Category Archives: Attorney Advice

Four Questions to Ask Yourself Regarding Your Estate Plan

Estate Plan

Questions to ask yourself to prepare for your meeting with your attorney

You do not have to have a ton of assets to need an Estate Plan. You do need an attorney specializing in this area of law to properly put together any type of plan. An Estate Plan is more than big assets. It is the plan that comes into play when you can no longer convey your wishes on various issues. After you pick an attorney to help put together your documents, ask yourself these four questions. Bring the answers to the meeting so the attorney can get an idea of the type of Estate Plan needed to fit your needs.

1. What are your Assets? Make a list of everything you own. Your home or apartment contents, car, and various other items can be addressed in an Estate Plan. Cars. Jewelry. Furniture. Family photos. Not all assets have a monetary value. Sentimental assets have been known cause just as many problems [if not MORE] as large sums of cash. This list will help your attorney put together a plan to fit your needs.

2. Who Gets What? Now that you have your list – who to do you want to have these assets? Name a person you want to carry out your wishes when it comes to distributing these assets. These are the big decisions that no one can make for you.

3. What are you Healthcare Wishes? Accidents happen and they do not give warnings. That’s why they are called accidents. This is especially important in the case of an illness that robs you of your ability to make decisions. Choose a trusted friend or family member to assign as the healthcare power of attorney. Then talk to this individual to make sure they are willing to accept this responsibility and will follow your wishes.

4. What Type of Funeral? This is a morbid thought and no one likes to think about a day when someone will be planning their funeral. Write what you would like, if you want a funeral and make it part of your Estate Plan. Listing out your wishes will make this easier for love ones during a difficult time.

These questions are just a start. Your attorney will probably have more questions to make sure all the potential issues are addressed in your plan. Follow up on your attorney’s advice. Sign the documents, change the asset titles if necessary and let your family know where your documents can be located. Your family will appreciate having these documents and it will help them deal with their grief.

How to Include Your Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan

digital assetTechnology has created new jobs, a new industry, and a new step in estate planning. The days of just gathering just paper documents folder so your love ones can find it when necessary are over. There is one more step – digital assets. Digital assets are commonplace and need to be considered when putting together an estate plan. To make sure your estate plan is complete, here are some steps to follow when gathering the information for your estate plan to make sure the digital assets are included.

Make A List

The most common documents are thought of first when gathering the information for an estate plan. Deeds to property, list of jewelry, the contents of a home are a few. When you gather all your assets together your online accounts need to be included so the executor can have access. Not sure what digital assets are? They are defined as follows:

Digital property (or digital assets) can be understood as any information about you or created by you that exists in digital form, either online or on an electronic storage device, including the information necessary to access the digital asset.

These can be family photos stored on a computer hard drive to the login information for an online financial account. To be safe, if you want to make sure anything online is passed on, resolved, or shut down after you pass, include it on this list. Whether it has monetary or sentimental value – it should be included.

Know What to Include- Examples of Personal and Monetary Digital Property

Understanding what to include in your digital list can be daunting. Consider the following when you sit down to make your digital asset list. Accounts that are used to manage money and may hold money or credits, like PayPal, bank accounts, loyalty rewards programs, and any accounts with credit balances in your favor are the digital assets that come to mind first because of the monetary value. But your digital assets can be a much more intensive list when you stop and considering everything you do on your computer.

Computer hardware, external hard drives or flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, e-readers, digital cameras, and other digital devices need to be on your list. These items may contain crucial information that may need attention in the processing of your estate. These may also have personal information you want someone to have for has for sentimental reasons. In addition, any of these have monetary value if they generate revenue. Any information or data that is stored electronically, whether stored online, in the cloud, should make the list. This includes art, photos, music, eBooks, intellectual property, websites or blogs that generate revenue for you. Domain names, including copyrighted materials, trademarks, and any code you may have written and own are other examples of digital assets that need to be considered in the estate planning process.

