MM&C Estate Planning Attorneys to Give Seminar on Wills & Trusts for National Business Institute


Glenn Anderson and Helen Whelan of Miller, Miller & Canby’s Trusts & Estates Practice Group will be speaking at the National Business Institute’s CLE Program on Tuesday, October 18.  Titled “Wills & Trusts: Mistakes to Avoid”, their talk will focus on how to prevent and correct estate planning mistakes. It’s designed for attorneys, accountants, estate and financial planners, trust officers and paralegals. Among other topics, the program will include information on correcting errors in will drafting, trust administration and trust structure documents. It will highlight the differences between wills and revocable living trusts, and will also delve into legal ethics. Practical tips for understanding and anticipating client needs, as well as finding the right balance between broad and restrictive trust language will also be explored. For more information or to register for the program, which will be held in Frederick, MD, click here.

Glenn Anderson leads the firm’s Business & Tax and Estates & Trusts Practice Groups.  As both a CPA and apracticing attorney, he has developed a recognized expertise in estate planning with an emphasis on tax law and business succession planning. 

Helen Whelan is a Principal in the firm’s Estates & Trusts Practice Group, and is also a CPA and practicing attorney. She has earned a recognized expertise in estate planning with an emphasis in Elder Law (special needs for the elderly and disabled) and is also certified by the Department of Veterans Affairs to counsel clients with respect to veterans’ benefits.

Miller, Miller & Canby has assisted clients with estate planning for 70 years.  Please feel free to contact Glenn or Helen at 301-762-5212 for estates & trusts and elder law planning needs.  View more information about Miller, Miller & Canby's Elder Law and Estates & Trusts practice by clicking here.
 





May is National Elder Law Month



 National Elder Law Month was established by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) as a way to recognize the area of law which supports the senior community.

Elder Law relates to the type of person who is served and Elder Law attorneys represent, counsel and assist seniors, people with disabilities and their families with a variety of legal issues.

According to the Administration on Aging, the population 65 and over has increased from 35 million in 2000 to 41.4 million in 2011 (18% increase) and is projected to increase to 79.7 million in 2040. Within 20 years, persons over the age of 65 will comprise 20% of the U.S. population.  Planning for this age group must include consideration of long-term care, a cost that can be incredibly expensive and often has very a significant effect on the immediate family.

For more information about Elder Law and selecting an Elder Law Attorney, click the download button below for a complimentary copy of NAELA's brochure, titled Questions & Answers When Looking for an Elder and Special Needs Law Attorney.  For more information about the Elder Law practice at Miller, Miller & Canby click here.





The “What, Why and How” of Advance Medical Directives


Advance Medical Directives are familiar to most of us. As written statements that detail a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment, they are prepared to ensure those wishes will be carried out if he or she becomes incapacitated and incapable of communicating them.

Most of us understand that it will be important to prepare these documents at some point in our lives. By thinking ahead, we can spare our loved ones the unnecessary stress of having to make difficult decisions on our behalf.

In Miller, Miller & Canby's estate planning law practice (planning for the management and transfer of a person’s assets with an emphasis on minimizing applicable taxes) and our elder law practice (planning for a person’s disability with an emphasis Medicaid, VA benefits, and long-term care issues) we typically see clients come in to plan these documents because one of two things has happened. The client's parents may have had no instructions in place and, as a result, the client experienced firsthand the anxiety of having to make difficult decisions, and would want to spare loved ones the same fate.  On the other hand, the client may have experienced peace of mind in a situation where instructions were prepared and, therefore, wants to ensure the same positive experience for loved ones.

Equally as important as creating the Advanced Medical Directive is planning for what to do after the paperwork is prepared. Where should the directive be stored? If the directive is prepared, but cannot be accessed or found at the appropriate time, it might as well not exist. Unfortunately, this happens more often than it should.

