Do Rising Healthcare Costs Called for Updated Trusts?

One of the biggest concerns at the top of minds for retirees are being able to afford potential decades of life post-retirement and preparing for soaring healthcare costs.

If you were savvy enough to put together a trust in the past to help protect your beneficiaries, now might be the time to revisit that trust if it’s revocable. You might need some of the assets placed inside for the purposes of paying for healthcare needs, but decisions like this should not be made lightly.

Trusts that were more recently drafted might warrant a review to limit expenses where possible in light of the fact that so many baby boomers and future retirees are likely to need long-term care at some point.

According to some studies, healthcare costs have doubled the rising rate of inflation over the course of decades, putting them front and center for those approaching estate planning. Even one serious accident or chronic illness could make it difficult or impossible for someone to return to work. The costs for those incidents are much higher, too.

In a study published by Fidelity in 2017, the average couple will spend $285,000 in retirement on healthcare expenses alone- and that study left out long-term care expenses. For high net worth families, that number is higher and closer to $1 million.

Given the complexities of modern estate planning, such as trying to account for longevity and the rising number of people in second or third marriages, trusts must be considered carefully. The language inside trusts could consider how healthcare expenses factor into the big picture. If you’re trying to provide for your loved ones and have specified healthcare expenses as one approved cost inside an irrevocable trust, for example, consider what that means. Does a wellness retreat count? A special diet program?

And beware the common practice of setting up a dollar cap on what a beneficiary can spend on healthcare. While that number might seem reasonable now, remember the statistic above about how quickly healthcare costs are outpacing even inflation. Depending on when your beneficiary taps into the trust power, that number might be far less effective at helping them cover major costs.

If you have created an older trust you can revoke or amend or haven’t created one yet, now might be the right time to set up on trust per beneficiary to ensure that all of a trust’s assets are not spent just by one beneficiary in a healthcare crisis.

Got a Stepfamily? Don’t Forget Them in Your Estate Plan

Today’s families need the support of dedicated and knowledgeable estate planning lawyers. With second or third marriages and blended families, estate planning calls upon professionals to help design unique and meaningful plans based on the structure of the family in question.

A good estate plan can help to avoid conflicts when you have children from previous marriages. Whether you intend to include those children in your estate plan or not, it’s important to discuss your family dynamics and goals with a lawyer.

One of the most complex situations in estate planning is when two parties who have recently marriage each have children from previous marriages. Since most married couples will leave everything to their new spouse, this means that children from a prior marriage might not have inheritance rights. A stepparent receiving all of the assets from their partner might choose instead to divide these assets among their own children or children from the most recent marriage.

Thankfully, there are estate planning tools at your disposal that help to ensure your estate plan reflects your individual concerns. These can include:

  • Using a trust that helps to support the spouse during the remainder of his/her lifetime, after which point the assets will transfer to the children
  • Leaving something directly to your children in the will
  • Purchasing life insurance and listing your children as beneficiaries
  • Divide up your family heirlooms and document these plans in your estate documents before something happens to you

If you’re struggling with whether or not your past estate planning documents can be amended or whether you need a lawyer to draft new ones, it’s a good idea to speak with a lawyer about the process and to schedule a time to sit down and discuss these concerns directly.

How Do I Know if Medicaid Will Pay for My Nursing Home?

Are you concerned about the rising costs of long-term care? You’re not alone. A growing portion of the population in the U.S. will need some form of long-term care support in the future and very few people have planned for how they will pay for it.

Most people are under the belief that Medicare pays for long-term. Medicare’s services do not provide for long-term support and therefore anyone who needs a stay in a nursing home or assisted living cannot rely on this as a primary funding source. Medicaid, however, could help to support some of the costs of long-term health needs, but potential patients should be prepared in advance for how to qualify.

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program, but it administered at the state level. Not all nursing home facilities, however, will automatically accept Medicaid. You need to do your research in your area to determine what applies to your situation.

Facilities that do take Medicaid payments will need to be licensed through the state in order to qualify for payments through that program and will therefore also be subjected to regular inspections to meet federal standards. States have their own income requirements as it relates to what the applicant can own prior to getting Medicaid.

Simply transferring assets to a family member or friend is not recommended due to the use of a lookback period; if the state finds evidence of your attempt to transfer to friends and family simply to qualify for Medicaid within a time period immediately before your application, this could lead to a penalty and qualification issues. This is why you should always discuss your plans directly with an attorney first and ensure you’ve considered all the most common concerns in the Medicaid application process.

