Elder Law and Special Needs Planning–
Are you prepared?
The first role of an Elder Law and Special Needs Trust attorney is that of counselor-at-law. In the “old” days, Attorney and Counselor-at-Law was the common moniker for lawyers. The title emphasized the need to adequately and appropriately evaluate each client/family situation before options were identified. Elder Law and Special Needs Planning includes public benefit qualification, especially planning for Medicaid eligibility; planning for incapacity, including documents needed during the client’s lifetime in the event of incapacity (these would include a Durable Power of Attorney for financial matters; a Power of Attorney for Medicaid Care, a/k/a “Advance Directive”; pre-need guardian designation and other related documents). We must evaluate the need for traditional estate planning, too: Last Wills and Testament, Revocable Trusts, Deeds, existing Marital Agreement, whether pre or post-nuptial. The next step in planning is implementation: drafting documents, reviewing information, consulting with the clients to assure that everyone is on the same track.
Creation of a plan with an identifiable result which reflects the known wishes of the client – public benefit eligibility, financial protection of family members with disabilities, guardianship, grants of authority to others to make financial and/or medical decisions in the event of incapacity, educating first families and blended families (as appropriate).
- Medicaid asset and income adjustments
- Special Needs Trusts
- Revocable and other trusts
- Durable Powers of Attorney for Financial Matters
- Durable Powers of Attorney for Medical Decisions/Advance Directives
- Pre-Need Guardianship Designations
- Letters of Intent
- Representative Payee designations
- Beneficiary designations on life insurance polices, retirement accounts, and other contractual documents
- Supported Decision Making Agreements
- Public Benefits
- Deeds of real property (Lady Bird Deeds, Warranty Deeds, Transfer on Death Deeds)
It’s important to understand each aspect of a client’s plan, and for the clients to review documents, consider the choice of decision makers, think through his or her current financial situation and ultimately to tie all of this together into a lifetime plan. After death, implementation of the client’s wishes continues as the terms of Wills, Trusts and Deeds are implemented.