ESTATE PLANNING AND ASSET PROTECTION
Estate planning is a process every individual should consider in order to protect assets and avoid probate. A properly prepared estate plan considers tax consequences and is designed to help minimize estate taxes where possible. The primary advantage of having a properly prepared and current estate is to avoid the probate process, taking the onus away from loved ones left behind. Pacific Apex offers Estate Planning, Probate, Medicaid and Long-Term Care Planning, and Veterans Aid legal services.
Estate planning allows you to choose who gets what in your estate. It affords you the chance to name your children’s guardian in the event of your untimely death. Estate planning reduces taxes on what you leave behind and minimizes the chances of family feuds and contentious legal battles. Moreover, estate planning offers peace of mind.
If you pass away without an estate plan, then your assets will be distributed according to intestate probate law, which may leave your spouse and family without adequate means of support.
Estate planning is not just for the wealthy. All families should plan for what happens if the primary earner experiences an untimely death or disability. An estate plan will protect your beneficiaries. If you want to protect your loved ones and assets once you pass away or if you become disabled, then you should meet with an estate planning attorney to develop an estate plan, which may also include an advance healthcare directive, HIPAA release, and durable power of attorney. Pacific Apex attorneys will review all of your assets to determine what estate planning tools are best for you and the goals you wish to achieve.
There are some special circumstances where a specific type of estate plan may be helpful. These circumstances may include a need for a formal Medicaid Plan or use of the VA Aid and Attendance program for eligible Veterans, which are discussed below.
Pacific Apex attorneys are prepared to discuss your particular needs and circumstances in order to customize an estate plan for your specific situation. Once we help you develop your plan, we also can help you keep your plan current when life circumstances change, such as the birth of a new child or the sale of a home. We encourage clients to review their estate plans regularly. We encourage residents of Florida, Washington and New Mexico along with the other states we serve to contact us today to schedule a free estate planning consultation.
Pacific Apex has extensive knowledge and comprehensive understanding of probate law, which allows Pacific Apex to handle a wide variety of probate matters, including probate administration and litigation, wills and trusts, will contests, and guardianships. As probate, trust, and guardianship matters are often closely related, we work closely with our clients to identify all of their legal options, and to develop a case strategy that will best serve the client’s interests.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process whereby a court oversees the distribution of assets left by a deceased person. Assets are anything a person owns with value, such as real and personal property and cash, for instance.
Grieving the loss of a loved one is difficult enough without having to also deal with the legalities of their estate. Most people’s estates need to go through probate, which is the legal process of settling the estate. If someone dies with a will and has named a personal representative, often called an executor, this person will be responsible for administering the estate. If someone dies without a will or did not appoint a personal representative in the will, the probate court will appoint one.
It is essential to work with an experienced legal team to protect your interests and help you through the estate administration process. Pacific Apex understands that the role of an estate administrator can be complex and demanding. Our probate attorneys are committed to providing thorough, personalized representation through every step of the process. At our law firm, we provide sound counsel and guidance throughout the entire administrative process from the appointment of the executor through the final closing of the estate.
Our probate services often include:
Preparing the estate – before an estate’s assets can be distributed, it is essential to clear up the estate. Our attorneys will help estate administrators clear titles, satisfy creditors, pay expenses, collect debts and organize the assets of the estate.
Determining heirship – with a valid will, the heirs should be determined with clarity. However, some estate plans are not as clear as an estate administrator would hope, and other estates do not have valid wills. Our attorneys have the legal knowledge and experience to determine the appropriate heirs.
Distribution of property – distributing the appropriate assets in the correct manner to the estate’s heirs.
Probate hearings – representing and helping you throughout the various hearings that can be required throughout the process.
Estate tax elections and filings – it is essential to pay any taxes within nine months of the date of death. Our attorneys can help you choose the appropriate elections and file the appropriate tax forms to complete the estate administration process.
Pacific Apex probate attorneys represent clients in all manner of probate cases. We provide families and individuals with the legal representation and counsel they need to protect their interests during probate proceedings. In addition, we offer the legal services an individual will need to protect themselves, their assets, and provide for their loved ones in the future.
Medicaid and Long-Term Care Planning
Medicaid is a public program to help income sensitive individuals with needed medical care services, including long-term care. With proper Medicaid planning, an individual may be able to keep their home, car, and assets, and still receive long-term care assistance from Medicaid.
Most of us will reach a point in our lives where we will need some form of long-term care. The premiums for long-term care insurance, if you can find it, are the lowest if purchased when individuals are younger. If an individual does not have long-term care insurance, then they will need a plan to cover the cost of more than $10,000.00 per month for senior care.
For many, the only choice is to become medically indigent. If you don’t have a Medicaid Plan, you will have to divest yourself of your assets to the point where your income is low enough to qualify for Medicaid assistance. However, if you have a properly developed Medicaid Plan in place before you are adversely impacted by the State’s look-back requirements, you may be able to have your long-term care paid for by Medicaid while you retain ownership of your assets.
Pacific Apex Law Group’s team of experienced attorneys are prepared to assist you in preparing and implementing a Medicaid Plan. You may want to review the information available from the American Council on Aging at https://www.medicaidplanningassistance.org/ and then schedule a free consultation with Pacific Apex Law Group.
The VA Aid and Attendance or Household benefits program provides monthly payments added to the amount of a monthly VA pension for qualified Veterans and survivors. If you or a family member is a Veteran and need help with daily activities or you are housebound, then you may qualify for the VA Aid and Attendance program.
If you receive a VA pension and you meet at least one of the requirements listed below, you may be eligible for the VA Aid and Attendance program.
You need another person to help you perform daily activities such as bathing, feeding and dressing, or
You have to stay in bed – or spend a large portion of the day in bed – because of illness, or
You are a patient in a nursing home due to the loss of mental or physical abilities related to a disability, or
Your eyesight is limited (even with glasses or contact lenses you have only 5/200 or less in both eyes, concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less).
If you get a VA pension and you spend most of your time in your home because of a permanent disability (a disability that doesn’t go away), then you may be eligible for this benefit. However, an individual is not able to receive Aid and Attendance benefits and Housebound benefits at the same time.
You will need to prepare and submit VA Form 21-2680 to apply for the benefits and then submit the application to the appropriate Pension Management Center. You should plan to include other evidence with your VA Form 21-2680 such as:
A doctor’s report demonstrating need for Aid and Attendance or Housebound care;
Details about what you normally do during the day and how you are able to get around; and
Other details that assist in demonstrating what kind of illness, injury or disability affects your ability to accomplish things on your own.
If the Veteran is in a nursing home, you will need to complete a request for Nursing Home Information form (VA 21-0779) in connection with your claim for VA Aid and Attendance. The following are links to the VA Form 21-2680 and the VA Form 21-0779:
As you might have determined, the application process can be challenging. If the Veteran is initially denied benefits, it may be necessary to file an appeal. Pacific Apex Law Group’s team of experienced attorneys are prepared to assist you in preparing the application for the VA Aid and Attendance program and, if necessary, to assist you through the appeals process. You may contact any of our attorneys to schedule a free consultation.