Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Planning for Incapacity

Power of attorney

An estate plan often focuses on what happens after you die.  However, if you have not made arrangements in the event you become mentally incapacitated, your plan is incomplete.  If your plan does not specify how financial or health care decisions will be made and you become incapacitated, a court-appointed guardian must act on your behalf.  Below is a list of documents that will ensure your affairs are in order:

  • Revocable Trust.  Also called a “living trust,” this is designed to hold most of your assets.  As trustee, you have control over the assets, but if you become incapacitated, your designee takes over.
  • Durable Power of Attorney.  This authorizes a designee to manage your property and finances, with the limitations you create.
  • Living Will. It expresses your preferences regarding life-sustaining medical treatment in the event you are unable to communicate your wishes. 
  • Health Care Power of Attorney.  This authorizes your designee to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you cannot make or communicate them yourself. 
  • HIPAA Authorization.  Even if you have a health care power of attorney, some medical providers refuse to release medical information.  Thus, it is important to sign a HIPAA authorization allowing providers to release medical information to your designee.

See E. Hans Lundsten and Joseph Marion III, Estate Planning Pitfall—You Haven’t Planned for Incapacity, JD Supra Business Advisor, Dec. 15, 2014. 

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

December 16, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Creating A Stress Free Estate Plan

Stress free

While it is easy to assume that estate planning primarily deals with one’s future needs, an estate plan can eliminate one issue that is in the present: stress and worry.  Although everyone is different, there are a number of basic elements that go into creating a stress free estate plan:

  1. Determine who will manage your affairs if you become disabled, incapacitated, or pass away.
  2. Plan your estate if you enter a nursing home or receive significant long-term healthcare.
  3. Protect children from your prior marriage in case you pass away before your present spouse.
  4. Protect assets inherited by your heirs from lawsuits, divorces, and other claims.
  5. Provide for children or grandchildren with special needs.
  6. Address the different needs of your children.
  7. Prevent challenges to your estate plan.
  8. Plan an estate plan for blended families to ensure all children are provided for.

See Mark Eghrari, 11 Fundamental Elements of a Stress-Free Estate Plan, Forbes, Dec. 9, 2014. 

December 10, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Estate Planning Must Haves for the 20-Somethings

Twenty somethings

Most young adults fail to think about their estate planning needs.  Yet, all adults, no matter their age, should have some type of estate plan in place. 

Young adults are not in need of anything complex; just a foundation that can be built by a few documents.  Below are some key pieces of paperwork that can help jumpstart estate planning for the twenty-somethings:

  • Health Care Advance Directive. This document allow individuals to name another person to make medical decisions on their behalf, in the event a physician determines they cannot make them on their own.  Although many young adults may not see the need for such a document, in the event of an accident or unforeseen event, families may not be able to agree on a treatment or course of action without an advance directive.
  • Durable Powers of Attorney. This allows a named individual to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf.  Similar to health care directives, this is a “what-if” document,” and essential that adults give thought to these powers of attorney.
  • Will. If an individual passes without a will, state law dictates who will receive assets.  For those who are uncomfortable with this situation, it is necessary to draft a will to ensure the proper persons will inherit. 
  • Beneficiary Designations. Work related assets are often a young adult’s most valuable property.  These types of assets are passed by beneficiary designations rather than by will.  Young people are typically unaware of this, or do not get around to filling out the forms.

See Tracy Craig, 5 Financial Documents Every 20-Something Should Have, Financial Planning, Dec. 4, 2014. 

December 7, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 24, 2014

5 Overlooked Retirement Expenses

Retirement planning

When planning for retirement, what you do not know can cost you.  There are many savings-depleting expenses in retirement that people fail to factor in when calculating their future needs.  Below are five you do not want to overlook:

  1. Financially helping children and grandchildren. In today’s economy, there is an increasing number of Americans who are providing financial support to their adult children or other family members.  “Unless you specifically plan for that expense, letting adult children live at home free of charge or lending them a hand financially can be costly.  As much as you may want to help your kids and grandkids, your own financial independence should be your first priority.”
  2. Retrofitting your house. Even if you have paid off your mortgage does not mean you are free of housing expenses.  It is important to include in your budget both expected and unexpected ongoing and one-time costs, such as painting, replacing appliances, and repairing heating and cooling systems.  “It also means setting aside funds for certain updates and renovations that may become necessary in the future to help make you home livable and safe as you age.”
  3. Hiring “replacement” services. As people grow older, they generally need help with day-to-day household chores and repairs.  Replacement services for tasks such as grocery shopping, mowing, cleaning, should be considered when budgeting for retirement.
  4. Purchasing the new car. The car you have on the day you retire is unlikely to be the last one you buy or lease.  Moreover, your driving needs change as you age, including the things you need in a car.
  5. Maintaining two houses. While owning two homes offers great advantages, the cost of owning two properties can be greater than you would expect.  “You’ll probably spend several thousand dollars a year for dual expenses on everything form regular long care and ongoing utility bills to home-owners’ dues and a monthly fee to someone who can oversee your property when you’re not there.”

See Northwestern MutualVoice Team, The True Cost of Retirement: 5 Expenses You Shouldn’t Overlook, Forbes, Nov. 20, 2014.  

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

November 24, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lynn Bynes Seeks Conservatorship Assistance From Private Trust Firm

Amanda_BynesAs I have previously discussed, actress Amanda Bynes is currently out of the psychiatric facility that she was admitted to in October, but her mother Lynn Bynes remains her conservator. Bynes' parents are planning to move to Texas, and Lynn Bynes will continue her long distance conservatorship with the assistance of a private trust firm. Bynes', who lives in California, will receive the financial assistance that she needs from a professional conservator.

