Elder Law is a relatively new legal specialty, intended to help older individuals make informed decisions about such topics as estate planning; asset preservation; and qualification for government benefits – including Social Security and, when appropriate, Medicaid.
At Huck Bouma, our role is to help seniors and their loved ones develop a financial and legal strategy that will establish appropriate care parameters and directives – even if long-term care is involved – and at the same time preserve assets for surviving spouses and other heirs.
We call the process Peace of Mind Planning, which at Huck Bouma encompasses a wide variety of subjects:
Estate Planning is at the top of the list, to assure that as much of your estate as possible goes to the beneficiaries you select – and as little as possible to federal and state taxes.
Power of Attorney for Property. Having someone available to handle your financial affairs in the event of your incapacity is an important part of the planning process. A properly drafted and appropriately customized Durable Power of Attorney for Property accomplishes that goal – and helps to avoid the inevitable hassle and expense of guardianship proceedings. The generally available Power of Attorney statutory form is rarely adequate to protect seniors’ interests. At Huck Bouma, we customize the form to make certain that the person you appoint has the power to do everything you want done if you are incapacitated.
Advance Medical Directives. Choosing the individual who will make decisions for you in carefully defined situations is an important part of the Peace of Mind Planning process. For example, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, in conjunction with a properly drafted HIPAA Authorization and Living Will, can be used to plan for those situations when you are no longer able to communicate your health decisions to your medical providers.
Medicaid Planning. Medicare isn’t always a four-letter word when it comes to benefits-and-care planning. There are Medicaid benefits we all should know – and which many of us can tap. Asset protection strategies include intra-family planning, irrevocable trusts and Special Needs Trusts. Proactive planning provides the greatest number of options because there is time to think through the various planning alternatives and to avoid the five-year look-back period. In a crisis planning situation, when nursing care is inevitable and imminent, asset preservation planning can still be done, but there is a much smaller range of available options. In either event, the goal of planning is to avoid the spend-down of assets to qualify for Medicaid if a stay in a nursing home becomes necessary.
Disability Planning can include guardianships and special needs trusts to help assure care when you perhaps cannot care for yourself.
Other professionals – an accountant and your financial planner, for example – may be involved in your Peace of Mind Planning as well. We’ll be happy to work with your advisors or suggest appropriate professionals we know and respect.
When it’s time, you also can count on Huck Bouma to administer your estate, sparing your loved ones from the task of dealing with the asset transfer, tax and related issues that must be managed even in non-probate situations. We’ll help make certain your wishes are carried out.