Any online accounts, such as email and communications accounts, social media accounts, shopping accounts, photo and video sharing accounts, video gaming accounts, online storage accounts, and websites and blogs that you may manage. If you want these accounts shared or shut down in your estate, they need to be included.

Hire An Attorney

Lastly, I always recommend hiring an attorney when putting together an estate plan and with digital assets this is even more important. Technology is changing as a fast pace with increasingly companies using cloud based storage. In addition, intellectual property is a relatively new field. Only an attorney in the estate planning field will have the up-to-date knowledge to put your estate plan together properly and save your family time and money.

The End of the Year is the Perfect Time to Update Your Asset Inventory

When someone passes away, finding all the accounts, insurance policies, and necessary information to close an entire estate can be a monumental search. When I do an Estate Package for a client I put together a binder. This binder contains all the documents of the Estate Plan for convenience, safe keeping, and future review. Yearly review of your Estate Plan and Asset Inventory is a responsible habit to start and the end of the year is a great time year to implement this practice. Many people create an inventory when they go through the process of initially planning their estate and never touch it again. One easy way to annually update your inventory is to collect the statements you get in the mail at the end of the year for tax purposes. Place them all in a folder as they come in the mail and cross reference this against your inventory. That way you are getting a jump on your taxes AND updating your binder with the most current information on your assets. 
Also, there are significant life events that can trigger changes to the asset inventory. Examples of these are:

Divorce.

If you have gotten a divorce since the drafting of the estate plan and asset inventory, they will need to be changes. In addition, if an heir has gotten divorced this may change how you your assets will be distributed.

Marriage.

If you have gotten married, there may be additional assets that need to be added to your inventory. The information needs to be gathered and put on this list in your estate binder.

Sold or Purchased New Assets.

Did you cash in an insurance policy or purchase a new piece of land? These changes need to be added to your asset inventory to bring it current.
An asset inventory will only provide a clear “road map” for your heirs after you are gone if it is reviewed regularly. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you create an inventory of your assets and make a plan for asset preservation and distribution. If you are in the Daytona Beach, Florida area, call me for a free consultation regarding your Estate Planning needs.

estate-planning

April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day!

Why do you need to take care of your Healthcare Surrogate Designations?

We all plan on living long, happy lives, but we should always be prepared for when unexpected problems arise. When you designate a healthcare surrogate, you are preparing yourself and your loved ones for potentially stressful situations. You are also ensuring that your healthcare decisions are in the hands of someone your trust.  You are making your own difficult decisions.

In the event you reach the point that you are not able to handle your own medical decisions because of injury, illness or your advanced age, having the appropriate legal paperwork in place are essential parts of your lifeline. If you don’t want to write down your wishes in regards to your medical care, you want to ensure you have someone named to oversee your medical care.

If you don’t have a healthcare surrogate designation in place, your important life-changing events could be left up to estranged relatives, judges or doctors who know nothing or very little about your preferences. To ensure your wishes are followed, you should complete two critical healthcare documents in Florida.

You need to have a designation of healthcare surrogate completed. The second form you complete should be a living will, which determines what kind of medical treatment you would or would not like to receive in Florida. When naming your healthcare surrogate, you can name any person you trust, most people choose a spouse, parent, adult child or close friend to handle the job. Florida law declares that the person you name as your surrogate cannot witness the document.

If you have not named a healthcare surrogate, you should schedule an appointment with a Florida estate attorney, who can guide you through the process and make other suggestions regarding making preparations for the futures of you and your family.

About Heidi S. Webb, Attorney at Law: Heidi Webb is an Estate Planning and small business attorney located in Daytona Beach, Florida. See what clients are saying about Heidi, follow her on Facebook, and connect with her on Google+ or LinkedIn

 

Ask Heidi: What is a Medicaid Spend-down?

A Medicaid Spend-Down is a process that allows you to legally spend down your assets in such a way so that you can legitimately qualify for Medicaid.

Why Shquestionmarkould You Care?

