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Beneficiary Designations: A Good Idea, Or Bad Estate Planning?

beneficiary designations Nov 18, 2016

Many people consider using beneficiary designations on assets such as IRAs, 401ks, investments, life insurance, annuities, mutual funds and other investments, etc. to be estate planning. However, as an elder law attorney, I consider the use of beneficiary designations, for the most part, just plain foolish.


Before I answer that question, I want to make sure you understand what I mean when I say beneficiary designations.  This can be anything from the beneficiaries you name on forms from your financial company or employer, to accounts that have been designated “transfer on death,” “payable on death” and the like. It can also mean making someone a joint owner on an account, which has its own problems, not within the scope of this article.

Also, it is imperative that you understand one of the most common estate planning misconceptions:  

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Applying for Medicaid in Michigan

long-term care medicaid Nov 16, 2016


Medicaid is a joint federal and state program, which pays medical costs and long term care costs. Medicaid is administered by the states and Michigan operates on a daily basis, accepting applications and making determinations of eligibility.

To Apply for Medicaid You Will Have to:

1. Complete an application
2. Provide documentation to verify general and financial requirements

Once the state finds you eligible, you will have to go through a functional eligibility assessment if you want to receive long-term care services.

You may apply for Medicaid coverage yourself, or you may designate another person, such as a family member, a friend, or a Medicaid attorney from Family & Aging Law Center, to apply for you. If someone else applies for you, that person should be familiar with your situation, able to answer all eligibility questions, and have access to your financial records. The state may also require a face-to-face...

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Long-Term Care - What About Medicare?

Today we'll be taking a brief look at some aspects of long-term care. For more detailed information, it’s best to consult with a qualified legal advisor. So think of this as an introduction.

There are many complexities to long-term care planning, it’s important to understand that there are options, and programs intended to help families like yours. Long-term care planning is the best way to ensure you protect as much of your hard-earned assets as the law allows, and to receive the care you need.

Let’s Get Started…

What About Medicare?

A. Hospital and Post-Hospital Skilled Care

  • Contrary to the belief of many seniors, one cannot rely on Medicare for payment of long-term care costs. Although Medicare is available to most individuals age 65 or older, coverage is limited to:  qualified medical expenses (80% of an approved amount for doctors, surgical services, etc.); hospitalization with a deductible of $1,260.00 (total) for the first 60 days...
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Who Needs Estate Planning?

The Facts...

Estate planning isn’t about how much money you have, it's about protecting what you have for you, during your life and for those you love, after you’re gone. It ensures what you have gets to the people you love, the way you want, when you want – and it ensures that you will be properly provided for when you can no longer do it for yourself.

If you were to die – or become disabled - today, are you comfortable everything will be taken care of the way you wanted?  Will your family know how to make the hard decisions that must be made? Estate planning is legally ensuring things will be handled the way you want by providing sufficient instructions, and it is reducing the burden on those that must take care of things when you are no longer able to.

Estate Planning really is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you have $40,000, $400,000, or 4 million. You still have to plan for the future. Whether it’s to name a guardian for your minor...

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When Considering Child Guardianship, These Are the Things to Consider

child guardianship Oct 10, 2016


GUARDIANSHIP of Minor Children…

The facts...

Considering what could happen to your minor children if you and the other parent aren’t there is painful and difficult.  However, this is a necessary component of good parenting.  Leaving these things to chance could be the most devastating thing to happen to a child – after losing you.  Why leave it to chance?

Naming a couple to act as guardians and not indicating what should happen if the couple divorces, breaks up, or if one of the partners dies may mean your kids could end up in the care of someone you wouldn't really want.

Failing to name enough alternates to serve if your first choice cannot serve may also mean your kids could end up in the care of someone you wouldn't really want.

Only considering the financial resources of potential guardians when deciding who should raise your children may be a huge mistake. Your guardians do not have to also be...

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Why Do I Need a Financial Power of Attorney? - Ask The Attorney

Q: Every time I go to the doctor, they ask me if I have a health care power of attorney. I understand why that’s important, but now I’m hearing that I also need a financial power of attorney (financial POA). My family member is joint on everything, so why do I need one?



