gamble estate plan

Do You Like to Gamble? Advice for Those Who Haven’t Planned Yet

Michelle and I don’t gamble very often. But when we do, watch out!

A few years go, the kids went to the grandparents’ and we spent the weekend in St. Louis. We were staying near Laclede’s Landing at a new hotel near the Lumiere Place Casino. The evening after we checked in, we headed out to do some serious gambling.

We stopped at the penny slots and started playing. About 10 minutes later, we hit a big jackpot! Being up all of $12, we decided to quit while we were ahead.

Do you enjoy gambling? We find that most of our clients don’t like to roll the dice about their planning. Instead, they want to tie it down so they can have real peace of mind.

Not planning ahead to protect your family and your assets is gambling.

What will happen if you die suddenly? What will happen if you need long term care?

Leaving things to chance is a gamble and the losses can be HUGE.

4 Reasons to Plan Ahead

With good planning, you can have real peace of mind and not gamble that these vitally important things will just work out. By planning ahead, you can avoid these 4 hardships:

1. Stress. You wouldn’t purposefully place extra stress on your spouse or your kids, would you? But a lack of planning on your part can do just that, leaving everyone to wonder, “What should we do? Who do we contact?” Good planning makes it easier on your loved ones by providing a clear plan.

2. Delay. Messy estate plans take longer to wrap up, causing the stress and extra work of an estate to drag on and on. Good planning helps things get wrapped up as quickly as possible.

3. Conflict. Lack of planning can lead to arguments in the family. Arguments between siblings, between the step-mom and step-kids, between nieces and nephews. Good planning will make it easier on the family, making less to fight about and less stress that can lead to conflict.

4. Loss of life savings. Lack of planning can result in the loss of your wealth — to the nursing home, to probate expenses, to taxes, to creditors or to wild spending by your heirs. Good planning will protect what you have worked so hard for.

If you’re ready to stop gambling on the future and get started planning, we encourage you to call us at 217-726-9200. We would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have and to set up an Initial Meeting.

Get comfortable — no high-pressure sales tactics here

I remember a phone call I had with a company who sells software to law firms. Their product seemed like something that might be helpful, and I was interested to learn more. I spent an hour on the phone with this guy and things looked good — until the salesman ruined it.

In the last 5 minutes he got really pushy. I told him to give us a couple weeks to think about how this would fit with our firm and then check back with us. But he wouldn’t let it go. I’m sure he was following some sales training tactics he had been taught. Those tactics completely backfired.

I don’t want to be pushed into something I’m not sure about. I like to have time to think things over before I spend money. And I think most everybody feels that same way.

Nobody wants to be pressured into buying something they don’t really want or need.

And that’s one thing you’ll find about Edwards Group if you get to know us — I’m not a very “good” salesman. And I don’t want to be.

Why?

Because I don’t really want to sell you anything. What I want to do is educate you about the ways we can help your family.

We do things a little differently around here. Not everyone is a good fit to work with our firm. That’s why we focus so much of our attention and effort on making sure you’re educated about your options and the way things work before any payment is ever exchanged.

Because I’m not a good salesman, you don’t have to worry about being put in an uncomfortable situation or being coerced into agreeing to something that isn’t a good fit for your family.

Because I’m not a good salesman, you can be sure that if you decide to work with us, we’ll form a great team who can work together to protect your family.

And because of that, you don’t have to worry about wasting your hard-earned money on a plan that doesn’t fit your family or was designed with another family in mind. Each of our plans are designed in collaboration with you, with the unique needs of your family as the guiding force in the process.

We understand that meeting with a lawyer can be intimidating. That’s another part of the reason we’ve designed our process the way we have. We don’t mind if you take a little time to get to know us first.

Our free, no pressure workshops are a great way to learn more about the planning needs your family may have. Attending a workshop is also a great way to get to know our firm better.

Not ready to talk to a person yet? We have put a lot of our time into developing a website that contains helpful information about all aspects of planning. You’ll find hundreds of articles about estate planning, trusts, Veterans benefits, Medicaid and Medicare on our website. Feel free to use the search button to quickly get to what you need.

