Month: February 2015

Planning for Long-Term Care of Veterans and Surviving Spouses with VA Benefits

When a wartime veteran or a surviving spouse needs long-term care, VA benefits will help pay for this long-term care. Many families are not aware they may be entitled to receive these long-term care benefits from the Veterans Administration. Below are some examples of VA benefits that you may be entitled to receive as a wartime veteran or a surviving spouse that can help you pay for much needed long-term medical and personal care.

Pension with Aid and Attendance is intended to help pay for medical and personal care for veterans and surviving spouses who need assistance with daily activities such as dressing, eating and bathing. It is also intended for veterans and surviving spouses who are in a nursing home or who are blind. Those living in an assisted care facility who need help with their day-to-day activities also qualify for this type of VA benefit.

Pension with Housebound Allowance benefits veterans and surviving spouses who need regular assistance but do not meet the requirements for the Aid and Attendance benefits. This benefit also applies to those who want to move in with a family member or stay in their own home. Assistance and care may be provided to the claimant by an agency or a family member.

Basic Pension covers veterans and surviving spouses who are 65 years of age or older or who are disabled and have limited income and assets.

Qualifying for Benefits

In order to qualify for the above VA benefits, it is not a requirement that the veteran was injured during service; however, the veteran must meet the wartime service and discharge requirements. In addition, if a veteran or surviving spouse files for disability benefits and the person is under the age of 65, there are several requirements that must be met before the disability claim will be approved. It can be very helpful to consult with an attorney who has experience with VA benefit claims to determine what you must do in order to qualify for VA benefits.

The Veterans Administration looks at several things when determining eligibility such as the claimant’s income, medical expenses, life expectancy and assets. A claimant’s income must be less than the VA benefit the claimant will receive if he or she is approved for VA benefits. Income is calculated by subtracting out-of-pocket medical expenses from the claimant’s gross income from all sources. The recurring medical expenses, also known as “countable medical expenses,” must be expected to continue for the claimant’s lifetime in order to be included in the deduction from gross income. “Countable assets” include the claimant’s retirement funds but it does not include the claimant’s vehicle or home.

Even though it may appear that your income and assets do not meet the requirements for VA benefits, you may be able to decrease the value of your income and assets to qualify for VA benefits. However, it is very important that you first consult with an attorney who has experience with both VA benefits and Medicaid benefits before you begin restructuring assets or gifting assets to others. If you restructure assets or gift assets, you may jeopardize or delay Medicaid benefits. Seeking the advice of an Elder Law attorney is the best way to determine a course of action that will help you receive the VA benefits you are entitled to receive without jeopardizing assets or other benefits.

Applying for VA Benefits

Applying for VA benefits can take more than a year from the beginning of the application process through the approval by the Veteran’s Administration. Consulting with a VA benefits attorney can help ensure that you have the correct documentation attached to the application to speed up the process. Documents you need include, but are not limited to, your discharge papers, marriage certificate, copies of medical records, evidence of medical expenses and a death certificate (if you are a surviving spouse). Submitting a correctly completed VA benefits application with all of the required documents can greatly reduce the processing time of your VA benefits application.

Because time is critical for veterans and their surviving spouses who are in desperate need of VA benefits, your VA benefits application should be filed as soon as possible. For more information, you can visit https://www.va.gov or contact our office to schedule a consultation with the attorneys at Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC. Their experience and knowledge can help you have the peace of mind of knowing that you have a plan. Contact Attorney Daniel J. Krause or Nelson W. Donovan today.

Reach us through our website or call our office at (608) 268-5751 to schedule your confidential, no obligation initial consultation

Estate Planning Issues for Women

Most women do not consider estate planning until they are married; however, it is important for women to have an estate plan in place regardless of whether they are married or single. Many women have children without being married; therefore, it is extremely important that they consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure that their children will be taken care of in the event of their death or incapacity. However, even for single women who have no children, estate planning is something they should consider to ensure their final wishes are carried out in the event of their death or incapacity. Below are several estate planning issues that women should discuss with an attorney.

