JEANNETTE M. WEAVER
& ASSOCIATES, LLC
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Proper estate planning ensures that your assets will be administered during your lifetime in a manner best suited for you as well as providing for the efficient distribution of your assets to your loved ones upon your death. Estate planning includes a review of your current assets, potential issues during your lifetime that may put your assets at risk, such as the need for long-term care, concerns about your spouse, children or other beneficiaries' ability to manage their affairs, asset protection, and probate avoidance when appropriate.
A basic estate plan includes a Last Will and Testament, General Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will. An enhanced plan includes the basic planning documents as well as various trusts depending on the needs and goals of the individual or couple. A revocable living trust is commonly used for probate avoidance, creating trust shares for minor children or grandchildren thus avoiding the costs associated with a formal guardianship and to allow for distributions to beneficiaries at various ages or with restrictions. More sophisticated planning is required when dealing with special needs beneficiaries, credit shelter trusts, and Medicaid planning.
It's important to note that estate planning isn't just for the elderly or retired - it's for everyone.
With the average annual cost of nursing home care exceeding $102,000 in 2014, it is imperative that families educate themselves as to the options available to them if they are potentially facing the need for such levels of care for themselves, their spouse or their parents. Otherwise, it is easy to spend all of the savings you worked to accumulate. Our primary focus is to help preserve assets for the benefit of those who are in need of care either in the home, assisted living or nursing home.
Despite what you may have been told or heard, there are many ways to help protect your assets and become eligible for Medicaid benefits and/or Veteran's Aid and Attendance benefits, even if you are already receiving care.
Statistics show that at least 70% of people over the age of 65 will need some level of long-term care; so the time to ask about long term care planning is now. With a 5 year "look back" period applicable to the transfer of assets to non-spouses for less than market value (gifts) for Medicaid eligibility purposes, the earlier families begin the process, the more assets they will be able to protect.
Wills & Trusts
A Will is a document that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of property upon your death. You must designate someone to serve as an Executor to administer your estate in Probate Court and also designate your beneficiaries. If you have minor children, you can designate a Guardian for any minor children you may have upon your death. Other considerations include specifying your burial preferences, especially if you are considering cremation. While it is important to have a Will in the event you have probate assets upon your death, a Will does not avoid Probate and does not protect your assets during your lifetime or allow for distributions at various ages or with any restrictions.
There are many different types of Trusts to consider using in estate planning. As with a Will, you must designate someone to serve as trustee of your trust upon your death or upon your resignation or incompetency. The trustee has a fiduciary duty to you and to the beneficiaries of your trust. Fundamentally, there are two types of trusts, revocable and irrevocable. Revocable trusts are the most common type of trust to avoid probate and allow maximum flexibility to the individual(s) creating the trust during their lifetimes. Irrevocable trusts are commonly used in asset protection planning and are more restrictive with the individual(s) creating the trusts divesting themselves of all ownership of the assets transferred to the irrevocable trust.
Powers of Attorney
There are two basic types of Power of Attorneys: Health Care Power of Attorney and General Durable Power of Attorney. If you do not have these documents, you are at risk of needing a Guardianship in the event you become incapacitated, temporarily or permanently.
With Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA) you designate someone to make health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so; whereas with a General Durable Power of Attorney (GDPOA) you designate someone to handle or assist you with your financial matters. You can grant someone immediate access to your finances/assets or grant them authority upon your becoming incapacitated.
It is important to have your HCPOA and GDPOA reviewed periodically by an attorney to ensure compliance with recent changes in the law.
A guardianship is a process used to protect a person when they are unable to care for themselves due to either physical or mental incompetency. Handled through the Probate court, a guardian of the person makes all decisions for the care and well-being of the ward, and a guardian of the estate is appointed to manage the ward's finances. Guardianships can be quite costly with the need for Court approval for all expenditures on behalf of the ward, biennial accountings, and most importantly the inability to protect any of the ward's assets for purposes of Medicaid or Veteran's Aid and Attendance benefits. The Probate Court can not approve any such transfers thus requiring all assets of the ward to be spent down to $1,500 before the ward will be eligible for Medicaid benefits.
The Probate Court is established in each county of Ohio to supervise the administration of the estate of a decedent who was a legal resident of the county at the time of his or her death. Each transaction involved in the administration of an estate is subject to the examination and approval of the Probate Court.
Court costs can be expensive and the process can take months and in some cases years, tying up your property for the duration. Our legal team helps you to avoid probate, saving you money and time.
For hours of operation and other news about the Cuyahoga County Probate Court CLICK HERE.