Two Kinds of Advanced Directives

Did you know that there are two ways you can explain your wishes should something happen to you and you are unable to advocate for yourself? Most people overlook some of the estate planning tools designed to help you while you’re still alive, but these can be the most important when loved ones are stepping in to make decisions for you.

Advanced directives are important for everyone, since a sudden accident could mean that your family ends up facing the difficult situation of deciding on your medical care. It is very important that if you have specific wishes or concerns surrounding your medical care that you communicate them to your family in the written form with an advanced medical directive.

The first kind of advance directive is known as a living will. It details the preferences you have for various types of life-sustaining treatments. You can articulate whether you want to be on support like respiration, cardiac resuscitation, or tube feeding.

A power of attorney, on the other hand, allows you to name the person who can make medical decisions for you if you cannot, for any reason, speak up for yourself. You can also create a separate power of attorney if you want to name someone to have control over your financial decisions and a different person to be appointed with these medical agent powers.

If you’re torn between the two and have someone you trust to make these choices for you, the power of attorney might be more appropriate since you can’t easily predict every situation that might come up.

Certain family members, however, might not feel comfortable making these decisions for you, especially if it relates to life-prolonging care. The difficult situation of being concerned about you could even be amplified by other family members or loved ones who disagree with the decision made by the power of attorney agent.

Our office can help you discuss and draft a power of attorney document. Schedule a consultation today with our firm to learn more.

Are You One of the Many Adults Who Find Finances Daunting?

Thinking ahead about your future requires careful and complex consideration of a variety of issues. A recent study by Unum shows that many adults find their finances daunting and therefore, forget to take action steps that can help to protect them or their loved ones.

According to this study, around 38% of adults in the United States state that their ability to manage their finances is very poor, poor or average. Another 40% stated that they did not know if they had a life insurance policy or openly acknowledge that they didn’t have one in place.

Given that a top cause of anxiety for many of these survey respondents was thinking about what would happen to their family members should they die unexpectedly; it can be very overwhelming to approach this process on your own.

Scheduling a consultation with an estate planning attorney, however, can help give you clarity on the action steps that are most important to take when thinking about protecting your future and the future of your loved ones.

An estate planning lawyer can help to remove some of the mystique or confusion around the process and give you powerful tools for next steps. Ignoring your opportunities to plan can set you up for failure in the future if something were to happen to you. Knowing the people you can turn to and count on in a time of need is critical; having the estate planning documents to support that is vital as well.

Your Estate Plan Isn’t Complete Unless You Have Discussed These Five Documents

Every so often it’s helpful to sit down and review your existing estate planning documents. Ideally you will have stored a copy of these with your estate planning lawyer and also have copies for yourself. Regular review of your existing estate plans can help you to determine when you need to incorporate additional planning goals.

The five key documents that should at least be considered in your conversation with an experienced estate planning lawyer include a durable power of attorney, a will, an advanced medical directive, a letter of instruction, and a living revocable trust.

A durable power of attorney assists you if you become mentally or physically incompetent to handle financial matters. A will is a desirable cornerstone of your estate plan if you are over age 18. Advanced medical directives give instructions about medical treatment you would want if you are unable to speak for yourself and a letter of instruction as a non-legal and informal document that is used to express your preferences and thoughts in conjunction with other estate planning tools. Finally, a revocable living trust could be something you discuss with your estate planning lawyer.

Once you become incompetent, pass away, or resign, a successor trustee will be there to administer aspects of the trust. Schedule a consultation with an attorney today so that you can learn whether or not these estate planning documents are necessary for you.       

Do You Really Need Life Insurance in Addition to a Will?

If you don’t have any children and are currently not married, there’s a good chance you think you don’t need life insurance. If your first thought was that life insurance can help your family members pay for funeral expenses and you’re not concerned about that, you might have skipped the application and verification process for life insurance.

You’ll still want to consider life insurance, however, for plenty of other reasons, like funding your children’s education or the payment of debts. Regardless of your individual situation, there are plenty of reasons you might have avoided life insurance but should now consider it. Research from a national financial organization shows that less than 60 percent of people in the U.S. have life insurance and that many of those who do have a policy don’t have enough coverage to protect them and their loved ones.

Considering life insurance as part of the bigger financial picture can help you navigate complexities with your estate. Some of the ways that you can use estate planning include providing money to the people you love, using a universal life policy as additional retirement income, getting access to money if you get sick depending on your policy’s riders, protecting your company, and leave a legacy.

