OMAHA, NE 402.933.2111

SHELTON, CT & GARDEN CITY, NY 203.880.5960

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Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning

WHAT IS A LAST WILL?

Your Last Will is a legal document through which you distribute some of your assets upon death. Other assets will be distributed not based on your Last Will but on your beneficiary designations, depending on the situation. Over two-thirds of the U.S. adult population does not have a last will, and for those who do, most Last Wills do not fully cover their situation. Upon death, the only want to make a Last Will valid is to file it in the probate court, a public and normally lengthy process that delays your family access to what you have left behind.

DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY?

In the world of estate planning, the best outcome for you, your family, and your loved ones will be achieved only by working with a lawyer who encounters estate planning situations daily. You have worked your whole life for what you have and the relationships you have created. Unfortunately, some families collapse after the death of a loved one because they either did no planning at all, or if they did, it was through an online platform that knew nothing about their family or circumstances and that ultimately failed them when their family needed help the most. We encourage a lifelong relationship between you and your estate planning attorney so that you have a lawyer for life to be there for your family when you cannot be.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

This is the most often asked question in estate planning, and that is okay – we know the topic of cost is a sensitive one when it comes to choosing a professional to guide you, and we have designed our fees on a flat-fee basis only so that you know exactly what you are committing to – and there are no surprises. While we cannot quote fees online or over the phone, we invite you to check out our upcoming educational events where we teach you things about estate planning you do not even know to ask, plus we will cover during our next event our unique meeting process and fee schedule so that you know exactly how to take the next steps at the best time for you and your family.

WHAT IS A TRUST?

Think of a Trust as a “Will substitute.” What we mean is that just as a Last Will distributes your assets upon death, a Revocable Living Trust does the same. The upside of a Trust over a Will is that a Trust need not be filed with the probate court to be effective, whereas a Last Will must be filed with the probate court to have any effect. As a result, a Trust remains a private document pertaining to your private affairs, whereas a Last Will becomes a public document after you pass away no matter how private you were during your lifetime. Of course, there are additional types of trusts as well that serve different purposes, and each family’s unique situation must be taken into account to design the right overall estate plan, which may include one or more Trusts.

I HEARD ESTATE PLANNING IS ONLY FOR THE RICH. IS THAT TRUE?

No, of course not! After you are gone, your loved ones will miss you deeply – they will long for your words of counsel and concern, and hearing an old voicemail or reading a letter from you again would be a tremendous gift. This has nothing to do with money. Through our unique life and legacy planning process, you can give your loved ones the most precious gift of all – a lasting expression of your love. This is because we believe estate planning is not just about transferring your financial assets and personal belongings. It is equally about capturing and transferring your valuable intangible gifts: your values, insights, stories, and experiences. What could be more valuable? Estate planning is not only for those rich with money. Everyone we know already has an estate as valuable as anything in the world and that they should protect.

WHAT IF I MOVE?

Your estate plan works no matter where in the U.S. you might physically be (such as on vacation) or might move to. This said, we always recommend finding your neighborhood Personal Family Lawyer to review your out-of-state plan to help you ensure you make any necessary updates based on differences in state law.

Frequently Asked Questions About Kids Protection Planning

A LAST WILL doES what a kids protection plan does, right?

No, a Last Will is limited in how it can protect your children. First, a Last Will is effective only once you pass away and once the document is filed with and accepted by the probate court, but you may have a need long before the moment you pass away to have a guardian for your children. Second, appointing who would raise your children is one thing, while appointing short-term temporary guardians in case of a short-lived emergency is another thing. Your Kids Protection Plan will leave no stone uncovered or contingency unplanned for. You name both short-term and long-term guardians and ensure that everyone you trust has exactly the information they need on-hand at any moment to care for your children.

DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY?

In the world of kids protection planning, the best outcome for you and your children will be achieved only by working with a lawyer who encounters kids protection planning situations daily. You are here in this world to raise your children the best way you know how, but unfortunately, some families collapse after the death of a parent because they either did no planning at all, or if they did, it was through an online platform that knew nothing about the most comprehensive way to protect children. We encourage a lifelong relationship between you and your estate planning attorney so that you have a lawyer for life to be there for your children when you cannot be.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

This is the most often asked question in estate planning, and that is okay – we know the topic of cost is a sensitive one when it comes to choosing a professional to guide you, and we have designed our fees on a flat-fee basis only so that you know exactly what you are committing to – and there are no surprises. While we cannot quote fees online or over the phone, we invite you to check out our upcoming kids protection planning events where we teach you about our unique meeting process and fee schedule so that you know exactly how to take the next steps at the best time for you and your children.

