I have dedicated my practice to serving the legal needs of the residents of Northwest Indiana: Porter County, Lake County, and LaPorte County and the surrounding communities.
Last Will and Testament
This is a document that allows a person to dispose of property in his/her sole name upon death. It can be changed or revoked at any time prior to death. If a person does not have a Will, then the State of Indiana decides how the property will be distributed under the "laws of intestacy".
A Last Will and Testament only disposes of property that the decedent owned in his/her sole name. There are certain assets that do not pass through a Will, such as property that is owned as joint tenants or tenants by the entireties. Also property that has a beneficiary designation such as life insurance, 401(k), annuity, or IRA passes outside the Will. Additionally, property for which there is a TOD (transfer upon death) designation does not pass through a will.
Revocable Living Trust
A trust is a separate legal entity. There are three parties to a Trust: Grantor, the person who sets up the Trust agreement and then transfers property into the Trust; Trustee, who manages the Trust property according to the terms of the Trust; and Beneficiaries, the persons who ultimately receive the Trust assets. Typically in a Revocable Living Trust a Grantor transfers property into the Trust and then manages the property as the Trustee. The Trust agreement can be amended or revoked at any time prior to the Grantor's death. The Trustee can resign at any time and a Successor Trustee named in the Trust agreement takes over. Upon the Grantor's death, the Successor Trustee administers the property according to the terms of the Trust and the named Beneficiaries ultimately receive the Trust assets.
Some of the advantages of a Trust are: 1) it can be used to avoid probate; 2) the ease with which property can be transferred after the death of the Grantor; 3) it protects privacy because a Trust does not get filed with the court; 4) if the decedent dies owning real estate in another state, then a Trust can avoid probate of the real estate in the other state; and 5) it is easier to administer the Trust assets after the Grantor's death than to administer assets of a probate estate.
A Durable Power of Attorney delegates the responsibility for making financial decisions, and typically it survives the incapacity of the person making it. This document can only be used while a person is alive.
Health Care Power of Attorney and Health Care Representative are used together to name a person who can make health care decisions for another person. These powers can be effective immediately or only upon incapacity. These powers can only be used while the person is alive, because the powers terminate immediately upon death.
Living Will addresses the issue of whether a person wants life sustaining measures used in a terminally ill situation.
TOD (transfer upon death) documents can transfer real property and personal property upon the death the owner to a designated person.
Special Needs Trust
This is a type of trust designed for a person with specialneeds who is or may be receiving public benefits such as Medicaid and SSI(Social Security Income). If money isgiven directly to a disabled person, this could disqualify him/her fromreceiving Medicaid or SSI. Suppose arelative wanted to increase the quality of life of a disabled person, beyondwhat Medicaid and SSI benefits could provide, but at the same time wanted thedisabled person to continue receiving Medicaid and SSI. The solution is a Special Needs Trust.
There are two types of Special Needs Trusts. One is a Self-Settled Trust where themoney to fund the trust comes from the disabled person, for example by way ofan inheritance or an insurance settlement. In this case, the trust has to have a provision that upon the death ofthe disabled person, the funds left in the trust are available to reimburse theState up to the amount of Medicaid spent on behalf of the disabled person. Thereafter,the money can be distributed to other persons.
The second type of Special Needs Trust is called a ThirdParty Special Needs Trust. This iswhere the money to fund the trust comes from someone other than the disabledperson. In this case the funds left inthe trust upon the death of the disabled person do not have to be available toreimburse the State for its Medicaid Costs spent on behalf of the disabledperson.
This is just the highlights of Special Needs Trusts. There is much more.