The Veteran’s Administration has announced a policy change that will soon affect all older veterans and their spouses! Please read on…
On October 18, 2018, the VA is instituting rule changes that will make it more difficult for vets to qualify for existing benefits and protect their assets.
Vets and their spouses who are 65 or older, served during a period of war, have trouble performing tasks of daily living (bathing, dressing, toileting, etc.), and meet certain financial requirements are eligible to receive up to $26,036 annually in non-service connected benefits through the VA to help pay for long-term care, including home health care and nursing home care.
To qualify, most veterans and their spouses will need to work together with their estate planning attorney to create and implement a plan. Proper planning allows the veteran to meet the VA’s income and asset thresholds, without actually forfeiting their assets or being forced to spend down their savings before they could be eligible for benefits.
Currently, this type of planning can be done right up to the day the application is submitted…with the VA’s blessing… because they do not have a formal “look-back period” for asset transfers on the books. But…
🚨🚨🚨 THIS IS CHANGING AS OF OCTOBER 18TH! 🚨🚨🚨
Starting on October 18, 2018, the Veteran’s Administration will begin imposing a three (3) year look-back period on all asset transfers. Each transfer or gift will cause a penalty period that could last up to five years before you are able to access your benefits. Other significant changes to the rules are also going into effect.
If you don’t have time to wait for benefits or your family could utilize up to $26,036 tax-free to help pay for your care today or in the future, the time to act is NOW.
Here is what you must do immediately:
- If you’ve already done your homework on collecting Aid & Attendance benefits but you’ve yet to move forward with your planning, it’s time to take the final step. Call us and we’ll get you into the office ASAP. You must get your planning done before October 18th to take advantage of opportunities while they still exist before the new rules go into effect.
- If you are an older wartime veteran or spouse and this is the first time you are hearing about Aid and Attendance benefits, please call our Marietta Veteran Pension Attorney office at 770-425-6060 RIGHT AWAY. We are clearing out spaces on our calendar so we can bring in vets and their spouses for an educational planning session where we’ll teach you all about this benefit, crunch the numbers to determine how you can qualify, and create a plan to help you get your application in before the October 18th
- If you think you might need care in the future, the time to plan is still RIGHT NOW. You can work to appropriately arrange your finances today so that when you apply for benefits down the road, you can qualify without a penalty.
If you are a wartime vet or spouse (or you care about someone who is), there’s no time to delay. We invite you to come into the office to get your questions answered, and we’ll work diligently to complete any planning that you may need before the October 18th deadline.
Again, just call our Marietta Veteran Benefits Attorney office at 770-425-6060 to schedule your appointment.
Stephen M. Worrall
Georgia Estate Plan: Worrall Law LLC
3750 Palladian Village Drive
Marietta GA 30066
steve @ georgiaestateplan.com
P.S. I don’t usually say this—but, please SHARE OR COPY AND FORWARD this message to every veteran who you know and care about. Helping a Vet access the Aid & Attendance benefits they are rightfully entitled to for serving during a period of war can mean the difference between aging with dignity or becoming impoverished by the costs of long-term care. This is information that every older vet should know about!
As a Marietta GA estate planning lawyer, I always end up scratching my head when I hear that another ultra-wealthy celebrity has died without an estate plan in place. Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” recently died of advanced pancreatic cancer without a will or trust. This means that her $80 million-dollar estate will have to go through a lengthy probate process—which could take years and cost her estate thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It especially strange that she didn’t plan since she had been ill for a number of years. Franklin’s attorney, Don Wilson, lamented that he’d been after her to create a will and trust for quite some time before her death. For whatever reason, she never did.
Since Franklin died intestate (meaning, she had no will or trust) her four sons and their families will have to wait a long time to receive their inheritance while the matter goes through the normal probate process. It is also possible that her estate will be contested. Franklin’s attorney is worried about this possibility, noting that “every time [a celebrity] doesn’t leave a trust or will, there always ends up being a fight.”
