Thursday, August 18, 2016
Do you know what life insurance policies cover your spouse or parent? Few of us can remember like an elephant. Many years ago, when someone came to our firm for help after their spouse or family member died, we would follow procedures offered by a large life insurance database to check and see whether there was any life insurance on the life of the person who had died. Using this database, we regularly found life insurance benefits for surviving family members. Then the insurance industry group that offered the database went away.
Family members often do not know what insurance their spouse or parents carry.
Read more . . .
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Don’t Ruin Your Life
Don’t Put Me in a Nursing Home
Families deal with aging in different ways. We all hope that, if we are struck by Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s or another Dementia, our spouses and our children will be willing to step up and be there for us. At the same time, many of us are torn between our desire to be taken care of by our own family and the realization that if our spouse or children take care of us, the caretaking will takeover their lives. Our instinct is to protect them, even in the face of our own needs. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP over 65.7 million people take care of someone who is ill, disabled or aged in the U.S. without compensation.
We may be forced to wrestle with how to save our families from our own needs. Bringing outside care providers into our homes can quickly consume our life’s savings and quickly eat up our family’s nest egg. Agency supplied care providers often start at $18 an hour and peak at $28/hr. Privately found and paid caregivers can be less, but are unknown and working unsupervised can pose a threat to a Senior’s person, finances, and dignity. Most Seniors are very hesitant to spend their life savings on in home care. This quandary quickly becomes a quagmire.
As a nation, we are very loyal in our commitment to take care of our spouses and parents. How much should we be willing to sacrifice? How much do we want our spouses to endure and our children to sacrifice? At what point do we want them to find a suitable care facility for us? How much of their lives must they give up before getting help? Do we want them to continue to carry the burden of keeping us at home if we no longer know we are there? The Washington Post ‘Promise you’ll never put me in a nursing home’ recently focused in on these issues, and came away without an answer.
These are thorny issues that need to be discussed and revisited every few years. Part of the discussion needs to be the best ways to pay for care. Including an elder law attorney in that discussion is critical. Elder law attorneys are experienced in helping families arrange their affairs to qualify for public entitlements and Veterans’ benefits to help pay for a Senior’s care. At the Weissler Law Group, we are accustomed to helping families prepare for and face these issues. We believe that everyone deserves to be cared for when they are old and that being able to access help to pay for in home or residential care can make an enormous difference. If elder care is not yet a crisis for your family, call us today at (619) 281-1888 to plan for tomorrow. If you are dealing with overwhelming care needs today, call us immediately at (619) 281-1888 to find out what can still be done to protect family assets and pay for care.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
40% of Baby Boomers Run With Scissors
New clients, visiting my office in San Diego, are often embarrassed when they admit to me that they don’t have, a will or trust or that it’s been a long time since they updated their estate planning documents. For years I’ve told them that they are in good company; maybe I should have said bad company?
Unfortunately, an amazing number of smart people seem to put planning for how their assets will be deployed after they die on the bottom of their to do lists. Even so, running without a will, running without an estate plan is like running with scissors. It doesn’t matter until we fall and none of us know when we will fall.
According to AARP nearly 40% of Baby Boomers between 51 and 69 years old, do not have wills or trusts. They are running with scissors.
AARP also found that Baby Boomer have taught this lesson to their children. 71% of all Americans over the age of 34 are running with scissors.
You cannot control who will get your assets without taking action. Over the last twenty-six years as an estate planning attorney I’ve seen how proper planning can make a positive difference for families and how the failure to plan can rip families apart and put children and young adults on paths of destruction.
Your assets are your life’s work, with proper planning they can continue to work for you after you’re gone by providing incentives to guide your children and grandchildren and provide support or a long term nest egg to help your family members be more financially secure. Prudent deployment of your nest egg has become increasingly important for families in our world where businesses fail, pensions are rare; social security uncertain; and the cost of raising children and the costs of getting help if you are disabled keeps going up.
While doing estate planning right is not cheap, it is always less expensive than the financial and personal cost of dying without plan documents. For average San Diego home owners choosing to die without a living trust, they have chosen a ten to eighteen month delay as to when their family can receive their inheritance and chosen to pay attorneys’ fees and court expenses of not less than $18,000.
