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Healthcare Proxy, Durable Power of Attorney & HIPAA Authorization: 3 Estate Planning Documents Your College Student Needs

Healthcare Proxy, Durable Power of Attorney & HIPAA Authorization: 3 Estate Planning Documents Your College Student Needs

healthcare proxy

As your child heads off to college, you may have a lot on your mind. Not only is the process of choosing and applying to college a stressful one, but the campus visits and Target shopping sprees in preparation for their segue into higher learning can leave you feeling overwhelmed and emotionally drained. While we don’t want to add another stressor to your plate, there is one important college planning to-do that is too often overlooked: estate planning.

You have spent the majority of your life making medical, legal and financial decisions for your child, but once your child reaches the age of majority—18 in most states (19 in Alabama) —you will lose that control. Without a healthcare proxy, durable power of attorney and HIPAA authorization, you may not be able to gain access to their medical records or finances…even if you are largely responsible for funding their college education!

Estate planning for 19-year-olds is much less complicated than planning for those who are married, have children, or have accrued a complex array of assets. However, it is equally important to do so. If your child is involved in an accident and becomes incapacitated, having these three essential documents in place will ensure that (a.) you have access to their medical records and (b.) are able to make medical and legal decisions for them.

Healthcare Proxy

If your child is injured or becomes seriously ill to the point they are unable to make their own medical decisions, you will not automatically be allowed to make those decisions for them. By drafting a healthcare proxy (also referred to as a medical power of attorney or advanced medical directive) your child can grant you access to their medical records, and legal rights to make medical decisions on their behalf. Without a healthcare proxy in place, you may need to petition the courts to gain access to your child’s medical records, or to make healthcare decisions on their behalf.

HIPAA Authorization

HIPAA regulations prohibit the disclosure of medical records, and, as a result, deny parents’ access to such information for their adult child. Due to this, parents should obtain a blanket HIPAA authorization from their child if they want the option of being apprised of their adult child’s health records. The HIPAA release is an important part of the estate planning process and may be incorporated into the health care proxy.

Durable Power of Attorney

The durable power of attorney is similar in function to the healthcare proxy. It will allow your child to name an agent—you, or another trusted family member—who can make financial and legal decisions on their behalf, should they become unable to do so. Many parents don’t think their adult children have enough financial resources to warrant a need for a durable power of attorney, however without this important document, you will not be able to communicate with banks, universities, or other related institutions on their behalf…even if you are the one footing the bill for their college education!

These estate planning documents are relatively quick and painless to create. Your college-aged child will only need to make a few decisions about who they want to name as appointees. Hopefully none of these documents will be needed, but if unexpected tragedy strikes, you’ll be glad you have them on-hand.

Contact Miller Estate & Elder Law

At Miller Estate & Elder Law, we can make the process of drafting a healthcare proxy, durable power of attorney, and HIPAA authorization fast and efficient. Contact us using the brief form below and a member of our team will reach out to schedule an initial consultation.

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What is a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust & Why You Need One

What is a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust & Why You Need One

If you or a family member have ever needed long-term care, then you probably understand the importance of Medicaid, especially Medicaid asset protection. While neither Medicare nor health insurance will cover the cost of long-term care, Medicaid will. However, to qualify for this prodigious benefit, one must meet the income and asset restrictions.

Medicaid Asset Protection Trust Defined

A Medicaid asset protection trust is an irrevocable trust that is designed to hold assets so that they are no longer countable if you have to apply for Medicaid. This type of trust allows you to pass assets on to your children and grandchildren because they are not counted for Medicaid purposes and therefore do not have to be “spent down” to qualify for Medicaid. A Medicaid asset protection trust should be established at least 60 months before your application date, so it’s critical that you take advantage of Medicaid planning before the need arises.

Why You Need One

If you ever have to go into long-term nursing home care, the assets in the Medicaid asset protection trust are not considered by Medicaid as long as they’ve been held in the trust for at least 60 months. What this means is that even with your money and assets in this trust, no one can touch or move your assets.

For people who are trying to protect their assets from long-term care costs, a Medicaid asset protection trust is a great option. This is also a much safer option than giving away your assets to your children, because your assets are protected and not at risk to your children’s creditors – such as divorce, tax liens, lawsuits, bankruptcies, etc.

With the Medicaid asset protection trust, you get the benefits of having your children managing your assets without risking your assets to their creditors and predators. If protecting your assets is important to you then we highly recommend medicaid planning as part of your estate plan.

If you would like to explore the option of a Medicaid asset protection trust, then contact Miller Estate & Elder Law at (256) 251-2137 or register for one of our free estate planning workshops.

