Estate Planning Lawyer: 4 Key Questions To Ask At Your First Estate Planning Meeting

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Have you scheduled your first meeting with your estate planning lawyer?

You may have questions about what to expect in this meeting. What is expected of you? What should you share about yourself, your family, your business, and your personal information? Even though you selected this attorney and may have received initial information, for many of us, the first meeting with an attorney can make many of us a little nervous.

The first step is to not be nervous. This relationship is about you and making sure that you and what you care about most, is always protected. The initial estate planning conference with your attorney is very important. This is when you explain to your attorney your estate planning goals, as well as, your assets and liabilities. This can also be a time when you also ask his or her advice on whether an estate plan can be established to meet your specific goals. 

Your first meeting is also when a confidential relationship is first established between the estate planning lawyer and the client. This relationship remains confidential, even if you do not hire this attorney. Let us share four key questions with you that you may ask your attorney in your first meeting.

The first question focuses on his or her experience in planning for an estate plan that meets your goals. Attorneys have experience in different types of planning. Many attorneys do not specialize in certain estate plans that are designed to meet the legal needs of a certain type of client. For instance, the majority of your assets may be invested in individual retirement accounts. In that event, your attorney needs to be experienced in drafting specialized IRA trusts that are designed to distribute these unique assets in a manner that does not give rise to tax issues at your death. 

The second question you may want to ask your attorney, or the staff when you are scheduling the appointment, is the cost of the initial conference you are requesting. Abraham Lincoln coined the phrase, “A lawyer’s time is his stock in trade.”

While the question of cost for the first meeting may seem offensive, it is not fair to the attorney to have him or her invest his legal time discussing your plans if you cannot pay for the first meeting. While the attorney may not be able to give you an exact amount for your whole estate plan, as you have not met yet, the cost of the consultation may be discussed upfront and the attorney will not be offended by your question.

A third question to ask your estate planning lawyer involves probate. You need to ask him or her what asset may need to be probated and what assets can pass to a surviving beneficiary without probate. The next extension of this question would be to logically ask how could probate be avoided. Your attorney will be able to provide solutions to you on how to both protect your estate during life or incapacity, and then at death by avoiding the probate process.

The fourth question to ask is when should your newly signed will or trust be reviewed by the attorney for updating. This can depend on a number of factors, such as your own family situation or what new laws have been passed that could improve or enhance the estate plan. 

Our goal is for you to have the most successful first meeting possible. Creating the right estate plan for you is critical to protecting you, your loved ones, and the legacy you wish to create. We encourage you not to put off planning as there is never a wrong time to create an estate plan. Do not hesitate to contact our office and schedule your first meeting with our Estate Planning Lawyer.

7 Considerations When Protecting Your Child’s or Grandchild’s Inheritance Through A Spendthrift Trust

Did you know a spendthrift trust is a trust that can be created for the benefit of a person who is often unable to control his or her spending? A spendthrift trust can give an independent trustee full authority to make decisions as to how the trust funds may be spent for the benefit of the beneficiary who is normally a child or a grandchild. Creditors of the beneficiary generally cannot reach the funds in the trust, and the funds are not actually under the control of the beneficiary. This is because the trust normally becomes irrevocable upon the death of the person creating the trust.

This is a critical planning tool to discuss with your estate planning attorney so that you can ensure it can operate the way you want it to. For example, the trust provisions may provide for a monthly stipend to pay for the child or grandchild’s monthly necessities. It could also be designed to pay for occasional distributions by the trustee to the spendthrift beneficiary’s college education, vocational training, or to buy the spendthrift beneficiary a home. This residence, however, will remain owned by the trustee and is merely available for the spendthrift beneficiary’s use if he or she needs a residence.

In choosing the best type of spendthrift trust, you, as the creator, may need to consider many different factors that could affect the trustee’s authorized distributions for the child or grandchild. As you discuss these factors with your attorney, consider these seven discussion points:  

  1. The child or grandchild’s chronic health and medical needs.
  2. The child or grandchild’s age 
  3. The intended duration of the trust
  4. The marital status of the child or grandchild’s parents or legal guardian
  5. The other financial resources available to the child or grandchild
  6. The assets that will fund the trust, income producing or growth oriented
  7. Any substance abuse issues experienced by the child or grandchild
  8. Whether the child may qualify for governmental benefits such as Medicaid for children

Trustees of irrevocable trusts typically have certain duties to inform and report to beneficiaries without being prompted to do so by a beneficiary.  The trustee’s duty to inform and account includes, but is not limited to, giving the beneficiary a copy of the trust instrument and an annual accounting of the trust assets’ performance.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Do not wait to schedule a meeting in our firm to discuss them. We look forward to planning with you to protect those you love.

