About Elder and Estate Law
Elder law is a combination of tools attorneys use to assist senior citizens and their children, their family, and their friends to navigate safely during the final years of life.
These tools may include a will, a living trust, a power of attorney, a health care power of attorney, an advanced care directive (also referred to as a living will), and possibly Medicaid assistance, guardianship or conservatorship, aid and attendance for veterans, and beneficiary deeds.
Without a will, the government controls where your assets go upon your death. Having a will is an essential first step to ensuring that your heirs are given the security and peace of mind they deserve.
At the Strother Firm, our goal is to protect your legacy.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our expert attorneys.
Estate and Elder Law: Common Questions
What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is planning for your future. It involves preparing your last will, living trust, power of attorney and advanced directives. Estate Planning is planning how your estate will be handled when you become incapacitated or die.
What is Power of Attorney?
Power of Attorney gives a person the ability to make legal decisions as though they were you in most situations, and can be helpful if you are incapacitated.
Click Here for a more detailed explanation of Power of Attorney.
Why do I need a will?
If you die without a will, the state will publicly direct how your property will be distributed, which may be contrary to your interests and the interests of your family. We can help you draft a will that ensures your property goes where you want it to.
How does the state distribute property normally?
The state distributes property in a pre-defined way that is often inappropriate for many family situations.
Click Here to find out more about how the state distributes property.
What is a living trust?
A living trust is a legal document that allows you to manage your assets during your life and ensure they are distributed properly after your death.
What is Probate?
Probate is the process by which the state causes your assets and estate to be distributed, if you haven't made proper arrangements. This takes at least six months, and can be disruptive to your heirs during an already difficult time.
Beginning Your Estate Plan
When you begin planning your estate, there are a few steps you should take.
First, you need to determine what you own. This includes property interests, financial assets, vehicles, collections, animals, and other things of value.
Next, you need to decide who you want these things to go to after your death. You can assign specific properties or assets to certain individuals, or allow them to be distributed equally (or in other proportions) between your heirs.
Lastly, you will need to think about who will administer your estate. This person, called the executor, is responsible for ensuring that your will is carried out and your estate is settled.
Power of Attorney
A Wise Choice
Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint a person to manage affairs of your choosing as though they were you. This tool is very helpful for estate planning because it allows you to give a trusted person - such as a spouse, child, or close friend - the ability to make important decisions when you are incapacitated, such as during or after surgery, illness, injury, or when you are otherwise unavailable. This can be very important when dealing with medical or financial emergencies, especially as you age.
At the Strother Firm, we believe in giving people the tools they need to protect their loved ones. Call us today to schedule an appointment.
About Living Trusts
1 / How does a Living Trust benefit me?
A Living Trust allows you to manage your assets and affairs while you are alive, while also keeping them protected from the probate process after your death. Because the probate process is expensive, public, and lengthy, a Living Trust can help your heirs immensely during that difficult time by allowing them to avoid those challenges.
2 / How does a Living Trust work?
A Living Trust is a written legal document through which your assets are placed into a trust for your benefit during your lifetime and then transferred to designated beneficiaries at your death by your chosen representative. You maintain control of your assets while you are alive, and determine how they are distributed after your death.
You will be the Settlor (the one setting up your living trust), the Trustee (the one managing your trust assets) and the Primary Beneficiary (the one for whose benefit the trust is established).
You will name the Successor Trustee who will succeed you as Trustee when you die, become incompetent, or resign, and you will name the Secondary Beneficiary or Beneficiaries for whose benefit the trust will exist upon your death.
3 / What do I put in my Living Trust?
We recommend that you put all of your property in your trust except for retirement benefits or individual retirement accounts (IRAs). This keeps your property safe and within your control.
4 / When is an estate large enough to justify a Living Trust?
If your estate (cash, cars, property, etc.) is larger than $100,000, then we would strongly encourage you to consider a trust. One of the main benefits is to avoid probate expenses at your death. However, a secondary benefit of a trust is to avoid guardianship proceedings later in life.
5 / If I have a Living Trust, do I need a will?
Yes. Your will serves as a safety net that catches anything that you do not put into your trust during your lifetime and ensures those assets are put into your trust after your death. A will can also provide for the guardian of your minor children, should you die while you have minor children.
6 / What are the other benefits of a Living Trust?
A living trust is administered outside of court and in most cases avoids almost all probate expenses when you die. It also ensures your privacy, because the probate process is public. A living trust is built on the premise that you trust the Successor Trustee to carry out your wishes in distributing your estate at your death without the need of a probate Judge’s oversight.
A living trust avoids guardianship expenses if you become incapacitated or incompetent. Within the living trust, you have already named the person or persons you want to be in charge of your estate when you are no longer able to manage your estate, so that person will be able to take care of your affairs as you have intended.
How does Probate work?
The term probate actually means "to prove." A person is proving that the deceased died without a will (intestate) or that the deceased died with a will (testate) and the instrument presented to the court is that person's last will and testament. If you are the executor of the will, you can be appointed the personal representative of the deceased, and will be responsible for seeing that the decedent's affairs are managed according to their wishes.The probate takes a minimum of six months from the first publication of the notice of probate in the local newspaper. The probate fee is set by the court and runs from three to seven percent of the total value of the estate passing through probate. For larger estates, this fee can represent a substantial expense.
The Strother Firm has decades of experience helping people through the probate process after the loss of a loved one, and we are fully prepared to help you. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or find out more.
What happens if I don't have a will?
If you do not have a will, all property owned just in your name alone will, after your death, be probated, with one-third going to your spouse, if you have one, and two-thirds going to your children, if you have any. If you have no spouse and no children, everything goes to your parents, if they are alive; if they are not alive, everything goes to your brothers and sisters, if they are alive; if they are not alive, everything goes to their children. In addition to the other expenses your estate will incur in probate, your administrator will have to post a bond to serve. This is an additional expense you can avoid with a will.
Call the Strother Firm today to get started on your will and estate plan.