You’ve Prepared the Directive…What’s Next?
Clients will want to provide copies of their Advance Medical Directive to their doctors and to the person designated to make the medical decisions for them (or let their agent know where the original is located).  If your preference is for your children or other loved ones not to see the Advance Medical Directive ahead of time, as it might cause unnecessary stress, they should at least know that you have one and where to find it or the attorney who prepared it in the event it does become necessary to access the documents.   Your attorney may also retain a duplicate of the original for you.  There are also programs that allow for storing the Advance Medical Directive in the cloud so it may be accessed by any medical personnel universally.  

Advance Medical Directives can be drafted to give clients a choice: (i) do they want to give the agent flexibility, e.g. the ability to do something different than stated in the document, in the event something "unforeseeable" occurs and the agent believes it is in the principal's best interests, or (ii) do they want to stipulate that the agent simply follow the instructions as set forth.  Most of the time, clients will know whether or not their agent is likely to follow their instructions and choose accordingly. The document can be revoked orally or in writing, which allows you to make changes if desired.

Thinking Beyond the Advance Medical Directive
The Advance Medical Directive is only one of the documents that should be in place when planning for disability or incapacity.  There are additional documents that are equally important, such as a Financial Power of Attorney.  But the Advance Medical Directive and Financial Power of Attorney both terminate in the event of death...which is why it is also necessary to plan for how your estate will be distributed when you pass away.

The bottom line is…it is always better to plan than to allow fate (or someone who ultimately may not make the decisions you would want) to make decisions for you and spare your loved ones any additional anxiety during what is already an extremely difficult time.

For more information about the preparation and planning of Advance Medical Directives, please contact Helen Whelan.  To learn more about Miller, Miller & Canby’s Estates & Trusts and Elder Law practice click here.

Helen Whelan is a principal with Miller, Miller & Canby and concentrates her practice in Elder Law, Estate and Tax Planning and Trust & Estate Administration. She is licensed to practice law in Maryland, the District of Columbia and West Virginia and is also a CPA with a Masters’ Degree in Taxation.

May is National Elder Law Month.  Learn more about this fast-growing area of the law here.

 





Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 Provides Tax Advantages for the Disabled


On December 19, 2014, the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (the Act) was signed into law. Within the Act there was another bill, the "Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) of 2014." ABLE establishes a new type of tax-advantaged account for persons with disabilities; which allows them to save money for future needs while remaining eligible for government benefit programs.  

ABLE Accounts
Beginning in 2015, the Act allows states to establish tax-exempt Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts to assist persons with disabilities in building an account to pay for qualified disability expenses. An ABLE account can be set up for an individual (1) who is entitled to benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program or the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program due to blindness or disability occurring before the age of 26 or (2) for whom a disability certificate has been filed with IRS for the tax year.  

Annual contributions are limited to the amount of the annual gift tax exclusion for that tax year ($14,000 for 2015). Distributions are tax-free to the extent they don't exceed the beneficiary's qualified disability expenses for the year. Distributions that exceed qualified disability expenses are included in taxable income and are generally subject to a 10% penalty tax. However, distributions can be rolled over tax-free within 60 days to another ABLE account for the benefit of the beneficiary or an eligible family member. Similarly, an ABLE account's beneficiary can be changed, as long as the new beneficiary is an eligible family member.  

Except for SSI, ABLE accounts are disregarded for federal means-tested programs. Additionally, some ABLE accounts are provided limited bankruptcy protection.

Miller, Miller & Canby has assisted clients with estate & tax planning for over 65 years. Helen Whelan, a Principal with Miller, Miller & Canby, is an estate and trusts and Elder Law attorney who works closely with clients to assist them in planning for their care.  She can recommend valuable resources to help individuals who may begin caring for a person who is elderly, disabled, or with special needs.  She is a member of The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), which was founded in 1987 as a professional association of attorneys who are dedicated to improving the quality of legal services to seniors and people with special needs.  Helen is a member of Elder Counsel, a network of professionals who center their attention on the needs of the elderly, disabled and those with special needs.  She also holds the accreditation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide counsel and representation to veterans and their families.  As both a CPA and a practicing attorney, Helen has developed a recognized expertise in elder law and taxation law.

View more information
on Miller, Miller & Canby’s Elder Law Practice.  Contact Helen Whelan at 301-762-5212 or send her an email to schedule a meeting or discuss the benefits of ABLE accounts.





