I saw this quote from George Clooney, who gave $1million to each of 14 friends a few years ago:

“I’ve slept on their couches when I was broke. They loaned me money when I was broke. They helped me when I needed help over the years. And I’ve helped them over the years. We’re all good friends,” he says. “And I thought, you know, without them I don’t have any of this. And we’re all really close, and I just thought basically if I get hit by a bus, they’re all in the will. So why the f—- am I waiting to get hit by a bus?”

What a kind and generous thing to do for his friends!

Few of us can be so kind and generous with our friends while we are here. What we can do, however, is to make sure we take care of them before we get hit by that bus.

We should have in place a will (and maybe a trust to go with it), a living will, a medical power of attorney, other advance directives, and a financial power of attorney.

The cost of being prepared need not be as much as you think! My website has pricing for these documents, as well as for other services.

If you have already done your estate planning, you should dig those papers out of your files and look for any changes you want to make. The cost of changes, by a codicil or amendment or addendum, is much less than your original estate plan.

If you don’t want to spend the money to review the estate plan, for example to see if the document works in Colorado, or what is needed to make it work, you can limit the work I do for you to just making those changes.

Having said that, I do recommend a half hour of my time looking at the document and translating those parts of it that you might not understand. You may start out wanting only one change, but then realize there are other things that need to be tweaked.

Colorado, Finally, and Practice News

I’m happy to announce my return to Colorado, after enjoying several years in the Hudson Valley of New York. It is a truly beautiful part of the country. Colorado, of course, is the best! I will be replacing photos of New York with photos of Colorado, and updating this website, soon.
With my online law practice, I’ll be able to continue serving clients, old and new. When a face to face meeting is better, I’ll accommodate that, too.
I’ve been exploring “unbundled” legal services as an addition to the traditional hourly fee model that is so familiar. Unbundled is more like ordering a la carte off a menu, where you know the cost of a discrete service before you start. It is a way of budgeting your legal costs in advance.
Won’t we all be glad when there is a vaccine and a cure, and we can let up a little? In the meantime, be safe.
Message me, or send an email to [email protected], and let me know how I can help you.

Wills and Trusts

Everyone knows what a will is, but not everyone has one. A will is something that may make us uncomfortable to contemplate, but it shouldn’t.
If you have a will, and maybe with it, a trust, your property will go to whomever you choose, or to causes you believe in. A will lets you express your desires about a guardian for your children. A will lets you minimize that taxes payable on your estate, should you have that much money and property.
Without a will your property will go to your heirs. That may sound ok, but it doesn’t let you give your property where it might be needed the most.
Without a will someone else will decide about who the guardian of your children should be.
Without a will taxes on your estate will be greater than if you planned for maximum savings.
Without a will there will most likely be probate of your estate, leading to more expenses. With a will and a trust there could be very little property subject to probate, and a simplified, less expensive, procedure could be available.
It’s not expensive to have a proper estate plan prepared by an attorney. A simple will could be as little as $500, and adding a trust could be about $600 or $700 more. Wills and trusts prepared for a couple, with reciprocal provisions, might add $200 or $300 more. All told, your estate planning could be under $2,000.
It is important to have professional help with your estate plan!

Medicaid Nursing Home Help

Do you have a family member or friend in a nursing home?

Nursing home care is expensive. The cost of care can run $100,000 a year or more. Not many people are really ready to pay those costs.

Medicaid is a federal program that can pay all or a part of nursing home care. It requires that “countable” assets not exceed a certain amount, and that monthly income falls below a threshold amount. What the limits are depends on what state the nursing home is in. Whatever the limits, there are exemptions that may help preserve some or all of your assets and income.

Elder Law attorneys are experts at navigating the many rules that apply and at implementing plans which preserves assets and income.

Applying for Medicaid is a complicated matter. Records of bank accounts and investments must be gathered. Deeds and other real estate documents must be produced. Once submitted, the application is examined, and follow-up questions are almost always asked. Producing records often involves using acceptable releases and authorizations, access to online accounts, passwords, and so on. It requires a comfort level with computers and the internet.

Lawyers are adept at getting the right materials to support a Medicaid application. They are good at organizing what can seem like a mountain of documentation into proper order.

Contact your lawyer for help, and if he or she is not actively involved in elder law, let’s talk.

Call me now…or call me later!

