Hickman & Lowder Presents Elder Law Talks, Do I Need a Will?

Hickman & Lowder Co., L.P.A. is excited to present its new Elder Law Talks series. We will regularly be sharing short videos to help you expand your awareness, reduce your stress and redefine what is possible as you advocate for your loved one.

This week’s episode: Do I Need a Will?

In our first episode of Elder Law Talks, Attorney David Banas addresses the one question he is asked every time he meets a potential client ..

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Your COVID-19 Practical Preparedness Plan

The COVID-19 pandemic is difficult for all of us.  Economic, psychological, and most important, physical health is on the top of everyone’s mind during just about all waking hours.  We must stay strong for our vulnerable and remember that with the right preparedness and planning, this too shall pass.

Estate plans are vitally important to our overall preparedness and peace of mind.  Any preparedness plan involves ensuring that Health Care and Financial Powers of Attorney and Last Will and Testaments are updated and reflect your desires.  In these uncertain times, there are questions of whether our responses are alarmist or practical.  As part of your practical preparedness plan, you may ask yourself:

  • Am I prepared with my documents if I become hospitalized?
  • Does my current plan do what I want it to?
  • Has the law changed since I last updated my documents?
  • Has my family changed since I last updated my documents?

A Health Care Power of Attorney is one of the more important documents you can have during this time.  This is the document with which you appoint one person, and then one substitute person, to make your health care decisions for you when you are no longer able to do so yourself.  If you don’t have one, or need to change the one you do have, now is the time to get this done.

A HIPAA Authorization Form is another important part of your plan.  This document allows you to waive your privacy rights, thereby allowing your loved

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How Does the SECURE Act Affect My Estate Plan and My Child with Special Needs?

For most families with a loved one with disabilities, much of the assets which will be used for the loved one’s long-term needs are found in pre-tax accounts, such as IRAs.

SECURE Act Means Drastic Changes to Retirement Account Inheritance Rules
Congress recently passed, and the President signed into law, the “SECURE Act” (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Act of 2019), which drastically changes how inherited retirement accounts are treated.

If you are using a pre-tax retirement account to pass assets on to your heirs, the Act drastically limits their ability to “stretch” withdrawals out over many years.  Stretching – taking only a small amount of funds every year then paying taxes only on the amount of those withdrawals – allows the account to grow larger over time. It results in tax savings and financial growth for your loved one, at the expense of the U.S. Treasury (this is why Congress wanted to change it).

What does this elimination of the “stretch” mean in practical terms?  Most significantly, it means that most beneficiaries of a retirement account will have to withdraw all the money in the account within ten years following the death of the account owner.  This creates a real financial risk for your heirs because the longer they wait to withdraw the funds, the bigger the tax hit they will receive.

For example, if they wanted to delay dipping into the account, they could find themselves in a situation where they’re required to take out

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Don’t Neglect the Third Stage of Estate Planning

Recently, I was out of the office for an early morning meeting with a client. While waiting in the lobby, I ran into a different client who happened to work in the building. I’d done some significant estate planning for her and her husband, and she told me that she’d been meaning to call me because they had follow-up questions about carrying out their estate plan.

I had a few minutes before my meeting and we were able to talk through her questions, which were actually fairly typical among my clients. But they reminded me how easy it is to forget that the estate planning process doesn’t end as soon as the documents are signed.

I’ll explain: It’s always such a relief for my clients on the day they sign their estate planning documents. Maybe it’s something they have put off for years. Maybe the last time they did any formal planning, they had young children and now their lives have changed. Whatever the reason, something led my clients to update their estate plan, and doing it is a critical step in the right direction.

But are they done as soon as they sign the documents? No, because signing documents isn’t the final step: Estate planning, in fact, involves three separate stages, and people must get through all to three to effectively complete the process.

The first stage is fairly obvious. Coming up with a plan and putting it to paper is the initial step in developing a comprehensive

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Another State Taxing a Trust

When it comes to the everyday life of an individual who has a developmental disability, life can present unexpected obstacles not only for the individual, but for family and friends, as well.  The challenges are made easier through well-planned trusts which protect important government benefits, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and ensure that when the parent passes away, the child is taken care of financially.  However, certain laws create the threat of taking away these important assets.

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Why a Living Will is Important

Some clients are hesitant about signing a Living Will. Many believe that signing a Living Will is a death sentence and the doctor will not save them if they are in severe distress. Others believe signing a Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) in a hospital is equivalent to a Living Will. However, a Living Will’s purpose is far from these beliefs.

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Cost of Living Increase Impacts Medicaid Income Eligibility

Cost of Living Increase Impacts Medicaid Income Eligibility

On January 1, 2019, the Social Security Administration adjusted benefits upward by 2.8 percent.  The 2.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment will begin with benefits payable to more than 62 million Social Security beneficiaries.  Increased payments to more than 8 million Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries brings the maximum monthly benefit from $750 per month in 2018 to $771 per month in 2019.

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