Miller, Miller & Canby Now Accredited to Advise Veterans


Miller, Miller & Canby is pleased to announce that the firm now holds the accreditation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide counsel and representation to veterans and their families. The firm advises veterans on the levels of financial benefits for which they may qualify.

Applying for benefits is often a long and difficult process. Many VA laws are complex, and they are subject to frequent changes. It is helpful to have guidance in navigating through the regulations and the process.

When To Consult An Attorney

Although many veterans try to go through the process alone, an attorney accredited by the VA can provide valuable assistance in explaining the VA and non-VA benefits to which the veteran and his family may be entitled.  An attorney can explain the steps necessary to qualify for those benefits, and assist in the process. Additionally, an attorney may help with putting together a subsequent plan. “There are specific instances where counsel is helpful in applying for benefits,” said Helen Whelan, an attorney at Miller, Miller & Canby who also is a CPA.  “For example, it may be advantageous to move assets into trust as part of a long-term financial plan.”

Miller, Miller & Canby’s Helen Whelan is accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs for the planning and preparation of claims for veterans. She works with veterans to evaluate and establish eligibility and guides them to capitalize on the benefits to which they are entitled as a result of their service.

VA benefits are generally available to honorably discharged veterans and their families where the veteran has
    • At least 90 days of active duty, with one day during a wartime period; and
    • A permanent or total disability OR attained the age of 65 years.

If you are a veteran, or family member of a veteran, and have questions about benefits or the application process, set up an appointment with Helen Whelan.

Helen Whelan is a principal with Miller, Miller & Canby and, in addition to focusing in Veterans Benefits; she also concentrates her practice in Elder Law, Estate and Tax Planning and Trust & Estate Administration. She is licensed to practice law in Maryland, District of Columbia and West Virginia and is a CPA with a Masters’ Degree in Taxation.





Keeping Your Estate Plan Up To Date?


Many people sign their estate planning documents, file them away and forget about them.  As things change in our lives or as tax laws change, these estate planning documents may become outdated.   For example, people who are appointed for important positions, such as successor personal representatives or trustees, or as guardians, may no longer be able to serve. In some cases, provisions for children may no longer meet the children's needs or the intended desires for the estate plan.   Estate plans must be updated and maintained to stay current and relevant.

Maintaining Your Trust
More people today use trusts in their estate planning.  When a trust is designed and created, it reflects existing client conditions and known circumstances in the law and tax code.  Inevitable changes in the law, tax code, the client's family, and financial circumstances affect how appropriate the trust plan remains. Without routine updating, estate plans often fail to achieve the very goals the trust documents were intended to accomplish.  In order to receive the full benefit of your plan, it is important to review your trust with an attorney to ensure that all assets work as intended and your estate plan is up to date.

Funding Your Trust
For a trust to work properly, it must be funded.  Trust funding is accomplished by changing asset title, beneficiary designations, or both.  Every time new assets are acquired or old assets disposed of, the trust assets should be reviewed.  Unfunded trusts can result in the trust plan failing to meet the very objectives it was designed to accomplish.

Avoiding Funding Pitfalls
Many hazards plague the trust funding process.  Clients who attempt to fund their trusts without professional guidance or legal expertise run the risk of committing costly harm and, unfortunately, sometimes irreparable damage. 

Some of the most dangerous trust funding pitfalls include:

•    Using a Quit Claim Deed to fund real property to a trust. 
Consequence: This strategy may void your title insurance policy on the parcel being funded.

•    Changing ownership on any qualified retirement plans [e.g. IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s etc.] to a Living Trust. 
Consequence: The IRS will consider this transfer to be a total and complete withdrawal of your retirement plan, resulting in the entire plan amount being treated as taxable income.

•    Not adding your trust as an "additional insured" to your property and casualty insurance policy. 
Consequence: This omission may cause your insurance not to be effective for the property it insures.

•    Not obtaining lenders consents when retitling property. 
Consequence: This may trigger a "due on transfer" provision and your total mortgage or loan balance may be immediately due in full.