See Frank Lovece, Amanda Bynes' Mother Cedes Part of Daughter's Conservatorship to Private Trust Firm, Newsday, Nov. 7, 2014.

November 10, 2014 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Spotting Elder Abuse


Seniors wear a large target for financial abuse and exploitation.  Telemarketers sell auto-club memberships to seniors who no longer drive, caregivers who help with banking withdraw cash for themselves, and adult children drain their elderly parent’s retirement savings and change their wills. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission, people 60 and older accounted for 27 percent of fraud complaints last year, up from 22 percent in 2011.  Scams against the elderly ranked as the worst complaint category in 2013.  Yet, these statistics illustrate only a fraction of the problem because most senior financial abuse goes unreported.  However, an array of new tools and techniques are helping seniors with financial abuse and prevent it from occurring. 

New research is pinpointing which seniors are most susceptible to financial scams.  Health problems, primarily those involving cognitive impairment, make seniors vulnerable to cons.  Because of the links between physical and financial health, investor-education groups have begun training doctors and pharmacists to spot elder financial abuse.  Family members can also look for many of the red flags that doctors are taught to evaluate.

Planning can go a long way toward protecting your finances in the event of declining health.  Tell trusted relatives where to locate your financial documents in case you fall seriously ill.  Set up direct deposit of any income and benefit checks you receive regularly.  If you designate a power of attorney for finances, put safeguards in place to prevent abuse. 

See Eleanor Laise, Retirees, Protect Yourself From Fraudsters, Kiplinger, Nov. 2014. 

November 6, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Exploitation by Court-Appointed Conservator Fuels Reform Discussion

Gavel2The exploitation of 96-year-old veteran Louis Russo by his court-appointed conservator has supporters and advocates calling for reform of how Connecticut probate courts appoint conservators. Russo was appointed a conservator that he did not know because he did not have any family that could care for him. The conservator put Russo in a nursing home instead of a veterans home, which incurred additional cost, spent his life savings and Social Security, and rented out Russo’s home without permission. Russo now has a new conservator that is working to get Russo back in his home. Advocates are calling for reform to the court-appointed conservator system, including monitoring systems, training for conservators, and requirements such as social work experience

See Rob Ryser, WWII Veteran’s Plight Brings Call for Probate Court Reform, Connecticut Post, Oct. 25, 2014.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

November 5, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Amanda Bynes Plans to Fight Reinstated Conservatorship

Amanda_BynesLast Monday, a judge reinstated the temporary conservatorship over actress Amanda Bynes. Bynes mother, Lynn Bynes currently has control of Bynes’ financial and medical decisions. Bynes is currently out of the psychiatric hospital that she was involuntarily admitted to on October 10. Bynes plans to attempt to have the conservatorship removed at a hearing scheduled for February 24, 2015. The psychiatric hold and conservatorship come after a series of angry tweets and extravagant shopping sprees.

See Natalie Finn, Wait, So Why Was Amanda Bynes Released From a Psychiatric Hold Right After It Was Extended?, E Online, Oct. 31, 2014.

November 4, 2014 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Planning for Special Needs

Special needs 2

For families caring for those with special needs, estate planning takes time and thoughtful consideration.  With advances in care and modern medicine, individuals with special needs live longer, healthier lives, making planning more important than ever. 

Once you begin planning for your loved one’s future, keep these documents on hand with your estate planning records:

  • Legal papers. These include birth certificate, Social Security Card, and health insurance cards. 
  • A letter of intent. This provides future caregivers important information about your child.  It can relay information about care needs, food preferences, and other day-to-day information. 
  • Your advance health care and financial directives. Powers of attorney and living wills can save loved ones time and heartache should you become incapacitated.
  • Information regarding assets. Create a list of all your major assets and include account numbers and contact information for your banker, broker, and insurance agent.
  • Copies of special needs trusts. Having a copy of these documents will protect the assets intended for your special needs child.  Include information about where the original document is kept and who should be contacted when it is needed.
  • Guardianship documents. This will help expedite the process of obtaining guardianship to include these documents. 
  • Government benefits. Include a list of government benefits your child receives and copies of the application forms.  This will help future guardians when applying for benefits.

See Richard Newman, Special Needs Planning: Important Documents to Keep on Hand, Examiner, Oct. 30, 2014. 

October 30, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Planning for Alzheimer's Patients


According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2014 Americans will spend more than $214 billion to care for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.  This number is expected to drastically increase in the coming years. 

Establishing a legal plan is critical for Alzheimer’s patients.  The sooner the planning begins, the more likely it is that the person with dementia will be able to participate in decision-making.  Every adult should have basic estate planning documents that include a financial power of attorney, advance health care directive, and last will and testament.   

Families confronting Alzheimer’s disease should also consider how they will cover long-term care costs.  At an average cost of more than $7,500 per month, some families are unable to cover this expense on their own.  Medicare may be available to cover nursing home costs, provided certain financial requirements are met.  Also, veterans and their spouses may be eligible for aid through the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

A good resource to consult on these matters is the Alzheimer’s Association free monthly “Legal and Financial Planning for Alzheimer’s Dementia” class.  This class gives you the tools to ensure you are legally and financially protected in the wake of this debilitating disease. 

See Patrick J. Haase, Legal, Financial Planning for Alzheimer’s Patients, UT San Diego, Oct. 23, 2014.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 24, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)