• Seize Control Over Incapacity with Durable Powers of Attorney
    Incapacity is defined, from a legal standpoint, as the inability to make sound decisions regarding one’s personal or financial affairs. Failing to plan for the possibility of incapacity in advance can create significant problems for seniors and their loved ones, particularly with regard to managing assets and medical care. This is why we recommend that all of our clients have us design durable powers of attorney for medical care and finances. Here are some of the most important reasons to have your own durable powers of attorney. If you become incapacitated, you are able to choose the person who makes financial and medical decisions on your behalf rather than the court. Without powers of attorney, the court will appoint someone to manage your financial affairs and medical care in the event of incapacity. The person named by the court could very well be someone you would never have wanted to...
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  • The Biggest Mistakes People Make When Probating an Estate, continued
    In our last post, we discussed some of the mistakes to avoid when settling an estate through probate. Here are some others: Handling creditors improperly Every potential creditor of the estate must be notified about the estate going into probate. If the creditor is known, he or she can be notified personally. Unknown creditors, on the other hand, must also be notified. How? Through a notice published in a local newspaper. The probate must be kept open for a period of time mandated by state statute to allow creditors to file claims against the decedent’s estate. Failing to communicate effectively with estate beneficiaries Working closely with beneficiaries is not a legal requirement, but failing to keep them abreast of developments can be a big mistake. In fact, poor communication sometimes leads to unnecessary, and expensive, litigation. Remember: You are not the only one dealing with the loss of a loved...
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  • The Difference Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, continued
    Last time, we looked at the causes and symptoms of dementia. Now, let’s take a closer look at Alzheimer’s disease. The causes and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease stems from a protein, called beta-amyloid, building up in the brain between nerve cells to from what are known as plaques. There is another protein, called tau, that accumulates in the brain and forms what are called tangles. This results in the neurons of the brain shrinking, and eventually, dying. As with Lewy body dementia, scientists do not know precisely what causes the initial onset of the protein build ups that lead to Alzheimer’s disease. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease may include: Short-term memory problems, and eventually, loss of long-term memory Confusion Impaired judgment Repeating the same questions and statements Getting lost, even in familiar surroundings Personality changes Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping during the day and being awake...
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  • The Biggest Mistakes People Make When Probating an Estate
    Losing a loved one is difficult enough without the added stress of having to make important financial decisions while grieving. For many people, the duties and responsibilities of probating a loved one’s estate can feel overwhelming. The probate process is time-consuming, complicated, and, quite often, extremely frustrating. If you have been named as an executor or personal representative and are tasked with settling an estate through probate, you’ll want to avoid these common mistakes. Handling assets incorrectly One of the first things an executor or personal representative must do is secure all of the decedent’s assets. Accomplishing this requires taking different steps for different types of assets. For example, financial accounts may simply need to be closed, whereas real property (such as a house) might require making sure the property is secure and arranging for its maintenance. Categorizing assets incorrectly Some assets do not have to go through probate. When...
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  • The Difference Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
    Many people think that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are interchangeable terms for the same medical condition. This is not the case. Dementia is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of conditions associated with memory loss. Alzheimer’s disease, on the other hand, is a specific type of dementia. Let’s look at some of the similarities and differences between the two. The causes and symptoms of dementia. Dementia, in general, is caused by damage to cells in the brain resulting in the damaged cells inability to function the way they normally would. There are a variety of factors that can lead to brain cell damage, and these factors are what often distinguish one type of dementia from another. For instance, what is known as vascular dementia is typically caused by a stroke, whereas Lewy body dementia is caused by protein deposits (Lewy bodies) forming in sections of the brain responsible for...
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  • Choosing a Guardian for Minor Children
    If something terrible happened to you and your spouse, what would become of your children? It’s not something anyone wants to think about, but think about it we must. By naming a guardian for your minor children, you can help ensure they will be raised according to your wishes. The question is, how do you choose the proper guardian? Here are several factors to consider. The ability and willingness of the guardian to serve. Will the prospective guardian be able to meet the physical and economic demands of raising a child? Even more important, is the prospective guardian willing to serve in the first place? The last thing you want to do is name a guardian before speaking at length with the person you have in mind. Values. Ideally, the prospective guardian will share your child-rearing philosophy, values, views on education, religious beliefs, and other fundamental principles. Geography. If the...
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  • Should You Obtain a Letter of Competency?
    Maybe it’s the son-in-law you’ve never really liked, let alone trusted, who wields undue influence over your daughter. Or the ex-spouse who continues to make trouble seven years after your divorce. Or the son whose irresponsibility and self-destructive behavior forced you to disinherit him. If you have reason to believe that an estranged family member might challenge your will, trust, powers of attorney or other planning documents, you may want to consider obtaining a letter of competency. Why? Many such challenges are based upon claims of incompetency—that is, the legal documents are invalid because their creator was of unsound mind. A letter of competency will help dispel notions that your documents were created while you lacked the mental capacity to make sound financial and legal decisions. A letter of competency is typically written by a primary care physician who is familiar with any changes in a patient’s baseline mental and...
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  • Estate Planning Basics: An Introduction to Trusts, Continued
    Last time we discussed some of the terminology associated with trusts. Now let’s look at how revocable trusts differ from irrevocable trusts and the benefits of having a trust. Revocable versus irrevocable trusts A revocable trust is a trust that can be altered by the grantor during his or her lifetime. An irrevocable trust, on the other hand, is a trust that cannot be changed by the grantor (except under extraordinary circumstances). In the case of irrevocable trusts, the grantor typically foregoes total control of the property and must obey all trust rules and guidelines. Furthermore, a trust can be revocable during the grantor’s lifetime and then become irrevocable upon the grantor’s death. When most people use the word “trust” in the context of estate planning, a revocable living trust is the one they have in mind. A revocable living trust allows you to maintain complete control over your assets...
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  • Quickly Determine What Services are Covered by Medicare by Downloading this Free App
    Does Medicare cover a test or procedure recommended by your doctor? You’ll know at a glance if you use Medicare’s new “What’s Covered” app. This free app lets you search for specific services or browse a list of alphabetized services to determine what is covered by Medicare Parts A and B. You can also access basic information about costs. While the app provides an extensive list of the services, tests, and procedures covered (or not covered) by Medicare, it does not take into account a user’s specific co-insurance, supplemental insurance, or deductibles. The What’s Covered app is part of an initiative by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to modernize Medicare and empower beneficiaries. Other CMS initiatives include price transparency tools, improved online support, and a webchat option on the Medicare Plan Finder. You can get the What’s Covered app from the App Store or Google Play by...
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  • Estate Planning Basics: An Introduction to Trusts
    Perhaps you have heard about trusts but wonder exactly what they are and what they can help you accomplish. Simply put, a trust is an agreement outlining how assets will be managed and held for the benefit of another person. There are many types of trusts, capable of addressing a wide range of concerns and accomplishing a number of important goals. Let’s begin our discussion by looking at the elements and terminology shared by most trusts. The Grantor All trusts have a grantor (also known as a trustor or settler). The grantor is the person who creates the trust and has the legal authority to transfer property held in the trust. The Beneficiary The beneficiary is the person who “benefits” from the trust. A beneficiary can be one person or a number of different parties. A beneficiary can also be an institution, such as a charity. The Trustee The trustee...
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