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Frequently Asked Questions about Estate and Elder Law

Answers provided by knowledgeable Port Richey lawyers

Delzer, Coulter & Bell, P.A recognizes that you have many questions and concerns about estate planning, estate administration and elder law. The firm’s attorneys have provided answers to a few of the most common inquires. For additional information, including a free case evaluation, contact the firm online or call 877.815.4218.

How can I avoid probate?

If at time of death any assets exist in your sole or individual name without a beneficiary designation, the assets are subject to probate. A living trust provides the most useful and comprehensive tool for avoiding probate. For those having limited assets, alternative methods may be considered to avoid probate.

Will estate or inheritance taxes be due at my death?

Although many states have their own estate or inheritance tax, Florida does not impose any estate or inheritance taxes. There is no federal estate tax for any amount of assets passing to a surviving spouse or charity. Under present law, there is no U.S. Estate Tax on the first $5,490,000.00 passing to beneficiaries other than a surviving spouse or charity.

Does a living trust protect my assets against nursing home bills and other creditors?

A living trust is an effective tool to avoid probate and guardianship procedures. However, a living trust does not protect your assets against nursing home bills, taxes or other creditors. When necessary and appropriate, there are other legal tools and planning that may be utilized to avoid nursing home bills.

Will a trust limit my control over my assets?

No. In a typical living trust, you name yourself as the initial trustee. As your own trustee, you have total and complete control of the assets placed in your trust. Anything you can do with your assets prior to their transfer into a living trust, you may also do after the assets are transferred into a living trust. The assets remain under your social security number and you file your income tax return in the same manner as previously filed.

What does a living trust cost?

Our office focuses on providing our clients with legal advice, rather than “selling” legal documents. Our charges are based upon the time and complexity of the client’s needs. In order to be sure that we are providing our clients with the highest level of legal advice and assistance, we provide all clients with a free consultation to evaluate their individual estate planning needs. As part of the free consultation, clients are provided with our recommendations and the proposed charges for our services. Due to the fact that the attorneys of our firm are board certified legal specialists, we are able to provide comprehensive legal services efficiently and expeditiously.

What is a special needs trust?

If you or a loved one has a disability and receives financial assistance, or may be entitled to financial assistance, from the government because of the disability, a special needs trust may be appropriate. Government programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid, are both need-based programs for the disabled. If a person receiving financial assistance through a needs-based program receives assets or income that cause the recipient to exceed the asset or income limits of the program, the recipient will lose their benefits and may even be forced to pay back the government for benefits received while ineligible. Creating a special needs trust and funding it with the new assets, however, can prevent the loss of financial assistance. The trust funds are only used to supplement and not supplant such governmental assistance.  ­

How can I protect my assets against nursing home bills?

You should be seeking Medicaid benefits if you or your loved suffers from a chronic illness or injury requiring long term health care. Paying the health care costs for such illnesses or injuries out of personal funds alone will quickly deplete all assets. Medicare coverage for skilled nursing facilities is very limited and so is the coverage under most private insurance plans. A Medicaid diversion or waiver program may exist as an option to pay for some assisted living costs or in home care. In addition, veteran pension benefits can often assist in covering the cost of an assisted living facility or care at home. Veteran’s pension is a benefit available to veterans or their surviving spouses who have a non-service connected disability and have limited assets and income. You should conduct planning for Medicaid and/or veteran’s benefits as quickly as possible in order to preserve assets and also to avoid unintentionally incurring a disqualification period from Medicaid by transferring assets in the wrong fashion.

Learn more about protecting your assets from Medicaid.