People are living much longer than they did in previous generations.  As a result of this, we are seeing a sharp increase in people who are needing home nursing care as well as long term care.  Many families have unfortunately had to take on the financial burden of these services which can cost well north of $5,000 a month.  This additional burden has ruined families not only financially, but also emotionally.  But many can breathe a sigh of relief because help is available from the government in the form of Medicaid.

Medicaid is a government program that was created to help struggling and low income families with healthcare costs [check out last week’s blog for more on Medicaid].  It is important to understand that in order to qualify for Medicaid you must meet specific income requirements and have limited assets.  If you exceed these limits but still need to have access to Medicaid an attorney may be able to help you find ways, such as a spend-down, to legitimately qualify by reducing your available income and assets.

It is very important to seek the advice of an attorney trained in Estate Planning or Elder Law to help you navigate the process of a Medicaid Spend-Down. It must be done in accordance with the laws and guidelines currently in place of YOUR State or the consequences could have a much greater financial impact.

 

ASK HEIDI: Medicare versus Medicaid

Welcome to the inaugural post of my new weekly series:  ASK HEIDI   Question-Mark

I find some questions pop up more than others and I will start the series answering THOSE questions, but going forward I hope folks will email, tweet, private message, or post questions on my Facebook and I will answer them anonymously on here.

To kick things off I thought I’d start with something that I think everyone under the age of 65 confuses:   Medicare versus Medicaid.  The names are so similar they beg confusion, however, Medicare and Medicaid are very different. Granted, both are kinds of health insurance offered through government entities, but they have extremely different eligibility requirements, provide different levels of coverage and when planning ahead it’s crucial to understand the nuances.

What is Medicare?

Medicare, a federal health insurance program, is offered to those who are 65 and older or to those who have been declared disabled by the Social Security Administration. Medicare is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Income or personal assets do not impact eligibility.

When you become enrolled in Medicare, you automatically have Part A, which covers hospital care, skilled nursing facility care, hospice and some home health services. Part B, which is medical coverage, costs $104.90 per month during 2015. Medically necessary services and preventive services are covered by Part B.  You can enroll in Part A without enrolling in Part B.

If you are needing prescription coverage, you can enroll in Part D, which also is optional. There is a charge for Part D coverage, but you may qualify for reduced or free premiums depending on your income. There are several different providers offering Part D coverage, so you need to compare the coverage with your prescriptions to ensure you make the best selection for your needs.

                                     *Official site https://www.medicare.gov/

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid is a health insurance that is offered through a partnership between the state and federal governments. It provides health coverage to those who meet special eligibility requirements. It was created to help improve the health of those who otherwise may not be able to seek medical care due to limited financial resources.  

Because Medicaid is offered through a state partnership, its guidelines and eligibility requirements vary from state to state. In Florida, the Agency for Health Care Administration is responsible for Medicaid. During 2014, the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) program was implemented, which means if you are eligible for Medicaid you enroll in a health plan.

Sometimes people apply for Medicaid to cover the costs of long-term care, such as services provided by a nursing home. Medicare does not cover those expenses for you [after a limited initial period], so if you don’t have adequate insurance coverage of your own, you may have to apply for Medicaid to cover the costs of your medical coverage if you need long term care.

                                       *Official Florida Medicaid site http://www.fdhc.state.fl.us/medicaid/

Combination Coverage

You can be eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. In those situations, the two providers work together to cover the costs of medical expenses. You need to show proof of both kinds of coverage to your medical providers.

Important Things to Remember

Your income and assets do not affect your eligibility for Medicare, but they do however impact your Medicaid eligibility.  Medicaid is only offered to those who are low income, meeting the eligibility guidelines set by your state, and do not have assets that exceed the specified limits. Medicaid eligibility and some ins and outs are issues I hope to touch upon in this series but if you feel you could benefit from personalized information, I am happy to schedule a free 30 minute consultation to see if I can offer assistance.

