The “elder law” practice area was “born” in the early 1980s, and Wood & Lamping was there at the very beginning. Elder law attorneys are basically estate planners with additional skills in Medicaid, guardianships, long-term care planning and the legal issues that arise in chronic and terminal illness. Our elder law practice area is anchored by 30 year elder law veteran Mark S. Reckman. Our current staff has nearly 200 years of collective experience.
The costs of long-term care can wipe out a lifetime of the savings of middle class Americans. The “hidden” victims are the spouses and children who can be left impoverished as well. Medicaid was designed to minimize this problem, but making this complex system work properly takes advance planning and knowledge of the rules. Success is achieved by properly using the deductions and exemptions the rules allow.
Guardianship is a formal court procedure designed to manage the affairs of the disabled and incompetent. It is effective and largely transparent. Guardianships are effective. However, they are also cumbersome, slow, intrusive, restrictive and expensive. There are less expensive and less intrusive alternatives. Knowing when and how to use them calls for professional objectivity and experience. Every member of our practice area has extensive experience in this area and each has served as a guardian personally.
Power of Attorneys, Living Wills and Power of Attorneys for Health Care
A Power of Attorney allows you to select your own agent and it does not restrict your ability to act for yourself. It is easy to sign and inexpensive. However, it must be signed in advance – before incompetency or illness set in. Unfortunately, Power of Attorneys can be abused, so it is important to seek help in setting them up.
A Living Will allows you to set the terms of your own health care if you become terminally ill or permanently comatose. Living Wills are effective, so be sure your Living Will expresses your specific wishes.
Your Will disposes of your property when you die. It contains your instructions for navigating Probate. But, it is also your opportunity to pick who will be in charge and to have a guardian for minor or disabled children. You can write your own Will or buy an inexpensive software program to draft one for you. But, a Will must be part of a coordinated plan or it will only serve to create confusion or litigation. For example, a Will has no effect on life insurance, annuities, retirement accounts or jointly-owned property. An inartfully drafted Will could unintentionally charge the taxes on such items to the wrong beneficiary, thus completely undermining your intent. You only need to sign one or two Wills in your life, so get the professional help to do it right. We do Wills every week. We also administer estates. We know the best solutions.
Living Trusts are used to avoid the probate process altogether. While that does not eliminate all the work necessary to administer your estate, it does cut the time and cost by half in most cases. But, a Living Trust can do so much more:
- Preserve estate tax deductions
- Manage assets for minor children
- Pay for college
- Manage money for disabled family members
- Manage money for grandchildren
- Provide support for a second spouse while preserving assets for children
- Charitable donations
- Protection from creditors
- Protect Medicaid recipients
For more information about these legal issues, see the Wood & Lamping Estate and Medicaid Handbook.