Worse, her son with special needs will eventually receive his portion of Franklin’s inheritance outright when the probate process is complete. This will immediately disqualify him from receiving Medicaid benefits, which are often the only medical benefits available to individuals with disabilities. Nor will there be someone legally in charge, like a Trustee or Conservator, to help her son manage his money. His loved ones will have to go through another lengthy court process for the right to be in control.
I don’t know anything about the relationship between Franklin and her family, but all indications are that she loved her children and her grandchildren. It’s hard to believe that she wouldn’t have wanted her accumulated wealth to go smoothly and directly to her loved ones. But as things stand, there will likely be people stepping up to contest the will which will drag out the probate proceedings and rack up legal fees that will greatly reduce the $80-million-dollar inheritance she is leaving behind.
There is a lesson here for all of us. Even though most of us will never leave behind an $80-million-dollar estate, our families will still have to deal with the same expenses and delays related to probate if we die without a plan. You can make your loved one’s lives a whole lot easier simply by creating a will or trust. If you need to put a plan in place for your family, call our office at 770-425-6060 and ask to schedule a consultation.
A divorce changes everything. If you are in the process of divorce or just finishing up, you are mostly likely busy trying to readjust to your new life. Although it’s a hectic time, it is important that you do not forget that you need to update your estate plan. Here is a Post-Divorce Estate Planning checklist to get you started:
- Update Your Living Trust and Will
These documents contain instructions about a number of crucial estate planning decisions such as who is in charge of the administration of your estate, who is nominated as guardian of your minor children, who are the beneficiaries of your estate, and who is in charge of managing assets on behalf of the beneficiaries if they are minors. The last thing a newly divorced individual wants is to have their ex-spouse be in charge of handling their assets should they become incapacitated or pass away. After a divorce, joint trusts need to be dissolved with each individual creating their own with the appropriate updated instructions.
- Update Durable Power of Attorney for Finances and Advance Healthcare Directive
These critical estate planning documents allow for the appointment of an agent to act on your behalf to make crucial financial and medical decisions in case of your incapacity. Again, the last thing a recently divorced individual wants is to have their ex-spouse in charge of their finances and medical decisions. New powers of attorney should be executed post-divorce.
- Update Beneficiary Designations
Beneficiary designations are essentially contracts between a financial institution/administrator and the person who owns the account. These are extremely important because for estate planning purposes they generally trump any outside instructions. Therefore, even if a trust/will document has been updated post-divorce, those instructions will not control an asset with a beneficiary designation attached to it unless the trust is named as a beneficiary. Individuals often forget to update all of their beneficiary designations post-divorce. In fact, most people rarely, if ever update them and this can cause a nightmare when that individual passes away.
- Review Titling of all Major Assets
A title dictates to whom and how an asset is transferred at death and who has control over it during their lifetime. The most common mistake made in estate planning is simply listing an asset in a trust document. Proper and formal titling of all of the major assets is imperative at all times. But for estate planning post-divorce, it is essential that all titles be reviewed.
If you are recently divorced and haven’t created or updated these estate planning documents, call our Cobb County estate planning law firm immediately at (770) 425-6060 and schedule a consultation.
An executor is chosen by a testator to carry out the intentions of the will after the testator has died. It’s fairly easy to replace an executor when the testator is still alive – all the testator has to do is simply name a new executor. However, this becomes far more complicated and difficult once the testator has died. While it’s difficult to remove an executor from an estate, it’s not impossible, or even unheard of, to do so.
Why would you want an executor removed from an estate?
An executor is supposed to carry out the intentions of the will and handle the estate in good faith. The executor may not do it perfectly, and the executor is under no obligation to change their performance to the liking of the beneficiaries. So, while some beneficiaries may wish to replace an executor simply because they don’t like them, or they are in conflict, this isn’t good enough. An executor has to demonstrate that they are failing at their duties in order to be removed and that this is likely to continue as long as the executor is in place.
What would you have to show to get an executor removed from an estate?