Money is money and time is time, but subjecting your family to the Probate process is encouraging them to fight. It is in the nature of being in court, where misunderstandings and old wrongs thought left behind become fuel for conflict and legacy consuming attorneys’ fees. The one legacy you don’t want to leave behind is a court battle between your family members.
Make it your New Year’s resolution to call an estate planning attorney today. Call me at (619) 281-1888. I, or one of my staff, will make sure that start 2016 off on the right foot, with no scissors in hand.
Friday, November 27, 2015
Pre-Planning with a San Diego Elder Lawyer for Nursing Home Care
One of the more difficult topics that San Diego elder law attorneys and their clients must discuss is the potential need for nursing home care. However, talking about it and knowing the options is actually one of the things that can make things easier. With the help of a good elder care lawyer in San Diego, seniors and their adult children can plan ahead to remove fear and uncertainty about the future.
One of the most compelling reasons for pre-planning nursing home care is the fact that the senior can be thoroughly involved in the process. Far too often, San Diego elder law lawyers work with families where the person in need of care has experienced physical or mental impairments that limit their participation in the planning process. It is not uncommon for seniors who have had a simple fall, even if they only suffered bumps and bruises, to feel paralyzed when they face the planning process. Whether overwhelmed by facing a sudden reality that they need to plan, are incapacitated and unable to communicate or their cognitive functions have deteriorated due to dementia or other problems, elderly individuals who wait too long can find that they have a hard time making their true wishes know or perhaps simply cannot make long term care decisions without guidance..
An additional problem that pre-planning solves is that nursing home care is often needed on very short notice, as the result of an unexpected illness or injury. In the midst of a medical crisis, most families would prefer to already have arrangements in place so they can simply focus on treatment, recovery, or long-term care.
Understanding the importance of pre-planning is a great starting point. The next step is to familiarize yourself with some of the conversations you and your elder law attorney should have. For example, a lawyer may talk you, as their client, through the various alternatives to nursing home care in order to determine what is really the best option for you. Instead of a nursing home, it’s possible that you might be better served with in-home care or at an assisted-living facility. An elder lawyer with extensive experience in the San Diego area will also have first-hand knowledge regarding the reputation and levels of care available from various local caregivers and institutions.
The entire process of researching, selecting, applying to, and paying for nursing home care is complex. It’s not something that most people can navigate easily. Pre-planning with an elder law attorney can remove some of the mystery and also gives you the opportunity to compare facilities and negotiate prices. Each of these things gets considerably harder when being done in a rush on the heels of an illness or accident.
The thing to keep in mind is that San Diego elder care lawyers are experienced in focusing on the needs of seniors. From pre-planning for nursing home care to qualifying for Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid plan) to setting up a smart estate plan, elder law attorneys have specific knowledge of the unique planning issues that directly affect our older generation. A San Diego Elder Law Attorney can help you and your family anticipate problems and prepare solutions for problems that haven’t even arisen yet!
The Weissler Law Group can help you start or fine tune your planning to prepare for aging and care related issues. Call us at (619) 281-1888
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Wake up and Prepare your Executor or Trustee to Administer your Will or Trust in San Diego
As an individual puts together his or her estate plan, there is a need to really think about how it will be administered. California Wills and trusts administration can be a complex process, although having an estate plan in place is without a doubt one of the best ways to simplify it. Another way to improve the outcome of the administration is to thoroughly prepare your executor or successor Trustee for the job ahead of them.
In California we call executors and successor trustees “Personal Representatives.” In San Diego Personal Representatives are called on to take care of many different details related to administering a will or trust. In order to improve that person’s efficiency and make the most of your estate plan, start by talking with the person you want to perform the job and make sure that he or she is willing and able to do so. It’s possible that you could name someone as the executor of the estate intending it to be an honor, but without briefing them in advance, that person might actually feel like it is a burden or unwanted responsibility. Keep in mind that this doesn’t make the person uncaring, rather, it allows you to name someone who will do the job willingly and well. For many people they just don’t have time in their lives to step into another’s shoes and either wind up their affairs or administer them over an extended period of time.
