San Jose Estate Planning

Most people know that they should have some type of an estate plan in place, but they just haven’t gotten around to it yet.  Maybe they feel healthy (and lucky!), or maybe they just don’t want to face the decisions that need to be made in consideration of someday reaching the end of their life.  But it isn’t just about what happens to your assets after your death.  Good estate planning encompasses how decisions will be made if a person becomes incapacitated, and elder law planning takes things a step further to look at how your assets can be protected in the event that you need to move to a long-term care facility.

“It’s not estate improvising;  it’s estate planning.”

If you succeed in reaching the ripe old age of 65, the odds are slightly greater than 50% that you’ll spend some time in a long-term care facility.  The average length of stay in a long-term care facility is about two and a half years, and the cost of care in our area is about $8,500 per month.  That’s a little over $100,000 per year, and over $250,000 if your length of stay there matches the national average.  Some people, however, will end up in the nursing home for 5 years, 10 years, or even longer.  If you’re telling yourself, “I’ll never go to a nursing home,” your thoughts are similar to about 99% of the population.  Nobody wants to end up in a nursing home, but the unfortunate statistics show that many of those people were wrong and they actually do end up spending a portion of their lives in a long-term care facility.

But planning isn’t just to protect against the high cost of long-term care.  It also involves the selection of guardians for young children, powers of attorney for others to make your decisions when you’re incapacitated, the avoidance of probate costs, and the establishment of trust rules for the delayed distribution of assets to children or grandchildren.  A young man recently told me that he and his wife didn’t need a trust because they didn’t own a home.  He said that the only real asset they had for their two young children was $600,000 in life insurance.  Without establishing a trust with rules for the distribution of the funds, you have to ask if the children will be responsible enough to properly benefit from each receiving $300,000 at the age of 18.  Will they have any of the money left by the time they reach 19?  The parents are paying for the life insurance for the benefit of their children, but without proper planning, will the children really get the full benefit that the parents had hoped for?

And how do you handle things for your spouse?  If one of you moves to a nursing home, the other is referred to as a “community spouse” because they remain in the community.  If you should pass away, your spouse is then referred to as the “surviving spouse.”  Whether you’ve been married for 5, 10, or 15 years, or you’re in that lucky group that has been happily married for 40, 50, or even 60 years, you need to plan for how either spouse would continue on if he or she were to become a community spouse or a surviving spouse.  Good planning can make a substantial difference in the quality of life of the spouse who remains behind.

A great myth about Medi-Cal is that you can’t qualify unless you have no money at all.  That’s often the case if you don’t plan, but proper planning can protect a significant portion of your assets for the benefit of your spouse and your family.  Learn what can be done.

If you don’t yet have an estate plan, you should consult a knowledgeable attorney.  If you have a plan, but haven’t looked at it for 5, 10, or 20 years, I suggest that you pull it out, take a good look at it, and see whether it still accurately reflects your wishes.  If your plan was prepared without looking towards the potential need to have Medi-Cal pay for your long-term care, then your durable power of attorney may actually hamper the Medi-Cal planning efforts that need to be taken to protect your assets.  Be proactive.  As Gen. George S. Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”  Don’t let yourself delay to that point where the lack of a plan hurts you and your family.

San Jose Estate Planning – Estate Planning Essential During Multiple Stages in Life

Although some consider estate planning something that happens in the later stages of life for an individual, it’s actually best to consult and plan at regular intervals throughout life in order to ensure success.

Far more than simply drafting a will, estate planning encompasses planning for taxes, medical planning and business planning. It takes an experienced estate planner to walk you through the right decision-making stages.

Setting up kids’ college funds, career planning, after the birth of a child, contemplating future retirement, prior to marriage, after a divorce are all good milestones to seek the help of a trusted estate planning attorney.

“Clients frequently come in with an estate plan that is 15 or 20 years old and totally out of date because people have died and the value of their estate has changed,” said Jim Ward. “If the person would have died with the out-dated plan, they would not have achieved their intended outcome.”

In preparation for a meeting with an estate planning attorney, its advised to take an inventory of your current assets and intentions for estate planning.

The following are some basic estate planning questions to think about before you see an estate planning attorney:

*What is the approximate value of my assets?

*Which assets are a part of my estate?

*If I were to become incapacitated, who would I choose to manage these assets and make decisions concerning my care?

*If I were to die, who would best handle my assets for the benefit of my loved ones?

*If something were to happen to me, who would I choose to take care of my children?