No matter what, I hope that you will take the time to learn about ways to protect your family and your assets. The other side of our practice involves helping people who didn’t plan properly clean up the mess that’s left behind. My sincere desire would be for every family to have effective planning strategies in place and for no family to have to experience the effects of bad planning. Take a step in the right direction today by attending a workshop, giving us a call, or signing up for our weekly email newsletter.

in-home caregiver agreement

9 Ways Elder Law Attorneys Can Help With In-Home Care

Because of the popularity of this post, we created a handout to go with it. Download the handout now.

Navigating the challenges of in-home care can be a little easier with an experienced guide by your side.

Here are 9 ways an elder law attorney can help if you or your loved one has in-home care:

1. Set up caregiver agreements and in-home caregivers.

There are a lot of pitfalls to watch out for with in-home care. As elder law attorneys, we are familiar with all these pitfalls and help people plan for, and avoid, these pitfalls everyday. One of the best ways to do this is through the use of a caregiver agreement.

2. Analyze how long your funds will last.

Because elder law attorneys do this sort of thing all the time, we are very familiar with what aging costs, the resources available to fund it, and how best to use the tools available to get good care for as long as possible.

3. Set up trusts for protection.

Years ago trusts were only thought of for the very rich, but that is no longer the case. These days, trusts are one of the most powerful tools in our legal toolbox. They can be used to help qualify for VA or Medicaid benefits, which translates to more resources to pay for care for you or your loved ones.

4. Draft powers of attorney or revocable living trusts.

These powerful and necessary documents help guide decisions during a disability – that time when we need to take away your checkbook because of a stroke or dementia. These legal tools help preserve dignity and quality of life. They also help you to stay in control as long as possible.

5. Help you qualify for VA benefits.

VA planning can be complicated, but qualifying for benefits can really make it worthwhile. Many people don’t realize they are eligible for in-home benefits through the VA, or how to prepare legally and financially to get the maximum benefit as soon as possible. We help families every month to qualify for VA benefits. We know the ins and outs of getting you qualified for the benefits you earned in service to your country. Learn more about that here.

6. Give feedback on care options.

Like I’ve said before, many people go to friends for advice on these issues, but chances are your friends have only dealt with these issues once or twice. We work in this field everyday which means we are very familiar with, not only legal issues surrounding in-home care, but other issues like which facilities and companies are the best to work with — and we’d love to be your resource in situations like this.

7. Plan for potential nursing home costs.

While everyone wants to stay in their own home as long as possible, the reality these days is that most people will spend some time in a nursing facility. Planning ahead now can help you be prepared for later. Suddenly being surprised by the need for Medicaid is not the kind of surprise you want.

8. Understand tax implications.

Sometimes good planning for long term care requires rearranging your finances. With IRAs and annuities, those changes could result in income tax. Working with your accountant, we help you understand the tax impact of long term care planning options.

9. Preserve your wishes upon death.

Sometimes, as we age, our current reality can jeopardize any plans we might have for the future. Consulting with an experienced estate planning and elder law attorney can help maximize benefits now, providing good care during life, without jeopardizing your wishes for the future after you are gone.

Download the handout now

There is a lot to keep in mind when considering home healthcare, but we help guide people in these decisions everyday, weighing the pros and cons. Our Elder Care Advisors help families everyday to navigate this stressful time of life. If you need to speak to someone right away about your current situation, we would be more than happy to talk with you at 217-726-9200.

Keep learning: 7 Ways Elder Law Attorneys Can Help Even if Your Loved One is Already in a Nursing Facility

The Difference Between Medicaid and Medicare for Seniors

Medicaid and Medicare are two different programs (but with a similar name). Medicaid may help with nursing home costs, as we discussed in a previous case study. Medicare is health insurance that helps seniors pay for doctors, hospital stays and prescriptions. So, does Medicare help with nursing home costs?

Check out these facts:

  1. The maximum number of days Medicare will help is 100.
  2. After 20 days, Medicare requires you to pay a co-payment.
  3. Medicare only kicks in if you have a hospital stay prior to the nursing home stay.
  4. If you’re not able to make progress in rehab, then Medicare can stop paying prior to 100 days.
  5. After 200 days, or after rehab is done, Medicare will pay nothing toward your long term care. Medicare is still available to pay doctor visits, etc. but will not provide help for ongoing nursing home costs beyond the 100 days.

