A Quick Guide to Setting Up a Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust is an important component of how you protect a loved one who is reliant on government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. Tapping into these benefits while still providing for your loved one can be done through a special needs trust.

You’ll want to assemble a team of professionals including financial advisors and an estate planning attorney to ensure that the interested party’s needs are truly protected. A special needs trust allows parents or other interested family members to contribute funds for the benefit of a disabled party.

Recipients of these benefits cannot have any more than $2000 in assets, but special needs trust can also help to guard against financial abuse of a disabled person and to ensure the appropriate oversight so that the funds are spent wisely and on what the recipient truly needs.

Trusts can be funded by inheritances, life insurance policies that pay when one or both parents pass away, family assets or lawsuit awards.

Knowing that you have protected a loved one and left behind a plan that guards their current government benefits will give you great peace of mind and help get key family members on board.

For more questions about why and how to establish a special needs trust, consider a phone call with an experienced attorney. If you need to guard a loved one with special needs using a trust, our MI law office can assist you.



What Does It Mean to Say the Trustee is a Fiduciary?

When you create a trust, an important part of that process is selecting who will serve as the trustee of the assets placed inside. If you’re not familiar with the importance of this role and what it means to be a trustee, this blog will help.

A trustee is an important component of the estate planning strategy of creating a trust. There are several different parties involved in the establishment and administration of a trust. One of these is known as the trustee who administers the terms of the trust. The trustee has what is known as a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust. This means that they are legally bound to manage the trust property solely in the interests of the beneficiaries and consistent with the law and the trust agreement.

There can be co-trustees as well as co-grantors or co-beneficiaries which can complicate the administration of a trust. A trust becomes fully operational and under the trustee’s discretion after property has been transferred into it. The trustees manage the assets for the benefit of beneficiaries. This means they cannot engage in self-dealing or taking on activities that would benefit them personally rather than the beneficiaries or at the expense of the beneficiaries.

If you have questions about this process and are interested in establishing a trust for yourself, schedule a time to speak to a dedicated estate planning lawyer about the options available to you and how to move forward lawfully understanding the type of trust you’ve selected.


Do I Really Need to Create Last Instructions with My Will?

Everyone is aware of the potential repercussions of not having clear instructions for your personal information and your records if you were to pass away. But it’s also one of those easy things to kick off into the future and assuming it’s not relevant to your life in the immediate moment.

The truth is that you could be making things much more difficult for your loved ones unnecessarily by failing to consider the process of these important financial tasks. Your last instructions should be spelled out in the event that you possibly become incapacitated or pass away.

These details should be discussed with your trusted advisor like an estate planning lawyer as well as any family members who will be relevant for serving in this role. For example, don’t appoint someone as your power of attorney agent unless you are both confident in their ability to serve in this role and feel comfortable that they are aware of this possibility and are aware of what it entails.

These trusted positions can become especially important in the event that an accident or sudden illness occur and you want to have confidence in the people that you have selected and the method through which you have chosen to appoint them. To consider all of the bigger pictures as it relates to other aspects of your estate plan, such as elder law concerns around long term care and how to handle issues like asset protection planning, set aside time to speak with a dedicated estate planning lawyer today.


Durable Power of Attorney Versus Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney can cover a broad range of transactions whereas a limited power of attorney document only covers specific circumstances, such as allowing another person to register a new vehicle for you.

A typical power of attorney will expire if you become mentally incompetent whereas a durable document includes special language that makes it effective even in the event that that happens. A general durable power of attorney appoints an attorney in fact to take action on your behalf.

This person does not have to be a lawyer or a company and an attorney in fact can play many different roles including filing tax returns, applying for government benefits, buying and selling property and managing bills, investments and bank accounts. If you do not have a general durable power of attorney and become incapacitated, your family would otherwise need to go to court and have you declared incompetent before they can take care of any of your finances for you.

