Flint, MI’s Michael E. Thomas and Associates Can Help
Caring for an aging parent or spouse, or having to place him or her in a long-term care facility is one of the most stressful events in our lives. Our staff understand that and can relieve you or your children of the bulk of that stress and guide you and your family through the complicated process of protecting assets (instead of spending them) and obtaining the best care for your loved one. We are unique in that we pray for and often pray with our clients.
Doing estate planning with a view of avoiding probate and protecting assets is also a complicated process. Our approach to estate planning is unique in that it includes consideration of potential long-term care expenses.
If a loved one has died without a plan, and you are faced with probate, we can guide you through that process also, with a view toward family harmony.
If you are a wartime Veteran or the spouse of a wartime Veteran, we can show you how to plan to obtain VA Aid and Attendance Benefits when you need them.
Read the specific explanations of all of these matters below, and call Michael E. Thomas and Associates to see how we can help.
Trouble Settling a Loved One’s Estate?
Losing a close friend or family member is already devastating enough without having to deal with the stress of battling over their belongings. If you find yourself stuck in the middle of a dispute over an estate, reach out to Michael E. Thomas & Associates immediately. Our staff can help you settle your probate matter and ensure the wishes of the deceased are carried out accordingly. Our office is unique in that we recognize the fact that family harmony is more important than things, and we will strive to achieve family harmony to the extent possible.
From inventorying the deceased’s assets to paying the burial costs, you can count on our legal team to advise you on all probate issues you come across. Contact Michael E. Thomas & Associates to get started.
Michael E. Thomas & Associates has extensive experience handling probate matters and can guide you through the probate process. Our staff can tackle all kinds of probate issues and can prepare petitions to:
- Probate wills
- Appoint a personal representative
- Publish on Creditors
- Assist in passing assets to heirs with the least amount of tax
We can do all of the above and more. Learn more about the probate process by reaching out to Michael E. Thomas & Associates today.
At the Law Offices of Michael E. Thomas & Associates, our focus is on devising the best estate plan to fit the client’s wishes and their lifestyle. During our initial interview, we will spend time discussing how your family is structured, how children and siblings get along and how everyone in the family interacts. Only then are we able to protect your assets and distribute your estate effectively.
Our firm has prepared over 8,000 estate plans, most of which have been Living Trusts.
Why a revocable living trust rather than a will?
A Will is an instrument that can be used to appoint a guardian for minor children, a trustee and a personal representative to handle the estate of a deceased person. However, once a decedent has died, the Will still needs to be probated. The Will becomes a public record and the filing of the Will starts a lengthy, and sometimes costly (anywhere from 4-8% of the total estate), process of distributing the estate.
A Revocable Living Trust can do all of the appointments that a will can do, but it also provides quick distribution of assets to beneficiaries, or asset protection for them (i.e., in the case of a child who may not handle money effectively, the trust will pay their bills and disburse money periodically). The trust remains private and never becomes a public record and there are no probate costs associated with the distribution of the assets. The Trust provides asset protection for the surviving spouse who may choose to remarry and can protect assets for dependents with special needs
How does a living trust work?
When a trust is created for you it is not effective until you change the title of your assets to the name of the trust. Once the assets are transferred, you can serve as trustee and pay bills and spend money as you normally do. When you die, these assets do not have to be probated and the successor trustee takes over, distributing your assets according to your wishes. Your estate does not go through probate court (which is a public record) and therefore your affairs remain private. Remember, only assets that are in the name of the trust will be distributed according to the trust terms. You retain the right to revoke the trust and to appoint or remove trustees.
What are some other benefits of a living trust?
Under Michigan law, a spouse has a statutory (or legal) right to make a claim against their spouse’s estate. A living trust avoids that statutory claim. This may become important in second marriages where the deceased spouse wants to protect his or her assets for the benefit of children from a prior marriage.
