Author: Ty Ketlinski

Mr. Ketlinski has been practicing law for 20 years in Idaho. Although his legal background is expansive and diverse, he now limits his practice to estate planning, elder law, and probate.

When Is the Right Time to Go Over Your Parents’ Will?

Estate planners often face a question that is hard to answer. Many people with elderly parents have no idea if their parents have a will and if they should ask about it. According to Legal Zoom, about 30% of people don’t know if their parents have a will. Estate planners recommend that you find the time to sit down with your parents and discuss it. Of course, the next question is, when is the right time to talk about it? Here are some suggestions.

When You Become More Responsible With Caring for Your Parents

Talking to your parents about their will is less about learning what they plan to leave you and more about their overall plans. Most estate planners that help people create a will also create other documents for them simultaneously. Documents like a health care power of attorney are often drawn up, which you need to be aware of.

During a Casual Conversation

There is never really a good time to blurt out questions about a will. It’s much better to bring it up during a conversation by using an example like, “I met with my estate planners, and they helped me to write my will. Is that something you’ve done?” By easing into the conversation, you won’t put your parents on the defense. Sharing a story about your own experience will open the door to asking questions.

Not After a Crisis Has Happened

The worst possible time to ask about a will is during a crisis. It’d be best if you had a conversation before something unexpected happened. Inquiring about a will after a medical emergency can be viewed as crass behavior by your parents and other family members.

Asking your parents about their will and other estate planning can be uncomfortable, but you should talk about it. You can take the stress out of the situation by being a good listener and doing your best to accept their plans. It’s far better to deal with the discomfort of having a conversation than to find out they didn’t plan their estate.

Learn more about estate planning and how to speak to your parents about planning their estate by connecting with professional estate planners. Get in touch with our team at Ketlinski Law Office to start planning your will now.

What’s the Difference Between Wills and Living Trusts?

There are key differences between wills and living trusts. For the 40% to 50% of people that don’t have wills, according to Legal Zoom, it can be difficult to understand the difference between living trusts and wills. Below are some differences that can help you decide which is best for you and your family.

Wills Are for After You Pass Away

With a will, your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you pass. With a living trust, your assets can be distributed while alive or after you die. Many wills are written with the help of family and a family lawyer and are important at any age, especially if you’re married with children.

A Living Trust May Avoid Probate

Probate is the legal process of distributing a person’s assets after they pass. If you have a will, your assets will go through probate, which can be costly and time-consuming. A living trust can help avoid probate because the assets in the trust bypass probate court. Unfortunately, many families that depend on inheritances are unaware of the probate process and how it can delay access to assets.

You May Need a Will if You Have Minor Children

If you have minor children, you’ll want to appoint a guardian in your will, which is the person who will care for your children if something happens to you. Without a will, the court will decide who will care for your children. Wills are important to prepare for an accident or other unexpected reasons for passing while your children are young. Many parents put off creating a will because they don’t want to think about passing, however, it’s one of the most important things you can do for your children.

A Living Trust May Help You Qualify for Medicaid

If you’re over the age of 65 or have a disability, you may need long-term care. This care can be expensive, so it’s helpful if you qualify for Medicaid. If you have a will, your assets may not be available to help you pay for long-term care. However, if you have a living trust, your assets can be used to help pay for long-term care without affecting your eligibility for Medicaid.

These are just some of the many differences between wills and living trusts. Speak to a family lawyer, like us at Ketlinski Law Office, for more information on which choice is best for you and how these legal documents can help you and your family prepare for end-of-life planning.

estate planner

What Does an Estate Planner Do?

One of the most difficult realities of life is death. But it’s a topic we must confront. Preparation for passing not only gives folks peace of mind in the sunset years but also ensures that their legacy lives on after they’re gone. An estate planner is crucial in ensuring that there’s a proper transition of ownership of assets after you’re gone. According to LegalZoom, only 18% of Americans ages 55 and above have an exit plan such as a will, advance healthcare directive, or even durable power of attorney. Here’s why you should consider an estate planner to assist you with this process.

Distribution of Assets

One of the main duties of an estate planner is to determine how an individual’s assets will be preserved, managed, and distributed after their death or in the event they become incapacitated. Planning for this ensures that there’s a peaceful transition after their death. Failure to use an estate planner might lead to fights, misunderstandings, and even the failure of your estates. Instead of letting your offspring and interested parties fight for your estates, it’s wise to engage the services of an estate planner to ensure that there’s peace in the family after you’re gone.

