Can a Power of Attorney Agent Do Anything They Want?

A generic power of attorney document, such as those provided by online forms that are easily downloaded and filled out, may not contain the necessary limitations that you intended. This means that by default, your power of attorney agent may have broad power over your financial or medical decisions. Even in these broad interpretations of generic documents, however, there are a few things that an agent cannot do.

One of the primary guidelines for a power of attorney agent is that they must act in the best interests of the principal or the person who created that document. There are three primary things that an agent cannot do. These include:

  • Transferring or changing the power of attorney to someone else, although the agent does have the ability to decline this appointment at any time.
  • Violate their fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the principal who created this power of attorney document.
  • Make decisions on behalf of the power of attorney document creator after that person has passed away. The only exception to this are cases where the principal has also named that agent as the executor of the will or when the principal dies without a will and the agent becomes the administrator of their estate.       

Even though there are some basic protections with a power of attorney document that prevent an agent from doing anything they want, selecting this person to serve as your agent should not be a rushed decision. Think carefully about who you trust to serve in this role. Contact our office for help with a Michigan power of attorney document.

What Are the Key Components of a Trust?

A trust is an estate planning tool that comes in many different varieties, all designed to help you accomplish various aspects of your estate plan. A trust needs to have a few crucial elements in order to accomplish these goals and to help you with the management of your estate planning intentions.

Several of the most important terms associated with a trust include:

  • A beneficiary which is a party like an heir who receives some type of advantage or benefit from the trust.
  • A trustee which is the organization or the individual who is appointed formally in the trust to administer the assets or the trust itself. Trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to the beneficiaries of a trust.
  • Grantor. You also might hear this person referred to as a settler. This is the individual who creates the trust and has the legal ability to transfer property into it.
  • Property. Property refers to any of the assets that are held inside the trust, such as real estate, automobiles, artwork, jewelry and securities.

There are several different common types of trusts including living trusts, irrevocable trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts and charitable remainder trusts.

If you are curious about whether any of these might be appropriate for addressing your estate planning needs, you should think carefully about your goals and what you hope to accomplish in the creation of the trust and then share these during a meeting with your estate planning lawyer. At our elder law and estate planning law office, we regularly help clients who need support in managing their documents and strategies for the future.



Is It My Responsibility to Pay Nursing Home Bills After a Loved One Passes Away?

The loss of a loved one can represent a significant departure from what feels like the course of normal life. Suddenly, there are probate issues to consider and end of life arrangements to address.

It can be very difficult to keep track of all of the details and keep things moving forward when you are also coping with grief. If your loved one passed away in a Michigan nursing home, this can make it hard to determine what issues are tied to the estate.

Getting bills from a nursing home or other medical organization can add to this stress and can make things confusing for friends and family members who are trying to help. There are two major types of financial responsibility.

The first is the personal responsibility where you would need to pay from your own funds on behalf of the deceased party who owed money to the nursing home. You only have a personal responsibility to do this if you signed a personal guarantee with the facility. In other cases, children are not responsible for their parents’ medical bills or other bills.

You could, however, be required to pay these bills from your mother’s own funds, such as any assets that were associated with the estate. This is one reason why many family members in this situation choose to work directly with a probate administration attorney to verify that all of the important details and primary concerns have been properly addressed.

When thinking about putting a loved one into a nursing home, this might raise questions and concerns on your own end about how you’ve planned to budget for long term care costs. You can create a long-term care plan with a goal of qualifying for Medicaid or other goals by working directly with an estate planning and elder lawyer. Contact Thumb of Michigan elder lawyers to discuss your long term care plan.

Did You Know Medicare Doesn’t Cover Most Long Term Care?

If you are planning ahead for the future of your older years and are assuming that Medicare might pick up the tab, if and when you need a nursing home, that’s not always the case. One of the biggest potential costs in your personal retirement could be the need for the expense for long term care.

