Estate Planning & Elder Law
The title, “Estate Planning,” is a misnomer. Planning for one’s “property” or “estate” is only a small piece of what Estate Planning encompasses. Creating and maintaining a comprehensive “Estate Plan” involves not only planning for the transfer of assets and acquisitions at death, but also involves planning for incapacity and end of life decision-making.
Estate & Probate Administration
The ability to own property ceases immediately at death and the ownership of assets must be transferred to someone else. A probate administration is a process for winding up the affairs and formally transferring the assets of a loved one after death. The process is governed by state law. A probate administration can be “testate” meaning that a loved one had a valid Will, or it can be “intestate” meaning that a loved one died without a (valid) Will.
Trust administrations can occur during life and at death. Trust administrations can be ongoing for many years or can last just long enough for assets held in trust to be distributed to beneficiaries (those persons who are benefitting from the assets held in trust).
Medicaid Planning is a catch-all phrase for planning that is done with consideration to ongoing costs of paying for long-term care. While such planning overlaps with general estate planning and often requires revisions to typical estate planning documents such as Durable Powers of Attorney, Wills, and Property Agreements, the goal of such planning is specific to (1) obtaining or maintaining eligibility for long-term care assistance programs, and (2) preserving marital assets during and after long-term care is obtained.
Guardianship is a court-supervised process established to protect those persons who cannot protect or care for themselves. Where (1) a person demonstrates an inability to adequately care for his or her person and/or estate; (2) there exists a significant risk of harm to his or her person and/or estate; and (3) there are no lesser-restrictive alternatives available to protect one’s person and/or estate, a guardianship may be established.