You can also smooth the process for the executor by actually discussing the contents of your estate plan with him or her, as well as with other family members and friends who will be affected. It’s hard to foresee what kinds of problems could arise during will or trust administration, so laying things out in advance can help avoid surprises later. Family dynamics are an incredibly personal and complicated thing, and the estate plan will likely need to take them into consideration. So, if one family member has a problem with addiction, a grandchild has a disability, or one sibling is substantially wealthier than others, these are all possible reasons a plan might not look the way everyone expected. Your goal of protecting more vulnerable family members could be perceived as unfair by those who don’t ‘need’ the help but feel distributions should be equal. Preparing them, and the executor, can avoid drama later—including but not limited to discouraging someone from trying to contest your will or trust.
Keeping your executor, or successor trustee, apprised of potentially upsetting aspects of the estate plan can help them navigate the will or trust administration later, especially since they will be clear on your intentions and therefore better armed to carry them out. Their abilities can also be bolstered by introducing them to your estate planning lawyer who can help them to really understand what will be expected of them and give them insight into things like taxes, court costs, paying off debt, and so on. With a little guidance up front, family conflicts can be reduced and your will or trust’s administration can run as smoothly as possible.
At the Weissler Law Group we work to make certain our Clients' wishes are carried out and family conflicts are minimized or avoided. We can be reached at (619) 281-1888
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
30 Things Good San Diego
Will, Trust & Estate Lawyers
Want You to Know
Estate planning is a pretty big field, with lots to take into consideration with your lawyer. There are complexities and confusion; but at the end of it all, there’s no doubt that coming up with a solid plan is one of the best paths for retirement, saving, what you are able to leave behind, and—of course— making things easier on your loved ones.
What follows is a list of things that every credible San Diego will and estates lawyer would want you to know. Items range from funeral arrangements to important documentation to life insurance and IRAs. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it does give you a little insight into the complexities of estate planning. So, here they are, in no particular order:
- Trusts aren’t just for wealthy people.
- Trust assets don’t go through the probate process and can be put into action right away.
- Trusts keep your family business private.
- You should share your plans with those they will affect.
- Healthcare directives (Advance Directives) and financial powers of attorney are an important part of your estate plan.
- Anyone with minor children in California should have an estate planning lawyer draw up standby guardianship papers.
- Make sure your family can find your estate plan.
- If you die without a will or trust, pretty much every decision is up to the courts—not you!
- Wills and trusts can be contested, but it’s not nearly as common as you might think.
- There is a very good chance that you will be physically incapacitated before you die.
- Family members don’t always think clearly when an estate is being distributed.
- Your ex-spouse may be entitled to your assets if you haven’t changed beneficiaries.
- There are trusts to provide for everything from your pets to your family’s ability to travel the world.
- You can place limitations on how and over what period of time your heirs get to use their inheritance.
- A good San Diego will and estate lawyer can save you an unbelievable amount in probate fees, estate, property and income taxes.
- You can use life insurance and other means to supply funds for a trust.
- Websites that promise do-it-yourself planning kits are pretty much NEVER the answer – they necessarily need to be “one size fits all.”
- Family members are not the only people you can choose as the executor of your estate—there are professionals who can do this job.
- You can make annual gifts (currently up to $14,000 per person) tax-free while you’re still living – but if you may need long term care soon there are other restrictions that should be observed when making gifts.
- There’s a big difference between a “will” and a “living will” (Both are important).
- It’s never too early or too late to start your estate planning (But the earlier you start, the better).
- Review your estate plan at least once a year.
- Review your estate plan after any major life change.
- As you age, your estate planning (and other legal) needs will change focus.
- Money cannot ordinarily be left to minor children directly.
- Make sure your family knows if you’re an organ or tissue donor.
- Make funeral arrangements (and cover expenses) a part of your estate plan.
- Small business owners need a succession plan
- There are many ways that a San Diego will and estate lawyer can help you increase the value of your estate for your heirs (such as stretch payments for IRAs, avoiding taxes with a trust, etc.).
- Your estate will be responsible for debts accrued during your lifetime.
