Elder Law & Estate Planning

elder couple walking on beach

WHAT SETS US APART IS EXPERIENCE AND SERVICE. With three offices across North Carolina, our elder law attorneys offer advice on many different aspect of elder law and related issues affecting seniors and their families.  Our team is comprised of attorneys devoted entirely to the practice of elder law, experienced paralegals who are well-versed in elder law and probate, and a certified senior advisor, all of whom work with clients for advanced planning for asset protection or crisis planning.  We strive to provide informed, relevant legal advice, and services in a compassionate, understanding environment.

Our team proudly provides comprehensive knowledge of the laws affecting older adults and people with special needs.  We provide not just legal advice, but also assistance with other issues that impact clients, from overcoming mobility and physical limitations to family conflicts to placement in a long-term care setting. We take a holistic approach to your family’s legal, financial, and personal affairs to best support you and your family’s quality of life.

Estate Planning encompasses a broad range of legal planning issues, such as the use of a will versus a revocable living trust; the use of rights of survivorship; prenuptial property agreements; and the preparation of Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts and Special Needs Trusts. Long-term care planning and asset preservation are often of major concern to our clients.

We intend our estate plans to help our clients retain control of their assets for as long as they are able to do so.

Our clients control their lives, their care, and their assets by creating instructions through their estate planning documents, which allow them to communicate to family members the decisions they intend when they are no longer able to make these decisions themselves.

Family is so important. We love them, we raise them, we watch them raise their own families.  There may even come a time when we ultimately have to depend on them for our own well being. When that time comes, we trust they will do right by us, offer the same love and compassion with which we served them.

If that turns out not to be the case. If a loved one has failed in the relationship of caregiving, neglected or abused you in any way. If a caregiver has taken advantage of your vulnerability, mishandled your finances and broken the bonds of trust – you do have recourse.

Elder Law Litigation is on the rise. But little has been publicized about it, and from what we see in probate courts around the country, little is understood.

Generally speaking, these are cases in which the person/persons, whose resources or daily care are the subject of the dispute are alive, but may suffer from cognitive impairment and, as a result, are unable to control their own situations. These are cases that place the ambiguous legal theories of “capacity” and “undue influence” on an even more unfathomable and enigmatic background of personalities and family dynamics.

The Cranfill Sumner LLP knows your rights. We will treat your situation with dignity and compassion. We offer Litigation in the following areas of law: Elder Abuse, Guardianship, Special Education, Will Caveats, Financial Exploitation and Fiduciary Litigation.

In addition to planning for the possibility of long-term illness, we advise clients and their families after such illness occurs.  At such times, it is important to plan for present and future care needs as well as for the preservation and distribution of assets. Our professional Geriatric Care Managers work in concert with our Elder Law Attorneys and staff to provide comprehensive guidance and support while our clients and their families make plans to live with changed circumstances and needs.

Your Life Care Plan includes the services of an attorney who is a Board Certified specialist in Elder Law, elder care coordinators, and other members of our staff who work together to coordinate care, maximize the quality of life, and protect family wealth for future generations.  Every Life Care Plan is designed to achieve three primary objectives:

  • Help you ensure that your loved one gets appropriate care, whether at home or in a residential facility
  • Locate public and private sources to help you pay for long-term care while solving the asset  protection problem created by the high cost of care
  • Give you and your family the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your loved one is safe and getting the right care

A Life Care Plan typically includes the following services:

  • Legal services to protect assets, coordinate public and private resources to pay for long-term care and preserve family wealth for future generations
  • Advocacy services to help you get the highest quality health care and long-term care for your loved one
  • Care coordination services by experts who do whatever is necessary to protect and promote your loved one’s quality of life

Geriatric Care Managers are specialists in the area of geriatrics, whose work includes assessment, care planning, coordination and implementation of services with other appropriate professionals, and the monitoring of care.

Geriatric Care Managers serve as problem-solvers providing personalized service to families, typically when they are dealing with a crisis.  They guide families through the process of helping their loved ones safely remain at home or finding a suitable alternative living situation. They are available to their clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week and keep up with the constant changes in the long-term care industry.

