If you or a family member have faced a recent health scare, such as the kind presented by the Coronavirus, it’s likely that you’ve been told to update your Last Will and Testament. You may have had a new Will prepared or had your previous Will updated with a Codicil. While preparing a Will generally is a move in the right direction when it comes to estate planning, it may not be the “best” option for you individually.
A Will is one of the most basic levels of estate planning that you can do in order to direct how and to whom your assets will be distributed upon your death. People often misunderstand the estate process and assume that their assets will automatically pass to the beneficiaries found in their Will after their death. What they don’t realize, is that assets that pass by way of a Last Will and Testament must first go through the probate process before any distributions can legally take place.
To clear up some of that confusion, here are some answers to common misconceptions surrounding the probate process:
1. If you have a Will, your family will not have to go through a probate. Not true! In fact, if you do Will-based planning, you are planning for a probate. This means your estate will go through a court process and be open to public examination before your beneficiaries will receive their inheritance. Your named Executor under the Will cannot even act on behalf of your estate until the court has granted them approval to do so.
2. Probate is a simple and speedy process. This is rarely true. On average, it takes up to 16 months to settle an estate. That’s a significant wait time for beneficiaries to receive the assets you intended them to have. Additionally, you will need legal assistance if you are required to open a probate in an estate due to the complexity of the process. Professional help from a good probate attorney will be your best insurance for preventing unnecessary expenses and delays during the probate process.
The month of May is recognized as National Elder Law Month and Older Americans Month. Davis & McCann, P. A., acknowledges the growing need for legal services for senior citizens in rural Kansas and has expanded its practice to include Elder Law. To facilitate this, the firm has invested significantly in specialized training for their attorneys in the areas of long-term care planning and Medicaid.
“As baby boomers enter their advanced senior years, we’ve seen a spike in the need for assistance with long-term care planning and Medicaid applications. It’s our goal to provide affordable, high-level legal advice to our clients, without them having to leave the area. We’ve increased our long-term care planning services, including completing advanced training in this area to ensure we can fulfill our commitment to our clients,” attorney Megan L. McCann says. “We develop long-term care plans that support the client’s overall estate plan. Our discussions with a client might include private pay options for long-term care, gifting, long-term care insurance or annuities, caregiver expense allowances, spend down options, or a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust. Each families’ needs are different. One may only need to discuss available options, while the next needs us to take the lead on filing for Medicaid benefits, including helping to determine allowable expenses and payments.”
Tamara L. Davis, the firm’s President, is pleased with the firm’s expansion efforts. “We’ve seen significant growth in our long-term care planning and Medicaid planning practice over the past two to three years,” Davis says. “One of our goals as a firm is to make these essential services accessible to Western Kansas families. Our practice already included estate planning, business formations and contracts, real estate transactions, and probate. It just made sense to expand our practice to include long-term care planning and Medicaid planning, as more and more families look to us for help in this area. Based on the number of clients we’ve already aided, we’ll continue to explore the expansion of services in this area.”
McCann and Davis are members of Wealth Counsel, a national consortium of Estate Planning Attorneys. McCann is also a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), an association designed to assist in education and training on elder law matters and special needs planning. In addition, McCann acts as an advisory committee member to the Southwest Kansas Area Agency on Aging and Davis is a long-standing board member for Hospice of the Prairie and Prairie Home Health in Dodge City.
Davis & McCann, P. A. also offers services in simple and complex estate planning, special needs planning, business and farm succession planning, business formation, probate, trust administration, real estate, 1031 exchanges, and more. The firm represents clients from most of the counties in Western Kansas.
With all the restrictions imposed by COVID 19, those of us with family and friends residing in nursing homes have become acutely aware of the importance of quality nursing home care. Not only are sanitation and quality medical care important, but so are social, physical, and spiritual opportunities. The COVID virus has put a microscope on nursing homes and forced all of us to rethink the definition of quality care for our seniors. While not all older Americans require nursing home care, the vast majority do or will at some point in their life. Because May is designated as National Older Americans Month, this is a good time to focus on ways we can make life a little better for the generation who paved the way for us, particularly for those who are more vulnerable and require nursing home care. If you or a loved one are considering a move to a nursing home, here are some specific questions you should ask each facility:
1. What services do you provide? Specially, what type of social programs are offered and with what frequency; are there worship sessions and, if so, how often do they occur; what type of physical activities are available; are beauty services provided; etc…
2. What is the staff to resident ratio on each shift? It’s also important to ask about skilled staff turnover rate. A well run institution will have a lower staff turnover rate. Be sure to inquire about screening for criminal records, drug use, etc... for employees.
