Effective estate planning means developing a plan that will achieve your goals as the estate owner while you’re alive and after your death. It’s an ongoing process that involves the creation, conservation, and distribution of property.
An estate plan can be as simple as having a will and life insurance, or it could use trusts, business continuation plans, charitable arrangements, and other elements.
Our services include:
- Wills, complex and simple
- Revocable Living Trusts
- Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts
- Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts
- Trusts for Minor Children
- Special Needs Trusts (for the disabled)
- Charitable Trusts and Foundations
- Insurance Trusts
- Qualified Sub-Chapter S and Electing Small Business Trusts
- GRATs, QPRTs, and other split interest trusts
- Pet Trusts
- Generation-Skipping Transfer Taxes
- Business Succession Planning
- Family Farm Planning
- Limited Liability Companies and Partnerships
- Powers of Attorney
- Advanced Directives for Health Care
While long-term nursing home care is expensive, Medicaid can help cover these costs if you qualify. Part of this qualification may hinge upon developing a proper estate plan,including a properly drafted Special Needs Trust or Supplemental Needs Trust, which can help you meet the requisite asset limits. Even if you are already in a nursing home, The Law Office of Keith R. Miles, LLC can help.
A single error in Medicaid planning can prove to be incredibly costly. If you fail to qualify, you may be forced to sell your home or use other hard-earned assets to cover the entire cost of your nursing home care. Moreover, the government can even seek reimbursement for any Medicaid benefits you received in error and pursue Medicaid Estate Recovery after death. Rest assured we will take the time to inform you of your options, answer your questions and help you take careful and proactive steps toward obtaining Medicaid benefits.
While Medicaid planning and related elder law matters are complex and present many challenges, we have the significant experience and in-depth knowledge needed to overcome those obstacles. Why lose assets and money? Why deplete your estate when there are legal methods available to allow Medicaid to cover some of the costs of your nursing home care?
The following steps offer a general guideline of what transpires during probate proceedings and estate administration, but the exact rules and details may differ from state to state.
- File as an Executor
To be appointed executor or personal representative of an estate, file a petition at the probate court in the county where your loved one was living before they died. If they died without a will (intestate), eligible heirs must petition to be appointed “administrator” of the estate and the court will determine who will serve in this role.
- Notify Creditors, Beneficiaries and Heirs of Probate
Each state has its own laws governing notification of parties who hold an interest in a person’s estate and the amount of time they have to file a claim against it. This notification may include a published obituary in the local newspaper and/or directly notifying interested parties by mail.
- Marshal, or Collect, the Assets
This means that you must find out everything the deceased owned, create an inventory and file it with the court. It’s generally best to start this task early on and consolidate all the estate funds as much as possible.
- Pay Bills
Unfortunately, just because a loved one passes away doesn’t mean their bills stop coming. Some, like utility bills, storage fees to secure belongings and mortgage payments, are considered administrative expenses. These accounts must be kept current throughout the probate process. If you use any of your own money to pay these expenses, be sure to keep meticulous records. You may be able to use estate assets for reimbursement in some cases. Other liabilities like medical bills and taxes are considered final bills. These can only be paid once probate has concluded, and there is a particular order in which creditors are entitled to repayment.
- File Tax Returns
You must also file a final individual income tax return for the deceased person by tax day of the year following their death. If the estate earns income (through interest or dividends, for example) during the administration process, it will have to obtain its own tax identification number to keep track of the earnings and possible tax consequences. Most estates do not need to file federal estate tax returns, but if one is needed, it must be filed and paid within nine months of the date of death.
- Distribute Property to Creditors, Heirs and Legatees
Generally, executors do not pay out all the estate assets until the period runs out for creditors to make claims, which can be as long as a year after the date of death. However, once you understand the estate and have processed and paid any debts and taxes, you can distribute most of the assets, retaining a reserve for unanticipated claims and the costs of closing out the estate.
- File a Final Account
The executor or administrator must file a detailed account with the probate court listing all tax filings and payments, payments to creditors, and distributions of property and assets. Once the court approves this final account, you can distribute remaining funds in the closing reserve and finish your work.