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Wills and Trusts Attorney

A Last Will and Testament

A Will is a legal document that names a personal representative to manage and distribute your estate. A Will can also specify any guardians for minor children, specify distributions, and disposition of remains.

A Will is a public document and will be probated through the court. If you have privacy concerns, would like to avoid having your estate go through Probate, or own real property outside the State of Washington, having a Revocable Living Trust might be a better option for you. Contact our office to discuss the best option to suit your particular needs.

Durable Powers of Attorney for Health & Finances

It is important to plan for the possibility of incapacity. Not having a Power of Attorney in place exposes you to the possibility of a guardianship. A guardianship is when a guardian is appointed by the court to handle your financial and medical affairs. This could be a friend or family member, or even a complete stranger. Without the proper documents in place, you could end up having no say in who is chosen to be your guardian, and you will lose all of your rights.

Having a Power of Attorney for Finances and a Power of Attorney for Healthcare ensures that the person in charge of your affairs is someone that you know and trust who will care for your needs the way you would like. These documents allow you to choose, instead of the court.

A Power of Attorney can be limited or general. A limited Power of Attorney gives the person of your choosing the power to act on your behalf (such as sign checks, transfer property) while you are out of town, or otherwise unavailable. A general Power of Attorney is more comprehensive and gives the person of your choosing all of the powers and rights that you have.

A Power of Attorney for Finances is a document that gives the person of your chosing (attorney-in-fact) control over your financial affairs. This does not allow the attorney-in-fact to make decisions regarding your medical care.

A Power of Attorney for Healthcare is a document that gives the attorney-in-fact control over your medical care, but not your finances.

These are essential estate planning documents that should be executed along with a will or Revocable Living Trust.

“When my mother retired it became apparent we as a family needed help, Holland Mcburns was recommended by an acquaintance of the family. She was professional and very thorough and informative. I felt she was very up to date on the current opportunities that would best benefit my elderly mother, and make her retirement years worry free. After working with Mrs Mcburns, it was apparent that many people would benefit from her knowledge and dedication. I highly recommend her, and look forward to working with her on my estate planning.”

–ANONYMOUS, ELDER LAW CLIENT

REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST

A Revocable Living Trust is an alternative option for people who do not want their estate to go through a public, costly, and time consuming Probate process.

A Trust is a legal document in which property is held by another party for the benefit of another. The Trustor (Trust Creator) transfers property to a Trustee (Trust holder) to hold for the beneficiaries the Trustor designates. The Trustee is given the legal title of the property, however, the Trustee is obligated to act for the good of the beneficiaries and abide by the terms outlined in the Trust document.

There are basically two kinds of Trusts: Irrevocable & Revocable.
Revocable Trusts, often refered to as ‘living trusts’, allow the creator of the trust to maintain total control over the trust and to amend, revoke, or terminate the trust at any time.

WHY HAVE A REVOCABLE TRUST?

  • A Revocable Trust allows the trust maker to manage the assets in the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
  • Having a trust avoids probate (unless of course the trust maker fails to fund the trust)
  • The trust can be created so the assets will not be included in the estates of the beneficiaries, thus avoiding taxes when the beneficiary dies.

Irrevocable Trusts on the other hand, cannot be changed or amended by the trust maker. Any property that is put into the Trust is no longer considered the trust makers property. The only person who may handle the property is the Trustee named in the trust (which can never be the trust maker, unlike a Revocable Trust).

WHY HAVE AN IRREVOCABLE TRUST?

Placing your assets in an Irrevocable trust can help you qualify for benefits such as Medicaid or VA. These kinds of benefits are means tested, and since the property is no longer considered ‘yours’ it cannot be counted against you.

Trusts are typically more complex to set up, so they tend to cost more than Wills, however, money is saved on the back end by not having to pay for a Probate.

Please contact us to discuss the right option for you and your family. Our experienced and knowledgable staff can guide you every step of the way.

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FAX: (877) 331-5798
Email: info@evergreenelderlaw.com

RECENT ARTICLES

Caring Transitions of Spokane Interview (audio)

Host Michael Begley, owner of Caring Transitions of Spokane, speaks with Holland McBurns. Holland is an Elder Law attorney at Evergreen Elder Law in Spokane. She is accredited with the Veterans Administration to help clients receive their Aid & Attendance Benefit and can help clients preserve their assets when dealing with Medicaid. Furthermore she works on cases related to probate, estate planning and long term care. Don’t miss this podcast, there is a lot of great information.

Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: The Costs of Dementia

November was Alzheimer’s disease and Awareness month. It’s the perfect time to educate people about the disease of Alzheimer’s (and other dementias) and the effects of the disease on its victims and their loved ones. In this edition of the ElderCounselor™, we are going to focus on the high costs associated with dementia during the final years.

