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Elder Law 101

Estate Planning for Second Marriages

Estate planning can be challenging enough when you and your spouse have children in common. The process becomes even more complex when one or both of you have children from a previous relationship that you want to provide for after your passing.

People sometimes feel torn between the needs of their current spouse and the needs of their children, whether they are minors or adults. Adult children may have concerns that your spouse will exhaust their inheritance if you pass away first, and you may both have concerns about perceived fairness. This blog provides a general outline of factors to consider when considering estate planning with your second or subsequent spouse.

Questions Remarried Couples Should Consider When Writing a Will

While every person who has been married before has a unique situation, brainstorming answers to the following questions can help you and your spouse determine your joint priorities.

  • Do you have certain assets in mind for certain children? If one child or stepchild receives an asset with a considerably higher value than the others receive, how do you plan to address that?
  • Did either the husband or wife prepare a will while in a previous relationship that now requires updating? Do you plan to write new individual wills or a joint will?
  • Do the two of you have children together or do you plan to in the future? Which assets would you like to pass along to children who have not been born or adopted yet?
  • Did either of you bring individual debts into the marriage, or do you plan to incur large debts together?
  • Does either of you have individual assets or assets with a former partner that needs a new title in both names?
  • What other estate planning situations do you plan to cover besides writing a will? Common examples include healthcare power of attorney or directive, creating a trust, or guardianship of minor children.
  • Have you updated the beneficiary designations on your retirement savings account and insurance policies that may still bear the name of an ex-spouse?

Emotions are often high after a death, and tensions can be even higher in a step-family or blended family situation. Should one of you pass away suddenly without a will, the inheritance laws in your state apply rather than your own wishes. The best way to protect both sets of children and anyone else associated with your estate is to create an estate plan as early in your new marriage as possible.

Work with the Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys at Beasley & Ferber

With 30 years of experience operating our own law firm, attorneys Beasley and Ferber have worked with all types of families when creating and helping to settle estate plans. We invite you to contact us and share the ideas from your brainstorming session to ensure that you are not overlooking any estate planning essentials. Once you feel satisfied that your will and other legal documents express your true wishes, we will assist you with putting each of them in writing.

What to Expect When Going Through the Probate Process

The term probate refers to the entire legal process that takes place after a person passes away. An official appointed by the local court supervises all probate actions. Probate can be a difficult process, and it can be challenging to understand everything taking place if you do not know what to expect. We outline the basic process of probate in this blog.

Steps Involved in the Standard Probate Action

Probate typically involves the following:

  • Proving that the will of the deceased individual is valid. Although this is usually a routine process, people who feel the will is not valid may attend the probate hearing to voice any objections.
  • Identifying the assets of the deceased and assigning a value to each one.
  • Locating the beneficiaries of the will, known as decedents.
  • Completing a formal appraisal of the deceased individual’s real estate property, if any.
  • Paying any outstanding debts and taxes using money from the estate of the deceased.
  • Filing a final tax return on behalf of the deceased’s estate.
  • Distributing the remaining property and money to people named in the will.

The fees to pay for lawyer and court services come directly from the estate of the deceased. Unfortunately, that means fewer funds remain for the decedents when the time comes to distribute proceeds from the will. Retaining the legal services of an experienced law firm is essential to reducing the time spent in probate. The sooner the estate settles, the higher the value of the original will.

The Executor of the Estate Initiates the Probate Process

Part of preparing a will is to name an executor to handle its settling after the person dies. When death occurs, the executor named in the will files paperwork with the local court. People who die without a will have an executor assigned to their estate by the court. The executor bears responsibility for presenting the court with the deceased individual’s assets, debts, and names and contact information for each decedent. The court then notifies creditors and relatives about the person’s death.

Finding, securing, and managing the assets of the deceased can take several months to more than a year. If the person who passed away left a lot of debt, the executor can decide to sell assets to pay those debts. Most states allow immediate family members of the deceased to request short-term funds as they wait for the will to settle.

Probate is Not Automatic

People often dread the process of probate, but you should know that it does not happen automatically. For example, surviving spouses become the sole owner of property that the two owned jointly as a couple. Investment accounts and insurance policies name beneficiaries, and those named have legal entitlement to the inheritance without going through probate. Each state also protects a certain amount of assets from the probate process.

The elder and disability rights law firm Beasley & Ferber celebrated our 30th year of service in 2021. We invite you to contact us to learn more about how we can assist your family in the settling of a loved one’s will.

Top Reasons to Review Your Estate Plan

Estate plans should not be set in stone, as a rule. Rather, they should be living, working documents that can be changed as needed. After all, life circumstances and events frequently shift and evolve over time, and this often necessitates changes to your estate plan as well.