Setting Up Trusts and Charitable Donations

Another duty of an estate planner is to set up trusts and charitable donations. You may want to put money into trusts or charitable organizations that benefit humanity. Charity donations also limit your taxes. You also should name executors and beneficiaries. An estate manager can also help you set up funeral arrangements if you don’t want to burden loved ones with funeral expenses.

Custody of Children

If you have children who are not of legal age to stay on their own, the estate manager can help you decide on who will be their guardian until they’re of legal age to move out. You can set up trust funds to ensure that your children are well taken care of in every stage of their lives. The estate planner can help guarantee that your children feel your warmth even after you’re gone.

From writing a will to finding proper ways of managing your property, an estate planner is important in ensuring that your family is comfortable after your passing. Death is a hard thing but a reality for everyone. It’s prudent for everyone to prepare for it by engaging an estate planner. Contact Ketlinksi Law Office to learn more today.

estate planning lawyer

Why Do You Need a Will?

A will is a legally binding document that dictates who inherits your estate and how an estate planning lawyer divides it. It is a legal contract that ensures your loved ones are acting per your wishes regarding your property in the event of death. Thus, a will is a critical element of estate planning. According to Caring.com, many people between 18 to 34 years are more likely to have a will compared to people ranging from 35 to 54 years in 2021 for the first time. The following explains why you need to have a will.

A Will Speeds Up the Probate Process

When you die without a will, it can cause problems for the family members you leave behind. Without a will, your state presumes that you want to leave everything to your closest living relative, which means your spouse. If there is no surviving spouse or children, everything goes to the parents. If there is no one in your immediate family, then the next generation of children inherit everything. This process can take several months, if not years, and requires court appearances and formal paperwork. With the help of an estate planning lawyer, a will takes care of this problem.

A Will Provides Trustworthy Record Keeping

The will becomes a legal document when you work with an estate planning lawyer to write it. That means that your loved ones inherit less if they cannot prove that you did leave them everything. The probate process can be time-consuming and complicated when finding paperwork, even if the lawyer does not have any reason to suspect anything is wrong. Having a will prevents a long search for documents and allows your loved one to follow your wishes without trouble.

A Will Protects Your Loved Ones

There are several possible outcomes of dying without a will. One possibility is that your estate could be divided into smaller parts for your family. This means that each person could receive less than what they would have if you had left them money in your will. Protecting them from getting less than they deserve is another reason you need a will.

There are many reasons why you need a will. Primarily, making a will gives you peace of mind legally. It helps you split up your assets and gives your loved ones inheritances once you are gone. The document ensures that your property goes to the people or organizations of your choice when you can no longer make those decisions. If you are embarking on writing your will, contact us today. We can provide you with estate planning lawyer services to help you with this.

estate planning services

5 Important Reasons Why You Need Estate Planning Services

If you have any assets, you want to have control over what happens to them when you die. This is why estate planning is so important. By working with a lawyer and creating a plan ahead of time, you can do as much as possible to make sure your wishes are carried out. In fact, LegalZoom states that 77% of American adults believe estate planning is important, no matter how much money you have. Here are five reasons why you need estate planning services.

Protect Your Loved Ones

If you have family relying on you for financial support, you want to be sure they’ll be safe when you’re gone. Estate planning allows you to put a legal plan into action to ensure this happens. Your lawyer can help you decide on the best option.

Avoid Extra Taxes

There’s a chance that some of your assets will be taken as taxes. However, there are ways to make sure that you don’t pay more than you have to. Estate planning services can help you figure out your tax responsibilities. This will allow your loved ones to keep more of your assets, giving them more security.

Reduce Infighting

While there’s always a chance that family members will disagree on what to do, having a will should reduce the amount of infighting that happens. If you have wealth, make sure that your wishes are clear and legally validated. This will give family members clear instructions on how your assets should be divided.

Avoid Probate Court

Probate is the legal process of carrying out a will. If there are any problems with this process, the courts might have to get involved. This is a stressful situation in an already upsetting time for your loved ones. Estate planning can help them avoid this.

Peace of Mind

Estate planning is also a good way to take care of yourself. Once everything is legally settled, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be carried out. From there, you can relax and live the rest of your life without worrying about it too much.

