Author: Anne' Desormier-Cartwright

How to Get Important Answers When You Are in Your Parents’ Florida Estate Plan

Did you know that less than half of the adult American population have completed their estate plan? With that said, have you just learned from your parents that they have created their estate plan? We know that you must be very relieved that they are now protected by having a decision maker in place during a time of crisis. However, were you surprised to learn you were the person who was chosen to make decisions for your parents in the event they were incapacitated? We know you probably have many questions now that you are named in your parents’ estate plan. How do you get the answers? Do you need to know what your duties and responsibilities actually are as a part of this process? We have five questions you could ask right here.

1. There is a crisis, what do you do now? First, you need to talk to your parents about what they would want you to do in a sudden crisis. Now this crisis could be anything from being in a coma due to a serious accident to being stuck overseas due to a flight delay. What is your role? What are your parents expecting you to do? Having a plan in place now, before the crisis, is the best discussion to have with your parents and will help guide any decisions you make when it comes to successfully navigating the crisis.

2. Health care decisions need to be made, are you in charge? As part of their estate plan your parents would have included health care planning. Your parents will have named each other as decision maker, but if they were both incapacitated they need a second decision maker named and that is you. So, right now you need to know what they want for their health care. Start with the basics: What do they want for their general care? What is their goal for long-term care? What would they want if they were on life support? Honestly, these are tough questions, but you need to know their answers to learn what they would want so you can act in their best interest in any health care situation. Also, we recommend that you keep and maintain a current list of their diagnoses, doctors, specialists, and medicines.

3. Finances, who is in charge? It would not be surprising to know that you have little knowledge of your parents’ finances. If you have been put in charge and been named as the agent in their durable power of attorneys or a trustee in their trust, now is the time to learn. You can ask your parents questions about where they invest, who they work with, and what type of management fees they pay? Find out whether they have life insurance or other policies with beneficiaries that might pass outside the estate plan? Are all their planning tools current? As soon as you can, start this discussion with your parents so you know what to expect should you need to step in.

4. Do your parents have a legacy they want to leave behind? In addition to protecting themselves, does a part of your parents’ estate plan protect what they want for their future, their family, and their legacy? Do they have a legacy they wish to create? What goals do they have for you in continuing their legacy? Discuss with your parents what their vision is so that you can see it come to fruition if they should pass away.

5. Should you meet the Florida estate planning attorney for your parents? If it is okay with your parents, it would be good to know and even meet their Florida estate planning attorney. There is no doubt that successful Florida estate plans have an experienced Florida estate planning attorney behind them. Ask your parents the following questions: Who did your parents work with? What will be your relationship with them? Where do the original documents live? Can you meet the attorney in advance to make sure you understand your roles and responsibilities? Be sure your parents know that you are willing to meet their attorney if they want you to.

Being named within your parents’ estate plan brings serious questions that you need answered. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Are There Ways Technology Can Help Florida Seniors Age in Place?

Are there ways technology can help Florida seniors age in place? Absolutely! You may not realize that when used appropriately, the right technology can make it easier for Florida seniors to engage with their family and friends and remain healthy and safe in their independent living situation.

Do you have a Florida senior loved one or know a Florida senior who wants to age in place? In fact, they have always lived in their own home, taking care of themselves by handling their own shopping, cooking, medications and driving to appointments. Do you only call or visit occasionally? However, are you beginning to notice that your senior loved one or senior friend are beginning to age and may need some extra help? Are you wondering where that help can come from? We would like to share a few technologies that might help your Florida aging loved ones and friends. We encourage you to share and discuss these technologies with your senior loved ones and friends. We also recommend that you and your senior loved ones and senior friends should consult with their primary care practitioners to help identify areas where technology may help them now and in the future.

To begin, we know that health and wellness are very important for your senior loved one and you. Technology may be of great assistance, in fact in the aftermath of Covid 19, many of us are familiar with telehealth. This technology will enable your senior loved ones to manage their illnesses and connect with their health care professionals while at home. Be proactive and plan to assist your Florida senior and friends during the first few video visits that they have with their physicians. By helping them you will give your senior loved one and friends the confidence to connect with their physicians independently. Another very useful technology is medication management. These technologies can dispense medications, issue reminders, monitor medication usage, and notify caregivers when doses are missed. Two of the products available to consumers to purchase or rent are epill, and MedMinder.