As a service to our clients and the community, we provide free referrals to long-term care facilities that offer adult care, assisted living, skilled care, rehabilitation, Alzheimer’s care, dementia care, and independent living for Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Duplin, New Hanover, Onslow, and Pender counties.  Each county is separated out for your convenience and a list of terminology is also provided.

We hope this basic information will help when choosing a facility for your loved one.  For more detailed information and enhanced assistance, our experienced staff is available to guide you through the sometimes difficult and challenging journey of finding the right placement.

Long Term Care Guide by County:

Veterans’ benefits can help with long-term care either at home or in an assisted living facility.

While most veterans’ benefits and pensions are based on a disability which was incurred during a veteran’s wartime service there is another program available for individuals who are disabled due to the issues of old age, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and other physical disabilities. For those veterans and widows/widowers who are eligible, these benefits can provide relief for a disabled individual who is not yet ready for a nursing home.

Under this program, called pension, a veteran can receive a maximum of $1,944.00 per month in benefits and a widow or widower can receive up to $976.00 as a maximum benefit for A and A for the year 2011. The applicant must be determined to be “permanently and totally disabled.”  The applicant does not need to be helpless — only to show that he or she is in need of aid and assistance on a regular basis. Someone who is housebound or in an assisted living facility and over the age of 65 is presumed by the Veterans Administration to be in need of benefits.

Although planning for qualification for such benefits may involve transfers of assets, it should not be done without a thorough understanding of such transfers’ potential effect on future Medicaid eligibility.

Special Needs Planning is a greater necessity today than ever as advances in medical and social treatment for people with developmental disabilities have increased their life expectancy. Greater longevity for the person with special needs creates a greater need for parents or caregivers to do proper planning that incorporates daily routines and needs as well as special needs trusts for future financial needs.

Special Needs Trusts are also used when an elder is disabled and receiving long-term care assistance from the government and a spouse or other family member wishes to provide funds to enhance the elder’s quality of life.

It is our view that long-term care planning and estate planning can work together for the protection of family assets. A legal will can appoint an executor of your estate, arrange charitable bequests, arrange custody of your minor children, and ensure your wishes are respected in distributing your property.

A testamentary trust is created within a will which takes effect after the death of the grantor. The appointed trustee will follow the deceased’s wishes in administering the trust to its beneficiaries. Testamentary trusts are also known as a credit shelter trust, marital deduction trust, or A-B trust.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney is a written document that designates another person to act on one’s behalf when making legal or financial decisions. By designating someone to act in your behalf, you allow them to sign your name in the event you become unable to handle your own affairs.  The Durable Power of Attorney becomes especially important when planning asset transfers and when qualifying for Medicaid. It is also important to discuss whether the authority to be granted under a power of attorney will be immediate or “springing” by future incapacity and the extent of the gifting powers granted by the power of attorney to your attorney-in-fact.

Health Care Power of Attorney

A living will, a form of advance health care directive, is instruction given by individuals specifying what actions should be taken for their health in the event that they are no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity. Another form of advance health care directive, a health care power of attorney appoints a person to make such decisions on their behalf.  Our firm generally proposes a combination of both types of advance directives in a single document.

Medicaid regulations are contradictory and complex. While a person with one type of illness may find his or her medical costs paid for by Medicare, a person with another disability may instead be required to rely on Medicaid. With proper planning, the complex federal and state Medicaid regulations can be negotiated in a fashion that preserves assets for the protection of the remaining members of the family. Careful planning also maximizes assets remaining for the community spouse’s benefit.

Probate is generally required of assets that are titled in an individual’s name. An estate that is probated without any type of will or trust is usually distributed via instructions in the law called intestate succession. An estate may also be probated according to instructions contained within a will. A personal representative is appointed to represent the decedent. This person acts on behalf of the estate during a period in which the court administers the estate and ultimately distributes the assets.

Where a person has become incapacitated and has not appointed an agent under Durable Power of Attorney, it may become necessary to arrange for the appointment of a Guardian of their estate (to manage assets) and/or a Guardian of the person (to make decisions for the incapacitated person).

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