We recommend reviewing your estate plan every three to five years, no matter what. In some cases, however, you may want to review it even sooner.

5 Reasons You Might Need to Review Your Estate Plan

1. Your finances have changed.

There are numerous circumstances in which your finances may have changed enough to necessitate altering your estate plan. For example, you’ll certainly want to review your plan if you retire or get a new job that significantly alters your income. The same goes for if you suddenly receive an inheritance or a notable raise at your current job.

Any significant change to your overall finances should necessitate a general review of your estate plan to ensure you’re maximizing your benefits.

2. You’ve moved states.

Different states have different laws regarding estate plans. Moreover, these laws are regularly updated, so it’s smart to keep abreast of them and make any necessary changes as needed. You’ll want to maximize the benefits available and minimize any unnecessary fees and charges.

3. You’d like to change your beneficiaries.

There are numerous reasons why you might want to change the beneficiaries listed in your estate plan.

Frequently, for example, new family members necessitate a change. Perhaps you’ve had a new child or grandchild. It’s also possible you’ve decided to include a close friend or an organization or charity that’s close to your heart.

Conversely, certain life changes may necessitate removing a person or persons from your estate plan. For example, if your child is recently divorced, most often, you’ll want to remove the name of their ex-husband or ex-wife from your list of beneficiaries.

4. Your marital status has changed.

If you’ve recently gotten a divorce, in all likelihood, you’ll want to remove the name of your ex from your estate plan or alter their benefits at the very least. Likewise, you’ll want to add a new spouse if you’ve recently gotten married.

If you’re not married but have a partner who you’d like to be listed as a beneficiary in your estate plan, this can be carried out as well.

5. Child beneficiaries have reached the age of 18.

Lastly, if you’ve listed children, grandchildren, or any other minors as beneficiaries in your estate plan, if they turn 18, you’ll want to review their benefits. Minors are often treated differently than adults when it comes to estate planning.

Need Help Establishing a Plan for Your Estate? Contact Beasley & Ferber Today

Whether you’re looking to establish a brand-new estate plan or modify one you’ve already created, our team at Beasley & Ferber can help.

Contact us to set up a consultation appointment and start discussing your legal estate planning options today. We look forward to hearing from you!

How to Select the Right Trustee

Trusts can be established for a number of reasons, and there are many different types of trusts. One of the most common reasons for establishing a trust is to ensure that a person’s estate will be controlled and managed according to their wishes — even when they become unable to manage their estate themselves.

In most cases, a trustee will be appointed to hold legal title to the property of the beneficiary (the estate holder), and they will be entrusted with managing this property should the beneficiary become unable to. For example, living trusts are those in which the beneficiary maintains control of their estate while they are alive, and control passes to the trustee when they die.

No matter what type of trust you are creating, one of the most important steps will be selecting the right trustee. This will be the person who gains legal title to your property and who you’ll need to carry out your estate wishes. Below, we’ll go over how to choose the best trustee for your trust.

3 Considerations to Make When Choosing a Trustee

1. Are they up for the task?

Even small trusts will require that the trustee devote a significant amount of time and energy to carrying out the beneficiary’s wishes. Make sure that whoever you choose to be a trustee is someone who will have enough time and energy on their hands to devote to your trust management. Often, it’s best to choose someone who is retired or does not have a full schedule of responsibilities keeping them busy.

2. Are they trustworthy?

It is crucial to only choose an individual who is totally trustworthy to be your trustee. The word “trust” is right there in the job title after all. You want to know that they’re going to carry out even the minutest details of your trust or at least do their best to follow through when circumstances change. A good way to find a trustworthy trustee is to consider who in your life has always had your best interests at heart.

3. Do they have reasonable judgment?

There may come a time when you are not able to answer inquiries about your estate, and this duty will fall upon your trustee. Perhaps there’s need for clarification, or circumstances have changed such that funds must be diverted elsewhere. You need to know that your trustee will be able to use reasonable judgment in these situations.

Need Help Creating a Trust? Contact Beasley & Ferber Today

At Beasley & Ferber, we routinely receive questions from individuals who are interested in creating a trust but unsure how to go about doing so.

We understand that the process can be challenging, both in terms of logistics and paperwork and emotionally.

However, creating a trust for your estate is an integral part of ensuring financial security for you and your loved ones. Don’t wait to create a sound trust. Give yourself peace of mind knowing your assets are well protected.

To learn more about estate planning and how to establish a trust, contact Beasley & Ferber today.

