Elder Law, Estate Planning, VA Benefits Fri, 31 Aug 2018 17:02:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Estate Planning You Need When You are Separated Wed, 29 Aug 2018 20:11:19 +0000 Research tells us that the divorce rate today is around 40% of all American couples. If you add in, however, separated couples this number increases to close to 50%. While completing estate planning for your family when you are divorced seems logical to many individuals, we are seeing more and more couples who are separated not take the step to correct their estate plan. This is an unfortunate scenario as it is arguably even more important to update your estate planning when you were separated.


Recent celebrity deaths, including Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, illustrate the importance in the news of creating estate planning for when you were separated. Although none of us want to think about a time when we will be divorced or separated, or that we should become incapacitated or pass away during that time, this type of planning is critical to ensure that we are protected should the time come.


Although many spouses separate on good terms and remain that way, they still must consider the legal ramifications of separation on their estate planning. Separate couples often enter into new relationships, have more children, and continue to grow in their professional life. This growth needs to be reflected in your estate planning. What you may not know is that while you are separated, even if it has been for a number of years, your spouse still has legal rights to your person and to your assets.


For some separated couples this may be an ideal situation but many wish for their separation to be complete on all matters. Without speaking with your estate planning attorney and planning forward, however, this may not be the case. Let us share three things for you to consider in revising your estate planning to reflect your separated status.


1. Your decision maker in times of crisis. When you become separated from your spouse, this does not mean that he or she is legally removed from the chain of command should you become incapacitated. While divorce in many states will make a beneficiary designation or agent under your durable power of attorney null and void, this is not the case when you’re separated from your spouse. If you do not want your spouse to make decisions for you in the event of a crisis or at your death, you need to be proactive and create documents that reflect this choice. You do not want to leave this to chance because if you do your former spouse may be left to make decisions for you should you be unable to make them for yourself.


2. Your ultimate beneficiary. If you are separated but not divorced, you also need to change your estate planning to reflect who you want to be your beneficiary. Under most estate planning documents for couples, the surviving spouse will inherit everything at the time of death of the first spouse. You need to change your estate planning to reflect who you want to inherit from you. Bear in mind that in many states your spouse has statutory protections to ensure they inherit from you. This is referred to as the elective estate. If you are separated, you will need to work with your estate planning attorney to avoid this form of mandatory inheritance. Further, you will want to look at any of your payable on death or transfer on death accounts such as life insurance, long-term care insurance, or retirement plans, to make sure that you’re separated spouse is no longer the beneficiary.


3. Your minor child’s guardian. Under estate planning documents, your minor child cannot inherit from you until he or she reaches the age of majority. Often, the surviving spouse is made the guardian of the minor child’s funds through your estate planning. Should you become separated, you may not wish for your former spouse to be in charge of these accounts for your child. Discuss your plan and goals with your estate planning attorney together with whether or not you have the right tools to reach them. You may wish to choose an independent custodian of your minor child’s funds until he or she reaches the age of majority.


4. Choose the guardian of your legacy carefully. Estate planning is about creating a legacy for your family when you are no longer here. You want your family, your friends, your business, and your charities, to know what matters most to you. Without a spouse to carry on your legacy for you, think about who should be the custodian of your legacy. You can work with your estate planning attorney to design documents that specifically leave an inheritance that will show what matters most to you. Whether it is a collection, photos, or items of family history, it is critical that when you and your spouse separate you ensure there is someone who can carry-on what matters most to you.


We know that this article may raise more questions than answers. If you are separated from your spouse, or thinking about separating, now is the time to start thinking about the revisions you need to make sure you have the estate planning you need. Do not wait to schedule an appointment with attorney Anthony Bradley today so we may help you.


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Life Lessons and Estate Planning Tips from The King Wed, 15 Aug 2018 19:58:56 +0000 Elvis Presley famously said, “The truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time but it ain’t going away.” When it comes to thinking about your future and what you need to do to protect yourself and your loved ones, nothing could be closer to the truth. This week, as we think about The King and the legacy he left to us during Celebrate Elvis Week, we also need to consider what his words mean when applied to our future.