Should Family Caregivers Have Their Dependent Parents Move In?

Family caregivers provide unpaid care for millions of dependent Americans, many of whom are elder adults. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, the average age of a dependent care recipient is 69.4 years old, and nearly half of all informal care recipients are over age 75. A key question for loving family members, this National Family Caregiver Month, is whether to have aging dependents move in with them. 


Safety concerns and cost efficiencies might make such moves seem appealing, but adult children should first determine if they are capable of meeting their elder parent’s needs. If they require only minimal care, such as assistance with meal preparation, dressing and transportation, then moving in might make sense. 


If an elder relative is ill or disabled, however, perhaps with dementia or a medical condition requiring nursing care, then well-meaning adult children may be unqualified to help. This may only invite problems to an already demanding situation. Make sure to ask an aging relative’s doctor about his or her needs, while keeping in mind that any existing concerns are likely to increase over time. 


Another consideration is the nature of your relationship. In other words, do you get along and is it emotionally feasible to live together under the same roof? You may want to care for an elder adult, you may feel obligated to do so, but it is more important to ensure the best quality of life for everyone involved, including members of your own family.


Practical considerations are also important. For example, can your home accommodate another person. To dive into this further, can your home accommodate a person with specific needs? Will the existing layout need adjustments? Renovations? Can your home support certain medical equipment?


Mounting expenses might require reimbursements or an allowance from the elder parent’s financial resources. Assuming other family members are in agreement, an estate plan could be crafted or updated to reflect the new caregiving dynamic. For instance, a power of attorney document could be created to allow for bill payments, groceries, and other items to be paid on the dependent parent’s behalf. 


Other financial and health care arrangements could also apply and you may want to discuss your situation with an elder law attorney before moving forward. We encourage you not to wait to get the answers you need to your questions. You may contact our law practice to schedule a meeting with attorney Anné Desormier-Cartwright to obtain the guidance you need for yourself and your loved ones.

Breast Cancer Resources for Senior Women and Their Loved Ones

Breast cancer impacts millions of women, and by extension millions of families and loved ones. If there is a singular message to this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is that these people are not alone. In fact, a major component of the annual October awareness campaign is to promote breast cancer support resources. 

The resources take many forms, but have the common thread of helping those suffering from the disease, and those who have survived it, often at no cost. Research tells us a staggering one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and two-thirds of women with invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed after age 55. This puts aging adult women, and some men, at elevated risk.

Research also shows that early detection and access to support resources can be an effective means for combating the disease. Participation in support groups, where afflicted individuals can receive help and survivors can share support, has been shown to mitigate related emotional stress. Large, reputable organizations providing support like this include the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation

A list of other leading organizations can be found here. Almost all of these groups provide access to online or in-person support communities. Such programs include: 

  • The National Breast Cancer Foundation’s “Beyond The Shock” initiative. This is an around-the-clock online support group where breast cancer survivors are available to answer questions from new patients and share their inspiring stories. 
  • The American Cancer Society’s “Reach To Recovery” program. This offers newly diagnosed patients one-on-one support with breast cancer survivor volunteers. 
  • The Cancer Support Community. This organization hosts free support resources in cities across the country, and provides online support groups hosted by licensed professionals for those who cannot attend.
  • GriefShare. This is a support program for people who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from breast cancer or needs help coping with related stresses, contacting any of the above mentioned organizations may be able to provide some relief. Moreover, do not wait to contact an estate planning attorney for assistance in crafting critical health care-related estate documents. This step can provide an added measure of peace during a difficult time. Remember, you are always welcome to reach out to our law firm for help preparing the documents you may need now or in the future.

Is It Time For You To Meet With An Estate Planning Attorney?

Did you know estate planning is the process whereby you both express who should care for you in the event of your disability and also to determine who will receive your property when you die? It is always advisable that you clarify your estate plan in writing through an enforceable last will and testament or a trust agreement. 

What you may not realize, however, is that if you have no written estate plan, the Florida legislature has an estate plan for you. This is through what is referred to as intestacy laws. These are rigid rules for distribution of your property by what the legislature thinks you would have wanted for your property distribution when you die. Although the intestacy laws may reflect what you want, it is best practice for you to develop an enforceable written plan for distributing your property according to your goals and objectives.

Most people have at one time or another established a simplified estate plan through a last will and testament. Few people, however, take into account that many of their assets will not be distributed according to their will but instead by bank accounts they jointly own with a spouse or a relative. Often, the distributions provided for by can go unfunded because the funds are distributed instead to who is designated as the owner on the jointly owned bank accounts.   