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Married Women vs. Unmarried Women

There are several issues to consider when discussing estate planning that are unique to married women versus unmarried women. For example, a married woman tends to rely, at least in part, on her husband’s income. Without proper estate planning, if a married woman loses her husband early in life, she may experience a significant decrease in her standard of living due to the loss of income. Another issue that married women face is when they are in their second or subsequent marriages. Children from a previous marriage should be considered when deciding how to divide your assets between a blended family. You do not want your children and stepchildren arguing in the event that you and your new husband pass away together or within a very short time of each other.

For unmarried women who are raising children, state law will make decisions for your children if you do not make provisions before your death or incapacitation. You must name a guardian for your child as well as someone to manage your child’s inheritance until he or she reaches a certain age. This may or may not be the same person you want to have physical custody of your child upon your death. Furthermore, if you do not have a will directing how your property should be divided, friends, charities and unmarried partners will not be entitled to inherit from your estate.

Women who are divorced or separated need to update their estate planning documents, including beneficiary designations, as soon as possible to prevent an ex-spouse from making life and death decisions for that person or inheriting assets.

Children, Grandchildren, Parents and Pets

Providing for your loved ones is one of the top reasons for estate planning. If you do not name a guardian for your children, the state will decide who will raise your children in the event of your death or incapacity. Many women do not think about elderly parents; however, you should also make provisions for your aging parents so that they are taken care of if you are no longer able to do so for whatever reason. If you have a special needs child or other dependent who requires special care, you need a plan in place to ensure that they are provided for when you are gone. For women who have four-legged family members (pets), they may also want to provide for the care of their pets in their estate planning documents.

For children, parents or other dependents, additional life insurance may be required to provide for their care after your death. Your attorney may suggest that you establish a trust to provide for the education and care of your dependents.

Protecting a Business and Other Assetshttps://www.dreamstime.com/-image22437493

Business owners should plan for what will happen to their business when they are no longer able to operate the business due to incapacity, retirement or death. This can be done with business succession planning as part of the estate planning process. Protecting your assets is another important element of estate planning. Without a definite plan in place and the proper documents such as a Will or other legal document, the state will decide how your assets are to be divided upon your death. In many cases, state law does not coincide with your wishes.

Charitable Causes

If there is a charitable cause that you wish to leave money or property to from your estate, you must include these wishes in your estate planning. A charitable organization does not have a legal right to receive property from you upon your death under state law unless you have specifically provided for this bequeath in your estate planning documents.

Incapacity

Death is not the only reason why women need to meet with an attorney to discuss estate planning. If you become incapacitated without an estate plan in place, the state or others will make decisions for you regarding medical care, personal care and the distribution of assets. You may want to consider purchasing long-term care insurance as part of your estate plan to ensure that any expenses or costs of long-term care will be paid if you should become incapacitated. It is very important to take steps now to make a plan so that the state does not take control of your assets and make decisions for you. At a minimum, you should have durable powers of attorney for your assets and health care decisions.

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney

Whether you are married or single, you should contact an estate planning attorney to discuss your final wishes and to discuss how to ensure your final wishes are carried out in the event of your death or incapacitation. Having the proper estate planning documents in place is the only way to ensure that your loved ones are protected and your final wishes are carried out.

Talk to the estate planning attorneys at Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC. Their experience and knowledge can help you have the peace of mind of knowing not only that you have a plan, but that your plan still creates exactly the legacy that you want. Contact Attorney Daniel J. Krause or Nelson W. Donovan today.

Reach us through our website or call our office at (608) 268-5751 to schedule your confidential, no obligation initial consultation

Choosing a Trustee Who Will Carry Out Your Wishes

Choosing a Trustee Who Will Carry Out Your Wishestrustee_superman_proud250_250

Choosing a trustee to manage your trustee is a very important decision. The very fact that the word “trust” is a part of the title given to this person implies that your trustee should be someone that you trust completely. The reason you must trust this person is, depending on the type of trust you establish, that your trustee can perform financial duties on your behalf that could have a huge impact on your financial well-being. For example, you may give your trustee the power to buy and sell property, collect income on your behalf, pay bills, file and pay taxes, make investments and provide for the financial support of your family.