If you have questions about any of these items or you are ready to get started creating an estate plan (or updating your existing plan) that takes into account your wishes for your finances, end-of-life affairs and providing for your family, feel free to contact our San Diego will and estate lawyers at (619) 281-1888 to schedule a consultation.
Monday, June 15, 2015
Are you ready to be your Parent’s Helper?
First Steps to Being Ready to Manage Your Elderly Parent’s Finances
Elder law attorneys in San Diego very often find themselves advising adult children of the elderly on the intricacies of managing their parents’ finances. Why get help from an Elder law attorney and not from an accountant? With rare exception, most of us know how to pay our bills. We don’t need an accountant to tell us when SDG&E or the water bill needs to be paid. Helping or handling a parent’s finances may seem straightforward at first, but without pre-planning senseless hurdles can make it stressful and unnecessarily difficult.
Too many children and grandchildren only realize that a senior’s finances have gone sideways when they see late notices in a mail pile or notice stacks of unopened mail. Parents often feel that their privacy has been violated when their lack of attention to paying their bills has been discovered. They often become evasive and defensive, when all you want to do is help.
Sometimes families are forced to deal with a senior’s financial situation without warning. These emergencies come to the surface after a bad fall or stroke which prevents a senior from handling their own affairs.
Adult children often come to an Elder law attorney to help them after their parent has suffered a debilitating health crisis. They are often in the dark. Culturally, to our own detriment, we are all trained to keep our finances private. Few seniors realize that failing to share makes it harder for them to stay captains of their own financial ships. Many seniors find it easier to be forthcoming about their finances with an elder law lawyer to provide against an uncertain future. Sometimes this is a first step that lets them begin to open up to their children. This can take time, for many senior seniors it feels wrong to speak about their finances with family members.
San Diego Elder law attorneys are accustomed to helping families deal with these issues. Seeking out an experienced elder law or estate lawyer before problems arise can help you and your parent avoid awkwardness, embarrassment and heated emotions.
The biggest triggers, making families dive-in to rearrange senior’s affairs and empower adult children to manage their aging parent’s finances, are probably health events requiring long term care and sudden realizations that their parents have significant memory issues. Financial management problems make these types of events even more painful. At times like these, getting an answer to important questions may be difficult or even impossible. Sidelined seniors seldom can tell you who they owe, how much they receive each month or where they have bank and investment accounts.
Acting ahead of time, or at least before ordinary bill paying has become a problem, empowers older parents and adult children to act as a team and avoid being forced into a role reversal. Working with an Elder law attorney, a senior maintains control by putting into place the marching orders for how things should be handled. They get to choose how their financial safety can be monitored.
Using an Elder law attorney changes the paradigm. No disruptive and harsh role reversal is needed. A good Elder law attorney can coach a family and help seniors put in place tools protect themselves while staying actively involved in their own finances. Some home bill pay pre-planning mechanisms are legal documents, many are not. The goal is for our parents to put in place mechanisms to shield them from everything falling to pieces, if and when, illness or disability prevents them from doing what must be done. Proper planning allows a senior senior to choose who they want to have act for them and put in place alerts so that their chosen person, whether family member or friend, can step in and make certain the bills are paid and the lights stay on.
Watch out for assurances that having a basic revocable living trust and a standard springing power of attorney is enough to avoid this pitfall. Although they are a good starting point as a method to transfer the power to act, they fall short in making available accurate information to act upon. If planning in advance, putting in place an immediate limited power of attorney which allows others, including banks, pension plans, brokerages, and utilities to share information between family members is a good start. Your Elder law attorney can coach you and identifying tools to either prepare for or use to handle any crisis that arises.
Most Estate planners start the idea that their work is to help you be prepared if you die, planning for disability is secondary. Most of us will experience a period of time during which we are incapacitated before we die. For attorneys cross trained in Elder law the challenge is instead to help clients be prepared to live, protect their assets and have their wishes competently followed if they are incapacitated.
