchorage elder law attorneys never want to see this happen to local families.  Therefore, to protect against the enforcement of filial responsibility laws, we encourage all seniors to prepare a comprehensive estate and long-term care plan so that if a nursing home is needed, the assets of the senior are protected. And, such a plan will also help ensure that the cost of nursing home care cannot be passed down to adult children when the parent can no longer pay or passes away.

 

Long-term care planning and asset protection laws can be complex, so be sure to meet with an experienced elder law attorney when creating your plan. If you’d like to meet with one of our Anchorage elder law attorneys for help getting started, feel free to contact us at (907) 334-0902.  

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August 18, 2017

Anchorage Will Lawyers: How to Handle the Disposition of Your Remains

Funeral planning is not a pleasant experience, especially when you’re pre-planning your own. But, Anchorage will lawyers stress that it’s important to have your wishes in writing for after you pass away, since you won’t be around to let anyone know what you want done once you’re gone.

Do you want to be buried or cremated? Do you want a traditional funeral or a celebration of life gathering? Is there a certain person who you know will carry out your wishes when you’re gone? These are important questions that you should have answers to, and more importantly, questions that your loved ones should know the answers to as well.

Anchorage will lawyers often find that clients believe funeral instructions come as part of their Last Will and Testament – but this is not generally the case. A Last Will and Testament can direct how your assets and property are distributed and who should be named as guardians of your underage children, if necessary, but it will not typically direct what should be done with your body after you pass away or how your funeral arrangements should be handled.

In order to do this, you will need a Disposition of Remains – this document allows you to state what you would like done with your body after you’ve passed away, what type of funeral, if any, you’d like to have, and who should be contacted in the event of your death. You can make this document as detailed as you’d like, and unless there are unforeseen circumstances, your wishes will most likely be carried out.

For example, singer David Bowie wished that his remains would be flown to Bali after his death so that they may be cremated in a Buddhist ritual. Unfortunately, this could not be done for logistical reasons – which Bowie prepared for. Instead, his body was cremated, and his ashes were scattered in Bali, which Bowie requested in the event that his remains could not be cremated on the island.

In addition, Anchorage will lawyers warn that extraordinary or outlandish disposition wishes, such as scattering ashes at Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride, cannot be legally enforced. It’s important to keep a realistic view of what should happen after you pass away, as well as to make sure that you are not putting your loved ones in a tight spot between carrying out your wishes and possibly breaking the law. An Anchorage will lawyer can give you guidance as to what type of conditions may or may not be enforceable in your documented Disposition of Remains.

If you have any questions about the Disposition of Remains, or you want to review your estate plan to make sure that your wishes have the best chance of being carried out, please contact us at (907) 334-0902 to set up a consultation. 

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August 9, 2017

Parents of Disabled Children: These 4 Critical Components Should Be Part of Your Anchorage Special Needs Planning

When you have a child that may require a lifetime of assistance and care, extra attention must be given to planning their future.    Our Anchorage special needs planning lawyers work with parents every day to ensure their disabled children have necessary estate and transition plans in place for total peace of mind in this area. A solid plan allows the child’s emotional, financial, and medical needs to be met now, and also in the future, as he or she transitions into adulthood, or loses a parent/caregiver someday.

When planning for a child with special needs or disabilities, a “Do-It-Yourself” or basic estate plan is simply not enough.  Our Anchorage special needs planning attorneys urge parents to consider four additional planning strategies and legal tools beyond a traditional will and trust:

Life Insurance – If possible, both parents should maintain life insurance policies. This is true even if one parent serves as the child’s primary caregiver and does not work outside the home. Doing so will help ensure that enough financial resources are available to maintain your child’s lifestyle and care if you pass away.  However, make sure to talk with an experienced Anchorage special needs attorney before purchasing your policy.  You’ll want to structure your policy in such a way that a payout to your child would not kick them off their Medicaid or other important benefits if something happens to you.

Guardian Nominations – Carefully choose who will serve as your child’s guardian in the event one or both parents pass away. Further, the guardian should have a clear understanding of your child’s needs so that they are prepared to serve if called upon. After that decision is made, you should legally document your choice with a will.  Remember, if you don’t legally choose a guardian, the courts will make this decision for you.  Don’t take that chance.

Special Needs Trust – A special needs trust is a specialized estate planning tool that allows parents to set aside assets for their child’s benefit while still maintaining their government benefits.  You will also have the ability to appoint a Trustee whom you trust to manage the funds that your child needs to live on. This is a complex document that should be created by an attorney experienced in this area of the law.

Adult Conservatorship- When your child turns 18, you will likely need to pursue a full or limited conservatorship with the Anchorage courts.  Without having a conservatorship in place, you may be unable to make personal, financial or medical decisions for your adult child, regardless of his or her disabilities.  If your child is high functioning and found to have the capacity to understand and sign legal documents, you may be able to get around a full conservatorship using other tools such as Powers of Attorneys and Healthcare Directives.

When your child has disabilities and is fully dependent on you or others for a lifetime of care, it’s critical to take every legal and financial precaution now to ensure the child has a life of protection and security later.  If you need assistance setting up your special needs plan, contact our Anchorage law firm at (907) 334-0902 for assistance. 