Of course, a trustee is required to maintain and keep accurate books and records; however, in cases of abuse, these records are often forged to hide the abuse. Therefore, your trustee is someone that you trust completely to manage your finances for you and for your family.

Who Can Serve as Your Trustee?

The person you name as your trustee will depend on the type of trust. For example, you may not serve as your own trustee for most irrevocable trusts but you can be your own trustee if you choose a revocable living trust. For married couples, the spouse can also serve as a trustee on a revocable living trust. In fact, for couples who have substantial assets and/or who have been married for a long time often serve as co-trustees on their own revocable living trust. This is beneficial in the event that a spouse dies or becomes incapacitated; the other spouse continues to manage the trust.

On the other hand, you do not have to serve as the trustee of your trust. You may choose someone that you trust such as a friend, child or other family member. In some cases, you may feel more comfortable choosing a corporate trustee such as a trust company or a bank as your trustee because the people in these departments have experience managing trusts and investing money.

Some people shy away from turning over power to another trustee; however, simply because you name another person as your trustee does not mean that you are giving up control. The trustee must still follow the terms and conditions set forth in the trust agreement and you can replace the trustee if you feel that he or she is not fulfilling the duties set forth under the trust agreement.

When Should You Consider a Professional or Corporate Trustee?Corporate-Trustee-Smsf

There are times when you may want to consider naming a professional or corporate trustee. Examples include but are not limited to:
You are widowed, elderly or in declining health
You do not have children, family or a trusted friend
Suitable candidates do not have the ability or the time to serve as your trustee
You may not have the time, desire or ability to serve as your own trustee
You are using an irrevocable trust that does not permit you to serve as your own trustee

Professional and corporate trustees have the experience, time and resources to manage your trust to help you meet your investment goals. Professional and corporate trustees will charge a fee to manage your trust but most of the fees charged by these companies are quite reasonable, especially when you consider the experience, services provided and investment returns.

Before You Make a Final Decision on a Trustee

Naming a trustee is a huge step. This person will be responsible for managing your finances. Before you make a final decision as to who will serve as your trustee, take time to do the following:
Evaluate if you are the best choice as trustee or if another party would do a better job for you.
If you do choose to be your own trustee, consider naming a co-trustee who can learn about your trustee, your desires, the needs and personalities of your beneficiaries and your goals. Having a co-trustee allows you to evaluate this person to determine if this is who you want managing your trustee in your absence.
Be care and realistic when evaluating your trustee candidates. Do not let emotions interfere with sound judgments.
If you are considering a professional or corporate trustee, compare several trustees. Review their services, investment returns and fees before deciding which company is the best for your needs.

Key Takeaways for Choosing a Trusteehow-to-choose-corporate-trustee

You can serve as your own trustee in a revocable living trust.
If married, your spouse can serve as your co-trustee.
Most irrevocable trusts do not permit you to serve as your own trustee.
Even though you may be your own trustee, you may not be the best choice.
You can choose an adult child, other family member, a trusted friend or a professional or corporate trustee.
Naming someone else to be co-trustee with you helps them become familiar with your trust, allows them to learn firsthand how you want the trust to operate and lets you evaluate the co-trustee’s abilities.

Talk to the estate planning attorneys at Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC. Their experience and knowledge can help you have the peace of mind of knowing not only that you have a plan, but that your plan still creates exactly the legacy that you want. Contact Attorney Daniel J. Krause or Nelson W. Donovan today.

Reach us through our website or call our office at (608) 268-5751 to schedule your confidential, no obligation initial consultation

Estate Planning Tips for Young Families

Estate Planning Tips for Young Families

When we are young, we think that we have all the time in the world to do “adult” things such as planning for retirement, saving for a home, preparing for a family and planning for emergencies. Planning for our death is not even on our radar as we do not consider that a remote possibility because we are young, healthy and in the prime of our life. However, we go to sleep one day and wake up with three young children, a mortgage, two car payments and more responsibilities than we could ever imagine.