Advance planning helps prevent painful family conflict. If you can act to plan in advance, you will avoid a bad situation which can cost you the closeness you have with your parent. The earlier you and your parent start meeting with a San Diego elder law attorney that you trust, the more likely you are to get the information you need. As an added bonus, your parent will have the ability to make his or her wishes known in order to offer guidance on how to handle their affairs if and when all of the responsibility is passed on to you.
No matter what stage the parent is at, the subject needs to be discussed. Again, earlier is better, too many families miss the window of opportunity during which solutions can be put in place without a tug of war. It is hard to know what or when an event will occur which robs you of your opportunity to plan in advance. You may choose to start the conversation by relating it to your own estate planning or by bringing up a situation you heard about recently, such as the death of a celebrity. San Diego is blessed with a number of good attorneys who can offer suggestions on how to bring up the subject, as well as how to help steer the conversation in the right direction.
Attorney Joel Weissler has been helping families plan for life cycle events for over 25 years. He is available for consultation and for group speaking engagements through the Weissler Law Group at (619) 281-1888.
Friday, June 5, 2015
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A SAN DIEGAN DIES WITH DEBTS LEFT BEHIND?
In good times and in bad, San Diego will, trust and estate planning lawyers are intimately aware of their clients’ financial situations. They see the plain facts; most people carry a heavy debt load. Whether it is the person setting up an estate plan or one who has inherited from it, there are often questions regarding what happens to that debt. Does money come out of the estate for medical bills? Are adult children responsible for credit cards? What happens to the mortgage?
As with so many aspects of law, the answers are somewhat complex, but here’s a basic look at what you and your San Diego will and estate lawyer might expect to see:
When a home is inherited, its mortgage is, too. Federal legislation forces banks to work with families who have inherited an encumbered (mortgaged) home. Watch out though, these banks will expect payments to be made and may be resistant to providing inheriting heirs with the information they need to meet their obligations under the outstanding loan. The exception to this, are reverse mortgages. Reverse mortgages come due shortly upon the borrower’s death – with a maximum extension of a year from death. Fortunately, new rules protect surviving spouses, even if they aren’t ‘on the loan.’ In California, all home purchase and most refi loans (except cash out loans) are non-recourse. This means that in most cases an individual’s other assets aren’t liable if a mortgage is higher than the home is worth. For Federally insured home mortgages, lenders must allow family members to acquire a property, prior mortgage free, for 90% of the homes appraised value, no matter how high the mortgage.
Taxes are sticky. Most taxes stick to anything a person owing the taxes left behind. When it comes to paying bills left behind, taxes are usually exempt from claim period limitations and one of the highest priorities, needing to be paid before other debts.
This is an area where things can get a little dicey, so definitely work with a local San Diego attorney with experience in estate administration and probate to minimize the amount of medical debt left behind. Who pays what and when is a tough question for outstanding bills. More surprising for many families is that if a person who has passed away received Medi-Cal benefits, those benefits become a debt on death and may need to be repaid from the estate. If heirs receive distributions prior to Medi-Cal being repaid, they can become liable for all or part of the debt. Again, the responsibility for medical and nursing home expenses is very complex and should be taken to a lawyer.
As long as you aren’t a co-signer on a credit card, you aren’t personally responsible for them. Remember, being an authorized user does not necessarily make you a co-signer. The companies can call the executor in order to collect from the estate, although there is a finite time frame in which to do so. California law has procedures which can be followed to shorten the amount of time a person’s creditors have to come forward after they have died. In addition, a good estate administration attorney can often get credit card companies to negotiate down outstanding balances in order to get a more certain and immediate payment.
- Duty to Not Pay Unenforceable Claims
If you are not the only heir, remember that you must exercise due diligence in confirming a debt before you can pay it. Remember, too, that when a debt is paid for by the estate, it lowers the overall amount that is left to be inherited. It is amazing how many companies are unethical in their collection efforts. Many pursue claims they know are no longer legally enforceable and sometimes, purely fictitious claims show up.
Some debts must be paid from an estate. Others do not. Unfortunately, unethical collectors can haunt family members and it is hard to know what is what without good legal help. A good San Diego will, trust and estate planning lawyer can help you deal with these issue properly when the time comes, or help your family proactively plan ahead to limit the value of your estate exposed to creditors using legal tools such as trusts. To discover all of your options when dealing with someone’s debts after they have died, contact our centrally located Weissler Law Group office at (619) 281-1888 .