A different document is a durable health care power of attorney which is critical in the event that a medical emergency leaves you unable to make choices about your care or unconscious. This appoints another party to communicate with doctors and to make medical decisions for you.

This document is different from a living will or an advanced directive, which details the kinds of treatment you do or do not want to receive if you are at the end of your life and can no longer share information about this on your own. Schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney in your area for further information about the kind of powers of attorney you should create.


Does a Trust Help with Property Distribution?

Whether you’ve had the unfortunate experience of being a beneficiary or a family member to a loved one who didn’t have estate planning or you simply know this is part of the process of being an adult, estate planning helps you to determine the most important things to do to protect your rights and ensure that your beneficiaries receive the assets you want.

The two most common methods for distributing assets to your beneficiaries are wills and trusts. Everyone has most likely heard of a will at some point in their life but wills are not one size fit all and should always be personalized to your specific intentions.

One of the problems with a will is that everything distributed in the will should go through the probate process, which can be time intensive and costly for your loved ones. This is why many people turn to the purposes of a trust for distribution of assets.

Trusts are a popular and effective strategy for disposing of your property in a way that is less burdensome on family members and more cost effective. These outline all of your desires and wishes regarding property distribution, but a standard trust does not always have to wait until the individual passes away.

Once it has been properly funded, in fact, the trust can go into effect. It is very important to understand the rules required in executing a trust and scheduling a consultation with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney in Michigan is one of the first and most important steps that you can take.


End of Life Issues to Remember As You Create Your Estate Plan

Your estate plan and your elder law plan should think about all of the different issues that might affect you as you approach your older years. There is definitely no easy way to start discussing some of the complicated issues around end of life concerns because many people experience a broad range of emotion.

Fear about your future or the future of your friends and family is common but it is also beneficial to establish a sense of peace so that you can enjoy the remainder of your life. It certainly helps to be prepared by retaining an elder law attorney to assist you. The legal system addresses many different kinds of end of life issues.

One of the most common to be addressed in elder law is what happens when a person becomes incapacitated in their older years. Financial affairs and issues still must be addressed and healthcare decisions still must be made. All of these issues are critical and can allow you to benefit from proper planning.

Discussing your health care decisions, such as the establishment of an advanced health care directive is a great starting point. Granting a power of attorney for health care means that you name another person who has the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf. You should certainly trust this person but they should also be aware of any specific wishes you have around your health care decisions. Likewise, you will also need a power of attorney document for financial decisions.

Giving someone a durable financial power of attorney is one option to allow this designated person to manage your financial affairs for you if you become unable to do so. Contact our elder law attorneys for more support with your elder plan.




Mature couple and insurance agent using computer during consultations in the office.

What to Keep in Mind When Planning for Retirement as a Married Couple

Mature couple and insurance agent using computer during consultations in the office.There’s a good chance you’ve already had some conversations with your spouse about retirement to get on the same page about what it looks like for you and some of your top concerns.

You might have a shared vision of moving somewhere tropical, kicking back and relaxing or living closer to your family members to be around your grandchildren.

One of the first and most important things you can do to set yourself up for success when planning ahead for retirement is to have a conversation about what your expectations are, including the lifestyle that you intend to lead, whether or not you plan to downsize your home, move or consider different living arrangements altogether, how both of you will manage your money including how much you will spend and what your budget is on a regular basis, and when you want to stop working and truly enter retirement.

Another important topic to discuss with your spouse about retirement is how you’re going to factor social security income into your retirement saving strategy. After you and your spouse have had initial conversations about expectations for retirement, it’s a good opportunity to match those up with the necessary financial moves.

Depending on your age and current financial situation, an outside professional could help you determine what the next most important steps are for you when it comes to retirement. Speaking with a qualified financial advisor can help you to understand the steps that you need to take to prepare yourself and where your current retirement strategy might not align with the goals and vision that you have set with your spouse. Retirement should also be considered as part of your estate planning strategy. Schedule a consultation today with a trusted estate planning lawyer.