If you haven’t planned out what will happen to your assets when you die, you need to do so. Estate planning services can help you through the legal process and guide you toward the best decisions for you and your loved ones. So make sure you hire someone and start the process.

What to Include in a Letter of Instruction

A letter of instruction can be a beneficial piece in estate planning. It is an informal document that will give your loved ones important information about personal and financial matters after your death. Letters of instruction are not legally binding and do not replace your need for a will or a living trust, however it can be a nice complement to those documents. The informal nature allows you to create the letter on your own and change it whenever necessary. It is important to keep the letter up to date, as life circumstances change over time. Let’s look at some of the information that may be included in a letter of instruction.

1. Funeral and Burial Arrangements

The first thing you may want to include in your letter of intent is information about your funeral and burial arrangements. Be sure to include any plans you’ve already made, or what your wishes are as this can be very beneficial to grieving family members. Information about the type of funeral service you’d like, including who should officiate the service and special things to be included like music selections, can be a part of your letter of instruction. If you prefer to be cremated rather than buried, be sure to include that in your letter.

Another helpful inclusion would be a list of people you want to be contacted when you pass, and contact information if available. You may also include your wishes for donations to specific charities in your memory.

2. Financial Information

Information about your bank accounts, assets you hold title to, and other accounts can greatly help family members when trying to carry out the provisions of your estate plan. Be sure to include names and phone numbers of professionals who can help locate your accounts or who helped you plan. The location of other important documents should also be included with the letter of intent. These could include but are not limited to birth certificates, social security account information or statements, marriage license, divorce documents, and military paperwork. In addition, be sure to leave behind information related to mortgages and other debts.

3. Digital Information

These days, many of our accounts have transitioned to the digital world. Therefore, leaving behind information about your digital assets in your letter of intent becomes more important. This should include usernames and passwords for digital accounts, social media accounts, and the devices themselves. It is important not to leave family members guessing on this information.

4. Personal Items

Personal items can be a source of contention among family members when a loved one dies. A letter of intent can provide details about who will receive personal effects, including collections, important personal items, and other things that may not have monetary value, but do have sentimental value. In this section you can also include information about the care of the pets you may leave behind. This section of your letter may include personal statements about your wishes and hopes for the future and can address specific family members.

A letter of intent can be a very real source of peace and comfort to your family members in their time of grief. It can be difficult to think about getting started on a letter of this nature, as none of us like to think about our own death. However, if you consider the items to include and create a plan, a letter of intent can often write itself. Taking this step can alleviate much stress and many family squabbles about what you leave behind.

A letter of intent is an important piece of your overall estate plan and should be written with the help of an attorney to make sure the letter compliments and does not contradict your estate plan. If you would like help creating your estate plan or a letter of intent, please feel free to contact us.

You Have a Will, is That Enough?

Roughly half of all Americans don’t have a will, so if you’ve already taken this vital step to protect your assets and successors then congratulations are in order – you’re already ahead of the curve. While a will is a necessary document that every person who owns assets should have, it is still a relatively simple document that may not cover everything you want it to. You may want to consider creating an estate plan that involves the use of a living trust, plus other important documents like a power of attorney for finances and health care directives. 

To over-simplify it, an estate plan is a more comprehensive way than a will to instruct how your estate is to be distributed after your death, and how your assets should be managed if you become disabled and unable to make financial or health care decisions. Estate plans can save you and your successors substantial amounts of money in court costs, legal fees, and taxes. Consider the following items when creating an estate plan:

Do you have/are you expecting children? This is one of the most important factors to consider when creating an estate plan. Beyond appointing a guardian to take care of minor children, you may also need to appoint a conservator who will manage the assets your successor(s) will inherit when they reach the age of majority.

You may have assets that already contain a beneficiary designation such as a transfer on death (TOD) account. If not, then your will may be used to instruct who will receive such assets.

Minimize probate and maximize privacy. An estate plan that uses a living trust will allow your heirs to move through the administration process as quickly and efficiently as possible. With only a will, a process called probate must be used at your death. Information brought forward in probate court is public knowledge and all of the terms of your will plus the assets you own will become part of the public record. Also, probate can be very expensive. Even an uncontested probate could take longer than a year to pass through probate court and attorney’s fees and court costs can start to add up. Constructing an estate plan with an attorney before probate can help avoid most of these costs and loss of privacy.