The truth is that each of us need a comprehensive estate plan to protect ourselves and our family. None of us will physically last forever. Our legacy, however, just like that of the immortal Elvis Presley can. We need to ensure, just like he did, that our legacy will live on and that our family will be provided for well into the future.


We do not want any of you to be in a position where you have not developed an estate plan that addresses both your incapacity and your death. Our goal is to provide you with tips on how to create a legacy that will both provide for your and your family. Let us share three tips with you this Celebrate Elvis Week.


1. Plan for the Unexpected. Life is not certain for any of us. None of us know how much time we will be given or when an unexpected crisis could occur. We encourage you to work with your estate planning attorney to think about not only planning for the legacy you will leave through your last will and testament or trust agreement, but to also create lifetime documents such as health-care documents or a durable power of attorney that can ensure you will be taken care of in the event you can no longer make decisions for yourself.


2. Choose the Right Decision Maker for You. You need to choose the right decision maker for you. This is a person who, in a time of crisis, can make decisions as you instruct or would yourself, if you had the capacity to do so. You do not have to choose the same decision maker for your financial or healthcare decisions. Instead, think about who in your family or among your friends can make the right decision for you. Discuss this with your estate planning attorney so together you can create the documents that will give this person the legal authority to act in a crisis.


3. Determine the Legacy You Want to Leave. Your legacy is important. Think about what you want for yourself, your children, your grandchildren, your business, and the causes you care about. You can share this with your estate planning attorney and work together to create the legal documents that will create the legacy you want for the future.


These are just a few tips we want you to consider as we take part in Celebrate Elvis week as a community. Remember, where would we be without the legacy left by Elvis Presley? What will you accomplish for yourself and your loved ones? Do not wait to contact our office with your questions and schedule your meeting with attorney Anthony Bradley.

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Living Wills are a Critical Part of Estate Planning! Fri, 27 Jul 2018 19:53:49 +0000 Who would you like to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to make them for yourself? How long would you prefer to remain on life support? How would you like any pain to be managed? At what point should healthcare professionals cease providing you with medical treatment?


You may not have thought about these questions yet, but having these conversations with your loved ones before a medical crisis occurs will prevent unnecessary stress and conflict during an already challenging time. It is also critical to discuss them with your estate planning attorney. Your attorney can walk you through the importance of adding a living will to your estate plan and assist you in making these choices for yourself and your family.


Establishing a living will is one effective planning option that can help organize your end-of-life care wishes. We want to share with you some of the commonly asked questions we receive from our clients about living wills.


1. What is a living will?


A living will, also known as an advance directive, is a legal document that outlines your end-of-life medical care wishes. The document helps loved ones and healthcare professionals to make appropriate medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to make them yourself. In most instances, the provisions within a living will do not take effect until you are found to be unable to competently make medical decisions for yourself and are in an end-of-life condition.


2. How much control do I have over the provisions within a living will?


A living will provides you, as the creator of the document, with a large amount of flexibility and control. Perhaps one of the main benefits of creating a living will is that you can add, remove, or update any instructions with the guidance of your estate planning attorney. In other words, until you are physically and mentally unable to speak on your behalf, you retain complete control over the contents of your living will.


3. Are there benefits to creating a living will earlier rather than later?


As with any estate planning, it is important to be proactive. It is easier to have a strong plan in place than rush to create a plan in the middle of a medical emergency when you may not be able to. Of course, as the years go on, circumstances change. Creating a living will while you are young and updating the provisions accordingly will allow you and your loved ones to rest assured your wishes are outlined in the event of a serious accident or diagnosis, persistent vegetative state or a terminal illness.


Remember these are just a few of the commonly asked questions we receive from our clients about living wills. If you have more questions, do not hesitate to contact our firm and schedule a meeting. We are here to support you and provide guidance through the entire estate planning process.


