This is a very brief bullet point list of the basic estate and life planning essentials, what they are and how they work.
ESSENTIAL PLANNING FOR OUR LIFETIME CARE
- LIVING WILL
- Written document that expresses your intentions concerning whether health care providers should withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment when you are no longer competent and in a terminal condition or permanently unconscious state.
- HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY
- Written document that appoints an individual to make health care decisions for you when you are not capable of making those decisions yourself.
- DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY
- Written instrument in which you name an individual to handle your financial affairs. The “durable” aspect means even if you become incompetent that person can continue to handle the specific or general financial transactions.
The Durable Power of Attorney, in conjunction with the Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney can prevent the need for Probate Court to appoint a guardian for financial and health care decisions. By avoiding a formal guardianship these simple instruments can save you the cost of a formal guardianship, which would cost at least $2,500 to initially establish.
- CAREGIVER AGREEMENT
- Written agreement with an individual who agrees to assist in keeping you in your home rather than having to be placed in an assisted living facility or nursing home. This can be a relative who is willing to live with you and provide assistance with your personal needs, ranging from toilet assistance to bill paying, cleaning, laundry, meal preparation and shopping.
- A properly drafted Caregiver Agreement can allow for compensation to be paid to the care provider, even a relative, and may not be considered an improper transfer if and when applying for Medicaid.
- LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE
- If you are no longer able to care for yourself, long-term care insurance may pay for skilled nursing home care, assisted living or in-home care.
- Can preserve your assets to allow for family to receive an inheritance.
- Cannot rely on Medicare. Medicare will only pay a small portion of a skilled nursing home stay.
- Medicaid has stringent asset and income requirements that can require you to “spend down” your assets to become eligible.
ESSENTIAL PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
- PREPAID FUNERAL CONTRACT
- By pre-planning and prepaying your funeral arrangements you:
- Avoid burdening your family with the decision making during a very difficult time.
- You control the cost and the plans. Funeral homes are a business and their employees are salesmen. When friends or family are emotionally distraught they may not make the best of decisions in planning the arrangements.
- A prepaid funeral contract is not counted as an asset in Medicaid planning.
- LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
- Your declaration as to whom your assets will be distributed.
- You name the guardian of any minor children.
- You appoint the Executor. The executor works with the attorney to determine what probate assets you own and which creditors are legitimate debts of the estate.
- Dying without a Will subjects your probate property to being distributed in accordance with the Ohio Statute of Descent and Distribution.
- TRUSTS AND OTHER NON-PROBATE ASSETS
- A probate asset is any asset that cannot be transferred to a designated individual upon a death, by Will or otherwise, without the intervention of Probate Court. Examples would be a deed, bank account, investment account, car title, boat title, vacation home, Series E & EE bonds or a life insurance policy IF held solely in the deceased individual’s name AND noone is named as a joint owner or designated beneficiary.
- Trusts are used for many reasons but quite often as a means to avoid probate. Trusts never die. So assets held by the trust don’t need to have probate court involvement to be transferred to a named beneficiary. Assets held in a trust are non-probate assets.
- “Probating” an estate can be expensive. Whether attorney fees are being charged hourly or as a percentage of the size of the estate, a $100,000 estate could cost $8,000 or more in executor and attorney fees alone.
- Using a trust or beneficiary designations on assets are both effective means of avoiding probate. But be cautioned, avoiding probate is not always the best planning decision. Consult an attorney experienced in probate administration and estate planning to further discuss your goals and needs.