Read more about how we helped one family with nursing home asset protection HERE, and download the full Nursing Home Case Study.

Want to read more about the 100 day Medicare benefits? Check out this link.

trust

5 Reasons You Need a Trust

Trusts are a very valuable planning tool. When people think about estate planning, most people think about wills. While wills are the most basic/common tool for estate planning, trusts are an incredibly effective way to plan for things that wills can’t address. Trusts can be used to:

  1. Organize your assets so it’s easier on your family later. (Read about two types of asset organization mistakes here.)
  2. Set out instructions for when you’re not able to make your own decisions — either upon disability (like a stroke) or death.
  3. Keep things private. (All wills are public record.)
  4. Protect assets from creditors, divorces, kids who don’t know how to manage money and even future lawsuits you can’t anticipate (like car accidents).
  5. Reallocate assets to maximize long-term care benefits such as Medicaid or VA benefits.

If you’re ready to get started protecting what you’ve worked so hard for, call us at 217-726-9200 to schedule an initial appointment with one of our attorneys. If you want to learn more without any obligation, our free workshops are a great way to learn about effective planning for every stage of life while finding out why our approach is so unique and effective. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to RSVP.

estate planning quiz

Estate Planning Quiz: 8 Questions to Help You Know Where You Stand

The following quiz helps you identify weak spots in your estate planning. For many people an estate plan just means a will, but oftentimes that is not enough to accomplish the goals you have or to protect your loved ones. Honestly answering these 8 questions will help you know if your plan needs more work.

  1. How old is your will? (Changing life circumstances, such as marriages, divorces, etc. can impact old wills.)
  2. Who would manage your finances if you had a stroke?
  3. Is your legal and financial information organized and easy to find?
  4. Do you know whether your estate would avoid probate court? (A time-consuming and expensive process.)
  5. Do you know whether you will owe estate taxes?
  6. If you have an IRA or Annuity, do you know when (or if) your family will have to pay taxes on it?
  7. If something happened to you tomorrow, would your family know what to do?
  8. Are your loved ones (kids, grandkids, etc.) as good with money as you are?

If you don’t know the answers to some of these questions, it’s time to learn more about effective estate planning.

Here are some next action steps to take:

  • Explore our website. Our website is here to be an educational resource to anyone who wants to learn more about effective estate planning. We are passionate about helping people plan because we see the good that can come of it when it’s done properly, and, unfortunately, we see everyday the heartbreak that ineffective (or no) planning can cause.
  • Sign up for our e-newsletter. Our bi-weekly newsletter aims to help people learn more about planning and learn more about Edwards Group. Through this weekly email we share insights and stories about proper planning and why it’s so important. We also know that trust is vital in forming a strong relationship with our clients, so we help people get to know us by sharing things like vacation pics from David’s latest family trip.
  • Attend a free workshop. Education is a core foundation of Edwards Group, so in addition to our website and e-newsletter, attending a free workshop is another great way to learn more about effective planning. Our current workshop is Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning & Peace of Mind.
  • Get started today. If you’re ready to jump right in and get started, all you have to do is call us and schedule an Initial Meeting with an attorney. At the Initial Meeting, we will review your concerns and goals, then the attorney will help you understand the unique risks facing your family. Call 217-726-9200 and one of our team members will happy to help you get started.
  • Hope things will just work out. This is, frankly, the easiest thing to do, and sadly, the worst thing you can do for your family. Estate plans aren’t really about you and what happens when you die. They are about what type of life your family will have after you’re gone. Procrastination is the greatest threat to protecting your family. We have designed our process to make it as easy as possible for people to take the next step, but we can’t pick up the phone for you… If the unthinkable happens, will your lack of planning make things harder on your family?

As always, we’re just a phone call away. If you’re unsure of what your next step should be, or even if you need a next step, we’d be happy to chat with you on the phone. Just give us a call at 217-726-9200. We are passionate about helping families just like yours, and it is all we do everyday.

“You’re NOT the boss of me!!”

