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The Reliance Law Group is a Member of The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys...

Bradley C. Ratliff, Esq., of The Reliance Law Group is a member of both the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the Virginia Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.  Mr. Ratliff and other lawyers in the firm provide estate planning, Wills, Powers of Attorney, Advanced Medical Directives, Trusts - including revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, and Special Needs trusts to our clients.

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) is dedicated to improving the quality of legal services provided to older adults and people with disabilities. NAELA's Vision: We envision a day when all older adults, people with disabilities, and their families have the legal, health, social, and financial care they need to live their best lives.  NAELA will shape, support, and inspire the national legal community.

 

NAELA's Mission: We equip attorneys for the complexity of serving older adults and people with disabilities through education, advocacy, and community.  See more at www.NAELA.org

General Information about Estate Planning:

GENERAL ESTATE PLANNING EXPLANATIONS

 

IRREVOCABLE TRUST–An irrevocable trust is a legal arrangement in which the trust creator (grantor) transfers assets into a trust, where they are held by a trustee for the benefit of the trust beneficiaries. Once the assets are transferred into the trust, the grantor gives up all rights to control or access the trust assets. This means that the grantor cannot modify, amend, or revoke the trust.

 

The trustee is responsible for managing the trust assets and distributing them to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust. The beneficiaries are designated by the grantor and can include family members, friends, or even charities. The terms of the trust may specify that the beneficiaries receive the trust assets in one lump sum or in periodic payments over time.One of the main advantages of an irrevocable trust is that it can provide estate tax benefits. Since the trust assets are no longer considered part of the grantor's estate, they are not subject to estate taxes upon the grantor's death. This can result in significant tax savings for the grantor's heirs.Additionally, an irrevocable trust can provide asset protection for the trust assets. Because the grantor has given up control over the assets, they are no longer subject to creditors or lawsuits.  They are also not subject to Medicaid spend-down after a five year period. The irrevocable trust also avoids creditors, providing protection of assets.

 

It is important to note that creating an irrevocable trust is a significant decision that should not be taken lightly. Once the assets are transferred into the trust, they cannot be taken back or changed.

 

 

REVOCABLE TRUST - A revocable trust, also known as a living trust, is a legal arrangement in which a person, known as the grantor, transfers assets to a trust, which is managed by a trustee. The grantor retains the right to revoke or modify the trust during their lifetime, hence the name "revocable trust."

 

One of the main benefits of a revocable trust is that it allows the grantor to maintain control over their assets while they are alive, and to ensure that their assets are managed according to their wishes after they pass away. The trust also allows the grantor to avoid probate, which is the legal process of distributing assets after a person's death. Probate can be a lengthy and costly process, and a revocable trust can help to simplify and expedite the distribution of assets to beneficiaries.

 

Other benefits of a revocable trust include:

 

  • Privacy: A revocable trust is a private document and is not part of public record. This means that the details of the trust, including the assets transferred and the beneficiaries named, remain confidential.

 

  • Flexibility: A revocable trust can be modified or revoked at any time during the grantor's lifetime. This means that if the grantor's circumstances or wishes change, they can update the terms of the trust accordingly.

 

  • Protection: A revocable trust can offer protection for assets in the event of incapacity or disability. If the grantor becomes unable to manage their assets, the trustee can step in and manage the trust on their behalf.

 

  • Tax benefits: A revocable trust does not provide any tax benefits during the grantor's lifetime, but it can help to minimize estate taxes after their death by avoiding probate and simplifying the distribution of assets.

 

Overall, a revocable trust can provide a variety of benefits for individuals who are looking to manage their assets and ensure that their wishes are followed after they pass away. It is important to consult with an attorney or financial advisor to determine whether a revocable trust is the right option for your specific circumstances.

 

GENERAL DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY (POA)- In Virginia, a General Durable Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone, known as your agent or attorney-in-fact, to manage your financial affairs and make decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated or unable to handle these matters yourself.

 

A POA can be as broad or as limited as you wish. You can give your agent the power to manage all of your financial affairs, or you can limit their authority to specific tasks, such as paying bills, managing investments, or buying and selling real estate.The POA is "durable" because it remains valid even if you become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself. This is different from a non-durable power of attorney, which terminates if you become incapacitated.

