When Should You Update Your Estate Plan?

Once you’ve created an Estate Plan, it is important to keep it up to date. You will need to revisit your plan after certain key life events.

  • Marriage (first or subsequent)
  • Birth (children or grandchildren)
  • Divorce or Death of a Spouse
  • Increase or Decrease in Assets
  • Relocation

What if I die with no Will?

When a person dies without a Will, it is called Intestacy. In this case there is a statute that determines how the deceased’s assets are distributed. In general, surviving spouses and direct heirs are first to inherit an intestate estate. In their absence, aunts, uncles and cousins may inherit. It is a common misconception that the State will take all of your assets if you die without a Will. It is only in the absence of any surviving heirs that the State would stand to inherit. To open an Intestate Estate, an Administrator must be appointed.

Do I have to spend all of my money to become eligible for Medicaid benefits?

No. While there are strict requirement to meet for both income and assets, with proper planning you may become Medicaid eligible before spending all of your assets.

Will my spouse be able to keep our home and assets if I have to go to a nursing home and apply for Medicaid?

Yes, your spouse can keep a portion of your assets, including your home, and you may still qualify for Medicaid benefits. This can be a very challenging situation but with proper advanced planning and legal counseling it can be managed.

Are there Medicaid benefits available to help me stay in my home instead of a nursing home?

Yes. Medicaid has benefits called Home and Community Based Services available to assist you in your home if you qualify. Such benefits can include nursing, personal assistance, respite care and adult day care.

I have a child with a disability and I am afraid of what may happen when I am gone. What can I do?

With proper planning you can ensure that your special needs child or loved one has proper personal supervision, money management and coordination of benefits. This can be a daunting task but the right Elder law lawyer can help you through it.

I have a child with a disability who lives in a group home with the assistance of government benefits. How can I leave him an inheritance without jeopardizing his benefits or situation?

With a Special Needs Trust your child can remain in his environment and eligible for all of his benefits. The inheritance you provide can supplement but not replace his needs where required.

I am on SSI. Can I protect money I might receive from my car accident case?

Yes, with proper planning, your proceeds from your car accident settlement can be set up to supplement rather than supplant your SSI benefits. There are also situations where it may be advantageous to take the money and disqualify yourself from your benefits for a period of time.

My mother passed away, what do I do now?

If your Father is still alive and he and your Mother owned their property jointly, you likely do not have to do anything. Assets owned jointly by married individuals pass by operation of law to the survivor.

If your Mother was a widow and she had a Will, the Will must be probated so the assets may be distributed accordingly.

Your first step is to seek legal counsel for assistance.

Do all “estates” have to be probated?

No. Only certain property in the name of the deceased requires Probate. Assets of a deceased such as jointly held property, property held in Trust, retirement accounts and life insurance proceeds all pass outside of the Probate process.

How long does Probate take?

The length of the Probate process depends on the complexity of the Estate and the assets included. Estates are generally open for at least a year to ensure that there are no creditors to the Estate.

Do I really need a Financial POA?

Yes! Depending on your situation, a Durable Financial Power of Attorney is arguably more important that a Will.  Without a POA, your funds are essentially “locked” if you become incapacitated.

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