What Should You Know Before Applying for Medicaid

You may qualify for Medicaid if your income falls below a certain level, and you meet certain other eligibility criteria. Medicaid is a federal program operated independently by each state. According to Medicaid.gov, approximately 72.5 million Americans have health insurance coverage through Medicaid. The program provides insurance for more people than any others, including the age-based Medicare program. Read on for some important things to know before applying for Medicaid.

Understanding What Federal Law Requires

Federal law requires each state to provide coverage to low-income families and individuals, people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), pregnant women, and children who meet all eligibility requirements. These groups of people fall into mandatory eligibility groups. Governments of each state have the option to add additional groups or cover certain individuals. Common examples are children living in foster care not eligible for other healthcare programs and people who receive community-based services because of a disability.

2010 Medicaid Expansion

Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) 11 years ago that expanded access to Medicaid for millions more Americans who had not yet reached their 65th birthday. Under ACA, all children whose families earned a minimum of 133 percent of the federal poverty rate automatically qualify for Medicaid. Several states chose to extend the same eligibility requirements to adults. If you feel your annual income is low enough to qualify for Medicaid, your next step is to check the eligibility requirements in your state.

Main Eligibility Criteria for Medicaid

States use both financial criteria and non-financial criteria when deciding whether to approve a Medicaid application. Employees who process applications use the Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) model to determine the financial eligibility aspect. Several other federal healthcare programs use MAGI, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the health insurance marketplace operated by individual states.

MAGI considers the applicant’s taxable income, eligible deductions, and tax filing status. The formula replaces a previous program used to determine Medicaid eligibility associated with the now-defunct Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). MAGI does not require applicants to disclose assets or apply a resource test.

People who are blind, have other significant disabilities, or are over age 65 do not have MAGI applied to their Medicaid application. State governments typically use the formula for determining social security disability income (SSDI) eligibility for Medicaid applicants who fall into one of these three groups.

Non-Financial Qualifications for Medicaid

Federal and state governments also require Medicaid applicants to meet the following non-financial criteria:

  • Be a permanent resident of the state where they applied for Medicaid.
  • Be born in the United States or a naturalized citizen, although certain lawful permanent residents also qualify.
  • Meet age, parenting, and pregnancy status qualifications imposed by individual states.

Contact the Elder Disability Law Firm of Beasley & Ferber

Applying for Medicaid can be frustrating and confusing, especially when eligibility requirements can vary significantly between states. Beasley & Ferber invites you to request a consultation with our elder disability law firm today to receive guidance as you go through the process.

Ways to Protect Your Assets When Moving into a Nursing Home

Most older people would rather leave their assets to family members rather than have their hard-earned savings go to pay for nursing home care. The bad news is that the federal government and nursing home administrators determine the cost of care based on personal assets. The good news is that people who need to move into a nursing home can do several things to restructure their assets and keep more of their own money. We explore three possibilities in this blog.

Create a Life Estate

If you or a loved one plans to apply for Medicaid to help finance the cost of nursing home care, you should be aware that the program has a five-year lookback period. The purpose of the lookback period is to prevent people from giving away or selling assets so they can meet eligibility requirements. Establishing a life estate is a possible workaround for dealing with the look-back period.

The term life estate means that a person retains ownership of their home until they die. This is true even if their death takes place in a nursing home. The person who takes out a life estate policy names another person as the one who will inherit the property after death occurs.

A life estate is different than a joint tenancy because the named person has an interest in the property while the policyholder is still living. This strategy divides the real estate assets when it comes time to apply for financial assistance for nursing home care.

Consider Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance provides reimbursement for some costs of care in a nursing home, rehabilitation center, adult daycare center, or assisted living facility. The person utilizing these services must require substantial help with the activities of daily living. Common examples include grooming tasks and the ability to feed themselves.

Some people hesitate to purchase long-term care insurance because the cost has gone up dramatically in recent years. Others do not want to invest in it because the policy offers no cash value if not used. This is obviously a personal decision that requires consideration of the pros and cons. However, these statistics from the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance can help:

  • 30 percent of nursing home residents reside for one to three years
  • 12 percent reside for three to five years
  • 12 percent reside for more than five years

Open an Irrevocable Trust

The term irrevocable trust refers to a legal entity that holds a person’s assets in a trust account and designates one or more beneficiaries to receive them. The person holding the trust cannot cancel it or make changes except under specific circumstances. Since the account holder no longer owns the assets, they do not count towards the asset total when it comes time to determining financial eligibility for nursing home care.

Get Help From Professionals

Helping people protect their assets when moving into a nursing home is just one of many legal services we offer at our elder and disability law firm. Please contact Beasley & Ferber to request a consultation to learn more about how we can help.

