The Reading Law Firm LLC

The Reading Law Firm LLCWhat happens if you don’t have a Will, a Power of Attorney, etc....?
If you die without a Will someone will have to apply for letters of administration if your total assets exceeds a fairly low minimum. He or she will also need to post a bond. This process is more time consuming and much more costly than drafting a Will. Also, if you have no Will your estate will pass under the intestacy statute which means that you lose the opportunity to choose who your beneficiaries will be. Likewise, someone will need to file a guardianship application to have a guardian appointed at significant cost to you if you neglect to execute a power of attorney and health care power of attorney while you are competent to do so and later become incapacitated. Guardianships are expensive and time consuming and you do not get to choose who your guardian will be.

The Reading Law Firm LLCWhat are the fee arrangements?What is Long Term Care Planning?
Consultations are paid for at the time of the consultation. A basic set of estate documents is available at a flat fee. All other legal work is done on a retainer basis. We ask that clients deposit a retainer with us against which we can bill as services are provided.  On protracted matters such as litigation we will ask you to replenish the  retainer as needed. ALL TERMS and CONDITIONS are spelled out in a retainer  agreement provided for your review before we accept any retainer money.

The Reading Law Firm LLCWhat is Long Term Care Planning?
Long term care planning involves much more than buying long term care insurance although that is a great start if you can afford it. Some simple but very important steps are within reach of everyone. A long term care plan begins with executing a health care power of attorney (also known as a health care proxy) in which you appoint someone to make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. At the same time, an advance directive should be executed to guide your health care representative as to what your wishes are for your health care. You should execute a Durable Power of Attorney appointing a responsible person to handle your finances if you cannot manage them for yourself because someone will need to manage your finances, apply for Medicaid or do Medicaid planning, evaluate your Medicare coverage and determine which Medigap policy and Part D pharmaceutical coverage is right for you. These steps are affordable and within reach even if you can't afford long term care insurance.

When does it make sense to hire an attorney to handle your Medicaid application?If you can afford long term care insurance, different  insurers and plans require careful evaluation.  Also, if you have significant assets, a long term care plan  should seek to provide  excellent health care while also protecting some of your assets for future generations. Most of all, a long term care plan provides peace of mind  knowing that should the day come when you cannot provide for your own health care, the people you have hand-chosen are in place with the tools they need to provide for all your health care needs.


The Reading Law Firm LLCWhen does it make sense to hire an attorney to handle your Medicaid application?
An elder law attorney can help you qualify for Medicaid by creating a “spend-down” plan if  you have assets that exceed the allowable maximum. An attorney can also be very helpful where one spouse needs nursing home care and the other will be remaining at home by fashioning a plan that protects sufficient assets for the community spouse. If you apply for Medicaid yourself and are denied, an attorney can help you evaluate whether you should appeal that result. If your assets are minimal and you have not gifted away any assets within the last five years, you probably do not need an attorney to assist you. Contact the County Board of Social Services to start the Medicaid application process.

The Reading Law Firm LLCIs it true that Medicaid can take my house?
No, Medicaid does not take anyone's house in the sense that they put homeowners out in the street; however, if you are a Medicaid beneficiary and own your own home, Medicaid will have the option of recording a lien against your home after you die for the dollar value of the services they provided to you. For example, if you qualify for Medicaid and Medicaid pays out $97,000 in medical benefits for you, then when you die Medicaid can file a lien against your home to recover that $97,000 when the home is sold. If a spouse is living there, Medicaid will not enforce the lien until after the spouse dies. There are certain other exceptions, but generally Medicaid will have a lien against the property and will enforce the lien when the home is sold.  An attorney can assist you in determining what steps can be taken to avoid a Medicaid lien and whether you would fit within one of the exceptions to the lien law.

When is a Guardianship necessary?

The Reading Law Firm LLCIs the house protected if Mom and/or Dad transfers title to their adult children?
The answer to that question depends in large part on whether they transferred the house prior to the five year lookback period and whether they were compensated for the transfer. In other words, if the house was transferred more than five years ago or in return the adult children to whom the house was transferred paid their parents fair market value for the house, you shouldn’t have a problem. An attorney can assist you in determining whether such a transfer is advisable for you and also help you weigh the risks.

The Reading Law Firm LLCWhen is a Guardianship necessary?
A guardian is most often needed when someone becomes mentally incapacitated who never took the time to execute with an attorney two very important documents: a power of attorney and a health care power of attorney. These two documents allow you to designate who you want to appoint to care for you if you cannot care for yourself. If you do not execute these documents and you become incapacitated, the court will appoint a guardian for you. Guardianships can be expensive and time consuming and can result in guardianship contests if family members do not agree on who should be guardian - all good reasons to execute powers of attorney and health care powers of attorney while it can be easily done.

TOP OF PAGECan I probate a Will myself if I am the Executor?

The Reading Law Firm LLCIf someone can sign their name, does that mean they are competent to sign legal documents?
Not necessarily. A responsible attorney will always take the time before witnessing a document to make sure that the person executing the document fully understands what he or she is doing.

The Reading Law Firm LLCWhat is a Fiduciary?
A fiduciary is a person or entity to whom property or power is given for the benefit of another. Executors, trustees, health care representatives and the person you appoint in your power of attorney are your fiduciaries.

The Reading Law Firm LLCCan I probate a Will myself if I am the Executor?
An attorney can help you prepare the application for probate, assess whether there are likely to be taxes due, obtain a tax identification number, settle the estate and prepare an accounting for review by the beneficiaries. A simple estate with few assets and few beneficiaries can often be probated without the assistance of an attorney. 

The Reading Law Firm LLC Who needs to do tax planning in thinking about their estate?
The easy answer is that if you have a gross New Jersey estate in excess of $675,000.00 including the proceeds of life insurance, you may need to do tax planning because your estate might trigger New Jersey estate taxes. Likewise, if your estate exceeds $5,430,000.00 in 2015, a second kind of tax, the federal estate tax, can come into play which requires careful planning to minimize the tax burden on the  estate. Finally, you also may need to consider tax planning if you are leaving assets to a non-lineal descendent or a non-family member as that can trigger the New Jersey inheritance tax. Options often exist that will allow you to make sure the beneficiaries of your estate inherit as much and pay as  little tax as is legally possible.  Most often, many possibilities exist and after a thorough conference, we can design a plan that is appropriate for you.  A good estate plan is a small investment that can yield savings of tens of thousands of dollars even on modest estates, and hundreds of thousands to millions on a larger estate. 

PresentationsThe Reading Law Firm LLC Could I benefit from setting up a trust?
Trusts come in many different forms, but their common purpose is to set aside the funds of one person (the grantor), for the benefit of another person (the beneficiary), under the management of a fiduciary (the trustee). A trust is essentially a kind of contract, so it starts with drafting a trust document that outlines all the rules that will guide how the trust functions, and who it is intended to benefit. Then assets are either re-titled in the name of the trust (a deed is drafted transferring a home from John Doe to the John Doe Trust, for instance), or a new bank or brokerage account is created in the name of the trust, and assets transferred into the account.    Trusts can be tax saving mechanisms, or vehicles used to simplify the management of complex estates. Trusts can  also simplify the transfer of assets between generations. A trust might protect funds for the benefit of minors until the children are old enough to manage the funds themselves, or the trust might protect funds for the benefit of a disabled person. A trust can also allow you to name one beneficiary now, but another beneficiary for when the present  beneficiary dies. Trusts can be simple or complex, but either way they are invaluable estate planning tools.



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