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Is my POA good enough?

We recently met with a family whose mother had entered the nursing home. The monthly cost for her nursing home care would be approximately $11,300. The family was terrified that their father would lose a large portion of his assets. 

We were able to explain that in Pennsylvania we are able to protect 100% of the assets for the community spouse so that his assets don’t get spent down to low levels under the Medicaid rules. The family was ecstatic, but we did have one hurdle to overcome.

In the first meeting I informed the family that the power of attorney that their family attorney drafted was not going to work, and that we had to redo the document. The family was perplexed – and a little annoyed – because they had the power of attorney done recently, and they had known the attorney for a long time. I explained that, although the attorney was very good, his power of attorney specifically limited the ability to do the type of planning that we needed to. 

In fact, all of the planning was subject to the limitation that nothing can be done in excess of the annual federal gift tax exclusion amount. This is a tax phrase that is used to govern the amount of gifts that can be made in a year tax fee to a family, but many attorneys limit the ability to do gifting in a power of attorney only up to that amount. The document even specifically applied that limit to spouses also. With this limitation in the document, we would not have been able to assist the family to the extent we would have liked.

However, the family was very lucky that the wife still had capacity, and we were able to have her do a new power of attorney, and ultimately were able to protect the assets for the husband, the community spouse. We recently received approval on this case, and the family was obviously quite happy.

To protect your assets in this situation, it is essential that your powers of attorney are prepared by somebody who does asset protection and Medicaid planning, as opposed to a traditional estate planning attorney.  If you have questions about this or anything else estate planning related just click here and fill out our simple “Contact Us” form, and we’ll be in touch.

Jeffrey Bellomo

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How do I pick a guardian for my children?

One of the hardest things that parents have to do is decide who will raise their children if they are no longer alive. Most people don’t think about that possibility, and deciding who is a daunting task.  

We often are asked by clients who they should pick as the guardians for their children. We think that is not a legal decision, but a family decision that is far beyond our pay grade. Parents often ask what is normal. There is no “normal”. When you are deciding who is going to raise your children, “normal” is what is right for you.

As a general rule, you want to pick somebody who shares your values, morals, ethics, and, if important to you, your religion. Keeping children in the same school district may be an important consideration.  All of these factors help in determining who the child should be with. You do not have to pick a close relative just because they are a close relative. Frequently people pick, for example, a sibling simply because of the relationship, but have all kinds of reasons why they wouldn’t pick the sibling except for the relationship. I recently had a case where the parents were talking about how her sister is horrible with money, they don’t like how she raises her kids, and they questioned a lot of her personal decisions.  Yet, they named her as the guardian of their children only because of the fact that she was a sibling.

Parents often say they would like to name a sister and her husband. However, if the sister passed away, are the parents okay if her husband raises their children along with his children, and any potential new spouse and her children. Usually the answer is no, I guess I just want my sibling. The same is true if the two named people get divorced – who would be the guardian? It’s also a great idea to name a backup in case something happens to the person you’ve named, to avoid the court system after your death if your named guardian can’t do it. Your children will not need the added trauma of a court battle to decide who will raise them at such a traumatic time.  

Pick people who you trust and who share your vision of life and goals to ensure your children will continue to be raised the way you want in the event of your death.

If you want to get started on the estate planning process for your family we offer a free educational workshop and would love to have you in the room.  Just click here to save a spot for the day and time that works best for you. 

Jeffrey Bellomo

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