The 3 Estate Planning Documents Everyone Needs

The 3 Estate Planning Documents Everyone Needs

Life is extremely unpredictable, so it’s vital that everyone has three specific estate planning documents set up before tragedy unexpectedly strikes. These documents ensure that, if we become incapacitated or worse, someone in your life will have the authority to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf—and that they know how you would like them to make those decisions. By having just three estate planning documents in place, you can save your family time, money, stress and heartache by having these important decisions made ahead of time. Not only will you be able to rest assured that you will receive medical care and treatment in alignment with your wants and beliefs, but you will also gain peace of mind knowing that your loved ones and assets will be taken care of after you are gone.

The three documents that everyone needs are: a last will and testament, advanced directive for healthcare, and a power of attorney—or POA. These documents are crucial to setting out a plan for how you want your healthcare and assets handled.

Last Will and Testament

The last will and testament is a legal document that expresses how a person wants their estate to be distributed upon their death. If you have no will, it is called dying “intestate,” and a local probate court will determine how your assets are distributed. While the courts follow state laws to distribute your assets, your actual final wishes will be unknown. The only way to ensure your final wishes are followed through is by having a last will and testament.

Advanced Directive for Healthcare

The advanced directive for healthcare is a 2-part document and contains a living will and medical power of attorney, or healthcare proxy. The living will states what you do or do not want if you become incapacitated or injured to the point where you can or cannot survive without advanced measures. For example, your living will might state that you do not want a feeding tube, or to breathe with assistance. By setting out these instructions ahead of time, it will save your family a lot of stress and heartache, and they won’t have to wonder if they’re doing what you would have wanted. The medical POA names someone to help make these medical decisions. This person will work with your medical care team to make sure that your wishes are being granted, as well as ensuring that you’re receiving the best care possible.

Power of Attorney

A power or attorney, or POA, is designed to give someone else the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf while you are still alive. A POA will give someone else the ability to take care of your estate by doing such things as paying bills, signing important documents, selling assets, and more.

These three estate planning documents tell others what to do if you are incapacitated or pass away, leaving no questions or issues regarding your assets if drafted effectively. If you are looking for peace of mind knowing that your estate and health will be taken care of when you’re not able to physically make those decisions, then contact Miller Estate & Elder Law or register for one of our free estate planning workshops.

Contact Miller Estate & Elder Law

Medicaid Qualifications: Myths About Medicaid Eligibility

Medicaid Qualifications: Myths About Medicaid Eligibility

Medicaid is widely known but often misconstrued. With laws and regulations constantly changing, there is a possibility that you’ve heard incorrect or outdated information along the way. We’re here to help debunk some of the most common misconceptions about Medicaid eligibility, but first let’s cover a few of the basics.

What Is Medicaid?

Medicaid provides health coverage to low income families, disabled adults, and nursing home residents.

Who is Eligible for Medicaid?

Medicaid Eligibility varies from group to group. You can find the full list of eligibility requirements on the Alabama Medicaid website.

Myth #1: You cannot use Medicaid and Medicare simultaneously

False. Medicare is a federal program that provides health coverage primarily for those over the age of 65. Medicaid is a federal and state program that provides health coverage to low income people, and those with disabilities. If you qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare, then you can use both.

Myth #2: Medicaid is a lot like Medicare

While Medicaid and Medicare can be similar, they are also very different. For instance, Medicare will only pay for 100 days of long-term care in a nursing home, while Medicaid will pay indefinitely for long-term care for recipients. Nursing home care in Alabama can cost around $70,000/year, so it’s important to plan ahead.

Myth #3: You can only apply for Medicaid if you are going to long-term care.

Did you learn to dial 9-1-1 after an emergency or before? If you have the proper Medicaid qualifications, then apply ASAP. It’s much easier to have Medicaid and not need it, than to need Medicaid and not have it.

Myth #4: Only lower income individuals are Medicaid qualified.

While it is true that Medicaid qualifications do have income restrictions, including Alabama Medicaid planning as part of your estate plan can be extremely beneficial. By planning ahead, it’s possible to use asset protection strategies to safeguard your estate.

Myth #5: Medicaid only looks at the individual’s income, so you can give away your assets to your spouse or kids.

Medicaid caseworkers will review all income, assets and financial records of both you and your spouse going back 60-months prior to the date on your application. Giving away assets or property in that 60-month period may tie up your application and cause penalties that can prevent you from getting the care you need.

Don’t let long-term care issues give you a sudden and unpleasant surprise. Know where you stand now, and how to plan for the future.  At Miller Estate and Elder Law, we have helped many families with both advanced planning and crisis planning. Give us a call at 256-251-2137 or use our convenient contact form below to reach out to our legal team today.

How to Talk About Estate Planning with Your Aging Parents

How to Talk About Estate Planning with Your Aging Parents

talk about estate planning with parents
Bringing up the subject of estate planning with your aging parents can be difficult. No one wants to have a conversation about what will happen when they are gone, but it is a conversation that needs to be had. Estate planning is about empowering your parents to make decisions for themselves, and ensuring their affairs are in order. However, many people feel like they come across as greedy when tasked with asking their parents about their estate plan.