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
For some, it’s all about the kids. A lot of San Diegans only come in to see an estate planning lawyer to figure out how to take care of their kids once they are gone. For those with minor children, this might revolve around choosing legal guardians, setting up educational trusts, and making sure there is someone to manage any assets left for the kids. Beyond that, parents never stop being parents. Parents want to be certain that their deaths don’t disrupt their children’s lives, and most of all, they want to pass on three things to their children: memories, advantages in life and financial security. These are good reasons but they skirt around the real reason which is to maintain control over themselves, their children and their assets.
But what about those who don’t have children? What do those with money and no kids direct their estate planning lawyers to do?
Who Are These People?
According to a recent Gallup Article, 14% of adults over age 45 are without children. There are quite a lot of adults without children who are doing their estate planning. As a group, these childfree individuals and couples tend to be more educated and affluent than the general population. Forty-five and up is a broad group of people – from dual income no kid couples to singles nearing retirement.
For individuals without children, some estate planning choices can be more difficult. The vast majority of individuals with children empower their children to act for them in financial and medical decision making if they do not have a spouse to make those decisions for them. According to a Bloomberg Article by Rich Miller (analyzing Bureau of Labor Statistics data), 50.2% of all Americans over 16 years and older are now single. If this is true of individuals without children, then that group of over 7% of the populace faces a doubly daunting challenge in choosing who should act for them if they are incapacitated or have died.
Who do you trust?
Younger adults without children may have their parents or siblings available to step in to act, as well as nieces and nephews. Unfortunately, it is rarely that simple.
While our national entrepreneurial and tech booms have created a still growing class of younger men and women who have come into money before they’ve had the opportunity to get married and/or start a family, long work hours are leaving them without large circles of close friends outside of work. This narrows their range of choices. We are seeing co-workers serve as executors and successor trustees for individual who they barely knew outside of the workplace. This can be an invitation for surviving family members to get bent out of shape.
Older adults without children may find that their best choice of a person or company to act for them may be a professional trustee. Professional trustees range from Trust Companies with nationwide reach to individuals who are licensed Professional Fiduciaries, Attorneys or CPAs.
Who do you love?
Of course, many of the people described above will want at least a portion of their estate to go to family members. Aunts and uncles may want to set up college funds for their siblings’ kids or grandkids. Adult children may want to leave support behind to make sure that Mom and Dad are set for retirement and beyond.
Young or old, many people seem to be showing an interest in leaving some of their wealth to charitable causes. Many individuals without children are choosing to leave more than a tithe (10%) of their assets to support their causes or make a difference when they are gone. San Diego will and trust lawyers sometimes refer to this as “legacy planning.” Their client identifies a cause that he or she is particularly interested in supporting and then names that cause as a beneficiary in their will, trust or on certain accounts or policies. A growing approach for public good minded individuals is the use of donor-advised funds. Funded during lifetime (creating a current charitable deduction), or at death, these alternatives to the foundations created by the very wealthy hold and invest funds to be given to charities selected by the donor immediately or at a later date. By using a donor advised fund, you can provide for charitable gifts to be made and causes to be supported, long after you are gone.
Planning Early Is Key
The fact that an individual does not have children does not make the need for estate planning any less important. The California Probate Code has a plan for your assets if you don’t make a plan. Arguably, men and women without children have more incentive to make their wishes legally binding and known. They cannot just “leave everything to the kids.”
We all spend a lifetime building our nest eggs. We don’t want those eggs tossed about without care. Most individuals want a say in what happens to the money they’ve accumulated over their lifetimes. Equally importantly, almost everyone wants a say in who can make medical and financial decisions for them in an emergency if they cannot do so for themselves. There may be charities you want to benefit and there are choices to be made in the best way to support the causes you believe in.
If you are an adult without children, it is important that you meet with an estate planning attorney. An estate planning lawyer can create for you the tools and structures needed for you to control your property and insure that your medical treatment wishes are followed.