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Veteran’s Benefits for Senior Veteran’s and Surviving Spouses

There is a little known benefit available to Veteran’s and their surviving spouses to help pay for long-term care. This is the Aid and Attendance Pension benefit which is a cash benefit that is tax free. Why is this benefit important? Many seniors today are faced with the ever-rising cost of long-term care and the question is how will they be able to pay for care without going broke. In Washington State, longterm care costs continue to rise each year. For example, Assisted living costs are often well above $4,000 a month depending on the particular needs of the senior. Skilled Nursing facility monthly costs are peaking at often over $9,000. Many seniors find themselves selling their homes and depleting their assets in order to pay for care for themselves or their ill spouse. The Aid and Attendance Pension benefit can help. This monthly cash benefit is available to Veterans and their surviving spouses to help pay for and offset the continued rising costs of long-term care.

While the VA offers a plethora of benefits, such as home loans and burial benefits, the Pension Aid and Attendance benefit is a specific benefit for seniors who need help paying for long-term care. One of the often misunderstood things about this benefit is that the veteran does not need to have a service related illness or injury.

There are however certain criteria that must be met in order to be eligible for this benefit. First, the veteran must have served 90 days of active duty and one of those days must have been during a period of conflict. The periods of conflict are as follows:
WWII: 12/7/1941 – 12/31/1946
Korea: 06/27/1950 – 12/31/1955
Vietnam:08/05/1964 – 05/07/1975
Persian Gulf: 08/02/1990 – Present

Although one of the 90 days must have been during a period of conflict, it does not need to be in country, the veteran must simply have been enlisted and in active duty. Second, the veteran must have a discharge other than ‘dishonorable’.

In addition to the time in the military, the veteran or surviving spouse must meet the medical test. This includes needing assistance with at least some of the following: bathing, toileting, general hygiene, meal preparation, medication management, transferring, and transportation. Most seniors with high costs of care already satisfy the medical test.

The final qualifications are that the veteran or surviving spouse must meet an asset and income test. The asset test is a complex formula that takes into account all of the ‘countable’ assets that the veteran or surviving spouse owns at the time of application and their life expectancy. Determining whether you qualify for the asset and income part of the test can be complex and difficult to understand. An accredited VA elder law attorney should be consulted.

Satisfying the income test considers your gross income minus your medical expenses. The resulting figure is considered your income for VA purposes. The veteran or surviving spouse must have high recurring medical expenses to qualify. For example, If a surviving spouse has income from social security and a pension that total $3,000 a month, and needs to reside in an assisted living facility with a monthly cost of care at $4,000, the surviving spouse has an ‘income’ for VA purposes of -$1,000 and would satisfy the income part of the test. Typically, the need for longterm care will always satisfy this income test for VA purposes.

If you think you have too much income or assets, do not be mistaken. Determining which assets are countable and how many you can have can be complex and confusing. There are also many strategies that can be utilized to qualify for both the income and asset part of the test. We recommend that you always speak with a VA accredited elder law attorney to see if you qualify for this cash benefit.
The cash amounts are paid directly to the veteran or surviving spouse on a monthly basis for the remainder of their lives. This cash benefit is also tax free. The total benefit received is often substantial, particularly when added up over a lifetime. The monthly cash benefit amounts for 2015 are as follows:
Veteran’s Pension: $1,788
Veteran’s Pension with one dependent: $2,120
Surviving Spouse: $1,149

The benefit continues for life and can have a huge impact on the level and quality of care for senior veterans or their spouses. For example, if a veteran qualified for the Aid and Attendance benefit with one dependent and is in long-term care for the next 5 years the total amount received would exceed $125,000. Too many veterans and/or surviving spouses don’t take advantage of this benefit because either they don’t know about it or don’t understand the complex qualifications.

The VA Aid and Attendance benefit can be difficult to navigate and determine if you actually will qualify, but it is an incredibly underutilized resource that more veteran’s and their surviving spouses should take advantage of. Consulting with a VA accredited elder law attorney is the best way to find out how to obtain this cash benefit. Don’t delay. This cash benefit could help prevent your family from going broke paying for long-term care.

Why We Fail To Plan for Long-Term Care

Most Americans do not know, or refuse to accept, the facts surrounding their potential need for long-term care and the costs associated with it. This was reconfirmed recently in a telephone survey of 1,735 Americans over the age of 40, funded by the SCAN Foundation and conducted by the Associated Press (AP) – NORC Center for Public Affairs Research (“survey”)1. This survey highlights many of the misconceptions Americans have about long-term care, including: the potential that a loved one may need some sort of long-term care within the next five (5) years; lack of knowledge of the positive impact of “person-centered care” practices; lack of understanding of coverage of long-term care services by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance; and an increase in lack of concern over failure to plan for the costs associated with long-term care.

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