3. How much time do nurses and aides spend with residents daily?
4. What services are available for the resident as their nursing care requirements increase? Is there a separate unit for advanced dementia care?
Q: I am the sole Trustee of my own Revocable Trust. I’d like to change one of the successor Trustees that I’ve named. Can I do that?
A: Replacing a successor Trustee in your own Revocable Trust is a simple process. Many people think a Revocable Trust has the same restrictions as an Irrevocable Trust, where the Grantor can make no changes to the document once it is signed. However, a Revocable Trust allows a great amount of freedom for the Grantor to make changes as long as they are competent.
You may replace a successor Trustee at any time by asking your estate planning attorney to prepare a Trust Amendment to name the individual you prefer to act as your successor Trustee. You will be required to review the amendment with your attorney and sign it before a notary public. You should keep the amendment with your original estate planning documents in a fire-proof location. If you have additional changes that you would like to make to your trust, you may need to restate your Trust in its entirety or even revoke the original trust and form a new Revocable Trust. Your estate planning attorney can help you decide which option is best for your unique circumstances. It is important to note that when you want to make changes, you should not write on your original Trust document for any reason, as this may invalidate the entire Trust.
For more information on Trusts, contact Davis & McCann, P. A., Dodge City, KS. We are members of Wealth Counsel, a national consortium of Estate Planning Attorneys and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). We focus our practice on providing clients with the best legal advice on Estate Planning, Medicaid and Long-term Care Planning, Special Needs Planning, Family Business/Small Business Succession Planning, Probate, Trust Administration, Real Estate Transactions, and related matters.
You’ve purchased the rings. The church and reception hall have been booked. The invitations have been mailed. Now, you’re just waiting for the big day to arrive. There’s enough disappointment to go around for everyone during this pandemic, but one of the biggest frustrations has to be the postponement of a wedding. If you’re one of the unfortunate individuals whose wedding has been delayed, you probably find yourself waiting for restrictions to be lifted so you can proceed with your big event. While your plans are on hold, here are some things to consider that will get your upcoming marriage off to the right start:
If you previously contacted these individuals or institutions, you may want to advise them of the change of your wedding date. Also this is not an exhaustive list, but should give you a good place to begin your new life as a married person. For more information on estate planning matters please contact Davis & McCann, P.A., Dodge City, Kansas. We are members of WealthCounsel, a national consortium of Estate Planning Attorneys, and NAELA, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. We focus on providing the best legal advice on Estate Planning, Medicaid and Long-term Care Planning, Special Needs Planning, Business Formation, Family Business/Small Business Succession Planning, Probate, Trust Administration, Real Estate Transactions and related matters.
If there were ever a time to consider doing an estate plan, now would be that time. This pandemic has shown us how quickly our health and livelihood can change. If you are a parent of minor children, these facts probably keep you awake at night.
Preparing a Last Will and Testament and/or a Living Trust is one of the best ways you can ensure your children will be cared for in a way you would approve, should you pass away. Without a valid plan in place at your death, your State law dictates how to divide your material possessions, who will care for your minor children (in the absence of a surviving spouse), what age those children will receive access to their inheritance, and who will be responsible for selling or distributing your items of value.
Despite these risks, most young adults don’t have even a basic Will. Megan L. McCann, estate planning attorney and partner at Davis & McCann, P. A., attributes this trend to two facts: One, young adults rarely consider the possibility of death and two, many people assume they have insufficient assets to require estate planning.
If you have children, McCann says having at least a simple Will is critical, if for no other reason than to name a guardian (the person who will provide physical shelter and care for your child) and a conservator (the person who will manage the money your child may inherit) for your minor children. “In the absence of a Will where you appoint a guardian and conservator, the State will decide who should care for your children and their assets after your death,” McCann says. She continues, “Part of our responsibility as parents is to protect our children and provide a safe future for them. By naming a guardian and conservator in a Will, you can control who provides that protection and safety for your children and their assets, if you no longer can.”
It also is a good idea to name an alternate guardian and conservator under your Will in case your original choice is unable or unwilling to act. Please be advised that the conservator need not be the same person as the guardian. Try to select individuals who you think exhibit the optimal skills for the position that you are appointing them for and whom you feel would make decisions that most closely mimic your own parenting style. It is always a good idea to get the advanced consent of the prospective guardian and conservator to ensure that they are willing to assume such a large responsibility prior to naming them in your Will. Be aware you can always revise your documents in the future to change the guardian and conservator at any time.
For more information on Estate Planning, contact Davis & McCann, P. A., Dodge City, KS. We are members of Wealth Counsel, a national consortium of Estate Planning Attorneys and focus our practice on providing clients with the best legal advice on estate planning, Medicaid and Long-term Care Planning, Special Needs Planning, Family Business/Small Business Succession Planning, Probate, Trust Administration, Real Estate Transactions, and related matters.
