“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” - Picasso
Bottom line, up front. People do not like to contemplate death, so they continually push back estate planning and never make it a priority. Our clients are consistently surprised not only by how quick and easy the process is, but also how affordable the process is. We won’t drown you in complicated “legalese,” we will explain every aspect of your estate plan in plain English.
With more than half of Americans dying without even having a simple will in place, they leave everything they own to be distributed according to state law, and there is a good chance that it is not distributed in a way that they would have wanted it to be distributed. You also will not know who will be in control of your estate, how much the government may be entitled to if you or your spouse were in a long-term care facility, etc. The most basic estate planning tools can avoid some of these problems.
Estate planning is a general term that we hear all of the time, and it is usually associated with how a persons estate will be distributed upon their death. The fact is that a comprehensive estate plan will factor in many other very important considerations.
What will happen to my home after I pass? If myself or my spouse had to receive skilled care at the end, is there a way to keep the government from coming after our home to pay the bill?
Who will take care of our children? Will they have what they need if we are not here to take care of them? Will they have help after they turn 18 and are trying to start their lives? If you have a special needs child, will they have the care they need? Will they qualify for assistance to provide for that care?
If I’m in an accident and can’t make life altering decisions for myself, who will make those decisions for me? What will they decide?
What will happen if my spouse or myself requires long-term care at a nursing home or other specialized assisted living facility? Will we lose everything we worked for?
At DeCloux & Pierce Law, PLLC, we specialize in understanding our clients and familiarizing ourselves with their needs and wishes. We will help guide you to creating a tailored estate plan that incorporates all of legal tools that you will need to ensure that you are as prepared as possible for whatever life throws at you and your family. It is always the right time to get a plan in place.
The Last Will & Testament is the most familiar document for most people. A lot can be accomplished through the will, and they have the ability to function in a very important way when working in conjunction with a trust. The Will identifies heirs, who will serve as the Personal Representative who will administer your estate, who you want to make specific gifts to, what you want to have done in terms of final arrangements and organ donation, who will serve as you and/or your children’s Guardian and Conservator, amongst other considerations.
There are some things that a Will can’t do for you. While it can assuredly make your estate administration process much clearer and streamlined, it will not avoid probate court involvement. It can make the courts involvement much more limited and save a lot of heartache on everyone involved, not to mention save a lot of expense’s that will be incurred if attorneys get involved to litigate issues surrounding your estate, but nevertheless, you will still have a probate estate.
Just a couple examples of where this can quickly become an issue is if you have minor children. If your child(ren) are to benefit from your estate, say solely, they will receive those funds as soon as they reach 18 years of age. Perhaps your child is prepared to handle the money they receive when they turn 18, or perhaps they are not and it would have been much better to spread the money out for them to help them along the way, and make partial distributions over time as they got older. For those with special needs children that are receiving government assistance, this can be extremely detrimental and affect their eligibility for certain programs.
Every single person in this country over the age of 18 should have a will.
Generable Durable Power of Attorney
If you or your spouse end up in a situation where perhaps you were in a car accident that leaves you incapacitated, or maybe your or your spouse is suffering from an illness that affected your cognitive abilities, you won’t be able to make decisions for yourself. You need to have someone there for you to handle all of your financial related matters. You need someone to pay the bills, make arrangements for care with medical providers, perhaps pay for items concerning the care of your children. You may think it will just be your spouse that will take care of that for your, that is, unless they were in the vehicle with you. Court proceedings will have to take place in order to establish who will have the authority to manage these affairs for you, and further what the scope or boundaries of their authority will be. This process alone will likely cost thousands, and you won’t know who the court selects to handle your affairs. In fact, it is possible that you won’t even know the individual that the court will appoint, and it can become quite costly when the bill for their services comes in.
Health Care Power of Attorney
Similar in nature to the General Durable Power of Attorney that covers financial matters, the Health Care Power of Attorney designates your “Agent” that will stand in your shoes to make your medical decisions for you. You not only designate who will serve as “Agent,” which is often times call a Designated Patient Advocate or Health Care Proxy, but you will set guidelines and boundaries for them that are action-guiding according to your wishes. This not only relieves the person you designate of playing a guessing game of what you would have wanted, but it assures that your wishes are heard loud and clear.
The easiest way to talk about the Living Will and the predominate feature of it, is to describe it the same way every normal person does. This contains the “pull the plug” provision. God forbid that you end up in a situation where you are in a persistent vegetative state or are otherwise in an irreversible condition, what is the next step? Do you want to stay hooked to a machine? Is that anyway to live? Who is going to be left with making the call? Make the call for them now. Set the rules that everyone is going to abide by, relieve your loved ones of having to deal with making the decision, keep the courts out of it, and make the decision for them now.
Everyone is well aware that there are very strict rules concerning protecting the privacy of medical information for people, and for good reason. The people that you wish to have access to your medical situation may not have legal authority to receive that information. Pre-planning with executed HIPAA Authorizations that not only define who can receive information, but what information they are allowed to receive can prove to be extremely helpful in situations that are already devastating and stressful.
Anyone that has ever dealt with being responsible for making funeral arrangements already knows how hectic, and, quite frankly, sometimes brutal of a process it can be. The wheels of funeral services move quickly and there are a lot of different tasks to accomplish in a very short period of time. Not to mention, the person that is usually responsible for trying to figure out what to do, (what would have made you happy, what others will think of their decisions) is also going through the grieving process. Even if you do not have all of the details figured out quite yet, you will be provided with the tools to make your final wishes clear to whoever is left with the task of ensuring you receive the proper send off that you deserve.
Guardianships / Conservatorships
Guardianships and Conservatorships cover many different scenarios for different folks. In estate planning, we plan to have someone in these positions to take care of you (Guardian) and manage your assets and finances (Conservator) in the event you can’t do it for yourself. But, for those with minor children, or special needs children, we need to have someone in line to serve in those roles for your children as well. Sometimes the same person performs the same role and of course sometimes they don’t. It is easy to understand that sometime the person that may be the best at taking care of the kids isn’t necessarily also going to be the best one to handle the finances, or perhaps it would just be easier on those involved to split up the responsibilities. As a parent, you must want to have a say in who will raise your children if you and your spouse are not able to.
Trusts can accomplish a lot of different things are extremely valuable. One of the major things that a trust will accomplish is that you will avoid probate and keep your affairs private. Trust’s must be carefully crafted by a skilled estate planning attorney. The primary reason that you want to carefully choose who drafts your trust, is because the trust in itself will contain provisions that allow for further trust development. These provisions are tools that allow the Trustee administering the trust to use the law to it’s fullest extent in a way that benefits your loved ones. Some examples include stretching funds out in a responsible manner to provide care for your children as they grow up, pay for college tuition, help with the down payment for their first home, and ultimately manage funds until they are of a certain age where they are financially responsible to receive the funds. Perhaps your child is on the receiving end of a large money judgment against them, going through a divorce early in life, or are battling substance abuse issues. All are examples of situations where the Trustee can help make responsible decisions that help ensure longevity of your estate to benefit your children to maximum extent. Other examples may concern your business interests, if you have a special needs child, college funds for grandchildren, tax consequences for your estate, ensuring your spouse is provided for, etc.
Probate and Trust Administration
Financial Power of Attorney
Designated Patient Advocate
Lady Bird Deeds
Medicare and Medicaid Planning
Veteran’s Aid and Attendance