Funding Specific Assets
When transferring assets to your trust, it's important to be knowledgeable about how various types of assets are best funded and then coordinate that with the custom goals of your estate plan.  For example, in some cases it is advisable to change ownership by re-titling the asset to the trust.  With other assets, it's wise to change only beneficiary designations.  In some circumstances it may be prudent to change both.   Being informed about these matters is only part of the process.  

Other important factors to consider include:

•    How to draft legally sound trust funding transfer documents
•    How to obtain and accurately complete company-specific transfer forms required by many financial institutions
•    How to identify and provide the trust documentation required by financial companies in order to fund the asset properly
•    How to secure written verification documenting that an asset has in fact been properly transferred to the trust

Miller, Miller & Canby's estate planning attorneys offer estate plan reviews and assistance with trust maintenance.  Miller, Miller & Canby has assisted clients with estate & tax planning for more than 65 years. Glenn Anderson leads the Business & Tax and Estates & Trusts practice groups at Miller, Miller & Canby.  As both a CPA and a practicing attorney, he has developed a recognized expertise in taxation law.  Please feel free to contact Glenn or any of the estate planning attorneys at Miller, Miller & Canby with your estate & tax planning needs.  Learn more about Miller, Miller & Canby's Estates & Trusts practice here.
 





Special Needs Trusts: Important Information for Families Caring for a Loved One with a Disability


Families caring for a child, or other family member, with special needs face many challenges and decisions.  There are often critical financial decisions that need to be made for the well-being of the child and the rest of the family.  These may include:
•    Enhancing and protecting the life of the child, especially in the event the parent(s) is deceased
•    If the parents have other children, retaining sufficient funds for the child with special needs, while still being able to treat other children equally
•    Providing for the child without jeopardizing the child’s public benefits, and even the parent’s own potential public benefits 

What is a Special Needs Trust?
Established for the sole benefit of a person with disabilities, special needs trusts, sometimes called supplemental needs trusts, can protect the assets of the person with special needs, and ensure that he or she is not disqualified from receiving public benefits, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Special needs trusts are valuable in that they can provide for continued care, support and management, by setting aside assets -- of the beneficiary or a third party -- for the benefit of a person with special needs. This enables the person with disabilities to benefit from the trust without sacrificing public benefits.

The Role of a Trustee
In addition to choosing the appropriate type of trust, families need to carefully consider choosing the right trustee to administer the trust.  Although any competent adult may generally serve as trustee, most people choose a family member, financial planner, CPA, or attorney. Since the trustee role is so important, the choice should be a business decision, rather than an emotional one.

The named trustee will need to make many informed decisions. For example, in administering a special needs trust, the trustee will need to balance the tax implications of distribution decisions with the impact on public benefits to the beneficiary.  Income will generally be taxed at a lower rate if distributed to the beneficiary than if retained by the trust.  However, if the trust pays out too much income to a beneficiary on public assistance, that may adversely impact the beneficiary’s eligibility for public assistance.

An important feature of administering special needs trusts is the preparation of a letter of intent. This is often overlooked, but is critical to proper administration of the trust. The letter of intent provides all of the information that would be necessary in the event the parents or guardian of the beneficiary pass away before the child or beneficiary.

For more information about how trusts can benefit families and about the role of trustees, contact Helen Whelan.

A principal with Miller, Miller & Canby, Helen Whelan has more than a decade of experience advising families and individuals in planning for their futures. As an attorney and Certified Public Accountant with a Master’s Degree in Taxation, Ms. Whelan is uniquely qualified to assist her clients in accomplishing their goals. She is particularly sensitive to the needs of families who are caring for loved ones with special needs, and counsels clients about issues related to Medicaid qualification, asset protection and provisions for long-term care.
 





May is National Elder Law Month: A Look at this Growing Area of the Law


What Is Elder Law?
Elder Law is an area of law that involves representing, counseling, and assisting seniors, people with disabilities and special needs and their families with a variety of legal issues, ranging from estate planning to long-term care.   