By the time we being to think about estate planning, we are too tired, too busy and do not have a penny to spare to pay an estate planning attorney. The fact is that we should never be too busy to plan for our eventual death. Estate planning does not have to be expensive for young families because they can begin with just the essential documents necessary to protect their children in the event of their death and continue to build upon their estate planning foundation as their finances, assets and circumstances continue to change and improve.

A good estate plan for a young family will include the following:

Naming an Administrator, Executor or Personal Representativeyoung-family

This person is named in your Last Will and Testament as the person who will be responsible for administering your final financial affairs through your probate estate. Examples of duties of include, but are not limited to, identifying and determining the value of your assets, reviewing and paying allowable debts, identifying heirs and distribution assets to those heirs. Choose someone who knows your wishes, someone you can trust and someone who will carry out you wishes after you are deceased.

Choosing a Guardian for Minor Children

This is the most important decision you will make during estate planning. If you fail to name a guardian for your children, the court will appoint a guardian who may or may not be the person you want to raise your children should you and your spouse die. The guardian you choose should share your views and beliefs about raising children as well as be someone you can trust to do what is in the best interest of your children.

Choosing the Person to Manage Your Children’s Inheritance

This is the second most important decision you will making during estate planning because this will provide for the financial needs of your children as well as ensure the money you leave is invested properly for them until they reach a certain age. If you fail to name a conservator (the person who handles the money of a minor), the court will appoint a conservator to manage your children’s inheritance.

The person the court names as conservator may or may not be the guardian you named for your children. It could even be a complete stranger. This person is entitled to receive payment for his or her services from the inheritance funds and each child will receive his or her inheritance when the child reaches the age of 18 years. In most cases, parents do not want their 18 year old to receive a substantial amount of money at such a young, vulnerable age.

By setting up a simple trust, the parent can choose the trustee who will manage the trust, which is funded by the inheritance, as well as specify terms of how the money is to be used, how it should be invested and when each child will receive his or her share of the trust funds.

Life Insurance

Young couples may find that term life insurance is the best alternative because it is less expensive and designed to be used to replace the income of a deceased spouse rather than a retirement planning tool. Things to consider as you are reviewing insurance options with an insurance agent include:
Income earned by one or both parents will need to be replaced;

You may need to hire a person to take over the responsibilities of a stay-at-home parent;
You may need additional coverage to provide for children until they are grown;
You may need additional coverage to provide for children’s college funds if you do not have a college savings account in place; and
You need enough to cover the payoff of major bills such as your mortgage and vehicle to protect those assets for the surviving spouse.

Distributing Your Assets10-Hobbies-For-Families-With-Young-Children

When you are discussing estate planning with your attorney, he will want to know how you want to disburse your assets upon death. Most couples decide to leave all of their assets to each other in the event of death; however, if both spouses are deceased, they must decide how to distribute their assets. Some assets transfer automatically to the surviving spouse or other person through beneficiary designations or because of how title to the asset is held. However, estate planning is still needed to ensure that you have the proper estate documents to ensure your final wishes are carried out with regard to your assets.

Disability Planning

Becoming disabled is another thing that most people do not like to consider but must include in their estate planning in order to protect themselves and their families. If you become disabled, you do not want the state to intervene and make decisions on your behalf. By using estate planning tools such as medical powers of attorney to give someone legal authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so and HIPPA authorizations to give doctors permission to discuss your medical situation with others (parents, siblings and close friends), you can avoid situations where the state will make decisions for you.

You should also consider purchasing disability insurance because life insurance does not pay until death. If you become disabled, you will need income to provide for yourself and your family.

Talk to the estate planning attorneys at Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC. Their experience and knowledge can help you have the peace of mind of knowing not only that you have a plan, but that your plan still creates exactly the legacy that you want. Contact Attorney Daniel J. Krause or Nelson W. Donovan today.

Reach us through our website or call our office at (608) 268-5751 to schedule your confidential, no obligation initial consultation

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