When friends ask when they should see an estate planning attorney, I tell them “we all drive on the freeway; we don’t know which day is ours.” See one before your family needs for you to have seen one. Attorney Joel Weissler and Attorney Damien Snow can be reached at (619) 281-1888.
Monday, January 5, 2015
Buy a Blanket
In spite of the fact that the Calendar says that it is winter; in Southern California we seldom feel too cold. We forget about the bite of winter experienced in other parts of the country. Last week’s cold bite was a bit of a surprise, a shock to many who scrambled to get out extra blankets, seldom used jackets and turn on the heat. For many others, since this cold wave hit San Diego between Christmas and New Year’s, it became an excuse to celebrate and take a trip up from San Diego to Julian or Idyllwild.
In San Diego it can be easy to treat aging like the seasons. We go on with our lives as if it was endless spring, summer, or autumn and just don’t think about winter. But, sometimes we have to think about it. Based on the calls to my office since Thanksgiving, more and more families are thinking about it after visiting with their parents and grandparents.
Elder Care and Estate Planning are Hard to Think About
Part of thinking about aging and thinking about the hazards and expenses of aging is thinking about hiring an elder law attorney. For Seniors and their families living in San Diego, the choice about whether or not to hire a lawyer for estate and elder law planning is not one to be taken lightly. Unfortunately, going to an attorney for a will or trust, for Veteran’s in home care benefits planning, or to protect a family’s nest-egg against possible future nursing home expenses, is a topic that can cause a lot of anxiety both for the senior and for his or her adult children. There are a number of reasons that it’s an uncomfortable topic.
Of course, the most obvious is that the need for an elder lawyer brings up the topic of the senior’s mortality. An attorney can be brought in for many reasons, one of which is estate planning. And with estate planning comes the reality that each of our lives will come to an end. This can be especially distressing to an elderly person, but can be even more disturbing for their family members and friends.
Facing a Change in Seasons
Another reason that seniors and their families in San Diego find themselves wanting to work with an elder lawyer is because the senior is beginning to make decisions that are not in his or her best interest. No one wants to tell Mom or Dad that it might be time to stop driving, that they shouldn’t have control over their finances, or that it’s time to consider moving to a nursing home. When an elder lawyer comes into play, it’s often to address these exact topics.
We all need to Prepare for Winter
The conversation can be softened a bit with different approaches. One common one is for the adult child to talk about others who have had a hard time because they, their spouse or their parents didn’t have proper powers of attorney or healthcare advance directives in place. The best way for anyone to make certain that their wishes are followed if they are incapacitated is to take control ahead of time. Each of us can take control ahead of time only by choosing who will be our voice and what they will say for us, by giving them specific written instructions.
One of the things that often brings people to an elder law lawyer is the realization that a senior is starting to decline in health. This could be physically, mentally, or both. Sometimes this realization comes about when family members see that one of their parents is exhausted from taking care of the other. This often opens the door to talking about getting help and paying for help. Elder law attorneys are experienced in helping families find and afford care while protecting their assets.
Of course, it is always better to work on a long-term plan before ill health becomes an issue, but if your family has waited, there are still a lot of options available. Most Seniors want to make plans and not merely have plans made for them. Once the issue of planning has been brought up, many Seniors can be motivated to move forward and plan - so that the plan for them, is their own plan, – not their children’s plan or anything else. The better a senior’s health, the more say that he or she can have in devising a plan. Planning earlier, while in better health, makes available more options.
Plan to Prevent Conflict
Planning to protect against the challenges of aging is often a full family affair. It is usually, but not always, a good idea for adult children and sometimes siblings to be included in the planning process. Seniors who have included their families in their attorney client planning meetings are more likely to follow through. Follow through usually gives the best results. More importantly, keeping family members in the loop can help to reduce friction later because everyone is aware of the plan and knows how it will be enacted. If there are concerned parties that aren’t available, I strongly recommend that they are communicated with for the same reason.
If there is disagreement among a senior’s adult children, it may be in everyone’s best interest to bring in a third party. In addition to using a San Diego elder law attorney to address these issues, there are geriatric care managers and mediators who are trained in how to refocus everyone on the true goals of the plan, rather than letting things break down and become a grudge match rehashing wrongs and perceived wrongs which may be decades old.