It is critical that a person meets with an estate planning attorney to insure that the property he or she worked a lifetime to earn can be distributed at death to the person intended to receive the asset. The estate planning attorney may first help the client by listing the assets and examining the ownership and beneficiaries of these stocks, bonds, and bank accounts. Also, the attorney will want to confirm the beneficiary not only on these accounts but also for IRAs, insurance policies, and annuities. 

Once the client’s assets and the beneficiaries are confirmed, the attorney may need for the client to sign letters to banks, stock companies, or IRA custodians to insure that specific assets are able to pass at death to the intended beneficiary. The attorney may need to also assist the client with the drafting and signing of an enforceable trust to protect the client’s family members who may be young or vulnerable to exploitation.

We know this is information can be hard to understand, and even harder to apply to y9our unique situation. We encourage you not to put off this important planning. Gather your questions and do not wait to contact our law practice to schedule a meeting with attorney Anne’ Desormier-Cartwright.

5 Steps Elder Adults Can Take to Limit the Risk of Falling

Fractured hips, broken bones and head trauma, these are just a few common outcomes when elder adults fall. Fortunately, they’re not inevitable. While the likelihood of falling increases with age, seniors who take active precautions dramatically reduce the chance of landing in a hospital emergency room.

We know that you may have concerns about falling. Let us share with you five ways Older Americans and their loved ones can limit their risks of falling this September and throughout the year.

1. Find a quality balance and exercise program. Every September, the National Council on Aging hosts Fall Prevention Awareness Day. The mission is simple: to prevent fall related injuries in older adults. One of the services offered, is nationwide access to various evidence-based balance and physical fitness programs. These programs, like Fit & Strong, FallScape and CAPABLE, are proven to help older adults maintain a healthy defense against avoidable falls.

2. Talk to your health care provider. Ask an appropriate medical professional about taking a fall risk assessment. Share any worries you may have, as well as information about previous falls or near-falls. Resulting insights could illuminate unique risk factors, and even uncover unknown health concerns.

3. Get your vision and hearing checked. Poor vision, especially in low light, is a major factor in senior adult falls. Likewise, diminished hearing or inner ear damage can affect alertness and balance. Make sure to get regular eye and ear exams, and wear prescribed glasses and hearing aides if suggested.

4. Review your medications with your doctor. Whether prescribed by a doctor or purchased over-the-counter, medicines often come with side effects. When multiple medicines are taken together, those side effects may cause unforeseen complications. Consider listing all your medications and potential side effects, like light-headedness or drowsiness, and don’t wait to evaluate them with your doctor.

5. Talk to your family. Falling isn’t just an issue affecting elder adults. The financial and emotional costs of a fall can greatly impact adult children of elder parents and other family members. The average hospital cost for a senior fall is $30,000 according to the CDC, and the personal costs of a serious injury to a loving family may be incalculable.

We know this article can raise more concerns for you and your loved ones. How will you pay for care should there be a fall? Do you have the right decision maker in place? Don’t wait to ask us your questions and get the answers you need on this important topic.

How Do We Plan Ahead to Afford Long-Term Care Outside the Home?

Planning to afford long-term care is important because it is estimated that one out of every two of us will need some form of long-term care before we die. Most of us cannot depend on our children to fund these needs since they have their own bills to pay and family dependents to provide for. In addition, government assistance for long-term care is only available to those who are impoverished. 


For most of us, however, long-term care expenses will be initially affordable. Unless a person is afflicted by a paralyzing stroke or a quick onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, initial long-term care expenses can be met by paying for the cost of temporary caregivers. These caregivers can attend to basic chores within the home setting that we are physically incapable of easily performing. There are even times, in Florida, when a county funded agency can pay for or help us with the cost of these initial services. This is true if we are financially below the county’s maximum income or asset limit and there are hours available. 


In planning to pay for future long-term care outside the home, however, we should plan as early as possible. Where do you find care? There are several options outside of the traditional nursing home setting. For example, one could visit the owner of a family group home in his or her community where four to six persons are cared for at the owner’s home. The resident receives his or her own room with benefits such as housekeeping, assistance with activities of daily living, someone to drive the residents to doctor appointments, and well balanced meals. All of this is in exchange for a reasonable monthly charge. Armed with this information from the local community, the prospective resident could then begin saving monthly to cover the nominal cost of the family group home when this expenditure becomes necessary. 


Another example would be when one visits the administrator of assisted living facilities where thirty to forty persons are cared for at the assisted living facility. Again, the resident receives his or her own room that is cleaned every day, assistance with activities of daily living and driving, plus well balanced meals. If a person making the visit or their spouse was a veteran of the armed services during war-time, there may be a monthly VA Pension with Aid and Attendance available if the prospective resident’s assets and income are below the government threshold. 