If you find yourself in need of broaching the subject of estate planning with your parents, the following guidelines can help provide strategies for how to start the conversation with your parents, regarding both their estate and their plan for long-term care. By having a solid legal plan in place, you will have comfort in knowing that your parents will receive the best care possible, and that their final wishes will be handled the way they want.

Estate Planning: Having “The Talk”

Discussing estate planning with your aging parents can be intimidating. No one likes to think about a time when their parents may be too old to care for themselves, or what will happen to their assets once they pass. It is important, however, to make informed decisions—not just about inheritance, but about long term care options as well. By making these decisions together, you can ensure that your parent’s age on their own terms.

Once you have decided you are ready to sit down and speak with your parents, make sure you do some of the initial legwork ahead of time. It’s important to research the questions you may need to ask, have a goal for the conversation, and prepare yourself for their reluctance to discuss the topic altogether. Perhaps put together some talking points or a checklist, so if the conversation does go awry, you can steer it back on track.

If you are still nervous about starting the conversation, a good segue is to ask your parents about their plans for retirement. As the discussion progresses, ask questions that include whether they have a current will, a power of attorney appointed, or a living will. You may come to find that they have already started the estate planning process. If they haven’t, this would be a great opportunity to offer to help them search for an estate planning attorney.

The discussion about estate planning is not something that can be accomplished in one sitting. Listen to your parent’s needs and desires, accompany them to meetings with the estate attorney, and make sure to involve the whole family. By making it a family conversation, you can alleviate some of the pressure you may be feeling. Additionally, by going over everything as a family, everyone will be on the same page, and this can prevent issues when the plan needs to be put in motion in the future.

Remember that you are not alone when it comes to tackling this difficult conversation, but it is so important that you address it sooner than later. Anything can happen at any time, and by taking care of it today, you can make sure that you and your parents are protected if something happens.

For more tips on talking to your aging parents about estate planning, contact Miller Estate & Elder Law today.

Be Kind & Plan Your Estate

Be Kind & Plan Your Estate

Anyone who tells you they are excited about estate planning is either an estate planning attorney, themselves, or a liar. After all, nobody looks forward to paperwork, and even less than nobody enjoys contemplating their own death. This explains why, despite being a crucially important task, less than half of U.S. adults have taken any kind of step towards organizing their estate. Not only is this bad news for individuals whose financial and medical well-being remain unprotected from unexpected tragedy, but it is also bad for an individual’s loved ones, who face enormous hurdles should they be required to administer your affairs without a plan.

Estate Planning is an Act of Caring

Yes, an estate plan exists to protect your life’s work, but more than that it serves to protect your family and loved ones. Besides your advance directives and financial power of attorney—documents that protect your health and finances should you suffer incapacitating illness or injury—the documents which compose your estate plan act to ensure the proper and efficient distribution of your assets when you die. Naturally, then, you won’t reap their benefit…but those people that matter most to you in the world will.  Here’s how:

1. An Estate Plan Saves Your Family Conflict 

One of the first and most important steps to organizing your affairs is sitting down with loved ones and explaining your goals. Not only does this ensure no detail is overlooked, but it also presents an opportunity for conversation that, when you are gone, may otherwise be sorely missed. All too often, overlooking the need to talk loved ones through your last wishes gives rise to irreparable conflict that, beyond being wholly preventable, also represents the precise opposite of the legacy you wish to leave.

2. An Estate Plan Saves Your Family Time and Money

Among the principal reasons people execute an estate plan is to reign in the cost and complication of probate court. Should you die with no Last Will and Testament or trust agreement in place, your assets will pass according to your state’s intestacy laws. Often, this means an arduous probate court hearing that not only comes at a cost, but also leaves your estate vulnerable to legal challenges by loved ones who may disagree with the dictates of the law.

3. An Estate Plan Protects Your Family’s Financial Future

While every adult needs an estate plan, this is especially true of adults with dependents. After all, parents or caretakers will want to make arrangements that ensure their dependents’ continued well-being even when they are gone. Setting up a trust is a common solution, as doing so allows you to control the conditions under which an inheritance is received, thereby relieving worry about irresponsible spending or inadvertently interfering with access to public benefits.

4. An Estate Plan Helps Your Family Protect You

As mentioned above, advance directives and financial power of attorney documents ensure your health and finances are looked after even if you, yourself, lose the ability to do so. Beyond this, these documents also protect your family as they provide clear instructions concerning how to attend to your well-being and thus diffuse both anxiety and any possible conflict that might arise around the subject.

While only a partial list of estate planning’s many advantages, the above points show that the issue not just one of fiscal responsibility but simple kindness.

To learn more about protecting yourself and your loved ones or to address any other matter related to estate planning, do not hesitate to call Miller Estate and Elder Law at 256 251-2137  or to reach out using the contact form on our website.