First, the only people that can seek to get an executor removed are interested parties. These are beneficiaries or any creditor that is seeking compensation from the estate. These beneficiaries or creditors will have to show that the executor is incompetent, is careless, or is intentionally mishandling the estate by wasting it, diverting funds, or stealing. For example, an executor who is illiterate, or refuses to do a proper accounting, who distributes property to non-heirs, or takes money from the estate for himself or herself when he or she is not entitled can be (and probably should be) removed from the estate because these behaviors cause harm to the estate.
These parties can also seek to remove an executor if they can show that the executor has a conflict of interest between his or her executor duties and some other fiduciary duties that cannot be reconciled and makes the executor unable to be fair to the estate. For example, if the executor of an estate also happens to be the vice president of a bank that is suing because it believes it actually owns the title to a property in that estate, the executor has a conflict of interest.
How do you get an executor removed from an estate?
Any interested party that wishes to remove an executor would have to petition the probate court to have the executor removed and present a reason. It’s best to have a Cobb County probate lawyer advise you first and help you with this petition. You will want to get an accounting, if you can, and any evidence of why the executor should be removed. You can also ask the court to temporarily forbid the executor from doing anything to or with the estate until you get a hearing on the matter.
If you would like to discuss your options with an experienced Cobb County County probate lawyer, please call our Marietta probate law firm at 770-425-6060 to schedule a consultation.
May is National Elder Law Month, as designated by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. It is a way to acknowledge the profession that supports seniors and their families with all of their planning needs. And while that sounds great, many people still ask, “What do elder law attorneys do?” Part 1 of this series, “Why May is Special for Elder Law Attorneys” will explore several ways elder law attorneys help seniors and their loved ones.
Elder law attorneys help seniors and their loved ones plan for the possibility of needing long term care.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 10 people age 65 or older has Alzheimer’s dementia.This number is predicted to double by 2050. Alzheimer’s is also the most expensive disease in the country, with no known cure. In 2017, the average lifetime cost of care for someone with dementia was $341,810.
A diagnosis of dementia can wreak emotional and financial havoc on a family. Elder law attorneys help take the financial stress off of families by discussing options to find and pay for appropriate care without losing the family home or a lifetime of savings.
The emotional and financial cost to family caregivers is also quite alarming. 83% of all caregiving comes from family members, friends, or unpaid caregivers. 30-40% of family caregivers suffer from depression. In 2011, a MetLife study estimated that women caregivers lose over $324,000 in lost wages and social security benefits over their lifetime. Male caregivers lose an estimated $283,000 in lost wages and social security benefits over their lifetime.
The family caregivers who are trying to work and provide care to a parent or loved one also need a legal plan. Elder law attorneys work closely with family members and caregivers to make sure they have proper legal documents in place should their health fail, or if they lose employment due to unpaid caregiving.
If it’s not in writing, it won’t be honored.
Elder law attorneys work closely with seniors to understand what should happen if they can no longer make financial decisions or health care decisions. For example, if mom develops dementia and can no longer pay the monthly bills, who will she want to have authority to access her bank account in order to get the bills paid? What type of care does she want if her dementia advances to the point that she can’t communicate her wishes? Does she want to live at home as long as possible? Does she want a private room if she’s in a facility? These are just a few questions that elder law attorneys discuss with clients, which then get put into legal documents so that mom’s wishes will be fulfilled.
My loved one is in the hospital and can’t come home – now what?
It can be very stressful for a spouse and children when a parent becomes ill and can no longer live at home safely. It can also be very expensive, putting the family’s home and savings at risk.
Elder law attorneys help families find and pay for the best long-term care possible. Unfortunately, 24 hour care at home or in a facility can cost families thousands of dollars a month. Therefore, it is often appropriate to look at other funding sources, like Medicaid or Veterans Benefits, to help offset the cost of care. Elder law attorneys help families explore options, and make the best decision for the loved one needing the care.
We will continue exploring how elder law attorneys help seniors and their families in Part 2 of “Why May is Special for Elder Law Attorneys.” In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like more information about how we, your friendly neighborhood Marietta Elder Law attorneys, can help you or a loved one, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 770-425-6060.