Providing a standard of living for you and your loved ones is a common goal for plenty of Americans. Having a way to support your family members gives you peace of mind and ensures that they have one less thing to worry about in the wake of your passing. Life insurance policies are paid through a claims department after your family has provided the proper documentation. This means that they can focus on other aspects of managing your estate, particularly for your executor or personal representative.

If you want to support yourself with a universal policy and also verify that your loved ones have a plan for the future, set aside time to speak with an experienced NJ estate planning lawyer today.

Neel Cruise Karaoke

I’ve been told in the past that it’s easy for me to discuss Estate Planning, Elder Law and Financial Planning with my loved ones because I do it for a living. “You don’t even need to leave your ‘comfort zone’ to discuss it.” So I am now leaving my comfort zone and putting my money where my mouth is. I left my ‘safe space’ a year ago, and now I am doing it again by sharing a video of it with you and the world (explanation below.)

I get it. Telling someone important to you that:

  • they need to take care of their health care documents because you want to know their wishes,
  • their tax situation needs to be reviewed because you think they might be paying too much,
  • or you want to know how to pay for their long term-care, can be very difficult and awkward.

You know what’s even more awkward? Trying to have a conversation with a sibling about Mom’s care when you don’t know what Mom wanted. Or finding out that you will have to use most of your assets for your spouses care. Or realizing your adult children never named a guardian for your grandchild because you never asked if they had completed their Plan? I don’t have to tell you which has the more tragic outcome: having an uncomfortable conversation now, or waiting for event to happen and regretting never having had the conversation.

So here’s where I am putting it out there and showing you my awkwardness, but first a quick background: Last summer we went a cruise with about 50 family members. It was fantastic. I’ve always enjoyed singing, but I’ve never done it outside of a small group of extremely close friends. But I decided one night, to sign myself up for karaoke. It was to be in front of a room of strangers or the family members. I’d have to face my family for the rest of my life, and I would have to stand & perform in front of strangers, but I did it. You can probably sense my discomfort in the video, I was still shaking for a half-hour after doing it. But I am happy I did it. If for no other reason than to prove a point today.

Now I’m sharing the video with you (and everybody else on my mailing list.) But then it’s your turn. But you don’t have to do it alone: we can help you with the potentially uncomfortable dialogue about your or a loved one’s planning. Just reply to this email & we’ll make it happen. Click below to schedule your free call with me. 

And in case you know anyone from “American Idol” or “The Voice” – feel free to forward it to them & let them know they can schedule a call with me too 😉

Have a great day,


My Child Has a Disability. What Do I Need to Consider with Estate Planning?

As you grow older and are concerned about the future of a child with disability, the future can seem overwhelming or even daunting. Thankfully, sitting down with an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning lawyer gives you the chance to ask important questions and to articulate a plan that is aligned with your individual needs.

Start by creating a letter of intent. This is a formal letter of instruction that includes details for your friends and family members if you become unable to act due to a disability yourself or pass away.

Details about your online financial accounts and passwords in addition to any personal details that someone might need to step into your life to care for your loved one with disability should be included. This can include strategies used for calming, daily routines, medications, therapist and other important contact information.

Scheduling a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer will help you to understand the vision of what you want your loved one’s future to look like. It can be well worth it to sit down with a dedicated lawyer who is familiar with the specific issues of estate planning.

Putting together an estate plan with a special needs trust enables you to distribute property and funds in a way that does not interrupt or completely block the government funding that your loved might rely on for support. It is important to consider all the various aspects of planning ahead for your loved one’s future and enabling someone else to step in and take quick action if need be.       

Lessons from the Jeffrey Epstein Estate: Creditors First

A significant legal battle could hold more information for others approaching the estate planning process. The last will and testament of Jeffery Epstein was dated August 8th, just a couple of days before he was found dead in his jail cell.

Over $577 million in total assets, including collectibles and fine arts are expected to be inside his estate and the estate shares information about the creation of a trust to hold that property. When managing anyone’s estate, expenses and debts are typically paid first, followed by spousal transfers and charitable transfers once appropriate estate taxes have been paid. This particular estate is likely to be embattled in litigation for a long period of time to come given that creditors will be first in line.

This includes any plaintiffs who received a judgment in their favor against the estate will be eligible to get paid prior to any property passing through to the heirs. Creditors have to be satisfied first before any meaningful assets can be moved to a remainder person. Five different properties were included inside the will of Jeffery Epstein across Paris, the Virgin Islands, New Mexico and Florida.

