October is National Dyslexia Month

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding). Also called reading disability, dyslexia affects areas of the brain that process language.  Dyslexia does not affect general intelligence.

How to Prepare an Estate Plan

Did you know that Aretha Franklin, a person of significant wealth with a special needs child, did NOT have an estate plan? Not having an estate plan leaves her beneficiaries’ future uncertain. None of us really like to think about our own mortality, or the inability to make decisions for ourselves. This is exactly why so many families are caught off-guard and unprepared when incapacity or death strikes. Don’t let fear prevent you from taking these next steps.

Here are some tips and questions you might find helpful to get you started:

What is the focus of the practice and the benefits of going to a firm that practices both Estate Planning and Elder Law?

Estate Planning – focuses on the distribution of wealth, legacy planning, tax, and wealth planning.

Elder Law – is to prepare the elderly person for financial freedom and autonomy through proper financial planning and long-term care options.

Do they focus on both Estate Planning and Elder Law?

As your life changes, grows, and you get older, it is beneficial when beginning with an Estate Planning lawyer that you have an Elder Law lawyer in the practice. Think of the firm as a “value add” partner navigating with you through the game of life.

How long have the lawyers been in practice and who is preparing the documents?

The more years of experience the attorney has, the better. They will have had the opportunity to see their essential estate planning documents in action when a client becomes disabled or dies. When the attorney is the one that is preparing the documents they have been revised and tweaked to deal with the everyday situations of their clients. Having the established attorney, preparing the documents will give you the peace of mind to know that the documents they are preparing for you will work when they’re needed.

What is the firm’s fee structure?

This is an important question to ask so that you won’t be surprised by hidden fees and costs. Most estate planning attorneys will charge a fixed fee for most, if not all, of their services. This will ease your mind to know that the flat fee is all that you’ll be required to pay. However, you will need to clarify what the flat fee does and doesn’t cover.

Does the Attorney assist clients with properly funding their assets into a revocable trust?

Many attorneys create beautiful estate plans for their clients but then fail to assist them with the next important step, funding the revocable living trust. That trust will be useless immediately after you die if your assets aren’t titled in the name of the trust while you’re still alive. We strongly recommend that you work with an attorney who will oversee the funding process because chances are you won’t complete all of the necessary funding on your own.

Finally, “Can I see myself working closely with this Attorney”? “Can I talk to them easily”?

Keep in mind that you’ll be sharing with this person all of the intimate details of your life. You have to feel comfortable with the attorney. You have to be able to trust them and they have to make you feel comfortable to be able to talk to them easily.

What is a Power of Attorney and Why Have One?

Do any of the following people need to sign a power of attorney?

Mr. Smith lives alone, has no close family, and is scheduled for major surgery in a few weeks.

Ms. Jones has been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Mr. and Mrs. Adams will be out of the country for the next 6 months but have a house they need to sell.

Ms. Davis is single, runs a successful business, and has no medical or economic concerns.

The answer is yes. They all do. A power of attorney is granted to an “attorney-in-fact” or “agent” to give that individual the legal authority to make decisions for an incapacitated “principal.”  This document creates a relationship between you (the client) and your agent (POA). Before you or a loved one signs any documents, however, be sure to consult with an attorney concerning all applicable laws and regulations.

There are multiple types of decisions that the attorney-in-fact (POA) can be given the power to make, including the power to:

Make financial decisions

Make gifts of money

Make health care decisions, including the ability to consent to give, withholding, or stopping medical treatments, services, or diagnostic procedures. (Note: your loved one can also make a separate “health care power of attorney” to give only this power to an individual.)

Recommend a guardian

POA’s are strongly recommended in an event that you become incapacitated. You will then have someone you trust to legally be able to act on your behalf.