Checklist of Elder Law Estate Planning Concerns

Elder law estate planning seeks to accomplish the following goals: (1) transfer assets to your beneficiaries with the least amount of taxes and legal fees possible; (2) keep assets in the bloodline for grandchildren and protect the inheritance from your children's divorces, lawsuits and creditors; and (3) protect your assets from long-term care costs.

Avoid probate. Probate is a court proceeding which occurs when wills are used. Instead of wills, you may create a trust to avoid probate. Trusts also keep your affairs private, and often save time, money, and potential conflict among family members.

Plan for long-term care costs. If you don't have long-term care insurance for financial or medical reasons, then the next best plan is to create a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT), which protects assets that have been in the trust for five years from going to long-term care cost.

Determine who will manage your affairs on death or disability. Select the trustee of your trust, the executor of your will, your power of attorney and health care proxy. You control your future, and minimize or eliminate government interference in the event of death or disability.

Protect assets meant for your beneficiaries. You may create an Inheritance Protection Trust for your children to keep assets in your own bloodline for your grandchildren and to protect assets from your children's divorces and even creditors.

Limit your beneficiaries' access to their inheritances. Some heirs are too immature, irresponsible, or otherwise unsuited to receive an inheritance outright. With trusts, you may direct the distribution at certain ages rather than a lump sum, or as a stream of income, with or without access to principal. You may choose one or more trustees to be in charge.

Protect your plan from remarriage situations. Trusts are often used to make sure your own children receive their share of an inheritance if you die instead of all going your new spouse.

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