How to Choose a Senior Care Facility

There are several crucial factors to consider when choosing a senior care facility. Senior care facilities differ widely, so consider the following before making a final decision.

Determine What is Most Important to You and Your Loved One

Keep in mind what gives you and your loved one meaning and purpose in life when selecting a senior care facility. It’s critical for your aging loved one’s physical and mental health that they be allowed to pursue the things in life that make them feel hopeful and positive about the future. Look for a senior care facility that offers space and tools to pursue hobbies such as gardening, watching movies, crafting, and more.

Take Into Account Both Current and Future Requirements

Certain illnesses that affect the elderly have symptoms that worsen over time. For example, your loved one may not require assistance in the restroom right now, but if their mobility concerns worsen, they may require more assistance in the future. You may have to shift them later to a different institution if you don’t address potential future requirements as well as present needs. This would cause unneeded disturbance in their life.

Make Certain the Facility is Financially Stable

Assisted living facilities are conducted as a business behind the scenes. They, like any other business, have financial obligations, budgets, and costs. Unless the facility is financially stable, it may be unable to offer the high-quality care you’ve grown to expect over time.

Verify Your State’s Licensing Requirements

According to federal and state requirements, elderly care facilities must keep their licenses up to date. By looking online, you can readily verify that the institution is properly licensed. It’s also a good idea to look up the facility’s record with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any unresolved complaints or ongoing issues.

Get Recommendations and Check References

A list of recommendations from previous caregivers, as well as a few from current residents, will be provided by most reputable elderly care facilities. If your facility hasn’t already done so, inquire about obtaining a list of references or recommendations. This will allow you to get a personal account of how that particular elderly care facility operates.

Find Out Whether There is a Waiting List

The nicer an elderly care facility is, the longer the waiting list is likely to be. When you visit the facility and decide to place it on your shortlist, request that your name be immediately added to the waiting list. You may always get your name removed if you subsequently decide to use a different facility. This will help you to avoid disappointment about not being able to get your loved one accepted later on.

Make a Number of Visits Before Committing to a Plan

One unannounced visit, preferably when you initially indicate interest, one daytime visit, and one nocturnal visit should be included in your visit schedule. This will provide you with a thorough understanding of what it’s like to visit and live there. Note that your unannounced visit may be brief, as the administrative staff may be unable to meet with you. Nevertheless, this will give you an opportunity to assess how the facility handles unexpected events.

Choosing an elderly care facility should be undertaken with much care and consideration. Ideally, this will be a long-term relationship, so you want to be sure you choose a facility that can be trusted to care for your loved one in a similar manner to how you would do so at home.

What Should You Look for in an Elder Law Attorney

There are a lot of questions that come with aging that need to be answered regarding the future. So, how do you get a good elder law attorney who understands the legal issues that you or your loved one might face? Read on to learn what to look for in an elder law attorney.

Expertise in Elder Law

Several law attorneys are experienced in different fields of law. Some of them may profess to know about elder law. It’s best to choose an attorney that specializes in elder law, however. Choosing an elder law attorney who has the expertise and focuses on elder law will benefit you since they are more knowledgeable about the issues affecting elders. Their expertise helps them protect against property loss, protection of assets, and develop proper plans to improve quality of life.

Understanding of Financial and Personal Profile

The most suitable attorney is the one who has an understanding of both personal and financial profiles. The vast knowledge will help the attorney make essential decisions and recommend the best strategies for legal matters. Choosing such an attorney will significantly help in resolving issues that may arise.

Process Guidance

The best elder attorneys have the patience to guide you through the different planning processes and legal stages. They should be capable of guiding you through different options to achieve your goals. The guidance should cover asset protection and incapacity planning in case of pre-planning and quality of life preservation in case of crisis planning.

Fast Implementation

A good elder law attorney should be able to expedite the process of implementing the agreed strategy. Pre-planning may take between 4 to 6 weeks to prepare the protection documents, while crisis planning requires faster processing, especially where long-term care is concerned.

Custom Planning and Consultations

Customized solutions have a much more favorable outcome than general solutions. Having an attorney who is present and involved in the plan creation and execution is beneficial to you. An attorney with a personalized approach will have no problem walking with you through the process, educating you, and helping you choose the best course of action to take.

Consider Education and Experience

Choosing an elder attorney who has the proper education and experience comes with a more significant promise of success. An educated attorney ensures they know the most recent changes to laws and how to navigate them. The different circumstances they handle and the experience gained means they understand the strategies and processes that will work well.

