Elder Law Firm Assisting Individuals & Families in Estate Planning
At Hope Elder Law, estate planning consists of preparing legal documents including: 1.) Wills and Trusts to help our clients organize the ownership of their assets so their assets can be protected in life and death; and 2.) Competence planning documents which designate one or more family members or other individuals to assist our clients with financial and/or health decisions should our clients become incapacitated. Our documents contain additional features to facilitate asset protection and the continuity of health care based on our knowledge and experience in working with elders and persons with special needs.
Wills & Trusts To Protect Your Property
The traditional focus of estate planners has been to avoid unnecessary death taxes and to avoid the Probate process after death. An additional concern for our clients, who may have savings ranging from several thousand dollars to several million dollars, is the possible loss of assets due to the high cost of long-term care. Our approach addresses all these concerns.
While a will to distribute assets at death may be sufficient for a more modest situation, we typically use trusts to accommodate clients with greater assets. A revocable trust may be used to avoid probate and for death tax planning but is generally not used for Medicaid asset protection planning. We typically use irrevocable trusts to protect assets. Through comprehensive estate planning coupled with Medicaid asset protection planning, we have helped many clients protect property for the benefit of a surviving spouse, their children and grandchildren. We have extensive experience setting up revocable probate avoidance trusts, irrevocable trusts to protect real estate, as well as special needs trusts to help persons with disabilities maintain or achieve eligibility for public benefits.
Competence Planning: An Important Aspect of Estate Planning
The goal of competence planning documents is to protect our clients’ wishes now and in the future, and to save money for our clients and their families by reducing the likelihood of expensive court proceedings, such as guardianship or conservatorship proceedings, should a client ever become incapacitated. The four documents for competence planning are:
- General Durable Power of Attorney – A General Durable Power of Attorney is the single most important estate planning document. In a Durable Power of Attorney, you appoint someone to have legal authority to help you with financial affairs if you need help at some point due to old age or illness. For Medicaid planning, it is advisable to consider having gifting and self-dealing authority language in the Power of Attorney. In many cases, Powers of Attorney drafted by non-elder law attorneys do not contain the language necessary to maximize opportunities for asset protection in the event you need long-term care.
- Health Care Proxy – With a Health Care Proxy, you appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf in case your doctor decides you are ever unable to make or communicate health care decisions by yourself. Upon recovery, you make decisions for yourself once again. In Massachusetts, spouses (husbands, wives) do not have automatic authority to make health care decisions for each other unless named in each other’s Health Care Proxy.
- Advance Directive, A.K.A. “Living Will” – With an Advance Directive, you specify your wishes for health care measures in end-of-life situations. Advance Directives are not legally enforceable in Massachusetts, but they show your intent so medical professionals and family members know how you would like a situation to be handled.
- HIPAA Authorization & Release – 2003 federal privacy law prevents doctors and hospitals from being able to discuss your health with family members. A HIPAA Authorization and Release lists all people whom health care providers can talk to about your health, notwithstanding the federal privacy law.
Seek Advice & Counsel from an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney in Massachusetts
If you or a loved one need to draft a will, establish a trust, or set up any kind of arrangement for health care or financial management in the future, talk to an attorney who focuses in the areas of elder law and estate planning. In Eastern Massachusetts, Contact Hope Elder Law to ensure you know all of your options and develop the best plan to achieve your goals.