WHAT IS A KIDS PROTECTION PLAN vs. an estate plan?

Think of a kids protection plan as one piece (a very important piece) of your overall estate plan, and an estate plan is not simply a Last Will, as many believe. For parents with minor children, you need both the traditional estate plan that every adult needs as well as a kids protection plan that every parent of minor children needs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Asset Protection Planning

WHAT TYPES OF ASSETS CAN BE PROTECTED?

Only certain types of assets are appropriate for an appropriate asset protection trust. Once you identify what those are in your case, you can transfer those valuable assets into an asset protection trust to protect those assets from future and unknown creditors. This transfer will protect your assets while you are living and will also protect them from the IRS when you die. This said, there are some disadvantages associated with transfers of valuable property into asset protection trusts, which include your likely or known exposure to creditors’ claims, your personal loss of control over how a particular asset is managed once transferred, and potential gift tax consequences that result from the transfer. What assets should be transferred into asset protection trusts depends on your specific situation, including your state of residence, the state where your business has been organized, where your physical office and registered agent are located, where your assets are located, and more.

Even then, certain assets are considered “exempt” (forever protected) from creditors, and each state determines what it considers exempt assets. In some states, exempt assets include clothing, jewelry, tools, and household furnishings, while in other states additional assets such as life insurance and social security benefits are exempt.

DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY?

In the world of asset protection planning, the best outcome for you, your family, and your loved ones will be achieved only by working with a lawyer who encounters asset protection planning situations daily. You have worked your whole life for what you have, and we encourage you not to leave it to an online form, internet software, or DIY template to care for your family in the way they deserve.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

This is the most often asked question in asset protection planning, and that is okay – we know the topic of cost is a sensitive one when it comes to choosing a professional to guide you, and we have designed our fees on a flat-fee basis only so that you know exactly what you are committing to – and there are no surprises. While we cannot quote fees online or over the phone, we invite you to check out our upcoming educational events where we cover our unique meeting process and fee schedule so that you know exactly how to take the next steps at the best time for you and your family.

IS My Retirement PLAN Protected from Creditors?

If you have a retirement plan, federal law does not allow creditors to reach that asset. This applies to profit sharing, pensions, and 401(k) plans. However, both traditional and Roth IRAs may not be protected depending on the situation. We work closely with you so that you know the exact situation in your case and can make the right decisions from an asset protection planning perspective.

DOES ASSET PROTECTION ACTUALLY WORK?

Yes, asset protection planning works when done right. Asset protection is based on the foundational principles that virtually any and every asset you own can be seized from you by a creditor, and any asset you do not own cannot be seized from you by a creditor. In a nutshell, asset protection aims to remove you from the reality where your ownership of an asset is basically the same as your control over an asset. Instead with asset protection planning, we help you legitimately remove yourself from legal ownership over an asset where you maintain control of your assets, which allows you to continue enjoying the economic benefits of your assets while protecting those from creditors. This said, we do not prepare plans where the goal is to evade a known or likely creditor, as at that point this type of planning is too late.

Frequently Asked Questions About Special Needs Planning

WHAT IS A SPECIAL NEEDS TRUST?

There is no one variety of a “special needs trust” and exactly which type of trust is right for your or your special needs child depends on your specific circumstances. Nevertheless, in practically all cases, special needs trusts are designed to be a vehicle by which you can transfer your assets to your child (really, for the benefit of your child) in a way that allows the child to enjoy your assets but also remain qualified for any important governmental benefits based on their special need. Some of these vehicles are revocable, in the sense that you can revisit and revise the terms over time, and some of these vehicles are irrevocable, meaning you have limited or no ability over time to continue managing assets transferred into the trust or modifying the terms of the trust as things change over time.

DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY?

In the world of special needs planning, the best outcome for you and your special needs will be achieved only by working with a lawyer who encounters special needs planning situations daily. You have worked your whole life for what you have and how you have designed your life to fully support your loving, lovable special needs child. Unfortunately, some families collapse after the death of a loved one because they either did no planning at all, or if they did, it was through an online platform that knew nothing about their family or special need circumstances and that ultimately failed them when their special needs child needed help the most. We encourage a lifelong relationship between you and your estate planning attorney so that you have a lawyer for life to be there for your family – and your special needs child – when you cannot be.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

This is the most often asked question in estate planning, and that is okay – we know the topic of cost is a sensitive one when it comes to choosing a professional to guide you, and we have designed our fees on a flat-fee basis only so that you know exactly what you are committing to – and there are no surprises. While we cannot quote fees online or over the phone, we invite you to check out our upcoming educational events where we teach you things about estate planning you do not even know to ask, plus we will cover during our next event our unique meeting process and fee schedule so that you know exactly how to take the next steps at the best time for you and your family.

how much in governmental benefits can my child qualify for?