Depending on whether or not his estate qualifies for the state level tax, this could lead to considerable revenue for New York. If you are concerned as you approach the estate planning process and want to consider steps in asset protection planning that could add a layer of risk mitigation in the future, schedule a consultation with a trusted attorney today.       

Can You Simplify Managing Your Loved One’s Estate?

We all know in the back of our minds that at some point in our lives we might have to sort through a loved one’s estate. And yet there’s no way to prepare for the emotional onslaught that you might experience in dealing with grief. That process can be overwhelming and can make it that much harder to navigate probate and other administration tasks. If you’re the executor, you need to be prepared for all the necessary tasks that unfold in managing an estate.

The executor’s role is mostly financial and it begins with cataloguing all the assets in the estate. From there, the executor must pay off debts and taxes and then distribute the remaining amount to beneficiaries and heirs.

However, plenty of in-family executors will feel obligated to do more. If the estate of the person who passed away was substantial and complicated, it can be helpful to hire a professional executor to help with the tasks. Any families in which there’s the potential for infighting could be the perfect option for using a professional executor. If your role as the executor in a loved one’s estate puts you smack in the middle of conflict.

If the estate is indeed complicated, some parts of it might pass through probate whereas others, like assets inside a trust, don’t. Knowing the difference and keeping a general tally of the progress across different projects is important, especially for accounting purposes. An expert hired from the outside can help you keep an accurate inventory and prepare for probate, if necessary.

The support of an outside professional executor, such as a lawyer or corporation, can streamline the process for you. As a loved one, you have enough to worry about. While you want efficient management of the estate, this should not come at your personal expense during your time of grief.

Asset Protection for the Entrepreneur

Many well-known career fields are often associated with important asset protection planning. From lawyers to doctors and others with substantial wealth, it’s important to think about how asset protection planning should expand into the world of entrepreneurship.

Don’t let your assets disappear- protect them!

It’s never been easier to start and scale a business. Every day there are new stories of people doing it from the comfort of their own home, building digital companies and scaling them to six and then seven figures.

Along the way, this entrepreneur might begin to translate some of those business achievements into other assets, like home and cars. But if these steps are undertaken without also considering the importance of asset protection, all it takes is one lawsuit to damage the assets you worked so hard to generate.

If you have a long-term view of your business, then asset protection planning is another important step you take to secure your growth in the company and ensure that the assets you’ve accumulated are used to support you and your beneficiaries.

Another key aspect of being an entrepreneur is having the documentation in place to protect you if you were to become disabled. A sudden disability can derail your company completely if you don’t have a plan in place and a way to allow someone else to make those key decisions for you.

The bottom line is that business owners and their companies cannot afford to be exposed to vulnerabilities like lawsuits or the sudden stop of company operations due to an accident or disability. Using estate and asset protection planning tools empowers the entrepreneur and the key staff members at the company with options should the need arise.

If your company is growing at a fast pace but you don’t have the documentation or asset protection tools like trusts in place, sitting down with the right asset protection planning lawyer is one of the most important things you can do to protect your interests and your future.

America’s “Forgotten Middle” in Long Term Care Planning

The baby boomer generation is bringing to light some of the most common challenges with long-term care and future planning. Since it’s expected that many people passing their retirement age might have to continue to work for financial reasons and then also need some form of health support like a nursing home or assisted living, studies show that plenty of older adults have no plan at all.

Many seniors will need LTC planning

It’s not a problem of limited facilities: in response to the trends in long term care, plenty of facilities and organizations have been created to help the elderly with their daily lives. But the costs associated with these facilities are out of reach for a broad portion of the population.

According to a recent report in Health Affairs, by 2029 there might be as many as 14.4 million seniors with middle-income status. More than half of them will have some type of mobility limitation, and one out of every five will require some sort of high-level functional support. Even though these statistics show that it’s likely plenty of this population will need either assisted living or long-term care housing, about half of them won’t have the resources to pay for it.

The housing market targeting seniors has experienced major growth and changes in the past few decades, no doubt in response to the baby boomer generation requiring more older age support. In total, around two million senior tap into the residence options provided by senior living and a good majority have functional dependence issues, high chronic illness rates, and complex medical concerns.

Without tools like long-term care insurance, which is expensive, a market with its own challenge like spiking premiums, and is best purchased years or decades before the care is needed, plenty of seniors will be exposed to challenges in paying for the care they need. Between those who have substantial resources and/or long-term care and those who easily qualify for Medicaid, there are plenty of seniors in between who have no access to care without planning.

Talking to an estate planning lawyer gives you care options and helps you map out a path to qualify for Medicaid in the future should the need arise.