In 2017, according to the research completed and shared in the Genworth Cost of Care Study, a private room in a nursing home cost over $97,000 on average across the country.

A room in an assisted living facility costs more than $45,000 and having a home health aide come to your personal home for 44 hours of care per week is nearly $50,000. Medicare provides for certain services when it comes to nursing, but not for custodial care which is often common with long term care needs.

Custodial care includes activities of daily living, such as dressing and bathing. Using a combination of a life insurance policy and long term care policy or covering these costs on your own is one way to ensure that you have money set aside to pay for long term care.

Many people are not in a financial situation to be able to afford time in a nursing home or even the support of a home health aide. Important planning in advance needs to be completed so that you can be clear about your financial picture and understand whether or not you might qualify for other options, such as Medicaid. Schedule a consultation with an elder lawyer to learn more and to set up a plan to protect you into the future.


What Does It Mean to Say You are Involved in Life Care Planning?

It can be very complicated to get older and be concerned about the health care expenses associated with a medical need. If you have an advanced medical concern, you will likely need some form of long term care.

The long term care system in the United States is a very complicated system of care facilities, Medicare, care providers, long term care insurance, doctor’s appointments, mental health and legal issues, Medicaid, nutrition and more. It can be very difficult to take this complex system and break it down into meaningful tasks, which is why the support of a life care planning lawyer in MI can be beneficial.

Looking to someone to help you sort through these complex issues and create a plan for just in case can be very helpful.

Thinking about every possible challenge that could emerge from chronic illness or disability of an elderly loved one should prompt you to schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer to talk through your options.

Although it is certainly hoped that you never need to trigger or rely on these options, knowing that these questions have already been thought through will make things much easier for you and for your loved ones if something does happen to you.

The attorneys at our elder law offices are here to guide you through this process and help answer your questions. If you need support thinking about your life care plan, your estate planning documents, qualifying for Medicaid, or other questions around the elder care process, now is a good time to take advantage of a consultation so we can map out what you need.


Creating an Elder Law Plan to Avoid Exploitation

Unfortunately, the elderly are often targeted for financial exploitation schemes due to their substantial savings and the perception that some of them may be suffering from advanced cognitive issues. In these circumstances, it is best to be proactive by establishing an elder law and estate care plan that can assist you with minimizing the possibility of fraud.

The financial exploitation of seniors in America is significant problem and plenty of instances go unreported. Many elder law attorneys have seen how these issues have unfolded and have helped those impacted and family members’ attempt to recover. Some of the statistics around elder exploitation include the fact that 61% of victims are female, the average victim is 79 years old, and over 40% live alone.

Having an established estate plan can help to ensure that only trusted and qualified parties are appointed to make decisions or craft or sign documents on behalf of a loved one. While many family caregivers might have the best of intentions, it is very important to think carefully about these issues and to determine what is most important to you as you age so that you can avoid these common problems. Creating your documents now and appointing trusting loved ones can go a long way towards avoiding exploitation.

It’s equally important to think about how your estate and elder law documents should be drafted in advance of older age in the event you were to suffer from cognitive difficulties. In order for documents to be classified as legally valid, they should be drafted when you are of sound mind.

Schedule a consultation with a dedicated elder lawyer to get your questions answered.



It’s Special Needs Law Month

Do you have a loved one with special needs who you would like to provide for well into the future?

October is Special Needs Law Month, highlighting the importance of scheduling a consultation with a trusted elder attorney. There are many different legal needs associated with someone who has special needs concerns, particularly when it comes to remaining eligible for government benefits. For these government benefit programs like SSI or Medicaid, asset and income restrictions must be met by the applicant in order to continue receiving these important benefits.

Giving outright gifts of cash or other kinds of assets to a person with special needs could accidentally disqualify them from these important and crucial support systems. This is why it is often recommended to create a special needs trust with the help of an elder lawyer.