How much in governmental benefits any particular person qualifies for is person-specific and can change over time as laws change. There is no right answer that applies to all cases, and each special needs child is different. This means that every special needs trust is going to be different as well, and as a result you should work with a qualified attorney (not fill-in-the-blank software or DIY templates) to ensure your special needs child is taken care of exactly how you want.

HOW DO I MAKE SURE THE GUARDIAN OF MY SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD KNOWS WHAT THEY NEED TO KNOW?

With all planning that we do, we always encourage our clients to write a “letter of intent” in their own words to describe, in a single document, the important details that will enable the guardian to care for and raise your special needs child exactly how you would. A letter of intent would include your child’s medical and education history; their likes, dislikes and habits; and aspirations concerning their future, including living arrangements, career, and lifestyle. The letter is meant to be a roadmap for the guardian and to minimize disruption during an emotional time of transition.

Frequently Asked Questions About Elder Law Planning

can i own a fancy car and still qualify for medicaid?

In short, very likely yes, you can own a fancy car even if you are on Medicaid. In certain states, you are permitted one automobile regardless of value even if you are on Medicaid. This said, as with all governmental regulations, the rules are strict about how you use the vehicle, who has access to it, and more. Because regulations change over time and could drastically impact your personal situation, we always advise you work directly with an attorney to ensure your long-term care and estate plan remaisn up to date and the most protective for your family possible.

DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY?

Absolutely – elder law planning is broad-ranging and if done improperly, could have devastating effects on your tax liability, the exposure of your assets, and the decisions made on your behalf when you cannot communicate your decisions made for yourself. We would not recommend you go this alone because in the world of elder law planning, the best outcome for you, your family, and your loved ones will be achieved only by working with a lawyer who encounters elder law planning situations daily. You have worked your whole life for what you have and the relationships you have created. Unfortunately, some families collapse after the death of a loved one because they either did no planning at all, or if they did, it was through an online platform that knew nothing about their family or circumstances and that ultimately failed them when their family needed help the most. We encourage a lifelong relationship between you and your elder law planning attorney so that you have a lawyer for life to be there for your family when you cannot be.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

Every plan is different and every plan is tailored to your specific circumstances. We know the topic of cost is a sensitive one when it comes to choosing a professional to guide you, and we have designed our fees on a flat-fee basis only so that you know exactly what you are committing to – and there are no surprises. While we cannot quote fees online or over the phone, we invite you to check out our upcoming educational events where we uncover our unique meeting process and fee schedule so that you know exactly how to take the next steps at the best time for you and your family.

WHAT IS A medicaid TRUST?

A Medicaid trust is an irrevocable trust that you can setup to protect your assets from being seized by Medicaid even though you might receive Medicaid benefits. When a trust is “irrevocable,” that means you relinquish your ownership and control over those assets, although in some cases when drafted properly you can continue to receive the benefits of assets you move into an irrevocable trust. For example, if done right, you can move your home into a Medicaid trust and continue to live in your home. Nevertheless, you never want to hastily establish any type of irrevocable trust without knowing exactly why (and whether) you need it, how it works, what it means for assets moved into it, whether there are any pitfalls to be aware of, and how the assets ultimately pass to your heirs. We encourage you never to do this type of planning on your own.

how does elder law planning differ from estate planning?

Elder law is a specialty area of estate planning, so it is both included in proper estate planning depending on your situation and age, and not a substitute for traditional estate planning. With elder law planning, your lawyer helps you plan for retiree benefits, healthcare and long-term care, Medicaid and Medicare coverage, and home care and nursing home care. Ultimately, your elder law planning team of trust advisors includes your lawyer, financial planners, CPA, insurance agents, and other professionals depending on what is appropriate for your situation, and your elder law plan includes both traditional estate planning to avoid probate as well as advanced planning to help protect your estate and legacy as you age.

WHEN SHOULD I START CONSIDERING ELDER LAW PLANNING?

There really is no right or wrong age to start exploring how elder law planning can benefit you. This said, presume that by age 60 you should start the planning process. The longer you wait in life, the more you run the risk of your assets being exposed unexpectedly, going to the medical industry instead of your family. You may even encounter an unexpected health issue where you lose capacity immediately, meaning your family will start planning for you, if they are able. Each day is a gift, and we cannot predict the future but we can plan for it, so the sooner, the better.