Tag Archives: living will

The Dangers of a Do-it-Yourself Last Will

do-it-yourself-last-willA do-it-yourself will sounds like a simple and inexpensive way to let your loved ones know your wishes in the event of your death. Doing your own will at home, however, may end up leading to avoidable problems such as taxation and court battles. Do-it-yourself wills may seem like a good deal, but the money put out later could cost a lot more than using an estate planning lawyer to draw up your documents.

Do-it-yourself wills may prove to be invalid if you do not follow all state and federal laws. For instance, if you used a witness with an invested interest in your estate, the will may not hold up in court. It must also be proven that the signatures found on the will were properly witnessed. Also, if the original will can’t be produced, your wishes may not be followed. An estate planning lawyer typically stores your will in a fireproof location to ensure the original can be produced in court. An estate planner could also be called into court and testify about the validity about the claims included in the will.

The language used in the will must be perfect for claims to be valid. As an example, a court could interpret the wording wrong and subject your assets to costly estate taxes. Estate taxes can deplete the funds you leave behind for your beneficiaries. Instead, meet with an estate planning attorney to go over the language and inclusions of your documents to prevent will contests. Otherwise, your family may then be forced into a legal battle and be forced to pay an exorbitant amount of court and probate lawyer fees.

The biggest downfall of a do-it-yourself-will package? You don’t receive personalized advice from an estate planning attorney. The will software packages can provide general advice, but won’t be helpful if you have a more unique situation. Will software packages are not likely to provide you with guidelines on how to handle domestic partnerships, children from other marriages, disinherited children or special needs children. As an example, a stepfather who claims in his do-it-yourself will to leave all his assets to his children may find his stepchildren cut out of any inheritance money he meant for them. Also, living trusts and power of attorney are not usually properly handled in online will programs. In these cases, set up a consultation with a living trust attorney.

Do-it-yourself will software packages may require you to fix errors later on. Get your will right the first time by meeting with a licensed and professional estate planning attorney. Reduce family conflict by clearly stating your wishes and keeping the proper documentation stored with a lawyer. The Law offices of Adam Tobin is waiting to hear from you to create your legal and valid last will and testament.

Why You Should Create an Estate Plan Today

Estate planning is not only for the elderly. Even if you don’t think you have any significant assets to protect, it could be beneficial to consult an estate planning attorney and discuss your options. If you know anyone who has had to deal with the loss of a loved one who didn’t have an estate plan they will probably tell you, in retrospect, that they wish they had made specific arrangements. There’s a reason why people say “Always be prepared!” Here are some major reasons why you should consider creating an estate plan today:

Avoid Probate

The main reason that many people create an estate plan is to avoid probate. Probate is the process of the administration and distribution of the estate of a deceased person. This legal process is typically carried out according to the person’s legal will. However, if the person does not draft a will the probate court will administer the person’s estate according to state statute. As a result of horror stories in the media of families dealing with probate, most people often want to avoid probate at all costs. Creating an estate plan is an effective solution.

Reduce EstateEstate Planning Taxes

Another good reason to consult an estate planning attorney about creating a plan is to reduce estate taxes and/or state inheritance taxes. Depending upon the individual’s situation, the payment of these taxes can account for a significant loss of an estate. Through simple planning you can make estate or inheritance tax much less burdensome or nonexistent.

Avoid Stress

Many times when people have personal experience, or witness someone, go through the process of dealing with the administration of a loved one’s estate they’re more likely to meet with an estate planning lawyer. Not having a plan in case you become mentally incapacitated or pass away can be overwhelmingly stressful for loved ones to deal with. Creating an estate plan is a proactive way to avoid family feuds and costly court proceedings.

Protect Beneficiaries

One of the main reasons for creating an estate plan is to protect beneficiaries. Beneficiaries could be either minors or adults. When creating an estate plan with minor beneficiaries in mind you should appoint a guardian and trustee to oversee the minor’s finances until they are of age (either 18 or 21 years old, depending on the state in which they live). If the beneficiary is already an adult but has trouble managing money you should create an estate plan which will protect the beneficiary from their own bad decisions.