Consider your digital information. One thing that’s often forgotten, but necessary in today’s digital age, is what happens to your online information after you die? Many of our day-to-day activities are conducted online and this may present issues for your family after you die. For example, if you invest or bank online, it can be an incredible hassle for your heirs to decode your online financial life. Consider storing your passwords in a safe place and then give access through a power of attorney to someone you trust who will be able to help your family manage your online footprint. An estate planning attorney will be able to sit down with you and go through your online accounts and help you decide which ones will need attention in the event of your death or disability.

Location and size of your estate. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 doubled the size of the federal estate tax exemption to $11.2 million for a married couple. That means unless your estate is larger than $11.2 million, you may be exempt from paying federal taxes on it. However, depending on where you live you may be subject to state-level estate taxes. Idaho does not, but there are currently 17 other states, and the District of Columbia, that impose some sort of estate or inheritance tax.

There are many other factors to consider when constructing an estate plan, some of which can be complicated. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our office if you wish to meet with an estate planning attorney to discuss how best to protect your legacy.

Dangers of a Springing Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney allows a person to “stand in your shoes” to act on your behalf if you can’t — this person (known as an agent) can pay your bills, take care of your banking needs, and otherwise take care of your business if you can’t.  If you don’t have a financial power of attorney and you become unable to take care of your financial matters, your loved one may have to go to court to get conservatorship over your financial matters.  And any time a court is involved, usually lots of money and time is wasted.  Having a financial power of attorney is a crucial part of any estate plan.

Often times, people approach me to draft a “springing” financial power of attorney. While they like the idea of a person taking care of their finances if they can’t, they don’t trust their named agent enough to make the document effective immediately, as they worry about the agent abusing the power or even possible theft.  They want the document to only be effective if they are incapacitated.  While this sounds reasonable, sometimes there is a danger that a springing power of attorney will not work.

For example:  Michael was having a wonderful time in Florida while he waited for his Idaho house to close. Unfortunately he took a bad fall and ended up in a Florida hospital. He had his Idaho power of attorney, but the problem was that is was “springing” — the power of attorney was only effective if he was incapacitated. Michael’s capacity was fine, it was just that he was unable to come back to Idaho to take care of business because he was injured.  His “springing” power of attorney was useless to help him.

But even if Michael was incapacitated, there could be further problems.  A doctor would still probably have to certify that he could no longer make his own decisions and reduce this opinion into a written letter or document. Sometimes doctors even refuse to even do this.  Either way, this would cause delay and uncertainty, when swift action was required instead. 

The most effective power of attorney is effective immediately to avoid these problems.  If a named agent is not trustworthy enough to make the power of attorney effective immediately, this is usually a good sign that they should not be named as an agent at all!

An experienced attorney can help you find your way through many such pitfalls. Please give us a call to learn how we can help.

Make Sure Your Wishes Are Carried Out

The importance of making end of life preparations cannot be stressed enough. Many put off making these plans thinking there is always time. The sad reality is that none of us are guaranteed time. Others may be bothered by the thought of death itself and allow this to paralyze them when it comes to making plans and getting their affairs in order for the end of life. However, most of these same people have wishes and thoughts about where and to whom their assets are distributed. Many of them also have ideas about what they do and do not wish to have happen when their life ends. Lack of preparation and planning means that these wishes likely will not be honored. In addition, it causes additional strain and stress on the people who are left to sort out the affairs. An example of this is the story of Debbie.

Debbie was a teacher who had been retired for several years. She was aging alone. She never married and had no family around. She did have a small circle of friends. After retirement, Debbie’s health progressively declined and she had more and more difficulty caring for herself. After a few years, Debbie passed away in her home.

Previously, she had conversations with a handful of her friends telling them her wishes for the possessions and assets she had. Because of these conversations, these friends each thought she had made the proper preparations to ensure these wishes would be followed. Unfortunately, Debbie had none of the necessary end of life documents that would allow her wishes to be followed. Her friends were left to try to piece together a puzzle that only many missing pieces. Her burial was prolonged and what she did have after paying expenses to settle the estate and bury her will not end up where Debbie wanted. This scenario can, however, be avoided.

If you or your elderly loved one have not made end of life preparations, make time to do so as quickly as possible. An elder law attorney can help guide you in what you should be doing, and can make sure the proper documents are in place to carry out your wishes regarding your health, care you want (or don’t want) to receive, and who should receive your money and possessions.