Two things in life are certain: Death and Taxes. With proper estate planning, we can assist you with both so that the assets you have worked so hard to accumulate are distributed according to your wishes, whether that is protecting a surviving spouse and family, or leaving money to charitable organizations for the benefit of your community.
Included in your estate plan should be a Power of Attorney – we prepare Powers of Attorney as a general practice with every estate plan we prepare. A power of attorney, with proper HIPAA authorizations, allows someone (your attorney-in-fact) to take care of financial affairs should you become incapacitated. Without this document, no one can represent your interests unless and until the court appoints someone.
In addition to a general Power of Attorney, we prepare Medical Powers of Attorney with HIPAA authorizations. Without these documents, if you are disabled no one has the authority to make medical decisions for you, including your spouse and children. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was amended in 2003 to make all medical records private. Doctors, nurses and all medical personnel are forbidden by law to discuss any medical information about you without these HIPAA authorizations.
Avoiding Probate – all clients wish to avoid probate, but many are unsure why. If a client executes a will and then dies, the will needs to be probated. In addition to the costs of probate, the will and distribution of assets is a public record. That means on the day your children and loved ones receive assets, their names and addresses and amounts of distribution becomes a public record. A Revocable Living Trust avoids that. A trust can also provide protection for children who may have drug or alcohol problems, bad spending habits or troubled marriages.
Long Term Care Protection
Fifty Percent of individuals over age 65 will spend 6 months or more in a long-term care facility. There is no greater risk to your estate than that. Good planning can protect your estate from depletion for those expenses. Advanced planning can prepare your family for your death (expected or unexpected), but the key is to start your planning now.
What’s the difference between Medicare & Medicaid?
Medicare and Medicaid are two totally different programs. Medicare is a federally funded and federally distributed catastrophic health insurance program which comes into play to everyone automatically when they reach the age of 65.
At age 65, Medicare becomes the primary health insurance carrier, and any other carrier becomes a secondary carrier. Medicaid is a federally created, and state-administered program that provides health insurance to low-income children, seniors and people with disabilities. In addition, it covers care in a nursing home for those who qualify. Our office helps qualify clients for Medicaid without expending all of their assets. See the Medicaid section for more details.
If you are suddenly faced with putting a loved one into a nursing home, the situation can be frustrating and emotionally draining. Our staff is specifically trained to assist you in guiding you through the Medicaid application process. If there is enough time to plan (non-crisis), we can help you protect your assets so that you will not be spending your life savings for nursing home care. With nursing home costs in Michigan ranging from $9,000 to $11,000 a month, the financial strain on families is enormous. Even if you are faced with a sudden need for nursing home care (crisis), we will be able to help you to protect some, if not all, of your life savings. Many times people receive well-intentioned, but incorrect, advice about qualifying for Medicaid. Our staff knows the legal rules which will help you prepare to take care of your loved one – without draining your life savings. Our firm is dedicated to helping provide families with expert care and advice. We encourage all family members who want to understand what is happening or would like to be involved in the decision-making process to attend an appointment. Keep in mind that only a handful of attorneys understand Medicaid law.
Medicaid Waiver Programs
Medicaid Waiver programs are those that have been designed to expand the number of persons supported while reducing the cost of the individual’s services to Medicaid. One program is the Nursing Home Diversion Medicaid Waiver Program. This program provides individuals who are 65 or older with home health care or assisted living services. If you are a concerned relative or friend of an elderly person and need help, please schedule a consultation today. We encourage all family members who want to understand what is happening or would like to be involved in the decision-making process to attend an appointment.
Applying for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can be a long, frustrating process. In fact, 90% of VA applications are rejected the first time. 98% of our clients’ applications are accepted the first time. We can help you navigate through the VA labyrinth and reduce the number of headaches you have to go through. Using a VA certified attorney and a trained, certified VA advisor, can result in your claim being processed faster. It is a significant advantage to you to be represented by an attorney since the VA law has established a 3-year look back for eligibility for V.A. Aid and Attendance as of October 18, 2018.
Contact us and be assured that your peace of mind is our priority.