It’s always good to plan ahead – contact elder law attorney Adam J. Tobin today to discuss the best steps toward creating your own estate plan.

Estate Planning 101

The idea of “estate planning” can be a bit intimidating for some people, which is unfortunate since the main reason of doing so is making sure your loved ones are provided and cared for.

Estate Planning 101

Another misconception of estate planning is that it is only for the elderly, however, if you are a parent with children who will need care and direction, it is better to start planning your estate earlier in case you suddenly become incapacitated or worse.

Estate planning needs to be factored into your overall financial plan, along with your children’s college tuition and your retirement needs in order to be really effective. Your estate consists of all your property, which includes your home, personal property like cars and furniture, and intangible property like insurance, stocks and bonds, bank accounts, and pension and social security benefits.

If you die without a will, your property will still be distributed, and essentially, by not leaving a valid estate plan, state law will end up writing your will for you. So what can estate planning do for you?

Provide for your immediate family

A good estate plan makes sure that your spouse and loved ones are provided for. Couples with children can ensure their education and upbringing is not left to chance. For children under 18 years of age, both you and your spouse should have a will that nominates personal guardians for them. If that is not specified, a court would have to decide where your kids will live and who will make all important decisions for them regarding their money, education, and way of life.

Provide for other relatives who need help and guidance

If you have a family member, such as an elderly parent or disabled child, whose life would become more difficult without you, establishing a special trust fund would be a good way to ensure their future.

Get your property to beneficiaries quickly

By planning ahead, you can make certain that your beneficiaries receive the property you’ve left them promptly and without unnecessary expenses and court interference.

Plan for incapacity

Use living wills and durable powers of attorney to plan for possible mental or physical incapacity; pick someone you really trust to make important health and financial decisions for you in the event that you are incapable of doing so for yourself.

Minimize expense

Estate planning can reduce the expenses associated with transferring property to beneficiaries, such as probate costs, and by reducing these expenses you will be leaving more to your loved ones.

Choose executors/trustees for your estate

By choosing competent executors/trustees, you can save your estate money, reduce the burden on your survivors, and simplify the administration of your estate.

Ease the strain on your family

You can take a lot of the burden off your grieving loved ones by planning ahead for funeral arrangements and other expenses, and by letting your loved ones know how you want your affairs to be handled so they do not have to deal with unnecessary added stress.

Help a favorite cause

Your estate plan can help support religious, educational, and other charitable causes, either during your lifetime or upon your death, and at the same time take advantage of tax benefits designed to encourage charitable giving.

Reduce taxes on your estate

The idea is to get the maximum amount possible to go to your loved ones and designated beneficiaries. Properly planning your estate can help you with that, giving the maximum allowed by law to your beneficiaries and the minimum to the government.

Make sure your business runs smoothly

If you have a small business, the operation could turn to chaos without you there to guide it. A good estate plan can provide for an orderly succession and continuation of your business affairs by spelling out what will happen to your interest in the business.

estate-planning-lawyer-can-help-you-plan-your-estate

Consulting an elder law attorney, such as Adam Tobin, could prove very helpful when it comes to planning your estate. Contact Adam Tobin to get helpful advice from a knowledgeable estate planning attorney.

April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day!

National Healthcare Decisions Day, acknowledged on April 16th,  is an initiative to encourage patients to express their wishes regarding healthcare and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be. Highlighted below are some facts that elder lawyers like Adam Tobin can assist you in addressing with your loved ones.adam
The Federal Patient Self-Determination Act requires that all Medicare-participating healthcare facilities inquire about and provide information to patients on Advance Directives; it also requires these facilities to provide community education on Advance Directives.  See 42 C.F.R. § 489.102.

