Downs Law Firm, P.C.

What the Elder Law Attorney Needs to Know

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When you meet with an elder law estate planning lawyer, honesty is the best policy, even though it may be difficult to disclose the personal information requested.

There is some critical information that an Elder Law Attorney needs to know to give proper guidance.

If you went to a doctor’s office and did not tell the doctor what your symptoms were, it would be hard to get a good diagnosis and treatment. The same goes for a visit to the elder law estate planning lawyer. Without all the necessary facts, advises the Times Herald-Record in the article “What you need to tell the elder law estate planning attorney,” the estate plan may need to be revised or created all over again, the inheritance may be given to people other than those you intended, and there could be family conflicts.

Elder law lawyers plan for disability and incapacity, including identifying the people who would make decisions for you if you become incapacitated and protecting your hard-earned assets from the cost of nursing home care.

Estate planning attorneys focus on transferring assets to the people you want, the way you want, and when you want, while avoiding inheritance disputes and minimizing court costs, taxes, and unnecessary legal fees.

Here are some of the things your Elder Law attorney will need to know, with full disclosure from you:

Family dynamics. If you have a child you haven’t seen in years, you need to discuss the child. They may have a legal claim to your estate, and that must be planned for. Perhaps you want to include the child in the estate, perhaps you don’t. If you want to disinherit a child in a will and you die without a plan, that child becomes a necessary party to probate proceedings and has the right to contest your will.

Health issues are important to disclose. If you don’t have long-term care insurance, you need five years to protect assets in a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT). Therefore, now may be the time to start a plan. If you have a child who is disabled and receives government benefits, you can leave them money in a Special Needs Trust (SNT).

Full disclosure of all your assets, income, how assets are titled, who the beneficiaries are on your IRAs, 401(k)s, and life insurance policies are the kinds of information needed to create a comprehensive estate plan. Keeping secrets during this process could lead to a wide variety of problems for your family. Your entire estate could be consumed by the cost of nursing home care.

There’s no doubt of the seriousness of these issues. You or your spouse may experience some strong emotions while discussing them with your elder law lawyer. However, creating a proper estate plan, preparing for incapacity and loved ones with special challenges will provide you with peace of mind.

One last point: an estate plan is like your home, requiring maintenance and updates. Once it is done, make a note in your schedule to review it every time there is a major life event or every three or four years. Laws change, and life changes. Your Elder Law Attorney can help make sure that the plan changes with the times and circumstances.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (May 25, 2019) “What you need to tell the elder law estate planning attorney”