Demand for Elder Law Is Growing
The baby boomer generation is aging and the number of older individuals in the U.S. is projected to increase to 71.5 million in 2030, representing nearly 20 percent of the national population. As a result, the need is growing for legal advice unique to age-related issues. As people are living longer and having fewer children, there is a rising concern that individuals may not have the family support and financial resources they need as they age.

Attorneys who focus in Elder Law provide a holistic perspective and deal with the entire life spectrum, addressing legal, financial, social and family issues.  Elder Law attorneys consider various aspects that may arise concerning estate planning, estate and gift tax planning, guardianship, Medicare and Medicaid, Veterans’ Benefits, medical decision making, and disability planning.

Helen Whelan
, a Principal with Miller, Miller & Canby, is an Elder Law attorney who works closely with clients to assist them in planning for their care.  She can recommend valuable resources to help individuals who may begin caring for a person who is elderly, disabled, or with special needs.  She is a member of The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), which was founded in 1987 as a professional association of attorneys who are dedicated to improving the quality of legal services to seniors and people with special needs.  Helen is a member of ElderCounsel, a network of professionals who center their attention on the needs of the elderly, disabled and those with special needs.

View more information
on Miller, Miller & Canby’s Elder Law Practice.  Contact Helen Whelan at 301-762-5212 or send her an email to schedule a meeting.

For more information about National Elder Law Month, click here.





Helen Whelan Joins Medicaid and Elder Law in Maryland Panel July 24th in Rockville


Attorney Helen Whelan will be speaking at an upcoming legal seminar titled: Medicaid and Elder Law in Maryland:  Representing Clients in a New Legal Landscape. The seminar will review ethical considerations regarding Medicaid and Elder Law, and will also cover Medicaid basics for long-term care, special needs trusts, and the financial powers of attorneys. Ms. Whelan's presentation will focus on special needs trusts and will outline the types that exist, the relationship between special needs trusts and public benefits and the funding of special needs trusts.For more information on the seminar, to be held July 24th in Rockville, MD, CLICK HERE.

Helen Whelan
is an attorney with Miller, Miller & Canby and, in addition to her Elder Law practice, focuses in Trust & Estate Administration and Estate Planning.  For more information contact Ms. Whelan at 301-762-5212 or email her now.





The Rising Cost of Healthcare: Are You Prepared for the Long Term?


Over the next 20 years, the number of Americans age 65 and older is projected to double to 71 million, which is estimated to comprise 20% of the total US population.  And thanks to advances in medical science, those surviving to the age of 65 can actuarially expect to live an average of 20 more years.  

Statistics show that nearly 70% of people over 65 will require some form of long term care in their lifetime.  According to the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, the national average cost of care in an assisted living facility is $41,124 per year; in a nursing home, that cost doubles to $82,855 per year.

Helen Whelan, one of the estate planning attorneys here at Miller, Miller & Canby, has focused her practice on the legal needs of seniors and those with disabilities.  She offers this simple advice to clients interested in preparing for long term care:  plan early and take the time to do your research. “It’s a good idea to start early and to keep your planning up to date since there can be unexpected changes in your life that need special consideration,” she says. Long term care is basically used to describe various home and community-based services for the elderly and/or disabled who may not be able to perform certain activities of daily living.  This can range from home care and day programs to assisted living, retirement communities and nursing homes.  “It's important to start researching your options early, before you need the care, so you are not forced to make hasty decisions under pressure,” Whelan suggests.  

When researching care for a loved one, make sure to listen to the concerns of that person. “Sometimes bringing in a neutral third party, such as a social worker, is helpful in approaching the subject,” Whelan adds. There are many resources that families can use to help map out a plan for long term care. Most people use a variety of options, including health insurance, long term care insurance, personal income/savings, life insurance, annuities or trusts.  “Additionally, Medicaid and/or Veteran’s Benefits may be available when other resources either don’t exist or run out.”  Whelan adds.   “However, Medicare will not cover Assisted Living or residence in a Nursing Home; studies have shown that 60% of people are unaware of this important fact.”

Whelan listens to clients and after ascertaining their needs can offer valuable resources to help those interested in beginning to care for an elderly or disabled person.  To learn more about your options, contact Helen at 301-762-5212 or send her an email.





More Entries