Next, it is very concerning that many of our senior loved ones and friends are often isolated or lonely. This is an area of technology that can definitely help. A cell phone, which for many is a simple technology, can increase the ability of our Florida seniors to connect with all their family and friends. For your loved ones, you can even look for phones with large buttons and clear screens. The Lively Flip phone was designed for seniors, and comes with a special one-click button to connect with a member of the Lively Response Team. This team can summon help or connect the caller with a board-certified doctor or nurse. Florida seniors with a hearing loss may have help with a captioning app like Clear Captions, which will enable them to read the phone.

Finally, to enable your senior loved one to age in place, consider a Medical Alert System. In fact, this type of system now comes standard in many home security systems. There are immediate responses for crises such as falls, as well as daily check-ins to make sure your loved one is alright throughout the day. You should start by determining if your loved one would wear a care button or bracelet to have immediate access to help or if there needs to be a home monitoring system instead. There are many companies available to choose from.

We know this article raises more questions than it answers. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

How Could SLATs Be The Best Planning Tool For You?

Do you and your spouse have a Florida estate plan?  Are you wondering if a Spousal Lifetime Access Trust, commonly referred to as a “SLAT,” is an estate planning tool that you should add to your estate plan? Are you aware that SLATs will allow you to remove up to $11.6 million from your estate and place it in an irrevocable trust for your spouse? Your spouse will then be able to use and access these funds during his or her lifetime.  You need to know that one of the primary benefits of a SLAT is that it allows your spouse to use distributions from the irrevocable trust while you are both living while simultaneously avoiding the estate tax and isolating those assets from creditors.

With a SLAT, however, there are a few precautions you should consider taking in order to obtain the estate planning and asset protection benefits of a SLAT. To begin, you should be sure that there is no express or implied agreement that the party gifting the assets in the trust will get those assets back. It should be clear that the assets in the trust will not be returned to the grantor or the trust will not be viewed as “irrevocable.” Next, the SLAT should not allow the funds in the trust to be used to pay the creditors of the grantor. Be mindful that if the trust allows for such payments, it may not qualify as a SLAT and there may be resulting tax consequences.  Lastly, even though the beneficiary of SLATs cannot agree to return the funds to the grantor, the beneficiary can distribute the funds to their children, which will allow the assets to remain in the family if the beneficiary spouse should pass away while the trust remains funded.

We would highly recommend that you see your Florida estate planning attorney to find out if you and your family would benefit from a SLAT. Your Florida estate planning attorney can review your finances and your estate planning goals to help make recommendations regarding the best estate planning vehicles, including SLATs, to preserve your assets for your family and minimize any adverse tax consequences.

Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Three Reasons Why Trusts Fail

Are you contemplating adding a trust to your Florida estate plan? Trusts are a useful estate planning instrument: To keep an estate out of probate. For tax planning purposes. For long-term care planning by structuring a person’s assets in a way that makes him or her eligible for Medicaid to cover the expense of a nursing home. Unfortunately, though, trusts can also fail. We would like to share with you three reasons why a trust may fail.

1. The trust was never funded. Working with your Florida estate planning attorney and creating a trust is a lot of work. Equally important is signing the trust and making it legal. However, there is one more very important step, the trust must be funded. All of the assets described in the trust must be moved into the trust in order for the trust to be funded. This means that the trust must hold title to all of your assets. This involves changing the deed on your home, the title to cars, boats, RV’s, the ownership of bank accounts and stock certificates intended to be transferred into the trust. Funding a trust can be a critical step in properly establishing a trust, but it is also one that may be overlooked. If the trust is not funded, the trust’s beneficiaries may find that they will receive nothing from the trust.

2. The beneficiaries were never updated. Once you have completed your trust, you do not just place it in a drawer or safety deposit box and forget it. A trust should be reviewed and if necessary updated whenever there is a significant life change, such as the birth or death of a loved one, a divorce or a remarriage, or even the death of your trustor. All of these life events can impact who inherits from your estate.