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August 3, 2017

Anchorage Trust Lawyer: Consider Using a Trust to Protect Your Child’s Inheritance from Divorce

You’ve worked hard to leave your children a financial legacy, and the last thing you want is for half of your child’s inheritance to walk out the door with an ex-spouse if he or she gets divorced someday. But, under today’s laws, that could actually happen if you don’t safeguard your family’s assets and plan ahead.

Although it isn’t pleasant to think about, you may have to take legal action to ensure that your married child inherits the assets you planned to leave them. In many circumstances, an Anchorage trust lawyer will recommend that clients leave assets to their children in a trust. Passing down your assets in a trust can keep them separate and out of reach from a divorcing spouse, as well as other creditors that may be knocking on your child’s door. If any of the following describe your child(ren), we highly recommend that you consider a trust.

Your child is unmarried.

If your child is currently unmarried, there is a good chance that he or she will be married at some point in the future. Since there is no way to know whether or not that marriage will be successful, it is a good idea to keep their assets protected in a trust—just in case. 

Your child is newly married.

If you are or have been married, you know that there will be many bumps in the road. There’s really no crystal ball here, but again, putting your child’s inheritance into a trust now will give you the peace of mind knowing that half the funds won’t walk out the door with your ex-son or daughter-in-law if things go south at any point in the marriage.

Your child is in a rocky marriage.

Even if your child has been married a long time, their marriage could still be struggling. If you sense trouble and have a bad feeling about the future of their marriage, it may be a good idea to protect your child’s inheritance in a trust for all of the reasons listed above.

Trusts can be complex documents, and you will likely need the help of an estate planning attorney to set one up. If you have questions or you are ready to get started, contact our Anchorage trust lawyers at (907) 334-0902 to set up a consultation. 

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August 14, 2015

Trustee Fees as Part of Special Needs Planning in Anchorage

In order to ensure proper use of funds, Anchorage special needs planning lawyers help their clients choose a trustee.  This person is put in charge of the special needs trust, and instead of providing money directly to the beneficiary (the child with special needs), the trustee will usually pay directly from the trust to service providers, housing officials, etc.  Some trusts are set up with the parents and the special needs planning lawyer in a way that provides payment to the trustee for taking on these responsibilities.

Sometimes, there is no mention of a fee in the trust paperwork, but the trustee is still entitled to payment, if desired.  There are several factors that should go into determining a suitable fee, whether it is stipulated in advance by those creating the trust or it is later determined that one is needed.  The complexity of the trust is certainly one of those considerations.  If there are numerous investments that need to be managed, for example, it would be appropriate to pay the trustee for the time and expertise involved.

The types of services the trustee provides also play into determining the fee.  More complex tasks, like the investment management mentioned above, would likely be paid at a higher rate than less complicated ones, such as paying monthly bills.  The trustee would be responsible for tracking his or her time, along with the service, in order to determine a fair fee. 

Occasionally, a trustee will pay for a good or service from personal money.  When that happens, the trustee can expect to be reimbursed out of the special needs trust by providing a receipt for money spent on the beneficiary’s behalf.  This type of payment is separate from the trustee’s fee and would not be treated the same.  That’s because the trustee’s fee is taxed as income.  On the trust’s end of things, the fee is a tax deduction.

Special needs planning lawyers in Anchorage are continually looking for the best ways to serve their clients and provide for the future.  Having a trustee in place is one method to ensure that funds are being used appropriately, and paying that trustee can be one way to ensure the job gets done right.

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JUNE 30, 2015

Anchorage Will and Trust Lawyer: Joan Rivers Estate Included a Pet Trust

When a celebrity passes away, Anchorage will and trust lawyers often watch for news of their affairs, hoping that the celebrity in question had a great estate plan in place.  With the recent loss of comedian Joan Rivers, it was reassuring to see that she had planned well for her loved ones, including her pets.

At the time of her death, Rivers’ estate was worth approximately $150 million, and she clearly knew that estate planning was no joking matter.  Most of her assets were left to her daughter Melissa and her grandson Cooper.  However, the celebrity also took the additional step of setting up a pet trust for her four dogs.

How Pet Trusts Work

Pet trusts have become somewhat popular these days, which is great news for companion animals who have been left behind.  Not only will the person creating the trust designate a guardian for the pets, he or she will also set aside funds for the animals’ upkeep.  There is also a trustee named who is in charge of the financial aspects of the trust.  In some cases, the guardian or caretaker is also the trustee, but in others a separate person is designated.  The trustee disperses funds to the guardian, lessening the likelihood of the guardian misusing the money for his or her own benefit.  An additional safeguard is to photograph or microchip your pets so that fraud cannot be committed later.

Better Than a Will

While your Anchorage will and trust lawyer may still encourage you to have a will in order to disperse your estate, those wanting to provide for their pets are probably better off creating an additional pet trust.  Animals are not allowed to own property, so leaving anything to a pet via your will is unlikely to work.  Instead, a pet trust is set up specifically for the animal’s benefit while having the oversight and management of actual humans.

The terms of trusts are not typically made public (one of the reasons Alaska will and trust lawyers like them so much), so it’s not really known how much Joan Rivers provided in her pet trust.  What is known is that her long-time assistant Jocelyn Pickett will be the dogs’ caretaker.  Many organizations are excited about the fact that such a high-profile celebrity has created a pet trust, hoping that it brings awareness to the possibility and improves the lives of animals whose owners pass away.

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