An elder law attorney can be contracted to offer vital help in ensuring you or your loved one’s legal needs are taken care of in a legal and profitable manner. These are some of the considerations you should keep in mind when choosing an elder attorney. For more information about the many services that an elder law attorney can offer, please feel free to contact us.

Who Should You Disclose Your End-of-Life Arrangements With?

End-of-life arrangements are highly personal decisions. You have legal control over your body, possessions, and financial assets until your expiration, and rightly so. When you work with the elder law firm of Beasley & Ferber, you can trust that your end-of-life arrangements will be held in the strictest of confidence. However, to facilitate matters after your demise and to ease the way for survivors, you may choose to disclose those arrangements with certain others.

Direct Beneficiaries

Sometimes people like to disclose end-of-life arrangements with direct beneficiaries of trusts, wills, and insurance policies. While this choice often comes from an eagerness to let beneficiaries know they will not be forgotten, it’s not always smart to disclose this information. Being a direct beneficiary with full knowledge of the inheritance makes that person vulnerable to scrutiny, should unusual circumstances come into play. For instance, if an end-of-life decision must be made, you wouldn’t want your beneficiary to be wrongfully accused of trying to sway the choice in one way or another. Rest assured that the very act of including a loved one in your financial gifting post-departure will ensure they know they were cherished.

Adult Children

When estate planning necessitates leaving property and other assets to adult children, it can be a good idea to let those children know what they can expect. This is especially the case when you have multiple children since surviving children have a tendency to debate the fairness of inheritances. To avoid family rifts after your passing, let adult children know ahead of time at least the percentage of your estate that each can expect to receive.

Now, this brings up a dilemma. While you may want your adult children to know what percentage of your assets they will get, you may not necessarily want their spouses to know, or their spouse’s parents. There’s no point in denying that if the estate is substantial, adult children and their spouses will be liable to talk about what numbers that you’ve disclosed. Therefore, it will no longer be very private.

One way to circumvent this is to directly ask that your adult children keep the information private. Another way is to keep it general; let them know they will each be treated equally, but do not disclose any other details.

Crisis Planning is a Special Case

An Advance Directive is a way that you can let your wishes be known to doctors and loved ones in case you are mentally incapacitated and unable to do so. It behooves your loved ones if you tell them that you have signed an Advance Directive to be followed in this circumstance. This way, your loved ones will be ready to make that difficult decision on your behalf. You should tell your spouse or partner at a minimum.

When you’re ready to make end-of-life arrangements, contact the elder law firm of Beasley & Ferber, everything will be made easier. Whether you need estate planning or to put in place an Advance Directive, you can rely on us.

Why Should You Contact a Lawyer Before You Need One

You never know when you’re going to need a lawyer. You can certainly plan ahead for things like updating your will or setting up a trust. However, you can’t schedule when someone is going to decide to sue you or when someone in your family might need to go live in an assisted care facility or nursing home. Even if you live an exemplary life, you’re likely to have legal needs, especially as you age. That’s why you need to establish a relationship with an attorney as early as possible.

Benefits of Establishing a Relationship with a Lawyer Before You Need One

One of the worst things you can do in a stressful legal situation is try to represent yourself. While it may seem like a cost-efficient thing to do, the truth is it could end up costing you much more in the long run. Just like you wouldn’t think of re-wiring your home yourself, it doesn’t make sense to represent yourself in court without the proper training, experience, and contacts.

However, having a trained and experienced lawyer to represent your interests is just one of several benefits to having a relationship established with an attorney before you need one. When a lawyer already knows you and your situation, he or she doesn’t have to start at zero when you need legal representation. That means your attorney can “hit the ground running” and not have to spend time catching up on the basics of your unique situation.

Another good reason to have a relationship established with a lawyer is access. Lawyers are humans, and they can’t take on an unlimited number of clients. When you have an established relationship, you can be confident that your lawyer or at least a close associate will be able to take your case when the need arises.

Lastly, having a lawyer you can trust means that you don’t have to “shop” for a lawyer during a stressful time in your life. When tension and stress are running high, mistakes and poor decisions can easily happen. You may fall victim to settling for the first lawyer that can take you on instead of the best lawyer for your needs. You can feel assured during difficult times knowing that your lawyer is ready to represent you when the need arises if you are already an established client.

Working with Beasley & Ferber

Beasley & Ferber specializes in estate and elder law. We help New Hampshire families hold onto their homes and protect their savings as they face nursing homes and escalating medical expenses. We recently received the “Outstanding Business Award” from the State Committee on Aging and Division of Elderly and Adult Services.

To learn more about how having an attorney at the ready can help you and your family, contact Beasley & Ferber to set up an appointment. We’ve been helping New Hampshire families like yours since 1991.

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