3. The trust was never updated to reflect current law. You need to be aware that the laws on trust and estates can change. In fact, your trust may have been drafted under one set of laws, but more importantly, there may be new or updated laws at the time of your passing, which have the potential to invalidate portions of your trust. Your best solution to this problem is to work with your Florida estate planning attorney. She can provide periodic bulletins regarding significant changes in the law, which can alert you to the need to have your trust revised. It is vital that everyone have their trust reviewed periodically by their estate planning attorney to assure that it is supported by current law.

With good planning, trusts can be one of the most useful estate planning instruments. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

4 Reasons Why You Should Always Prioritize The Creation Of Your Estate Plan

Have you created your estate plan yet? If not, is it at the top of your list of things to do? Are you aware that, according to a 2022 survey, even though almost two-thirds of Americans know that having an estate plan is important, less than one-third of Americans have an estate plan in place? The primary reason why people do not have an estate plan in place is because they have just not gotten around to it. We would like to share with you four reasons to make it a priority to work with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney to create an estate plan.

1. Taxes may be kept to a minimum with a good estate plan. You may be able to minimize the amount of taxes your estate may have to pay by creating a Florida estate plan. If a good estate plan is not created and put into place, depending on the size of your estate and the location of your property, the tax burden for your estate may be very significant.

2. Children need your estate plan in place for their protection. If you have children, there are a myriad of reasons why estate planning is important. For example, you will want to identify in your will who you would like to raise your children in the event of your death, otherwise, a court will probably make that decision for you. Also, you want to be able to decide how your assets are distributed to your children in the event of your death. If you die without an estate plan, the distribution of your assets will likely be governed by the laws of Florida.

3. Privacy is important to protect. You like to keep your life private. You also want to keep the probate of your estate private. By working with your estate planning attorney, she will show you a variety of estate planning documents, other than a Last Will and Testament, that can help you accomplish your goal of privacy.

4. It is very important to have a plan for incapacity in place. Estate planning is about what happens to your assets when you die, but it can also involve planning for the possibility of your incapacity due to an accident or illness. Your estate planning attorney can show you the documents to put into your estate plan that will allow you to choose a trusted family member or friend to be your agent should you be unable to make financial or healthcare decisions.

Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Are You Worried About Florida Probate? Here Is How To Avoid It

Do you want to have your estate avoid probate when you pass away? Have you recently created your last will and testament, but worried that your estate may still have to be probated? Are you planning for your estate to not go through probate when you pass away because you have a Florida last will and testament? First, having a Florida will in place is excellent. However, the fact that you have a will does not, by itself, allow your estate to avoid probate. Let us share some information with you.

You should consider other estate planning tools if you want to keep your assets out of probate. Your Florida will is a set of instructions for your personal representative. Your will lets your personal representative know how to distribute all of your assets, which may include a house, a vehicle, bank or brokerage accounts or personal items. However, even though you have written down instructions in your will it does not change the fact that the assets may be subject to probate. Your personal representative will be required to probate your will, and this could possibly take time and money from your estate.

You might want to consider putting your assets into a trust if you are worried about probate. By meeting with your Florida estate planning attorney she may advise you that a revocable trust could be a good way to avoid putting your estate through probate. Now that you have created your revocable trust and put your assets into the trust, your work may not be done if you want your estate to avoid probate. Unfortunately, you may not always be set at this point. If there are any changes in your assets, they must be reflected in your trust. For example, you may sell some assets, acquire some assets but forget to put your new assets into your trust. Be aware that only the assets in your trust will avoid probate. Any other assets you may have acquired but forgot to put into the trust will have to go through probate.

You must be careful to not have any information in your will and in your trust that does not match. If the information in your will does not match the terms of your trust document, then your trust document may prevail. If there are any inconsistencies they may have to be reviewed by a probate court.

Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Tips and Pointers on Where to Keep Your Original Florida Estate Planning Documents?

