At Coley Law Firm, we have an experienced team who assists with all your estate planning needs. We prepare Wills, Trusts, Healthcare Directives and Powers of Attorney and advise on elder law matters including Medicaid planning and assisting clients obtain guardianship and/or conservatorship of their loved ones. We also help owners of small businesses with legal needs and succession planning.
We have a passion for people. We understand that each person has a different story to tell with different priorities, and we know there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to estate planning.
Coley Law Firm knows that family matters, so we treat clients like our family. We address client concerns as soon as possible and implement creative solutions to meet our clients’ needs.
Please call us at 540-407-9858 or contact us online to see how we can assist you with your legal needs.
What is an Estate Plan?
An estate plan typically includes at least three documents: Will, General Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directive.
Trusts are additional documents that can be incorporated into an estate plan in order to meet a client’s goals. Examples of such goals include asset protection, providing for a beneficiary who has special needs, leaving assets to minor beneficiaries, controlling when children can access their inheritance, providing creditor/divorce protection for assets left to children, ensuring that assets are available to provide for a spouse but ultimately pass to your children upon the spouse’s death, avoiding probate, maintaining privacy for your family, generational planning and minimizing taxes.
Why Is Estate Planning So Important?
Although your estate plan provides a road map for the distribution of assets upon death, a good estate plan will also incorporate documents that address your incapacity and ensure that the appropriate individuals are authorized to make key decisions for you during your life if you are unable to make them yourself.
If you do not have a General Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directive in place, then it will be necessary to go through a court process to have you deemed incapacitated and to appoint a guardian and/or conservator for you in order for anyone (including your spouse) to have the authority to take certain actions on your behalf. This is an expensive process that can be avoided with a proper estate plan.
The Probate Process
Probate is a court-supervised process that is typically required following a death unless you have taken the appropriate steps to avoid probate.
Probate is an expensive and time-consuming process, even when an estate is relatively modest in size. If the estate includes valuable and/or complex assets it can take years to conclude the probate of the estate. Most Executors retain the services of an estate planning attorney to usher them through the probate process to ensure estate assets are protected and the decedent’s wishes are honored.
Both the expense and hassle of probate can easily be avoided by having an appropriate estate plan in place.
Medicaid planning is a part of long-term care planning. Many people age 65 and over will need long-term care at some point, and the costs of this type of care are very high.
The good news is that Medicaid will help pay for long-term care in some cases. However, there are strict asset and income limitations. Medicaid planning involves preserving as many assets as possible while still qualifying for Medicaid.
Medicaid Eligibility in Virginia
Many people think that they will never be able to qualify for Medicaid. The asset limits for an individual are $2,000, so most people would easily exceed this threshold.
Fortunately, not all assets are counted for the purposes of determining Medicaid eligibility. There are several categories of non-countable assets, as well as certain exemptions for different types of countable assets.
If you are married, your spouse is also permitted to keep certain assets. Medicaid planning often requires considering the interest of both spouses. One spouse is trying to qualify for Medicaid to get his or her long-term care paid for, while the other spouse is still living at home and wants to maintain his or her lifestyle.
Avoid Medicaid Planning Mistakes
The rules involving Medicaid eligibility are complex. You cannot simply transfer all of your assets to a relative in order to qualify. There is a look-back period, and any transfers made during the look-back period may subject to a penalty.
The best way to develop a good Medicaid eligibility plan is to consult with an estate planning attorney before you need long-term care. You will have more options if you start early and plan ahead. Of course, many people do not have this option so we help clients who are in need of long-term care immediately as well.