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Estate Planning for Special Needs Kids

Estate Planning is especially important for kids with special needs. As a parent, it can be challenging to foresee all aspects of the care your child will require in the future. This challenge is more easily resolved with a professional estate planner who can guide you through all the necessary considerations. Depending on your child’s health and capabilities, an attorney that handles estate planning can help you understand Special Needs Trusts, and avoid potential pitfalls. Here are some things to consider.

Special Needs Trusts

Special Needs Trusts (SNTs) are drafted for a person with a disability to help provide for their long-term care. They can also be used to supplement benefits received through government programs, like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), without disqualifying a person who has a disability from such needs-based programs.

Types of Special Needs Trusts

There are two main kinds of Special Needs Trusts, known as first-party and third-party SNTs. They do have different regulations. So, it’s important to work with a professional to choose the right option for your loved one. Each person with special needs has unique care requirements, but a qualified planner can simplify what may seem like an overwhelming process.

What Can SNTs Pay For?

There are certain things an SNT shouldn’t pay for in order to prevent the loss of public assistance, but it’s best to review those key points with your estate planner. Otherwise, there are many personal expenses that Special Needs Trusts can cover. Some you might not even think about. For instance, training and education, travel, recreation, and medical equipment.

Keep Your Plan Current

A Special Needs Trust is a safe way to distribute assets and safeguard your loved one’s future care. If you need help with your estate planning, please contact Lewman Law at (925) 447-1250. Our office hours are Monday – Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (PST).

Filed under Estate Planning Tips

Power of Attorney for College-Bound Students

As your child heads off to college, you may have a long checklist of all the essential items he or she will need while away from home. Books, housing, or a laptop may be on your list, but what about a power of attorney?

Starting college often coincides with a child turning eighteen. At that point, you no longer have the authority to make decisions or respond to inquiries on your child’s behalf. In the eyes of the law, you become two independent adults. The following post is a look at why this matters.  

Why is Power of Attorney Important?

This is necessary to consider because accidents happen. It’s best to be prepared to respond should an emergency arise. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and other privacy laws, prevent you from accessing information about your adult child’s medical care.

So, even if there are no health emergencies, you and your college-bound child are legally considered complete individuals. This means you won’t be able to access any information regarding grades or finances, even if you’re the one footing the bill.

Financial Matters

This important document designates one or more individuals to handle financial decisions. It can grant permission to a parent to access college financial records, grades, bills, and more.

This is particularly useful if your child is studying abroad, or otherwise unable to attend to local matters. It allows you to act on his or her behalf; for example, communicating with landlords, paying bills, or signing tax returns.

Health Care

Also known as a health care directive, it provides you with the power to make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person. In case of a medical emergency, this document designates one or more agents with the authority to consent to, or reject health care measures.

In some states, it includes HIPAA release language. Otherwise, you need a separate release form to have complete access to your child’s medical information. Medical professionals are not allowed to disclose a patient’s medical information without permission. Without a signed health care directive, you might need court approval to act on your adult child’s behalf.

Planning for the Future

While you probably still see your child as a kid, in the eyes of the law, you are both adults with no authority over one another. If your child is leaving for college, contact Lewman Law at (925) 447-1250 for help with your estate planning concerns.

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Why is a Health Care Directive Important?

When medical emergencies arise, it’s best to have already defined your health care preferences. A health care directive, also known as a living will, ensures that your wishes are carried out in the event that you’re incapacitated, terminally ill, or otherwise incapable of communicating during a crisis. A health care directive helps us to maintain our dignity and values, even during the most difficult situations. 

 Medical Treatments

Thousands of people a year wind up in unresponsive or vegetative states, often as the result of a traumatic brain injury. Other crisis situations render unfortunate victims incapable of living on their own without the aid of assistive medical technologies. It allows you to make your own choices in regards to things like feeding tubes, ventilators, blood transfusions, antibiotics, dialysis machines, and other lifesaving measures and treatments. 

Your Legal Rights

A healthcare directive specifies your preferences. For instance, you have the legal right to determine whether you want to be resuscitated if an illness or injury were to stop your heartbeat. It’s a clear way to communicate your wishes. It also allows you to name an individual (agent) to make medical decisions on your behalf. If you do declare an agent, make sure he or she is someone you trust. 

Religious Concerns

Some people have religious or philosophical concerns related to certain procedures or medications. A health care directive allows you to uphold your beliefs, even if you’re unable to speak for yourself. A notable example of this is the policy of Jehovah’s Witnesses to abstain from blood transfusions. Most members of this religion carry a medical directive in their wallet or purse. 

Creating a Health Care Directive

There are legal requirements to bear in mind when crafting a health care directive. Unfortunately, you can’t simply write down your wishes and sign on the dotted line. Certain steps are crucial to ensure the document is legally binding. It would be terrible if your wishes were dismissed because of a legal technicality. 

A health care directive must either be signed in front of two witnesses or notarized. Although, neither the notary or your witnesses can legally act as your agent, and one of your witnesses has to be someone other than a healthcare provider or employee of a provider that cares for you.

Overall, a health care directive formalizes our wishes, diminishing the burden of stress and uncertainty for our families and loved ones. For help with your estate planning needs, please contact Lewman Law at (925) 447-1250.

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Estate Planning Tips During COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has raised a number of concerns and questions surrounding estate planning. Given the current atmosphere, we wanted to share 3 estate planning tips to help you get through this difficult time.

1. Make Sure Your Documents Reflect Your Wishes

During crises like COVID-19, we are reminded of just how important estate planning really is, so be sure that your documents are up to date and reflect your wishes. You’ll also want to make sure that you know exactly where your will and trust documentation are kept. And finally, confirm that all trustees and executors are able and willing to serve.

Due to the impact of the pandemic on our economy, the value of your assets may have decreased considerably. This could reduce the current value of your estate, which is especially true if much of it is tied up in property or non-liquid assets. Many stocks have also lost a significant amount of value in recent months, but this doesn’t apply to all shares. So, be sure to carefully check your estate plan and seek guidance on any changes you aren’t certain of.

2. Review Your Advance Directives

Your advance directives, such as your living will and power of attorney, express your wishes, and authorize your agents to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf if you can’t make choices for yourself. Similarly, you’ll want to review these documents to ensure the person you’ve entrusted this power to is prepared to act on your behalf. Also, discuss your health care wishes with them so that you can be certain they’d make decisions that reflect your wishes.

3. Interest Rates are Down, so Consider Using Money From Your Estate

Due to the fact that the economy has been seriously impacted by the pandemic, interest rates are exceptionally low right now. If you’re considering using money from your property to invest in real estate, this could be the right time to act. That’s because mortgage rates have not been this low for many years, and they may not be this low again for decades.

Estate Planning Tips

If you have questions about estate planning during the pandemic, rest assured that John Lewman’s mission is to protect your family as if it were his own. For a Livermore attorney who can handle all your estate planning and probate needs, schedule a consultation at (925) 447-1250.

Filed under Estate Planning Tips