A special needs trust is one that is created using the money of the person who has the disability or having another person use their money to establish the trust for the benefit of the person with disability. These are known as first party special needs trust and third party special needs trust.

One of the most important differences between these two kinds of trusts is that a first party special needs trust, i.e. the one that is created with information from the party with special needs to benefit themselves and a third party trust is that the first party trust has a Medicaid payback provision whereas a third party trust does not.

If you intend to leave behind an inheritance for a person with a disability, it is critical that you understand this distinction and schedule a consultation with a trusted elder law attorney in your area. Our MI special needs law estate planners can assist you.


Living Will or a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney: What Do I Need?

Most people recognize that their estate plan at a minimum must include a last will and testament but there are a few other documents that you should consider putting in place to ensure that your wishes are known and protected in the event this is needed. These documents are known as a living will and a durable health care power of attorney.

Both a living will and a durable health care power of attorney enable you to appoint someone else to make medical decisions on your behalf. Furthermore, for both of these documents you must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind.

The differences between these two documents, however, is that a living relates specifically to deathbed concerns and is used to declare your desire to use or not use life prolonging measures if there is no hope of recovery. A durable healthcare power of attorney, however, addresses all different health care decisions that might need to be made in the event that you are incapable of making them.

This document will only last for the time period in which you are incapable of making these decisions for your health. It is possible and likely recommended to have both a living will and healthcare power of attorney drafted and available to your appointed agents.

You should always choose someone that you trust as your healthcare power of attorney agent because you want to have peace of mind that this person will make the decisions that you have articulated to them or in these documents. To learn more about creating your own power of attorney, schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer in Cass City, MI.      


What Are Activities of Daily Living? 

For the purposes of going into a nursing home or qualifying for other programs that would help you to pay for your long term care expenses, it is important to understand activities of daily living. There are six primary activities of daily living: bathing, toileting, dressing, eating, continence, and transferring or moving from one place to another.

These measures are used to determine a senior’s overall ability to function independently. The inability to perform ADLs and in particular, multiple ADLs, is a strong indicator of the need for a more involved level of care. Long term care facilities as well as in-home care providers will assess these ADLs to determine the appropriate level of care required for the patient.

A person who is incapable of handling a few ADLs on their own might still be able to live at home and rely on the support of family and friends. However, if a person becomes unable to perform more than two activities of daily living, a transition to a long term care facility might be necessary.

A physician can assist with determining how the activities of daily living will affect the senior’s overall independence and ability to live on their own. If your family is confronting the difficult situation of recognizing that a loved one might need more support than is currently available at home, you might need to speak with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to assist you with estate planning to ensure that you have thought about your long term care plan.


A Gifting Guide for 2020 With Tax Implications

Gifting assets can have big benefits in terms of income taxes and estate taxes for both the person receiving the gifts as well as the person making the gifts. In 2020, you are eligible to gift up to $15,000 per calendar year to any number of individual people without having to pay a gift tax or filing a gift tax return.

This means that married couples are eligible to give up to $30,000 to each donor recipient gift tax free. You might also hear this referred to as the annual exclusion amount. Gifts to an individual that go beyond the annual exclusion amount and are not related to medical expenses or tuition paid on the recipient’s behalf will reduce the donor’s remaining estate tax and lifetime gift tax exemption amount.

Gifts during your life, beyond the annual exclusion amount not only reduce your lifetime gift tax exemption but also negatively influence your estate tax exemption.

It is important when making gifts to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help advise you about the best situation tax wise as it relates to your decision to gift and the recipient’s ability to receive it with minimal or no tax consequences.

One other issue to think about is whether this could impact your Medicaid strategy. Gifts made could impact you in terms of Medicaid penalties, so make sure you talk to a lawyer about this.

How you pass on assets has important implications for your own estate and tax planning and for your beneficiaries. If you’re stuck on next steps and how to make sure that your plan during life and beyond is aligned with your needs, our Michigan estate and elder law planning firm is here to support you.