Attorney & Mediator
Attorney & Mediator

Taxes Are Over – Summer is Not Yet Here – It’s Time to Get Estate Planning Off of Your Bucket List

The mad rush to file your taxes are (or should be) done. It’s early spring if you are in Michigan and the weather forecast for Northern Michigan is cool until early June.

It’s time to get some things off of your bucket list before the beautiful summer weather sets in. Don’t leave everything for the autumn.

You have been meaning to do estate planning – you’ve talked about it – you know you should do it.

Somehow it is something that gets put off until another day.

It’s time to get started. What will you need to do?

• Check all of your beneficiary designations on life insurance policies and your 401K’s, IRA’s, and other deferred savings accounts. Are these the way that you want them? Is your spouse or significant other the primary beneficiary? Who have you named as the secondary or contingent beneficiaries?

• Do you have a Will or a Trust? If not, you should think about who you would leave your assets to when you pass away. If the beneficiaries are children or young adults, you might consider whether you would want them to get the money immediately or have it managed on their behalf.

• Who would be the individual you would select as your Personal Representative (Executor) or Successor Trustee? Who would you select if your first choice was unavailable?

• Do you have a Durable Power of Attorney for financial and legal affairs? If you do, are the choices still correct? If not, who would you trust to be your agent if you were unable to manage your financial affairs? Who could be a back-up in case your first choice was unavailable?

• Do you have a Durable Power of Attorney for Medical matters? Who would you select to make medical decisions for you if you were not able to do so? Who would be the back-up?

Armed with this information, your next step is to make an appointment with an estate planning attorney to get your documents drafted.

Don’t put it off! Get started today!

Estate Planning “A thru Z”

Estate Planning “A thru Z”
I am presenting a seminar on Estate Planning – all the tools and methods will be discussed.  Since one size doesn’t fit all – sometimes it seems quite confusing.  I will give you valuable information on the different methods, documents, ideas and tools that can assist you when you are getting ready to do your estate plan.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Traverse City Golf & Country Club
Traverse City, Michigan
10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Please call me at 231-933-0829 or email: to reserve your seat.

Medicaid Estate Recovery – Things have changed in Michigan

For a long time, the state of Michigan resisted the federal mandate to recover medicaid costs from the estates of those individuals when they died.

Effective July 1, 2011, Michigan began it’s recovery program.

How does it work? Medicaid beneficiaries who are age 55 or older and who have received long term care services after September 30, 2007, are now subject to estate recovery. Since people who qualify for Medicaid have less than $2,000.00 in assets, but, they may have a home. Therefore, estate recovery is really aimed at recovering Medicaid dollars from the equity in the house after the recipient dies.

From everyone who has a home? Not necessarily. Right now, estate recovery only applies to property passing through the probate estate of the deceased Medicaid recipient. Therefore, if the home can by-pass probate court, it will not be subject to recovery.

How can this work? By having the home (and other assets) transfer to the beneficiaries immediately upon the death of the owner without a need to go to probate court. This can be done by beneficiary designations and “Ladybird deeds” .

What is a Ladybird deed? It is a deed where the owner transfers his/her property to the beneficiaries during his/her lifetime, however, the owner holds back a life estate in the property and the right to sell. Therefore, the beneficiaries don’t really get title to the property until the owner dies.

Can this be done if the property owner is in a nursing home? Yes. If they are able to sign, they can sign the deed. If they are unable to sign, an individual acting under a Durable Power of Attorney may be able to sign for them. If that is not possible, the family can go to Probate Court and obtain a Protective Order.

Won’t these steps cost the family money? Yes, however, it is far less than would be lost if the home went into the deceased individual’s probate estate and his/her Medicaid costs are deducted from the value of the home.

Medicaid recovery can be eliminated or minimized using the proper legal tools.

Planning For The Same Sex Couple – Legal, financial and medical matters.

Alternative families have a greater need to plan than any other.  The laws have not caught up with lifestyles and family-styles.

Jointly owned property goes to the survivor – so if you own real estate – this can be an area easily addressed.

Other assets take planning.  It is important to look at your investments.  Do you have them payable on death to your partner?  Do you have a will or a trust that leaves them to your significant other?  If not, then it is possible that your biological family will take these assets upon your death – even if you did not intend that to happen.

Retirement benefits are another area that are important to examine.  Some cannot be “fixed” even with estate planning.  Social security benefits are only available to surviving spouses.  Many pension plans will only permit distribution to surviving spouses as well.  Check your plans!

Other retirement benefits such as 401K’s, IRA’s, Roth’s and Annuities can be left to surviving partners.  Take the time to check your beneficiary designations to assure that they are up to date.

Powers of Attorney are a very important tool for the same sex life partner.  Without these in place, your significant disability could result in a request to the Probate Court for a Guardianship or Conservatorship.  It is likely that the Court would honor such a request by your biological family.  Is that your desire?

Who would you want to handle your financial and legal affairs in the event of your disability?  If it is your partner, make sure that you have a Durable Power of Attorney in place that names him or her.  That will assure that affairs will be handled in the manner that you chose in the case of your disability.

Who would you want to have access to you and your medical information in the event that you were critically ill and unable to communicate?  Who would you want to direct your medical care?  Without a Patient Advocate Designation (also known as Patient Directive or Durable Power for Health Care) your partner may be shut out of the process once you are hospitalized.

Each of these is a small but critically important issue to attend to if you want to protect yourself in the event of a disability or your partner in the event of your death.