Call me now….or call me later!
Legal problems have a tendency to grow worse the longer you put off addressing them. What might be relatively easy to take care of early on can grow into a much bigger problem later.
Take, for example, a business dispute. Early on, a consultation with your lawyer will let you know what your rights are, and how you might solve it yourself.
Put it off and the problem can escalate into a full blown confrontation with lawyers on both sides, and maybe even litigation or arbitration.
Of course, your costs, in lost time, attorney fees, and distress, escalate along with the unsolved problem.
Your attorney can consult with you, perhaps make a phone call or two, and write a letter on your behalf, at a modest cost. It is better to do it now than to put it off.

In a Dispute?

Are you in a dispute about something? That’s not unusual.

The historical method to solve some disputes was a duel! We don’t normally do that anymore, at least on a personal level. It may be different on a geo-political level at times.

Traditionally, solving commercial disputes, disputes over property rights, and other matters, involved filing a lawsuit. That meant engaging lawyers, going to court, letting a judge or jury end the dispute, and usually it ended the dispute and satisfied only one party or the other. About twenty million civil cases are filed annually in this country.

In the last half of the 20th Century, small claims courts came into being across much of the country. These courts allowed individuals to represent themselves, saving money on attorney fees, and usually came to trial much more quickly than in regular courts. They are still very useful for many matters. The process is supposed to be simple and accessible. Some people will consult with an attorney before filing, to see if there really is a case worth pursuing and to learn how to present the case.

There are ways to solve disputes other than filing cases in courts. The more familiar is arbitration. Here, the process is much like a court case, with filings, discovery, witnesses, and so on, and the arbitrator makes a decision that is binding on both parties. The advantages are lower cost to the parties and a quicker outcome. Still, the parties usually engage attorneys to represent them.

Recently arbitration has been In the news because it has been forced upon a party to a dispute due to a provision in a contract or in the fine print hardly anyone reads when they click on “I agree” on a web page. I hardly ever read that fine print. If you agree to arbitration, you have most likely given up your right to settle your dispute in court.

Another way to solve a dispute is mediation. In this process, which is voluntary and must be agreed to by the parties, a mediator meets with the parties and, through discussion with them, tries to find a mutually agreeable solution. The mediator does not make a decision that is binding on the parties or enforceable in court, but if the process is successful, will usually draft an agreement that both parties sign. The advantages are lower cost to the parties, a quicker outcome, and a conclusion that is agreeable to both sides. Many times lawyers are still involved in the process.

Of course, a dispute can often be resolved through negotiation between the parties, which may be carried out through the use of attorneys.

Whatever the dispute may be, a good first step is to consult with an attorney. He or she can let you know what the law is about your dispute, what the outcome might be, whether you have obligated yourself to arbitration, or to using only the courts of a particular state, and what it might cost you to engage in the processes available to you.

It’s no secret…

It’s no secret that lawyers use templates to create documents for clients. It’s also no secret that there are plenty of templates, available through plenty of websites, that those clients can use to create their own documents.

Wills, Living Wills, Trusts, and Advance Directives are just a few of the readily available online documents. Answer some questions, fill in some blanks, view a draft, and pay a few dollars, and you can print out your own documents. And, they might be ok.

What is the difference between those docs and the ones lawyers use?

Your lawyer has the knowledge and experience to see the bigger picture, know what the objectives and pitfalls are, and revise and rewrite the documents to make sure they are right for you. Lawyers use templates, whether their own or ones they get from trusted sources, to save time and to be thorough. There is no reason to re-invent the wheel when experience tells the lawyer that the right template is a good starting point, and to use it judiciously. Using a template can also save the client money.

Why not use your lawyer’s expertise to make sure the job is done right!

Are you prepared?

Recently I worked on a Medicaid application for a man who is in a nursing home, and is not able to assist in completing it. His wife is faced with enormous nursing home bills for him that threaten her future financial well-being.

The burden of gathering the necessary financial information to complete the application has fallen to her, with assistance from me and others. Her husband has always taken care of finances, and has been very secretive. He has never shared passwords with her, or their children, and thus his online accounts are difficult to access.

Why am I telling you this? Medicaid requires 5 years of complete records for all bank accounts, investment accounts and pension accounts. Without the easy access that his computer would have provided, and armed with a power of attorney that he was reluctant to sign, but finally did, we were able to get those records the hard way.

Make it a part of your routine to print out and store in binders or files the monthly statements that financial institutions provide. Store, and keep up to date, passwords and log in information for those accounts, and make it available to those you trust.

When, and if, the need arises for a Medicaid application, or in the event of your incapacity or death, you will have made it easier for your loved ones to carry on without you.