About Heidi S. Webb, Attorney at Law: Heidi Webb is an Estate Planning and small business attorney located in Daytona Beach, Florida. See what clients are saying about Heidi, follow her on Facebook, and connect with her on Google+ or LinkedIn

 

 

 

Do I Need These? The Living Will, Healthcare Directive and DNR Order

If I had to pick the most frequently asked question in my Estate Planning practice this would be it.  Do I Need a Living Will, Healthcare Directive and DNR Order?  The answer:  Yes. No. Maybe So.  I know, not helpful.  Like many things there’s more to it.  For starters, many people assume they are all the same document, but they are very different.   With that in mind I decided to write this blog to look at each one separately and discuss when or why you may want each.

Living Will

A Living Will, also known as an Advanced Directive, is a legal document that allows you to clearly indicate your wishes for end-of-life medical care in the event you become incapacitated and there is no hope of meaningful quality of life even if you survive. The Living Will applies only if you can no longer state your wishes.  I often refer to this as the “there is no hope, pull the plug” document and I really believe every adult should have one. 

People of any age and even those in good health NEED to have a living will done and make sure it is easily accessible in the event of a medical emergency or accident.  Once completed make sure your loved ones know your wishes and give your primary physician and local hospital a copy to keep in your medical file so your wishes can indeed be carried out.  Not convinced? Take a moment and read about Terry Schiavo

Healthcare Directive

A Healthcare Directive, also called Healthcare Surrogate or Power of Attorney,  is a legal document in which you name a person to act as an agent for you and make your medical decisions in the event you are unable to do so yourself.   It also allows this person to communicate with healthcare providers and receive medical records that would otherwise be precluded under HIPAA regulations.

A Healthcare Directive can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be in regards to your care. It can include your input on life support equipment, blood transfusions, long-term care facilities and so forth or a more generalized power over all things healthcare.   A healthcare directive is beneficial to anyone at any age because medical emergencies can occur at any time. I strongly encourage this document be included in any Estate Planning you do.

DNR

A DNR is a Do-Not-Resuscitate order. Written by a medical doctor, it instructs any other healthcare providers to not perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) or any other extraordinary lifesaving measures in the event a patient stops breathing or if a patient’s heart stops beating.  A DNR is attached predominately to a patient’s file and if you are a caregiver it is something you would want to make all providers aware of as, of course, the medical providers’ inclination is to save lives at any cost.

When would this be needed?  In general, most people don’t require this document if they are in good overall health.  If someone suffers from terminal illness or is elderly, a DNR may be appropriate.  As an example, an elderly gentleman who resides in a nursing home and who is suffering from dementia may have his life sustained by CPR, but the lifesaving act itself can break bones or cause additional problems that result in an even worse quality of life.

Decisions

Ultimately, you need to decide which document or documents you want to have in place and then there’s the hard part…. act on it 🙂 .  If you just aren’t sure and want to talk through it all, give me a call and we can sit down (free of charge) and I can go over the finer points.  In the meanwhile, remember, if a medical emergency ever arises your loved ones will already be under enough stress without having to make these major life decisions for you, it truly is a gift for you to make your wishes clear by having these documents taken care of now.

P.S.  While having this conversation is always a good time to consider things like organ donation http://www.organdonor.gov, if you haven’t already!

Heidi Webb Daytona Beach Attorney

 

About Heidi S. Webb, Attorney at Law: Heidi Webb is an estate planning and small business attorney located in Daytona Beach, Florida. See what clients are saying about Heidi, follow her on Facebook, and connect with her on Google+ or LinkedIn.

HIS HERS OURS: Estate Planning for the Blended Family

“Here’s the story of a lovely ladybrady bunch
who was bringing up three very lovely girls
all of them had hair of gold, like their mother.
the youngest one in curls.

Here’s the story of a man named Brady
Who was busy with three boys of his own.
They were four men living all together
yet they were all alone

Till the one day when the lady met this fellow.
And they knew that it was much more than a hunch,
That this group must somehow form a family,
That’s the way we all became the Brady bunch.”