A: The short answer is, you need a financial POA in the event that you become unable to manage your own finances. Even though you may think you have everything “taken care of” through joint ownership, it isn’t that simple. For example, you cannot own most tax-deferred assets, such as IRAs, jointly. A beneficiary designation doesn’t give power to your beneficiary during your life. A financial POA, when done properly, also enables a person you trust to apply for important health care benefits (if you need them) and it enables them to preserve your money in times of crisis.  Without proper planning, your loved ones will need to go to court in a process called...

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How Do I Know if My Dad Qualifies for Veteran's Improved Pension? - Ask The Attorney

va Oct 01, 2016

Q: I called the VA and was told my dad doesn’t qualify for Veteran’s Improved Pension, but someone else told me they heard he might qualify, even if they said he doesn’t. How do I go about getting the right answer?


A: Improved pension is also known as “Aid & Attendance,” and it pays up to almost $25,000 of additional tax-free income a year for at home care, assisted living, or nursing home. This can be a great financial relief to those that are worried about outliving their money. The real fact is, even if the VA claims your loved one doesn’t qualify, or that they have “too much money,” they may be able to become qualified. This is true for the Veteran as well as a spouse or widow(er).The best thing to do if you want to know your options is to go to a Veterans Administration Accredited attorney that specializes in long term care benefits. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that you were given wrong information, and...

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Planning for An Unexpected Illness or Healthcare Crisis

No one expects bad things to happen to them, or those they love. But real life tells us that bad things happen to good people, every day.

This episode is all about planning for an unexpected health crisis, illness, or accident – NO MATTER WHAT YOUR AGE!

In this episode, Nicole discusses the two absolutely essential legal documents every person 18 years and older needs, how people think (incorrectly) that they already have it taken care of, why your spouse may not be the best choice to manage things for you, why you may need to fire your doctor, and much more!

Nicole also talks about how she experienced her own healthcare crisis, which is why this was the first podcast episode to be aired after receiving a fatal diagnosis – unexpectedly.

Don’t let this happen to you, or to those you love!  Take the small amount of time and effort to be prepared.



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What IS a Revocable Living Trust? - Ask The Attorney

revocable living trust Sep 01, 2016

Q: What Is a Revocable Living Trust?

A: To explain revocable living trusts, or RLT’s, I like to use an analogy. Let’s say you’re a child, and have a little red wagon. You take your Barbies, your G.I. Joes, your toy cars, and you put all of them in your wagon. If you’re walking along the sidewalk and trip and fall, what happens? Well, you trip and fall...but your toys stay in your wagon. The wagon serves a purpose. It keeps things together, so that if something happens, the handle can be picked up by someone else and they can just keep walking. The RLT is the same. Like the wagon, it is a vessel, meant to hold your items in a way that provides the easiest transfer upon disability or death. However, just like the wagon, if you don’t put your “toys” (accounts, real estate, etc.) inside your trust, it doesn’t work in the way it was intended. Also, the trust, just like the wagon, doesn’t change your things. If I put my Barbie inside...

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Elder Law or Estate Planning? (What's The Difference?)

elder law estate planning Jun 29, 2016

When new clients come to see us, they often focus on wills and trusts. They say something like, “I want to make sure my assets pass to my heirs with as little as possible in taxes and other expenses.”

That’s typical traditional Estate Planning.

elder law

But for seniors and leading edge Baby Boomers (retired or nearing retirement), you need to know the difference between Elder Law and Estate Planning.

Elder Law Incorporates Estate Planning, But Takes Care Issues Into Account

Understanding the difference between “estate planning” and “elder law” is essential for everyone. Elder law attorneys provide tools and strategies that most estate planning attorneys simply don’t. At the end of the day, what makes sense in an estate planning sense may prove financially catastrophic when viewed from an elder law standpoint.

Estate Planning = Death Planning

An estate plan helps someone who is worried about “what happens when I die.” It...

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