 

To create a POA in Virginia, you must be at least 18 years old and have the capacity to understand the nature and consequences of the document. You must also sign the POA in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign the document, or have it notarized by a notary public.It's important to choose an agent who you trust and who has the necessary skills and knowledge to manage your financial affairs. You can also name alternate agents to act on your behalf if your primary agent is unable or unwilling to serve.It's also important to review and update your POA periodically to ensure that it reflects your current wishes and circumstances. If you become dissatisfied with your agent, you can revoke the POA at any time, as long as you are still competent to make decisions.

 

Overall, a POA can be a valuable tool in ensuring that your financial affairs are managed effectively and according to your wishes if you become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself.

 

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT (WILL) - A Last Will and Testament, commonly referred to as a "will," is a legal document that outlines how a person's assets and property should be distributed after their death. The document typically names an executor or personal representative to manage the distribution of the assets according to the person's wishes.

 

In a will, the person making the will, known as the "testator," can specify who should inherit their property and assets, and in what proportion. They can also name guardians for any minor children and provide instructions for their care and upbringing.

 

A will can also be used to name an executor or personal representative who will be responsible for administering the estate, paying any outstanding debts or taxes, and distributing the assets according to the terms of the will. The executor is typically someone the testator trusts to carry out their wishes, and they have a legal obligation to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries.

 

In order for a will to be valid, it must comply with certain legal requirements. In most states, the testator must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind and must sign the will in the presence of witnesses who also sign the document. Some states may require the will to be notarized.

 

It's important to update a will regularly to reflect changes in personal circumstances, such as the birth of children, marriage or divorce, or the acquisition or sale of assets. Failure to update a will can result in unintended consequences, such as assets being distributed to the wrong people or disputes among family members.

 

Overall, a Last Will and Testament is a valuable legal document that can provide peace of mind and ensure that a person's assets and property are distributed according to their wishes after their death.

 

 

ADVANCED MEDICAL DIRECTIVE (AMD) - An advanced medical directive, also known as a living will, is a legal document that outlines an individual's wishes for medical treatment in case they become unable to communicate or make decisions for themselves due to illness or injury.

 

In an advanced medical directive, a person can specify their preferences regarding medical interventions such as life support, artificial nutrition and hydration, pain management, and organ donation. They can also designate a healthcare proxy or durable power of attorney for healthcare, who will make decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so.The purpose of an advanced medical directive is to ensure that a person's healthcare wishes are respected and followed in the event of incapacity, and to alleviate the burden on family members or loved ones who may otherwise have to make difficult medical decisions on their behalf.

 

It is important to note that an advanced medical directive only becomes effective if the individual is unable to make decisions for themselves. While it is recommended for everyone to have an advanced medical directive, it is particularly important for individuals with serious medical conditions, elderly individuals, or anyone undergoing medical procedures that carry significant risks.

 

 

SPECIAL NEEDS TRUST - A special needs trust is a legal arrangement in which a person, known as the grantor, sets aside funds for the benefit of a person with a disability. The trust is managed by a trustee, who is responsible for administering the funds and ensuring that they are used for the benefit of the beneficiary.

 

The purpose of a special needs trust is to provide financial support to a person with a disability without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid. These benefits are means-tested, meaning that individuals must meet certain income and asset requirements to qualify. If a person with a disability receives a large inheritance or settlement, for example, it could disqualify them from receiving these important benefits.

 

By placing funds in a special needs trust, the grantor can ensure that the funds are used to supplement, rather than replace, government benefits. The trust can be used to pay for a wide range of expenses that are not covered by government benefits, such as education, travel, entertainment, and other quality-of-life expenses.

 

There are several types of special needs trusts, including:

 

  • First-party special needs trust: This type of trust is funded with the beneficiary's own assets, such as a settlement or inheritance.

 

  • Third-party special needs trust: This type of trust is funded with assets that do not belong to the beneficiary, such as gifts or donations from family members.

 

  • Pooled special needs trust: This is a type of trust that is managed by a non-profit organization, and allows multiple beneficiaries to pool their funds together for investment purposes.

 

Overall, a special needs trust can provide an important source of financial support for individuals with disabilities, while also preserving their eligibility for government benefits.

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