Through the estate planning process, an individual is given the choice to decide how his assets will be managed in order to ensure the future of one’s spouse or children, and provide for care in the latter years of one’s life.

Personal care can also be predetermined – to some extent – if health care decisions become necessary.

Regardless of assets and income, estate planning is appropriate. There should be someone who is in charge of managing assets and making decisions for you. This person should also be able to make any medical decisions with your physician.

In the case that the estate is large, an individual may wish to explore how to preserve his assets for loved ones, as well as look at ways to reduce or postpone estate taxes.

The Law Offices of James A. Ward can help you at any stage of life, with office locations in San Jose and Gilroy, Mr. Ward covers nearly every corner of Santa Clara County. Contact us today so that we can discuss your unique situation and goals.

San Jose Elder Law Attorney Jim Ward Comments on Alzheimer’s Prevention

Green Tea May Hold Benefits for Alzheimer’s Prevention

The neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer’s, affects one in three individuals over the age of 65, and is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

The University of Michigan is working on a project that’s garnered support from the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative, the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health. Information released from the study shows that green tea may prevent damage to proteins in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Although this was not the first study done on the prevention of Alzheimer’s that specifically focuses on metal-associated amyloids, it’s the first multi-disciplinary approach. The next step is for the team to focus on altering the molecule so that scientists can test it on a typical Alzheimer’s plaque formation to see if the antioxidant inhibits plaque growth under lab conditions.

An extract found in the tea, called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant, appears to prevent damage to proteins in the brain associated with the disease.

“There’s a lot of encouraging research being done in many parts of the world, but we’re not able to stop or reverse the disease yet,” said Jim Ward of the Law Offices of James A. Ward. “I deal with a lot of families that have a relative that’s suffering from some level of Alzheimer’s. Those situations are difficult.”

Alzheimer’s is the one cause of death in the United States currently that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed down. It’s estimated that more than 15 million people in the U.S. are caring for a family member or another loved one with Alzheimer’s — or dementia — usually without pay.

If you have a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia and are feeling the weight of the care or the costs associated, you may want to see if your loved one qualifies for Medi-Cal. And rather than navigating the paperwork and current laws on your own, the Law Offices of James A. Ward specializes in Medi-Cal planning and asset protection for clients in their more advanced years.

Jim Ward is an elder law attorney and works with clients throughout the greater San Jose area and down into Morgan Hill and Gilroy. Contact us today for further information.

San Jose Elder Law Attorney Helps Those Expected to OutliveTheir Savings

Annual Survey by Merrill Lynch: Seniors’ Savings Accounts Not Adequately Prepared for Living Longer Lives

According to a Merrill Lynch survey taken in September 2012, the current life expectancy of 81.1 years for women and 76.3 years for men conflicts with the average savings account these days — leaving many seniors unprepared for the financial implications of living longer lives.

Concerns from financial experts are that the growing number of elderly folks that are living longer do not have savings accounts to support living longer lives.

The survey also found that almost 50 percent of 35- to 50-year-olds have “a high level of concern” for the financial welfare of their aging parents. This percentage is up from 32 percent in the 2nd quarter of 2010.

Interestingly, in 1975, women had an average life

expectancy of 76.6 years and men had an average life

expectancy of 68.8 years.

Adults who are concerned with the financial well-being of their parents may want to consult with an estate planning attorney that’s well versed in elder law. Here in California, for seniors that are ailing, Medi-Cal is available. Keep in mind that qualification for Medi-Cal is financial and medical –  meaning that seniors must meet both requirements.

For those seniors who are healthy but are living longer than expected, there are ways that children can help out if they have the financial means to do so. One example is annual gifts. Over $10,000 in gifts can be given, tax-exempt, to an individual. And in fact, a couple can give close to $30,000 to their elderly parents, without a penalty. This is a good idea for couples who can afford to do so and want to help their senior-aged parents retain some independence as they age.

Keep in mind that the advice of an elder law attorney is encouraged in these situations due to the fact that gifting is time-sensitive in that it can make some seniors ineligible for programs like Medi-Cal and Supplemental Security Income.

Jim Ward, an elder law attorney in the South Bay Area of California, serves clients in San Jose, Santa Clara, Morgan Hill, Los Gatos and Gilroy. He counsels a wide range of individuals across the elder law and estate planning spectrum. He specializes in Medi-Cal planning for seniors and wills and trusts for families of all ages.

Contact Jim today at 1-800-JIM-WARD