All healthcare facilities are required to:

* Provide information about health care decision-making rights.
* Ask all patients if they have an advance directive.
* Educate their staff and community about advance directives.
* Not discriminate against patients based on an advance directive status.

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in a 2003 article, “Advance Care Planning: Preferences for Care at the End of Life,” found the following:

  • Less than 50 percent of the severely or terminally ill patients studied had an advance directive in their medical record.
  • Only 12 percent of patients with an advance directive had received input from their physician in its development.
  • Between 65 and 76 percent of physicians whose patients had an advance directive were not aware that it existed.

One of the most striking changes between 1990 and 2005 is the growth in the number of people who say they have a living will – up 17 points, from 12% in 1990 to 29% now. Having a living will was associated with lower probability of dying in a hospital for nursing home residents and people living in the community.

(Explore more into this concept and the movement here.)

Caring for the Caregivers

This blog excerpt is from The New York Times, where author Pauline W. Chen, describes the difficulties caregivers go through for their loved ones.

For all our assertions about the importance of caring in what we do, doctors as a profession have been slow to recognize family members and loved ones who care for patients at home. These “family caregivers” do work that is complex, physically challenging and critical to a patient’s overall well-being, like dressing wounds, dispensing medication, and feeding, bathing and dressing those who can no longer do so themselves.

Many of these caregiving tasks were once the purview of doctors and nurses, a central component of the “caring professions.” But over the past century, as these duties increasingly fell to individuals with little or no training, doctors and even some nurses began to confer less importance, and status, to the work of caregiving.

It comes as no surprise, then, that physicians now rarely, if ever, learn about what a family caregiver or health care aide must do unless they are faced with caring for their own loved ones. We doctors don’t know or aren’t always fully aware of what it takes to care for a patient after we leave the room.

In other words, for the 37 million people attending to the health care needs of a relative, partner, friend or neighbor, our best care goes only so far.

“If you look at the amount of time devoted to actual caregiving, the physician contributes a very modest amount,” said Dr. Arthur Kleinman, a professor of medical anthropology and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and now a family caregiver himself.

“We’ve had outstanding diagnoses and very careful attention to defining the problem,” Dr. Kleinman said, referring to his own experience. “But once the problem is defined and the limited pharmacological interventions prescribed, there has been neither interest nor knowledge about the rest of the aftercare, even in the most simple parts like finding a home health aide or getting a needs assessment by a social worker.”

But our profession’s indifference may hopefully soon be a thing of the past.

In January 2010, the American College of Physicians, the country’s leading professional organization of internal medicine physicians,

issued its first position paper on working with caregivers. Endorsed by almost a dozen other professional medical organizations, the paper, published in The Journal of General Internal Medicine, highlights the challenges that can arise from the complex interaction among patient, doctor and caregiver and offers guidelines for providing the best care.

Using a framework of broad principles, like the need to respect and maintain a primary focus on the patient’s rights, dignity and values, the paper explores specific issues that are likely to arise in a given patient-doctor-caregiver relationship. How, for example, should physicians approach long-distance family caregivers? What should they consider when working with the caregiver of a terminal patient? How can they best support the caregiver who is convinced that he or she can never do “enough”?

(Entire article can be read here)

caregiver

The Living Will: Is it a Will, or a Health Care Directive, or Neither?

Another estate planning tool authorized by law in many jurisdictions is a living will.  A living will (also called a declaration of a desire for a natural death or a directive to physicians) allows a person who is unconscious or incapacitated to express his or her desires regarding the use of extraordinary measures to extend his or her life when there is no reasonable expectation that he or she will regain consciousness or recover.

A Living Will will not provide direction to disperse your property upon your death.  Nor will it accomplish the basic health care decisions provided for in a Health Care Proxy.  It is really a separate document that specifically outlines the extraordinary medical decisions regarding the extension of your life.

Even if you have a legally enforceable power of attorney for healthcare, health care proxy, or living will, your should discuss fully your preferences regarding medical care with the person or persons you have designated to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.