Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy Birthday to us All!!!

I had mentioned before that I alway use my birthday as a time to review and reflect on important health, financial and personal matters. Making sure my estate plan is up to date is a part of this annual reflection. Well, today is my Birthday!!

I am fortunate to have my health. I also realize how important good health is and so I do what is necessary to maintain good health. It is just as important to do what is necessary to make sure my Will and other important estate planning documents exist and are up to date, when I am healthy and can make sound and rational decisions.

It is also important that I address issues of healthcare and long-term care when I am healthy and can make sound and rational decisions. This would include the social security areas of retirement, disability, medicare and medicaid; long term care insurance; assisted living; and, guardianship. All of these areas may be of importance to you and your family.

Feel free to contact us soon at

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Third-Party Funded Trust

I will discuss 3 types of trusts over the next 3 days that would be considered for a disabled family member. The first trust to discuss is the third-party funded trust. This is a trust in which funds of one person are placed in a trust for the benefit of another person. In this case, the benefitted person would be the disabled family member.

A third-party trust, if properly established, will not affect the public benefits of the disabled family member nor will it be necessary to reimburse the state for medical assistance provided to a disabled family member. Such trust must allow the Trustee full discretion in the distribution of the funds available in the trust.

Contact our offices at expert advice and document preparation to meet your estate planning needs of a disabled loved one.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Medicaid Eligibility

As we continue to discuss the needs of families with loved ones who are disabled, let's take a look at the Medicaid law. Medicaid provides funding for longterm care nursing facilities, inpatient hospital care, clinical services, psychiatric care, prescription drugs and medical devices. Disabled persons are a category covered by medicaid if they meet the financial criteria.

The financial requirement for Medicaid requires that an applicant have assets, including income and resources, below a certain threshold. This is generally $2,000 in states like Pennsylvania. This criteria is also applicable to SSI.

Money or other assets of a disabled family member CAN NOT be transferred into a Trust to qualify for Medicaid benefits. There are special exceptions to this rule with very specific guidelines that MUST be followed. Such Trusts that can be used are payback trust; pooled trust; and, discretionary trust (this trust DOES NOT contain the money of the disabled family member). More on each of these trusts will follow over the next few days.

Contact us at for more information on probate, estate planning and elder law.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Understanding Trusts

As pertains to disability, understanding what a trust is and how it operates are important to not only families with disabled loved ones but all families.

Trusts use a form of bifurcated (2 part) ownership. An individual referred to as the Settlor transfers his/her property (real estate and/or money) to an individual (or institution) referred to as the Trustee. The Trustee manages the property for the benefit of the beneficiary (another person). The two-part ownership would be the Legal and Equitable. Legal Ownership is with the Trustee, while the Equitable Interest (having a right to the enjoyment of the property) is with the beneficiary.

The most common types of trusts are mandatory, support, discretionary and spendthrift. The mandatory, support and spendthrift trusts would not be the type to establish for those with disabilities if maintaining public benefits such as medicaid and SSI are important. It would be the discretionary trust that is of importance to families with disabled loved ones.

The discretionary trust will be discussed tomorrow. Contact us at if you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment to discuss your estate planning, probate and elder law needs.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Should A Person on Disability Inherit?

Medicaid and SSI both have very stringent resource (and income) thresholds that could be implicated by a bequest or gift. The result is that the disabled individual could loose their SSI and Medicaid benefits. Therefore, they could be forced to pay for or even forego nursing care or other healthcare benefits.

What exactly is meant by "resource"? A resource is defined as cash or other liquid assets or any real or personal property that an individual owns and could convert to cash to be used for support and maintenance. So even if one who is disabled inherits a small interest is a house (real estate), it is considered a resource because everyone with an interest in the property has the right to seek their financial (share) interest in the real estate. That means they can force a sale or be brought out by the other owners.

So, how can a disabled person obtain and inheritance and still maintain their Medicaid and/or SSI benefits? The legislature and courts in Pennsylvania have recognized special needs trusts or supplemental needs trusts that when properly executed can reduce the costs to famiies and provide additional resources for the disabled person on Medicaid or receiving SSI.

We will continue this week to discuss the different types of special needs trusts. Contact our offices at for expert estate planning advice.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Estate Planning for Family Members with Disabilities

Over the next few days, I will discuss the issues pertaining to estate planning for families with disabled family members. Generally, family members desire to leave money to a disabled loved one in order to maintain or improve the quality of life. However, if this is done with a bequeath in a Will or an outright gift, more harm than good could result.

Medicaid and SSI both have very stringent resource (and income) thresholds that could be implicated by any significant bequest or gift. The result is that the disabled individual could loose their SSI and Medicaid benefits. Therefore, they could be forced to pay for or even forego nursing care or other healthcare benefits.

Let's discuss what can be done over the next few days. Feel free to contact us at to discuss all your estate planning needs.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Last Will and Testament

I received a birthday card today from a life long friend. It reminded of the importance of our "intangible" legacy. During our lifetime, we acquire assets that we want to pass on to our family, friends and/or charitable organizations. Those assets are not just MONEY, REAL ESTATE or other TANGIBLE property (cars, jewelry, furniture, artwork, collectibles, etc.). Our gifts are intangible as well.

Through estate planning we can document our INTANGIBLE assets. My friend reminded me that I make others happy, I know just the right thing to say, I appreciate time spent with family and friends and I enjoy giving to others. What are the intangible things of your life and how might it be documented in your estate plan?

Your Last Will and Testament can provide guidance and advice to others; it can give to a charity that makes a difference in ways that reflect your life; it can have an educational fund started for your family; and, it can even forgive. Let an estate plannning professional work to personalize your Will. Your legacy is our interest. Contact us at

Monday, May 2, 2011

President Annouces Death of Osama Bin Laden

For the families who lost loved ones in the 911 attack on our Nation and for all of us who cherish peace and freedom, a victory has been obtained with the death of Osama Bin Laden. We do not often cheer death for life is a precious gift. But, when you look throughout history, there are those, like Hitler, Stalin, Ivan the Terrible, Pol Pot, Idi Amin Dada, who promoted such horrendous and vicious acts against mankind that only death could end their terror.

The death of Osama Bin Laden addresses some closure on the worst attack on the American people in our History and for others throughout the rest of the world. Though the cost of war is great, it is the true pursuit of justice that brings the achievements we seek.

It is times like this that we give pause to address the lessons learned and make sure that our history is well documented for the next generation. Contact us for your estate planning and other legacy needs at