As a senior adult, are you like many Americans, still keeping your important paperwork and valuables at your bank? Do you believe a safe deposit box is the best place for storing important documents? After all, is it not logical that renting a safe deposit box is a much safer bet than keeping everything at home? These are all good questions and we would like to address them in our blog.

Now that you, together with your experienced Florida estate planning attorney, have created your documents for your Florida estate plan, you may be thinking about keeping your documents at your bank. However, you may be surprised to learn that there are pros and cons to this plan. We would like to share more on this topic so you can make a decision and, as always, do not hesitate to ask us your questions.

Interestingly, many estate planning attorneys may urge their clients not to keep the original copies of their estate planning documents in a safe deposit box. Let us share four tips and pointers as to why: 1. The bank is only open on certain days and at specific times. 2. Access to safe deposit boxes is limited to the owner or owners. 3. If you are the sole owner of a safety deposit box, your family and/or the personal representative(s) of your estate may need a court order to get your documents. 4. There can be ways around this, such as adding additional owners to the box, but you may not want to or forget to use them. We recommend you speak with your attorney because you can designate access to your safe deposit box in your durable power of attorney. A word of caution, though, banks do not always honor these documents when the time comes. Further, they cease to work upon your passing.

Where should you put your original estate planning documents, other papers and valuables? Instead of putting your original estate planning documents in a safe deposit box, consider these tips and pointers: 1. A fireproof and waterproof lockbox at home. 2. A home safe. 3. A secure container on an upper shelf of a closet or cabinet.

No matter where you decide to keep your original documents, remember to make copies. You can safely take copies of your documents with you to any professional visits you need to make, for example, your physician. Your original estate planning documents need to remain safely stored away so that there will be no challenges in the future for your needs, the needs of your family and your legacy. Be sure to discuss this now with your experienced Florida estate planning attorney.

As always, we are here to answer any of your questions and help address your concerns. You are welcome to ask us about storing your original estate planning documents, or about any estate planning matters, at any time. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

The 10 Point Nursing Home Checklist You and Your Loved Ones Need

Do you have loved ones that you care for and now need skilled nursing care? Are you finding this discussion with your loved ones the most difficult thing you have ever done? We realize that the decision to move your loved ones to a nursing home is hard. How do you find the right one? Will there be challenges? How do you make sure that the needs of your loved ones, both now and in the future, will be met by the facility?

Finding the right facility for your loved ones, that can meet their health care needs, is only the starting place in your research. In addition, what other factors will you and your loved ones need to consider that you may not be aware of yet. Right now, in this blog, we would like to share our 10 Point Checklist that you and your loved ones can read and use in your research as you assess your choices.

1. Financial programs and health care services. Are programs such as Medicaid and long-term care insurance, that can help offset the high cost of care, accepted? Find out early in your evaluation process. Be aware that not all nursing homes provide the same health care services. Make a list of the health care services your loved ones need and use this list to determine if the facility is a fit for them.

2. Location may be important. If your loved ones want to stay in the community where they have always lived, then you must try to find a good nursing home in their community.

3. Change in levels of care and medication management. If the health of your loved ones declines or improves, will they be able to stay in the facility? You need to know this now, so that any moving later on can be avoided. Does the nursing home manage medications or is it considered an additional service? Most skilled nursing homes include this service, but some do not, so be sure to ask.

4. Programs, activities and ways to engage the residents. Knowing that loneliness and isolation are a leading cause of death for Older Americans, it is crucial that the facility offers opportunities for your loved ones to be active and engaged.

5. Communication plan. How does the facility communicate with the families of their residents? Does the facility report to one designated family member about the needs of the resident? Will the facility talk with multiple family members, as well as the agent(s) under the durable powers of attorney of your loved ones? Communication is vital and you need to know the facility’s plan.

6. Online connection plan. Will you be able to connect online with your loved one? Will you and your loved ones be able to use FaceTime, Skype, Messenger, or other methods of online communication? Be sure to see if the facility has a plan to ensure you can connect with your loved ones once they become residents.

7. Licensed by the state. Be sure to look into the facility’s licensing. Is it up-to-date? Have there been any problems? How were challenges addressed?