The first key document to be sure you have is a will or a living trust. A will allows you to specify where your money and possessions should go upon your passing. It also allows you to choose an executor of the estate. The executor will take care of managing the estate, paying debts, and distributing property as specified. A will only takes effect upon your death.

A living trust does everything a will can do, but also allows for you to choose someone to manage your assets if you become incapacitated because it is effective during your lifetime. A living trust also provides privacy, as it is not subject to court proceedings that become open to the public like a will is. There are numerous other advantages to a living trust that can be explored with the help of an attorney.

A living will and health care power of attorney are two additional documents that take effect while you are alive. A living will specifies your wishes for end-of-life medical care. For example, you can specify whether you want to be kept alive by artificial means if you are in a terminal state. A health care power of attorney provides for someone to make health care decisions for you, in case you aren’t able to make decisions yourself. Both of these documents outline your wishes about medical treatment and care when you can’t make them for yourself, so it’s important to seek legal guidance to make sure these documents are drafted properly.

A financial power of attorney should be in the plan as well. A financial power of attorney names an agent to handle your finances in the event you are no longer able to.  An agent can open and close bank accounts, write checks, and sell property if you choose to allow them the authority to do so. Like the health care power of attorney, the financial power of attorney should be created with legal advice to make sure your wishes regarding your finances are properly documented.

Having an estate plan is necessary for you to have a say in what happens if you become sick and cannot make decisions for yourself, and to determine what happens with your money and your belongings after death. An estate plan also helps those who are left to deal with the estate to do so in a more simple and straightforward manner.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us.

Medicare and Medicaid: Unlocking the Mystery

Medicare and Medicaid have long been a mystery to many. In fact, it can baffle and confuse even some of the smartest citizens. You might have thought, “I don’t need to worry about this right now.” However, it is never too early to gain a little understanding and awareness that just might help you help an aging loved one or yourself down the road. As the saying goes, “Time flies,” and you will be there sooner than you think. Let’s break it down and learn some of the differences and basics of Medicare and Medicaid to unlock the mystery.

Medicare

Medicare is a health insurance program provided through the federal government. In order to receive Medicare, a person must meet certain requirements. A person must be 65 years old or older or have a severe disability. In order for a disabled person under the age of 65 to be eligible for Medicare, they must have received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for two years. In order to be eligible a person must have Social Security retirement benefits or Social Security disability benefits. Because Medicare is run and administered by the federal government, it is uniform from state to state. If a person meets Medicare eligibility requirements, they can receive Medicare no matter their income or assets. Costs for Medicare are based on the recipient’s work history. This means that costs are determined by the amount of time a person paid Medicare taxes. These costs like all insurance include premiums, copays, and prescriptions.

Medicare can be confusing because there are four parts. The commercials talk about Parts A, B, C, D. What does it all really mean? Parts A, B, and D can be somewhat simplified. Part A is hospital insurance, Part B is medical insurance, and Part D is prescription drug coverage. Parts A and B are covered in Original Medicare offered by the government. Part C is often called the Medicare Advantage Plan. This is a private health plan. The Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Part C plan are required to include the same coverage as Original Medicare but usually also include Part D as well. It is important to do your homework on these plans to find what works best and is most cost effective for you.

Medicaid

Medicaid is a health care assistance program. Its guidelines come from the federal government, but it is administered by each state. Medicaid is for people who cannot afford to pay for their care on their own. It is based on income and assets, and is available to people who belong to one of the eligible groups. The eligible groups are children, people with disabilities, people over age 65, pregnant women, and the parents of eligible children. Seniors who require nursing home care can qualify for Medicaid and only pay a share of their income for the nursing home. Medicaid then pays the rest.

Dual Eligibility

A person can be eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid and can have both. The two programs work together to help the recipient best cover the expenses of health care. For example, Medicare costs include premiums, copays, and deductibles. Full Medicaid benefits can cover the costs of Medicare deductibles and cover the 20% of costs not covered by Medicare. Medicaid can also help with Medicare assistance and may cover costs of premiums for Part A and/or Part B.

Although Medicaid and Medicare can be quite confusing, it is important at a minimum to know the basics. When you or someone you love is eligible or in need of the benefits, there are organizations willing to help and your elder law attorney is also a valuable resource.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us.