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Frequently Asked Questions

What is estate planning?

Estate planning ensures that you and your loved ones are cared for in the manner that you want at a time when you can’t express your wishes because you are incapacitated or have passed away. Estate planning involves techniques and tools to minimize or eliminate costs, expenses, and taxes for your loved ones. We can help keep your family from getting bogged down in the court system, protect your children’s inheritance in case they get a divorce or go through a lawsuit, and protect a surviving spouse from a predatory marriage.  Estate planning gives you the power to protect your family, even when you can’t be there for them.  Good estate planning will also make it easier on your loved ones when you pass away and make sure they aren’t left with a mess at the worst time possible. The documents commonly used when doing estate planning are a durable power of attorney for financial affairs, a power of attorney for healthcare, a living will, HIPAA authorization, a last will and testament, and sometimes things like trusts or transfer on death deeds may be used to help accomplish goals. 

Do I need an estate plan?

Yes! Your age or wealth is not a deciding factor.  Everyone over the age of 18 should have a power of attorney for healthcare and a durable power of attorney for financial affairs in place to make sure that if you are ever in an accident or a health situation hits, things can be handled and you are taken care of the way you want. If you have young children, you should have a Last Will and Testament in place and a trust to make sure your children will be taken care of and money spent the way you want on your children. If you are in retirement and worried about long-term care costs, elder law planning should be incorporated into your planning to make sure your nest egg is protected.  Whether you are just starting out, entering your retirement years, recently divorced or married, or recovering from an illness, everyone should have some planning!   

Does my child need an estate plan?

If your child is 18 years or older, they are a legal adult and it may be difficult or impossible for you to help them with financial affairs or even receiving health care information. Every adult should have a durable financial power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney and HIPAA authorization. These documents will make sure parents or other trusted people can assist if ever needed. If you have minor children, you need to do your estate plan and take care of your children under your planning. It is critical that you are doing estate planning so that they are taken care of if you can no longer be there to take care of them. There is no greater reason to do estate planning than to take care of children.

What’s the difference between a Will and a Living Will?

A Last Will and Testament (or Will) is a death document. This provides the instructions of who you want to handle things and where you want things to go upon your death.  You can include a guardian for minor children, trusts for children or spouses, and much more. A Living Will is a medical document regarding life sustaining treatment measures that can instruct your healthcare providers how you want your medical treatment handled if you cannot express your wishes yourself.

What are the benefits of using a revocable living trust?

A revocable living trust offers many benefits!  Assets owned by the trust are not subject to probate, and instead, pass directly to the beneficiaries according to the terms you place in the trust. Trusts are private family entities so you do not need to do any annual reports to the state nor do you have to publish any notices when you pass away. Revocable living trusts often make it easier on the family and offer lifetime benefits as well for the people who establish the trust.

What are the benefits of using an irrevocable trust?

An irrevocable trust is often used for protection.  Some irrevocable trusts, such as a spousal lifetime access trust, a domestic asset protection trust, a dynasty trust, or a life insurance trust are often used to protect from taxes. A supplemental needs trust or a special needs trust is used to protect from the government so that the beneficiary may continue to be eligible to receive government benefits without having to spend the trust assets down. A Medicaid asset protection trust is used to protect from the nursing home. An inheritance protection trust can be used if you are worried a child might go through a divorce to protect the inheritance you want to leave them or just want to make sure assets are protected for children and able to then pass down to grandchildren.  These are only some of the many tools and techniques an estate planner has to accomplish protection goals.  However, if you want an irrevocable trust, it is critical that you do it right. You don’t want a lockbox that you can’t access or make changes to, or worse yet, doesn’t even meet your goals when the rubber meets the road because something wasn’t done correctly. When done correctly, irrevocable trusts can protect what matters most, help you with taxes, and keep your life easy! 

What is elder law planning?

Elder law planning is the planning done for long-term care as we age. Specifically, we focus on asset protection planning for when, not if, a long-term care event strikes. Even if someone is in a nursing home, it’s not too late to do asset protection planning. 

What is business planning?

Business planning from the legal side includes everything from business formation for a startup, protecting and increasing value through solid contracts, employee training, and monetizing intellectual property, to business succession planning and transitions. While business owners are inarguably smart and capable people who like to get stuff done and often are doing things themselves, our business attorneys and tax attorneys can help navigate the ever-increasing tax and legal requirements of running a business, and help make sure what you have built stays protected from lawsuits and minimizes taxes. We believe good business planning helps build your business and private wealth up and protects it so it can’t be torn down, especially by other lawyers or the IRS.

How should I choose an attorney?

America is a system, whether you like it or not, and the attorney you choose can make all the difference in making sure you are keeping the most in your pocket and legally protecting your loved ones and what you have built. While we are no medical doctors, in our areas of practice we are helping protect the things and the people who matter most to you – the heart of what makes living worthwhile. It is critical you choose a qualified, experienced and credentialed attorney who cares about taking care of you. It is also important that your attorney can plan holistically. You don’t want to lose out on tax advantages because you didn’t properly incorporate good tax planning into your estate or business planning.  You also don’t want to leave something on the table that you were entitled to, such as government benefits. Most importantly, if you can protect yourself and your loved ones from a lawsuit, whether it’s a divorce, wrongful action, or car accident, you don’t want to miss asset protection opportunities because you were never advised that you could even do that. Make sure you vet your attorney. For example, if it’s asset protection from nursing home costs you are seeking, ask that attorney how much of your assets they can protect, how many Medicaid applications they have filed in the last month and how many of their applications have been approved, or whether their trusts have passed recent scrutiny from DSS or DHS depending on the state. You should be able to ask your attorney specific questions and they get specific answers back to you. Make sure you also check their credentials. If they say they are a specialist, then that means they have gone through board-certification by an ABA approved organization to receive such a designation. Ask them what board-certification they have received to be authorized to use a specialist designation. At Legacy Law Firm, we do have specialists, the credentials, the experience, and we care about taking care of our clients. We would be honored to help you.

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