Durable power of attorney document

What Is the Job of An Agent with a Durable Power of Attorney?

Durable power of attorney documentA durable power of attorney is an important document that is likely included in your overall estate plan. It is impossible to know what kind of medical treatment choices that you might ultimately face in the future and to further complicate this matter, you might not always be in the mental state of mind or physical ability to be able to make these decisions on your own. If you are not able to make these decisions for yourself, you need to have another person appointed to step in to do so. This person is known as the agent on your durable power of attorney for health care.

An agent has a duty to you as the person who has created the document. This includes seeing that your wishes are followed, trying to decide what you want in the event that the wishes are not known and putting his or her choices for you before anyone else’s wishes for you.

A durable power of attorney for health care, it is important to note, does not enable that person to have control over your money and cannot be made to pay your bills unless you also have a separate financial power of attorney. Restrictions on what an agent can and cannot do will vary by one state to another. Make sure that you have a conversation with your estate planning attorney about what you hope to include in your durable health care power of attorney.

Depending on where you live, your home residence state might allow your agent to withdraw or refuse life enhancing care and refuse or stop tube feeding. To discuss your options, schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer today.



Mature couple and insurance agent using computer during consultations in the office.

Do You Have the Right Pillars in Your Retirement Plan?

Mature couple and insurance agent using computer during consultations in the office.Knowing whether or not your retirement plan is solid enough feels highly subjective but it’s important to consider what your own retirement might look like and whether or not you have the right pillars in place.

Verify that your retirement structure has all of your basis covered to get peace of mind and to incorporate this into your bigger conversation around estate planning. There are so many different aspects that go into planning for retirement that it can feel overwhelming and difficult figuring out where to start. Having an existing blueprint or plan will make this process easier by covering all of the major areas you need to evaluate.

Planning for retirement is a lot like thinking about a firm foundation. You need to have the core components all properly constructed in the event of an outside disaster. Your blueprint could be discussed directly with an experienced estate planning lawyer who can help you determine what your foundation and walls look like for your retirement architecture.

Make sure that you have thought about protecting your principal and safe assets, a retirement plan that is designed for income and growth and have looked at growth-oriented equity investments.

Don’t think of your retirement plan as isolated from other aspects of your future planning, such as your estate or elder law documents. All of these are connected and must be able to work together if and when the need arises.

Having a team of professional advisors to guide you through the process of evaluating your current retirement plan can be an important first step in protecting your interests and ensuring that you have thought carefully about your own future. Schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer today to discover how your retirement plan and your estate plan work together.



Tips for Helping Get Your Affairs in Order

Whether you’re organizing your own estate planning documents and strategies or helping your elderly parents to do the same, it’s important to take a step back and think about the ways that you can make things easier for your loved ones when you are no longer around. From a living will to a trust, your estate planning should be well thought out and organized.

This first step of getting the estate plan in place is a necessary one but it’s often not the end of the road for all of the things that need to be considered in the process of estate planning. The more organized you can be with your plans and documents, the easier it will be for people to take the necessary action if and when they are called upon to do it.

While many people think about estate planning as what happens only after you pass away, it is equally, if not more important, to have strategies in place for who will make decisions on your behalf or care for your children if something happens to you where you become incapacitated but are still alive.

This kind of incapacity planning can throw families for a loop when no plan is in place, adding additional stress to an already overwhelming situation. One of the first questions to think about after your estate plan has been completed is what to do with it and where to store it.

Make sure that you keep your estate plan in a safe and accessible location. Safe deposit boxes are a common go-to for storing your estate documents, but they are not always the right fit given that the person who has access to the safe deposit box might not be able to easily obtain it. Wherever you choose to store your individual estate plan, make sure that it is accessible to the people who will need to access it right away. Schedule a consultation with our office today to discuss your options.