Again, the key is to start planning early. Researching the costs of these options plus the daily cost of the nursing home should be done before the need arises in the family. We encourage you to meet with a member of our legal team to discuss your concerns about where to live and how to pay for the care you may need. Further, do not wait to discuss your durable power of attorney in this meeting as it is important that this document is written to contemplate long-term care so the agent can sign the application for benefits if you are incapacitated. 

Helping Your Loved One Plan After a Chronic Condition Diagnosis

Did you know that approximately 60 percent of Older Americans live with a chronic condition? Conditions such as arthritis, asthma, and diabetes can require frequent medical treatment, close monitoring, and costly medications. As such, your loved one may feel overwhelmed with the increasing cost of care and new challenges he or she may be facing. One of the best ways to put your loved one’s mind at ease is to help him or her with the planning process. To help get you started, let us share with you a few tips for helping your loved one plan after a chronic condition diagnosis.

Perhaps the most important first step is to talk to your loved one about his or her diagnosis. Your loved one may be uncertain about the impact this could have on his or her life. To help educate you both about the condition in question, we encourage you to take some time to research the condition together. Be sure to determine the symptoms your loved one may present and the challenges he or she may face as a result of the condition. You may also wish to research treatment plans that may help make your loved one more comfortable as the condition progresses. 

Once you and your loved one have a better understanding of your loved one’s condition, it is important to review any planning he or she has already completed. Evaluate whether his or her current estate plan has protections in place, right now, for this type of unexpected situation, including any long-term care plans. Some important components to look out for include your loved one’s health care coverage, insurance, and whether he or she has a durable power of attorney.

Above all, do not hesitate to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to help guide you and your loved one through this challenging time. Further, an estate planning attorney can advise you on the steps you could take to plan for a loved one with a chronic condition and account for his or her specific needs.

If this article raises more questions than it answers for you, do not hesitate to ask us your questions. Your loved one’s safety is important to us, and we are here to be a resource for you. We look forward to discussing your questions and supporting you with your particular needs.

The Two Main Medical Alert Options For Seniors

Did you know that older adults are at elevated risk of falls, accidents, and dangerous health situations? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3 million seniors are treated in emergency rooms every year just for falls, with one out of five causing serious injuries such as broken bones or head trauma. One of the best ways to combat these emergency scenarios is by using a medical alert system.

These life-saving devices connect users to emergency responders with the press of a button. Typical systems come with wireless bracelets, pendants, or lanyards that are worn by senior adults or disabled persons. When pressed, the devices transmit signals to an alarm monitoring company or emergency health department. Medical personnel are then dispatched to the location where the alert signal was triggered. 

Medical alert companies offer different services, equipment, and price points. The most basic difference, however, is whether a system is home-based or mobile. Deciding which type of device is best will depend entirely on your senior loved one’s needs. To help better guide your decision, let us share with you some information about the two main medical alert options for seniors. 

Home-Based Medical Alert

Home-based or in-home systems are sometimes called “traditional medical alert systems,” because they have functioned essentially the same for decades. The systems come with a wearable wireless device that connects to a base unit within the senior’s home. They are perfect for seniors who spend a lot of time alone in their homes. These devices are also cheaper than mobile systems, but have a limited range of connectivity, similar to a home wireless internet system, or WiFi.

Mobile Medical Alert Systems

Mobile medical alert systems have developed amid the technology upswing of recent years. They do not require a home base unit for connectivity, but have a wide-ranging capacity to connect with emergency services similar to smart phones. Mobile alert devices allow the user to speak directly to 911 dispatch or another pre-programmed entity in most locations. They are ideal for active seniors, but are typically more expensive than home-based systems and rely on batteries.

These are just a few of the benefits of the different types of medical alert systems. If you or a senior loved one are unsure about which option may best apply, we encourage you to reach out to our office to ask us your questions.

Opioids and Elder Abuse

The Centers for Disease Control calls the Opioid addiction epidemic *the* public health crisis of our time.

But the crisis also has serious *financial* ramifications.

In fact, a national study shows the Opioid epidemic is contributing to a significant rise in elder *financial* abuse.

Of special concern is the increasing number of older adults being exploited by people, including family members, looking for a way to finance their habit.

Researchers at Virginia Tech recently posted a blog about a case study in which a grandson stole $85,000 from his grandfather to support his heroin addiction.

The grandfather suffered from dementia.

After draining the finances addicts may also begin to physically and psychologically abuse the elderly victim, isolating them from anyone who might help.

If you or someone you love sees sign of this type of abuse, call Elder Law Attorney, Anne Desormier-Cartwright.

Elder and Estate Planning attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide personal service large enough to handle all your estate and planning needs.