We all have control issues. When my son was 2-years-old we experienced our share of yelling, “NO!!” and throwing full tantrums on the floor. Toddlers are just beginning to understand how they can exert control on the world around them, which makes for an interesting family life for a while. But if you think about it, we all like to be in control – AT ANY AGE. And when someone tries to tell us what to do or tries to take away our freedom, many of us still pitch fits. (Even if we no longer throw ourselves to the ground!)

The same is true for seniors who have spent decades making their own decisions and living their own life, then suddenly loss of control seems to be everywhere – loss of health, loss of strength, loss of peers, loss of home, loss of self. The constant feeling of loss can really take its toll.

STAY IN CONTROL

One of the biggest concerns we hear about from clients is staying in control. Not coincidentally, staying in control is one of the main goals we strive for when designing an estate plan. I know you want to stay in control, so our first planning steps are aimed at keeping you in control. Tools like Powers of Attorney, Wills, Revocable Living Trusts – they all help keep you in control. Using tools like these will help you get to spend the money, invest the money, give away the money, donate the money or whatever you want to do with the money – just like you did before your estate plan. Many times, these tools can actually help you stay in control LONGER than you would without them.

4 Things to Remember About Control
  1. You can do a lot of good planning without giving up ANY control now.
  2. Even when you have to give up some control, it may be less than you think.
  3. Depending on your goals, you may have to give up a little control. Are you willing to give up some control if that’s what it takes to meet your goals?
  4. Control issues don’t stop at your death. Instead, it becomes which of your kids are in control. Your planning (or lack of planning) will either add to or lessen the potential conflict once you’re gone.

By “staying in control” and not doing any planning, you may actually be undermining your desire to stay in control. Our unique process thoroughly examines all the unique aspects of your situation to determine what steps will best protect you, your family and everything you’ve worked so hard for.

To get started planning, give us a call at 217-726-9200 and schedule an Initial Meeting.

life care planning

8 Keys to Effective Long-Term Care Planning

Long-term Care Planning is one of the biggest issues facing aging adults today. With experts projecting that nearly 70% of all individuals needing long-term care at some point in their life, the issue cannot be ignored. And yet, many surveys and statistics are showing that people are doing just that. Without proper planning, the need for long-term care can be the single greatest crisis that an aging person will face in their lifetime. (Source: National Care Planning Council)

Keys to Effective Long-term Care Planning

  1. Plan Ahead. The longer you wait to plan, the less options will be available. Financial options such as long-term care insurance may become unavailable or too expensive. Legal options such as irrevocable trusts or gifting strategies will not be as effective if they are implemented later in life. The earlier you plan, the better. Read about the 5 life stage of planning here.
  2. Maximize Your Benefits. Get legal advice to maximize available benefits such as Veterans benefits or Medicaid. Many families are unaware of the possible benefits they could legally receive.
  3. Veterans, Don’t Miss Out. Many Veterans miss out on VA benefits they qualify for and earned through their service to our country. Widows may qualify for benefits as well. So, even if the Veteran is deceased, his widow should get advice from a qualified professional on possible Veterans benefits available to her.
  4. It’s Never Too Late to Plan. Even if someone is already in a nursing home, there still may be legal strategies to maximize benefits.
  5. Don’t Rely on “Free” Advice. Some families are told informally by their nursing facility or social worker to just spend down all the assets before seeking other benefits. By seeking the advice of an experienced professional who works with these issues everyday, families may discover other planning options.
  6. Long-term Care Insurance Gives You the Best (and most) Options. If you qualify, and can afford, long-term care insurance, then that is often the best strategy. Long-term care insurance gives the most options for protecting assets, staying at home, and having more free choice as to which facility you can enter when the time comes. Read “Should I buy long-term care insurance?” here.
  7. Beware of Jointly Owned Property. If you own property jointly with others (siblings, parents, friends) then their lack of long-term planning could impact you. If they need care, the property may end up with a lien and then you may be forced to pay off the lien or sell the property.
  8. Watch Out for Gifting Without a Master Plan. Suppose someone is unconcerned about long-term care, but decides to give away large gifts to their children. Later, if care is needed, those gifts may cause a problem when applying for Medicaid benefits.