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8 Storm Season Prep Tips for Seniors with Pets and Service Dogs Tue, 17 Jul 2018 19:59:10 +0000  

When it’s clear that your area is in the path of an oncoming storm, you need to quickly decide if you are going to leave your home and relocate to a safer area, or stay and ride out the storm.


Sometimes, you won’t have a choice. Public safety officials are not averse to issuing blanket evacuation orders that could affect tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people. In these situations, safety for residents is a prime concern. Whether you choose to evacuate on your own volition or are forced to, one thing to consider is what you should do with your pets?


For seniors and those with special needs, dealing with floods and related emergencies – like heat and loss of electricity – can present tremendous hardships. Coping with the added stress of pet or service animal safety could be too much.


When it comes to your safety, advance planning is key. For example, is your estate planning current and does it include consideration for planning for your pet or service animal? Being prepared is key and planning ahead is one of the best ways to ensure your and your pets safety when dealing with the mega-storms.


It may surprise you to learn how much we are asked for advice on this topic. Let us share you a few of the recommendations we share with our family, friends, clients, and local community professionals.


1. If you are told to evacuate, take your pet or service animal with you. It’s not safe to leave them behind. They can be injured, lost or even killed when left to fend for themselves.


2. Never allow your pet to be tied to a tree during a storm. It could be a death sentence.


3. Contact hotels and motels in your area to see if they accept pets. Keep a list of “pet friendly” places handy in your emergency “go” kit. Do not forget to include yourself if you need assistance and ask if they are equipped to support someone with special needs.


4. Ask friends and relatives if they would be willing to provide shelter your animal(s).


5. Find boarding facilities. Some veterinarians offices, for example, will board animals during hurricanes. Call around and add them to your “pet friendly” list.


6. Reach out to your local emergency management office and ask which public shelters provide pet services, in addition to the shelters offered for evacuated people. Again, ask about yourself if you need assistance. Specific shelters are equipped to support individuals with special needs.


7. In the event of emergency when you do not know what shelter to go to or the one you intended to evacuate to is full know that if you are a senior citizen with special needs – such as blindness, hearing impairment or a physical disability – and you have a certified service dog, public evacuation shelters will usually allow them to stay with you.


8. Evacuation kits aren’t just for seniors who may need to flee their homes or living facilities at a moment’s notice. Making a pet emergency kit is also a great way to plan ahead. Some key items include, extra food placed in sturdy containers, cleaning supplies, vaccine records, ID tags, proof of ownership and two leashes.


We know this may seem like an insurmountable preparation list to complete. Not only do you need to ensure your pet is safe but you as well. Start by taking it one step at a time until it is complete. Remember, we are here to help you. Do not wait to contact us to ask us your questions on planning for yourself and for your pet.


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Important Documents to Plan for Healthcare Fri, 06 Apr 2018 18:24:52 +0000

A durable power of attorney and a health care proxy are two very important estate planning documents. Both allow other people to make decisions for you in the event you are incapacitated. Because the individuals chosen will have to coordinate your care, it is important to pick two people who will get along.

A power of attorney allows a person you appoint — your agent or “attorney-in-fact” — to act in your place for financial purposes when and if you ever become incapacitated. A health care proxy is a document that gives an agent the authority to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to communicate such decisions.

While the health care proxy is the one who makes the health care decisions, the person who holds the power of attorney is the one who needs to pay for the health care. If the two agents disagree, it can spell trouble. For example, suppose your health care agent decides that you need 24-hour care at home, but your power of attorney thinks a nursing home is the best option and refuses to pay for the at-home care. Any disagreements would have to be settled by a court, which will take time and drain your resources in the process.

The easiest way to avoid conflicts is to choose the same person to do both jobs. But this may not always be feasible — for example, perhaps the person you would choose as health care proxy is not good with finances. If you pick different people for both roles, then you should think about picking two people who can get along and work together. You should also talk to both agents about your wishes for medical care so that they both understand what you want.

If you have questions about whom to name for these roles, or you haven’t yet executed these all-important documents, contact The Bradley Law Firm for thoughtful guidance.

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