~~credits to Sherwood Schwartz creator of the Brady Bunch and lyricist

I’m sure I’m dating myself with that one, but it just seemed an appropriate opening.  I’m always saying how Estate Planning is very important, regardless of your age or the size of your family.  Let me follow that up by saying Estate Planning is extremely important when you have a blended family.  Statistics show that about 15 percent of the U.S. population has been married more than once. Blended families are commonplace in today’s world. But from a legal standpoint they bring a whole slew of issues that really are best addressed while you are alive, rather than fought over after you are gone.

What makes a blended family different? At least one and often both adults enter into the marriage with assets from previous marriages.  When you enter into a second marriage, often both parties have children from previous relationships. Then, the couple sometimes has children together. While you want to make certain your spouse is properly cared for in the event of your death, you want to ensure that your minor children are cared for as well, and you may have concerns as to whom will manage your kids’ money if you’re gone or will your adult children get an inheritance or not?  Do you want to provide for your step-children whom you’ve helped raise for most of their lives?  A lot of these things won’t happen or will happen in a way that may surprise you if left to Florida Intestacy Laws.  According to research, the biggest mistake made when making a Will with a blended family is that people fail to be specific when leaving property to “children”.

Creating the Right Plan.  It’s a must.

Making sure your assets will get distributed so that everyone is cared for can be a challenging situation. You need to indicate what goes to whom as leaving it up to the family to divide things and sort things out is not a responsible decision. Your spouse and children should not have to work out the situation on their own. Instead, you need to ask for direction so you can derive the right plan for your needs.

Effective Estate Planning for a blended family can be tricky.  An experienced and knowledgeable attorney in your corner can help you sort through your goals and make the best possible plan for your family.

About Heidi S. Webb, Attorney at Law: Heidi Webb is an Estate Planning and small business attorney located in Daytona Beach, Florida. See what clients are saying about Heidi, follow her on Facebook, and connect with her on Google+ or LinkedIn

Estate Planning 101: 3 Things to Know When Making Gifts to Children (or Grandchildren)

Daytona Attorney Heidi Webb and family

Estate planning is a tricky thing, and there are a few things I encourage my clients to think about when they’re drafting their last will and testament. I’ve listed three important considerations that you should be aware of when you draft your will – and even as you reexamine it (which you really should do every few years). No matter who your estate planning attorney is, even is you write your will on a napkin, here are three things to remember when you’re setting up or reviewing your last will and testament:

1. Make sure everyone’s treated equally.

Estate planning–and primarily the lack thereof–can cause a lot of contention between family members. Who gets grandma’s diamond ring? How about the nice China? Will the siblings with children get more than the kids who decided to stay single and play live music at tiki bars for the rest of their lives? In estate planning, it’s really important that everything is equal for children or grandchildren left in the will. You don’t want to leave a wake of resentment, bickering, anger, and emotions when it comes time for your actual wake–know what I mean? Make sure you have your estate planning papers in order, but also make sure they will be perceived as fair by all your loved ones involved. 

2. Consider giving those “gifts” in your lifetime, rather than waiting until you’re gone.

A lot of people make estate planning all about death when in fact they could be making good use of their estate in this lifetime. College is expensive – instead of leaving your children or grandchildren thousands of dollars when they’re likely middle-aged or older (with their own money and their own children and estates to look after [or plan]), invest in their future and wellbeing with gifts like tuition funds and money for their deep passions or productive recreational activities. Hey, you know what? How about planning a family vacation if you have a big trust fund or personal nest egg just sitting there until death does you part. Make memories with your family now. Enjoy your money that you’ve worked hard for and take your family along to do the same. That’s much more meaningful then letting them enjoy your money after your death. And I’m sure they’d much rather have time with you and special memories (and a free vacation) then a bigger check when you pass away. 