Are you putting off long-term care planning? If so, you’re putting yourself and your family at great risk of financial and emotional hardship. If you’d like our help in creating a long-term care plan give us a call at 217-726-9200! If you already have a loved one in a nursing home, we can help you identify areas in which you may be missing benefits that can help ease the burden of paying for a nursing home. Our Elder Care Advisors help families everyday with this stressful time of life.

Who do you call for advice on aging?

When your family hits a situation where mom, dad, grandma or grandpa can’t stay at home anymore, where do you get your advice? What if a loved one is struggling with health issues that you don’t really understand?

Many people turn to friends, neighbors or relatives who’ve dealt with it once before. Support from friends is always needed in difficult situations like this, but you may also greatly benefit from professional advice and guidance from those who understand the ins and outs of what you’re dealing with.

Edwards Group deals with the issues of aging every day, and we help guide people through the difficult process. There are many issues to consider – what type of care, which facility, how to pay for it, which legal documents you need, asset transfers, how to protect the healthy spouse still at home, and dealing with complicated benefit applications. Our elder care advisors are equipped and experienced in helping families through just about any issue they face.

There are two types of benefits in particular that can be helpful in paying for care that may be needed as a loved one ages:

 

1. VETERANS BENEFITS

Wartime veterans or their widows may qualify for benefits from the VA to help pay for care as they age. This benefit may be available to pay for in-home care, assisted living, or a nursing home.

In order to qualify for the maximum benefit, legal planning may be needed. We work with families regularly to help prepare them to qualify for the maximum benefit. A married veteran may qualify for over $2,000 per month in benefits. A widow of a veteran may qualify for over $1,100 per month in benefits.

The VA process can be complicated. Let us help your family understand the potential benefits and what planning may be needed before your application is filed.

2. MEDICAID BENEFITS

When a loved one needs nursing home care, that is one of the most stressful things a family faces. We help families every day deal with this difficult issue.

One of the biggest concerns is often “how do we pay for it?” Nursing homes are expensive, often $5,000 per month or more. For many families, that cost will eat up their savings within a short time. Medicaid benefits are one option that can be used to pay for care and protect some of your wealth. (70% of nursing home residents in the U. S. rely on Medicaid to pay their bill each month.)

If your family is faced with nursing home care and are paying out of pocket, we may be able to help. We have many legal planning tools available to maximize benefits and protect the family’s wealth, while still getting good care for the loved one. Some families are surprised that we may be able to get a loved one to qualify for Medicaid benefits sooner than expected while protecting assets in the process. (While you can apply for Medicaid benefits on your own, we don’t recommend it. Here’s why.)

CLICK HERE FOR CASE STUDY

HOW WE HELP FAMILIES FACING LONG-TERM CARE QUESTIONS

  1. We want to get families all the benefits they are entitled to. More benefits leads to more resources, and that means better care for your parent or loved one.
  2. Most parents want to leave something to their kids and grandkids. Our planning helps make sure that those who matter most to you will be taken care of when you’re gone.
  3. No parent ever dreams of using up all their savings on a nursing home stay, but it happens fast. We have legal tools and resources to help preserve assets and find other ways to fund long-term care.
  4. Parents never want to be a burden to their children. Good planning relieves your children of the stress that comes from scrambling to figure out how to pay for care you might need and the huge amount of paperwork that comes with that crisis.
  5. Planning like this isn’t greedy. It’s wise — kind of like minimizing income taxes every year through the use of an accountant. You’ve worked hard all your life. Why not protect as much as the law allows?

Chances for good planning disappear with time. The sooner you contact us, the more we can do to help. As elder law attorneys, our main goals are to:

  • Help carry out the wishes of the client.
  • Help clients access all available resources.

If you have a loved one facing changes in their living arrangements, please contact us to discuss your options. Our staff is specially trained in Medicaid and VA Benefits, both of which are important when it comes to long-term care planning.

New Medicaid laws coming: Joshua Becker quoted in State-Journal Register today

On the front page of the Springfield State-Journal Register this morning, there is an article about the new Medicaid law changes and how they will impact families.  Joshua was quoted several times in the article and a big illustration summary of the law, states at the bottom “Source:  Joshua Becker of Edwards Group LLC”.  The reporter, Dean Olsen, came out to our office earlier this week to talk to him about the new law.

Click here to read the SJ-R article quoting Joshua Becker.