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Guardianship for a family member with Alzheimer’s

May 29, 2014

Filed under: Aging In Place — Tags: , , , , — Neel Shah @ 12:51 pm

May was celebrated as Elder Law Month, and as the baby boomer generation ages, guardianship of an elder may be a growing concern. Although guardianship is most often discussed regarding minor children, it can be a helpful tool for older family members, too.

Guardianship for a family member with Alzheimers
(Photo Credit: medcitynews.com)

One in three people age 65 or older will contract some form of simple disability (cognition, vision or hearing impairment, the inability to get around without assistance, etc.). A diagnosis of such a disability may highlight the difficulty that individual faces in daily living. More difficult than basic aging or simple disability is the presence of Alzheimer’s; according to the Alzheimer’s Association five million are living with it presently, at a cost in 2013 amounting to $203 billion.

Being watchful for thesigns of Alzheimer’s can be an important step in recognizing the need to consider guardianship: among them, memory loss affecting daily living; the inability to complete familiar tasks; misplacing things; confusion over either time or place.

If the elder person does not have a power of attorney or advance directive, you can go into court and seek a declaration of incompetence. Subsequent appointment as a guardian will mean assuming decision-making for living arrangements, the management of finances and medical choices–the last two critical as out-of-pocket costs for older Americans have jumped 46 percent since the year 2000.The guardian has the legal duty to act in the best interest of the ward, and only in those areas permitted by the court. Those looking into guardianship for older parents may want to evaluate their own estate plans at the same time.

Difficulties may extend or render contentious the achieving of a guardianship role. If other family members cannot agree on the need, or on the proper person, the process can be lengthy. Further, the elder individual has the legal right to contest, and the determination of the court will only follow upon extensive expert evidence. Planning for your needs in advance can be extremely helpful for reducing family conflict. To learn more about applying for guardianship in New Jersey or planning to avoid the need, reach out to us at info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455.

Showdown: Wills vs Trusts

April 15, 2014

Filed under: Trusts,Wills — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Neel Shah @ 4:13 pm

Depending on who you talk to, your estate planning specialist might recommend wills over trusts or trusts over wills. Let’s walk through some of the differences between these two planning tools to see if one might be a better fit for your needs.

Showdown Wills vs Trusts
(Photo Credit: blogs.dallasobserver.com)

If you are planning to use a will as your primary tool, bear in mind that your assets must first go through the probate process in order to be eventually received by your beneficiaries. Some states have lengthy and cumbersome probate processes, meaning that it could take your beneficiaries a while to actually receive the assets. Probate is also very public, meaning that details about your financial situation will be shared in a less-private forum. If you’re concerned about this, a trust might be a better option.

In comparison, trusts tend to pass by the court system for the majority of the administrative process. Since these are privacy documents, there’s less public scrutiny into your finances or your plans, and some clients prefer this confidential approach. Unlike wills, which become active on your death, a trust can be rendered effective immediately. Additionally, trusts can also be used for incapacity planning, adding another layer to their usefulness.

Both wills and trusts can do tax planning for credit shelter trusts. The bottom line is that it depends on your needs. If you are not concerned about the red tape of the probate process, there are still advantages (especially regarding privacy) for the establishment of a trust. We work with clients to create a customized plan for you since we recognize that each client is unique. To talk more about the kinds of trusts we can help you establish or to begin generation of your will, contact us today at 732-521-9455 or through e-mail at info@lawesq.net

Risky Do-It-Yourself: Wills

April 9, 2014

Filed under: Wills — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Neel Shah @ 2:39 pm

Software or online programs to help you plan your estate are popping up everywhere, but that doesn’t mean they are the best choice for your needs. Many of these programs lead you to believe that generating your will is easier than it truly is. Heirs might find out too late that your self-created will doesn’t really match up with your state laws or even your own intent.

rightscale.com
  (Photo Credit: rightscale.com)

When it comes to estate planning, intent is everything. Too often, the wishes of an individual don’t come across clearly in self-generated wills. Many modern court cases have focused on the determination of the testator’s intent, but judges are hesitant to cross certain lines to clear up confusion. As a result, your heirs may discover that your wishes aren’t carried out as you planned at all. Simply put, doing your will on your own can have big consequences.

Consider the Estate of George Zeevering. Last fall, a Pennsylvania appellate court was evaluating an unclear DIY will. Since the testator had not worked with a lawyer to generate the document, which was incomplete, it was difficult to determine the true intentions of Mr. Zeevering. In one aspect of the case, property had already been titled in the names of a son and a decedent as joint tenants. Mr. Zeevering stated that “the failure of this will to provide any distribution” to his daughters was done on purpose.

The case got sticky when the residuary and residuary estate totaled over $200,000 after debt payments were made. There was no provision within the DIY will for what should happen to those assets. In the end, the court determined that when a will doesn’t provide for the disposal of an entire estate and fails to include a residuary clause, the residuary estate must be divided under intestacy laws.

This case is but one example of where estate planning on your own can go wrong. Although it may not have been Mr. Zeevering’s intention to distribute the remainder of his estate under intestacy laws, that’s what happened. Despite his wishes, the law overrides an incomplete or improper will. While online and computer programs argue that wills and estate planning documents are easily done on your own, that minimizes the true complexity of document generation and estate laws.

Estate planning can be very complicated for an individual but it’s easily done under the guidance of an estate planning attorney. An added benefit of using a legal professional “in the know” is that he or she is clued into state and federal laws about estate planning, which always have the potential to change. An estate planning attorney is an excellent resource for all your questions as well as giving you the peace of mind that your estate will be carried out in the manner you wish. Cutting corners with a do it yourself tool is your choice, but do so at your own risk. If you want the assurance of totality and legality, contact an estate planning professional today.