FAQs

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Q: What is elder law?

A:  From NAELA: “Elder and Special Needs Law are specialized areas that involve representing, counseling and assisting seniors, people with disabilities and their families in connection with a variety of legal issues, with a primary emphasis on promoting the highest quality of life for individuals. Typically, Elder Law and Special Needs Law address the convergence of legal needs with the social, psychological medical and financial needs of individuals. The Elder Law and Special Needs Law attorney handles estate planning and counsels clients about planning for incapacity with health care decision-making documents. The Elder and Special Needs Law attorney also assists clients in planning for possible long-term care needs, including at-home care, assisted living or nursing home care. Locating the appropriate type of care, coordinating public and private resources to finance the cost of care and working to ensure the client’s right to quality care are all part of the Elder and Special Needs Law practice.”

Q: Where is your office located? Where can I park? Is there a ramp for individuals with limited mobility?

A: Our office is located in Woodlake Center on the corner of 66th Street and Lyndale Avenue in Richfield, Minnesota.  The address is 6601 Lyndale Avenue, Suite 320, Richfield, MN 55423.  We share the office complex with businesses such as Allina Health, Houlihans, and BMO Bank.

There is ample parking available in the parking ramp attached to the building. You can enter the ramp off of 66th Street or 67th Street.  Drive up the ramp to Level 3 (past 2A).  You may park in any available space. You are permitted to park in spaces noted for employees only.  After you enter our building, go through the glass doors.  Our office is in Suite 320, to your left as you enter the building.

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PLEASE NOTE: Major street construction will take place on 66th Street in Richfield through 2018.  Visit: http://richfieldsweetstreets.org/66th-street for more information.

Q: What should I have ready for our meeting?

A:  If you are interested in working with our attorneys, we ask you to complete a questionnaire that asks for detailed information about you, your children, and your finances.  We also ask for documentation that may be helpful in our representation, such as current estate planning documents you have in place, account statements, insurance information, and any other documents you feel are relevant.  We are used to looking through paperwork and prefer too much rather than too little.  With this information, we can be sure that we provide you with thorough recommendations.

Q: Do you offer free consults?

A: Generally, we do not offer free consultations.

Q: How do you bill for your services?

A: Our fees are based on our time and expertise.  We will give you a reasonable estimate of our fees for estate planning after understanding your goals.  We generally quote a fixed rate for estate planning so there are no surprises about fees.  Our goal is to meet your goals without making your planning any more complex than it needs to be.  Life is complex enough and no one is served by a convoluted plan that fills reams of paper and no one can understand.

Q: Do you make house calls?

A:  Many of our clients may encounter physical disabilities or chronic illness that may make traveling to our office difficult.  If you would like to meet with our attorneys, but you cannot come to us, please call our office and we will discuss whether we can make alternate arrangements.

Q: I have a “simple question” – can you help?

A:  We would love to be a resource for you.  We do ask that you keep in mind that simple questions do not always have simple solutions.  Therefore, we may request a phone conference or meeting and additional information to ensure we have adequate time to fully address your situation.

Q: I spent all this money to create an estate plan 20 years ago. Why do I need to pay you again? Plus, I told you about all about my financial assets and family when I last saw you. Why do you need updated information?

A:  We view our relationship with clients as a partnership.  And we value this relationship.  It is important for us to receive updated information about your situation so that we can give you the best advice based on your situation and current laws.  You wouldn’t go to your doctor and make her give you a diagnosis without providing your symptoms.  While you may think “nothing has changed”, it is likely things have changed.  We are all getting older, your children are older, the health of you, your spouse/partner or children may have changed and your financial assets probably aren’t the same as 10 years ago, let alone last year.  Laws are always changing and we keep tabs on Minnesota and federal changes by attending continuing legal education (CLE) seminars both locally and nationally.  Minnesota and federal estate tax laws have changed considerably since 2013.  An estate plan you created before then might be out of date and could cause unnecessary estate taxes to be due if your plan is not updated.

Q: My friends just updated their estate plan and told me I need a trust. Is that true?

A:  A trust is only one of the estate planning options available to you.  Together we will look at your assets, your estate planning goals, and your intended beneficiaries to see if a trust is the right option for you.  Not everyone needs a trust.

Q: So how do I avoid probate, I heard that its awful and takes a really long time.

A: There are a few planning mechanisms we can use, depending on how you hold your assets (real estate, IRA, stocks, CDs) so that a probate administration is not necessary.  However, depending on your assets, if you are married, and who your intended beneficiaries are a probate proceeding may be the cleanest and easiest way to administer your estate.   *Probate proceedings do take up to a year for simple estates because of statutory timelines built into the probate process.  Once the probate has been initiated notice of the probate is published in a local newspaper at which time a four-month clock begins to run during which time any creditors of the estate must let us or the court know that they have a claim against the estate.  After the four-month clock has tolled, any outstanding claims that we are not aware of are barred and cannot come after your beneficiaries.

Q: My son recently got married, but we are not sure the marriage will last. What happens if we die - does all of our money go to our son’s wife?

A:  If you both die while your son is still alive then he will get the amount you leave to him.  There are planning tools that we can use so that the funds are set aside primarily for your son during his lifetime.  If your son predeceases both of you, you can designate in your documents who inherits the share your son would have received had he survived you both.

Q: I want to leave assets for my sister, but she is receiving benefits due to a disability. What are my options?

A: If your sister has a disability and is receiving public assistance such as Medical Assistance or Social Security, you need to be careful on how you structure the gift or devise.  Assets that your sister receives may jeopardize her ongoing eligibility for public assistance benefits.  This largely depends on what benefits your sister is receiving.  You may benefit from using a Supplemental Needs Trust as part of your planning.  A properly drafted Supplemental Needs Trust will allow your sister to receive benefits while still receiving benefits from the Trust that could enhance her quality of life.

Q: Can I just give my house to my kids now rather than waiting until I die?

A: Transferring assets, such as real estate, to your children while you are living is an option. However, due to the tax and long-term care planning consequences of transferring assets, it may not be the right course of action. Our attorneys will talk to you about how to best achieve your estate planning or asset preservation goals.

Q: My spouse and I are in our 30s, we have a joint bank account, house and small retirement plans. My parents are pushing us to do estate planning. Are we too young to need an estate plan?

A: Once you are over 18, you are not too young to plan.  An estate plan is more than where do your assets pass when you die.  Estate planning is also about designating agents that can pay bills or make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated.  It is also important to ensure that assets that you may have acquired prior to your marriage have the proper titling or beneficiary designations so they do not need to be probated should you or your spouse die.

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