Q: I am married with four children and I haven’t done any estate planning. I have serious health issues and I’m concerned I won’t have time to do thorough estate planning before I die. I own a home, some investments, a bank account, two insurance policies, and a couple of vehicles. Is there a quick way I can preserve my assets for my family?
A: Obviously if you had more time, you would want to do more sophisticated estate planning, perhaps looking at ways to save on taxes or protect your children from the risk of losing their inheritance due to divorce or creditors. However, given that your health issues require you to make emergency decisions, here are a few options for you to consider:
1. Execute a simple Last Will and Testament. Your local estate planning attorney can customize the Will to your specific wishes. This document will help transfer any of your assets that do not have a Payable-On-Death or Transfer-On-Death designation. Given a medical emergency, it’s not unusual to accomplish this in days, rather than weeks. Use caution when considering online estate planning services, as most use a “one size fits all” approach. Rarely do these services adequately address your specific family needs.
2. Sign a Durable General Power of Attorney and a Health Care Power of Attorney to authorize a person whom you trust to make your business and health care decisions should you no longer be able to. With serious illness, it is not unusual for a person to be unable to speak or
The Coronavirus pandemic has forced many individuals to quarantine and work from home. A productive way to spend the extra time you may now find in your schedule is to create an estate planning portfolio. By gathering all of your pertinent estate planning information into one location, you’ll make visits to your estate planning attorney, investment advisor, tax accountant, and insurance agent much easier. To help get you started, we’ve put together a guide to organize your estate planning portfolio.
SECTION A: CURRENT ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS
• Copies of any currently existing estate planning documents, including any powers of attorney
for financial or medical, living will, HIPAA, Last Will and Testament and any trust documents.
SECTION B: ASSETS
• Copies of your most recent statements for all checking, savings and money market accounts.
• Copies of certificates of deposit.
Investment and Mutual Fund Accounts:
• Copies of your most recent statements for all investment and mutual fund accounts.
Stock and Bond Certificates:
• Copies of all stock certificates.
• Copies of all bonds.
The Coronavirus pandemic has forced families to think about topics they might generally avoid; serious illness and death. Because the virus doesn’t always present symptoms in the early stages, those who are struck with a severe form often do not have time to prepare their business and legal affairs before requiring medical intervention. What can you do now to ensure that your legal and financial matters are in order? Below are some recommendations on what you or your loved one can do to keep your home and business running smoothly in case you are hospitalized or otherwise unable to act on your own:
1. Review your Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA). This document allows someone to make your health care decisions in the event you are unable to. You may name one or more individuals whom you trust to act as your agent(s). We recommend that you name at least one alternate agent, should your first agent be unable or unavailable to make decisions on your behalf. If you become mentally competent and able to communicate with your doctor, the authority of your HCPOA agent ceases.
2. Review your General Durable Power of Attorney (GDPOA). This document is often referred to as a business or financial power of attorney. Your agent can pay your bills, file your taxes, and conduct your ordinary business affairs. Similar to the HCPOA, you may name one or more individuals whom you trust to act as your agent(s). Again, we recommend that you name at least one alternate agent, should your first agent be unable or unavailable to make decisions on your behalf.
It is easy to become fearful and focused on the unknowns surrounding the Coronavirus 19 pandemic. Rather than dwell on the negatives, we suggest you look for ways you can help your community during this time. Here are 10 ways you can have a positive impact locally:
1. Practice social distancing and sanitation measures as recommended by the CDC and insist all members of your family do the same.
2. Call your elderly neighbors weekly and ask how they are feeling. Have a real conversation with them; ask about their family, their hobbies, etc. Do they need any groceries or medicine that you could pick up and deliver to their doorstep for them? Make sure they jot down your telephone number to use if they are concerned or just need to hear a friendly voice.
3. Turn off the television and phones and take your family outdoors. Write encouraging messages and pictures on your driveway and sidewalks with sidewalk chalk for passing neighbors to see.
4. If your community has been ordered to shelter in place, send a generous tip to the professional who does your hair, nails, lashes, massage, etc. The majority of these individuals are self-employed and will be out of income during a quarantine, with no unemployment benefits available. A gesture of good will on your part could help them weather this storm.
5. Purchase gift cards from your favorite restaurant, bar, movie theater, etc. to use after social distancing recommendations have been rescinded. Consider sending gift cards for grocery stores to individuals you know who are no longer employed due to this pandemic. Most of these gift cards can be purchased online or by calling the business, using your credit card for payment, and having the cards mailed to you.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Davis & McCann, P. A.,