8. Disaster management and updates on Covid-19. All nursing homes you visit should have a plan for how it will manage disasters. Disasters can range from viruses to natural disasters to power outages, and in Florida, to hurricanes. You need to discuss what to expect and the facility’s plan for handling these issues before signing the contract.

9. Take a tour, read reviews and ask for opinions. Before visiting the nursing home read any reviews you can find online. Once you are onsite, if possible, ask residents their opinions. Get the opinions of family and friends about the facility. Be sure to schedule a tour, but also consider an unscheduled tour so that you can evaluate the facility without it having time to prepare for your arrival.

10. Staff, turnover, and health care provider permissions. Find out about the people working in the facility. Do they seem happy? Caring? Busy? Is there frequent staff turnover? Also, find out if your loved ones’ current health care provider will be able to enter into the facility to treat your loved ones.

These 10 points are just the beginning of the research you will want to finish before placing your loved ones in a long-term care facility. We encourage you to discuss your potential choices, as well as your goals, with your Florida elder law attorney. Your attorney can help guide you in this critical decision so your loved ones can find and access good long-term care.

Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

How to Start Important Conversations About Medical Care with Aging Loved Ones

Are you the adult child of aging parents? Do you know if your loved ones have a current estate plan in place? Have you had any conversations with your aging parents about planning for their future? If you are uncertain of the plans of your aging parents it is important for you to know what they would want in the event of a sudden crisis or incapacity. We encourage you to set aside time, as soon as possible, to have conversations with your aging loved ones about their personal preferences for medical and long-term care.

Are you having a difficult time starting the conversation with your parents about their plans for their future healthcare? You could begin your conversation with these questions.

• Do you have someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf?
• Do you have someone you absolutely DO NOT want to make decisions for you?
• Do you want to use feeding tubes, life support, and other artificial life-saving devices?
• Is there any type of medical care you would NEVER want?
• If you were permanently disabled or incapacitated, what would help or take away from your “quality of life?”
• If you had a choice, would you prefer skilled nursing home care or in-home healthcare?
• If co-pays become excessive or insurance does not cover your treatment how would you want your family to pay for your care?

As your aging loved ones make their choices, they must be sure to document all of their decisions and choices in their estate plan.  Your parents should make an appointment to meet with an experienced and qualified Florida estate planning attorney as soon as possible. Their estate planning attorney will be able to offer advice and assistance as they choose a healthcare decision maker.

Do you have questions? Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Three Tips to Prevent Your Parents Losing a Lifetime of Savings to Long-Term Care

Have you been able to provide the necessary care on your own for your aging parents and now it is not enough anymore? Are you facing the difficult decision to place your aging parents into a nursing home? Are you concerned about the cost of nursing home care and trying to help your parents protect a lifetime of savings from being completely used up by the cost of care?

Because May is both National Elder Law Month and National Older Americans Month, this is an important time of year to ensure our aging loved ones have the support they need. Let us discuss three tips to prevent your aging parents from losing their life savings to a nursing home.

1. Early Planning. The most important thing your parents can do to preserve their life savings is to start planning for the future before those plans need to be put into effect. Meet now with a Florida qualified elder law attorney to engage in long-term care planning, this planning can be critical.

2. Know the Difference Between Medicare and Medicaid. Your parents may be hoping that Medicare will help with nursing home costs, but they probably should not. Typically Medicare only covers 100 days of nursing home care. If your parents qualify for Medicaid, then the Florida Medicaid program will take over when Medicare benefits are no longer enough. Medicaid will cover nursing home costs for qualified individuals for as long as they need it. But there is a catch! Medicaid rules require your parents to spend down most of their life savings prior to qualifying for the program. Medicaid also has a look back period of 5 years. Medicaid will see what your parents held in assets, and what their income and expenses were during this time period.

3. Stay 5 Years Ahead in Planning. By working with a Florida qualified elder law attorney, she can help your parents plan around this 5-year “lookback” rule to protect the life savings of your parents. Your attorney may advise that the best way to do this may be to ensure that the assets of your parents are transferred out of their estate prior to the 60 months before they need nursing home care. Since the need for this care may be on the horizon, it may be best to start planning early. Your attorney can work with you to figure out the best approach.

Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.