Just as we talk about spring as the time for cleaning, January is a time for putting things in order and making plans.
New Year's Resolution
Like northerners clearing snow in winter, as long as it falls, you keep shoveling until the driveway is cleared and stays cleared. Spending a little time with a San Diego elder law lawyer now, making a plan, and putting your affairs in order, can make a world of difference down the road.
Monday, October 13, 2014
Lauren Bacall who passed away August 12, 2014 took care of her Papillon Sophie as the first item in her will.
Bacall, whose will made public Friday when it was filed with the Manhattan Surrogate’s Court, wasn’t crazy. She left $10,000 to her son subject to a legal obligation that he hold and manage the $10,000 for the care of her faithful and loving dog. She left $250,000 in trust for each to her Grandchildren. Her Grandkids can use the money towards their college education, but otherwise won't receive any of it until they are 30 years old. Bacall, who was once married to Jason Robards, Jr. and then later to Humphrey Bogart, left the bulk of her 26.6 million dollar fortune in equal shares to her children - Sam Prideaux Robards, Stephen Humphrey Bogart and Leslie Bogart.
To many faithful pets are destroyed when their owners can no longer take care of them. Who will care for your dog or cat when you pass away? What will happen to your bird if you become incapacitated? For many people, providing care for their pet after they pass away or if they become incapacitated is a very big concern. In reaction to pet owner concerns, most states (including California) have statutes that provide for the enforcement of trusts created for the benefit of pets.
Unlike your children or other relatives or friends that you may leave money to via your last will and testament, an animal cannot be a beneficiary of your will. Pet owners, instead of naming the pet as beneficiary, must designate someone to take care of their pet after they die and they can then leave money to that person or place in the hands of another to pay for the cost of providing care.
Prior to specific statutes which allow for the creation of an enforceable “pet trust,” if an individual left money to a family member or friend in their last will and testament stating in the document that the bequest was solely for the purpose of caring for their pet, the family member or friend would be under no legal obligation to spend the money on their pet. In fact, they could take the pet to the pound and keep the money for themselves if they chose to do so. Any money left in a last will and testament to an individual “for the care of a pet” was often treated as merely a request and unenforceable in a court of law.
While many might say, “I trust my brother with my dog and I know he would take care of him”- what happens if your brother’s son becomes allergic to your dog? Or, what happens if your brother moves into an apartment complex that won’t allow pets? A pet trust can provide direction regarding any of the unforeseen circumstances that may arise.
Setting up a trust for your pet is much like setting one up for a person. The trust is a legal entity into which you put money and then designate a trustee who is responsible to safeguard and administer the money. In the case of a pet trust, you designate a caregiver and then the trustee is in charge of making payments to the caregiver for your pet’s expenses (special dietary needs, grooming, pet toys, veterinary care, etc.). Of course, it is always a good idea to name one or more alternate trustees and caregivers in the event something should happen to them. In addition, a provision of the trust will need to provide for what happens to the money you have set aside for your pet after their death. Many people chose to have the remaining balance go to the caregiver or a charitable organization.
It is important to keep your trust up to date with current information and to ensure nothing has changed in your designated caregiver’s situation that might warrant changing designees (are they still willing to take on the commitment, can they still physically handle the responsibility, etc.). It is also a good idea to give a copy of the trust to your chosen caregiver, any successor(s) and family members who may be involved with the care of your pet.
Creating a trust for your pet is not just for the wealthy or the eccentric. It is a relatively inexpensive and practical way to ensure you have provided for your pet when you can no longer do so because of death or incapacity.
We at the Weissler Law Group are pet people and are experienced in creating trusts for pets involving small to large amounts of money. We can be reached at (619) 281-1888,
The Attorneys of the Weissler Law Group assist clients in San Diego, California as well as in: Coronado, Pacific Beach, Del Mar, Solana Beach, La Jolla, Del Cerro, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Santee, El Cajon, Rancho Bernardo, Poway, Escondido, National City, Spring Valley, and Chula Vista.