 3. Don’t forget about long-term care.

You’re going to need help in your golden years. Therefore you’re going to need plenty of money in your golden years. It’s great to make gifts in this lifetime, but don’t forget the importance of caring for yourself and your own future as well. Medical care is expensive, and you want to be comfortable and secure when you’re older. It’s really important that no matter how healthy or young you are, no matter how much money you have (within reason), you should set a good chunk aside to prepare for the worst – or at least the inevitable. Nursing homes, physical therapy, assisted living, and hospice care should be part of your estate planning mindset. Your health and peace of mind is crucial as you encounter the many limitations and medical upsets that go along with being a senior citizen.

So, those are three basic things I would encourage all of my estate planning clients to consider and prepare for when writing out their will. Keep these things in mind and don’t forget to reexamine your last will and testament every few years to ensure that everything is set up to prevent family squabbles and the financial ills of not preparing for long-term care. 

About Heidi S. Webb, Attorney at Law: Heidi Webb is an estate planning and small business attorney located in Daytona Beach, Florida. See what clients are saying about Heidi, follow her on Facebook, and connect with her on Google+ or LinkedIn. Heidi’s AVVO profile is also available online, as well as many other lawyer referral sites.

Situations That Will Require You to Change Your Last Will & Testament

As an estate planning and elder law attorney, of course I’m going to recommend you make it a point to always reexamine and update your will; however, there are certain instances when you should definitely consult your lawyer and make a change to your last will and testament. I’ve listed these situations below: 

1. You Have a Kid – Or You Get Some Grandchildren.

Obviously when you take steps to have children–or add to your current clan of kids–you’ll want to reexamine your will and make changes to reflect that. However, some forget to make changes to their will in old age, you should always reexamine your estate planning when you’re in your golden years, especially if grandchildren are a big part of your life and/or will

2. You Have New Stuff, or You Got Rid of Old Stuff.

When you make a big purchase (a new car, vacation home, piece of jewelry, etc.) you should consider altering your will to include it. You can name a beneficiary or include it in part of the assets allotted to a current beneficiary. Perhaps you inherit property, this may require altering your current last will and testament.

3. You Get Married or You Divorce.

Any change in your marital status should prompt a review and alteration of your will. Consult your attorney to set the best course for a change in any instance. What’s kosher in one state or jurisdiction may be different in another. 

4. You Change Your Mind About Something or Someone. 

God forbid you have a falling out with a relative, friend or beneficiary. However, if you do it’s likely you want to change your will – do this with your lawyer so that you can make sure there are no loopholes. Also remember that you must be of sound judgment when you change your will. So in other words, wait until the whiskey wears off.

5. You Have a New Partner (or Maybe Even Some Stepchildren You’re Close To).

If you’re not in a state where gay marriage is legal, you’ll (again) best to seek the counsel of an elder law or estate planning attorney. Also, if you get remarried and decide you’d like to include your stepchildren in your will, you should arrange it as soon as you make up your mind that’s what you want.

6. Someone Named in Your Will Dies.

If a death in the family or a death among one of your beneficiaries occurs, it’s time to change your will. It’s not the first thing you’ll think of after a devastating loss, however it’s important you address it in due time.

Ways to Change Your Will

Consult an attorney before you make a change to your will. That’s a surefire way to ensure that your wishes are carried out as you please. Creating a last will and testament can save your family a lot of heartache, stress and trouble after your passing. They’re going to go through enough, so stay on top of your will and keep it updated to avoid any family tension or ambiguity in the future. Remember that in some states it’s imperative that when you change your will you also revoke the old will.

Execution of Codicils

You might want to make a minor change to a will without rewriting the whole document.  Such changes, amendments, or clarifications are called “codicils”.  Florida will recognize these changes to your will, but only if a codicil meets the formal requirements for the original will’s execution. This is why it’s best to check with your attorney before changing your will. 

Heidi S. Webb Attorney at office

 

About Heidi S. Webb, Attorney at Law – Heidi is an estate planning, elder law and small business attorney located in Daytona Beach, FL. She serves clients in Daytona, Ormond, Port Orange, and surrounding areas. Her office is located in the historic Kress building on Beach Street in Daytona.