How Can I Take Care of a Special Needs Loved One After My Death?

 

One of the most stressful questions for those of you caring for a special needs loved one is how to protect them once you’re gone. Estate planning with special needs in mind can feel daunting, but with a special needs trust created specifically for your loved one, you can find peace of mind. This legal document is customizable, allowing you to leave specific instructions for monetary assistance, medical concerns, and everyday aid for your special needs dependent.

 

Crucial to caring for a special needs individual is maximizing their access to government-based programs, which provide both monetary help and assistance with life skills and daily tasks. The two main government sources for aid are Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both programs are income-based, so a disabled individual must meet certain financial criteria. Meeting those qualifications means simply leaving money to your loved one could actually do more harm than good, placing them in an income bracket that would disqualify them from these critical sources of financial support.

 

This is where a special needs trust comes in. Placing money and assets into trust makes them the property of that trust. Thus, even if your loved one is the trust’s sole beneficiary, they still don’t legally own the assets within it, the trust does. This keeps the disabled individual in a lower income bracket, allowing them to qualify for Medicaid and SSI while still receiving the assets you left for them.

 

Furthermore, a trust outlines exactly how the property can be used. Whomever you name as trustee — whether a dependable person or professional fiduciary like a trust company — is required to use what’s in trust only according to your stipulations for the good of the beneficiary. This helps prevent misuse of assets and makes your wishes legally enforceable.

 

The stipulations in a special needs trust vary depending on each person’s situation. You can set aside funds for specific medical expenses, educational opportunities, or transportation, depending on what you know your disabled dependent will need. You can even set aside money and instructions for the care of a service animal or for recreational activities you know will improve your loved one’s quality of life.

 

However, because of how customizable a special needs trust can be, it’s vital that you draft one with the aid and advice of an estate planning attorney. At Bellah Law, we know how hard it is to make decisions for your estate, especially when a disabled dependent is involved. With our help, you can rest easy knowing that your special needs loved one will have the utmost care and support even after you’re gone.

 

CHAPTER 7 OR CHAPTER 13 BANKRUPTCY: What’s best for me?

 

Often, people come into the Bellah Law Office in financial distress.  They are scared, feeling guilty or down and out.  They consult with one of the bankruptcy attorneys and learn their options of Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy and they leave the office with hope for a brighter future. 

 

Chapter 7 bankruptcy

is the type of bankruptcy used by most people. It is generally meant for people who do not have the financial ability to pay back all or a reasonable amount of their debts.

 

Chapter 13 bankruptcy

is generally meant for people that can pay back their debt or a large portion of it over time, but not all at once.  Chapter 13 provides for a payment plan where you pay a certain portion of your income to the Bankruptcy Trustee and the money is proportioned out to your creditors. Chapter 13 also allows most people to keep their property.  The payment plan lasts 3 to 5 years.

 

Chapter 7 bankruptcy

usually stays on your credit record for 10 years. Chapter 13 bankruptcy usually remains on your credit record for seven years.

 

Bellah Law usually offers a free consultation as a bankruptcy lawyer in Glendale AZ

Bankruptcy Can Happen to Anyone: What Celebrity Financial Woes Teach Us

The cause for bankruptcy is more than simply accruing debt. Life circumstances, unexpected expenses, and events beyond our control can all drive people to seek debt relief, even celebrities. In fact, cases of celebrity bankruptcy can teach us both how debt can overwhelm us and how we can start over.  

Know Your Limits

It seems a simple maxim: don’t spend more than you earn. But sudden wealth can make it hard to keep track of income and expenses. Boxer Mike Tyson knows this all too well, managing to incur $23 million in debt by the time he filed for bankruptcy in 2003. While he bought Siberian tigers and supposedly threw a $410,000 birthday party, your version of overspending might be buying a car that’s too expensive or simply over-relying on your credit card. Learn from Tyson and know your financial limits. 

Be Aware of Legal Fees

Soul singer Marvin Gaye found out the hard way that a bad divorce agreement can lead to bankruptcy. Just Google Search this topic. Drowning in alimony expenses, he wound up with over half a million dollars in debt. He eventually paid back some of the debt with album royalties. A good divorce attorney can prevent you from being saddled with unmanageable spousal or child support, as well as revise an existing agreement that is now untenable.

Much like Marvin Gaye, actress Kim Basinger filed for bankruptcy after incurring legal debts. In her case, a breach of contract lawsuit left her owing $8.1 million when she was only worth $5.4 million. Lawsuits are a common bankruptcy cause, thanks to legal fees, settlements, and other expenses. Contact an attorney immediately if you’re facing an expensive lawsuit or find yourself unable to pay case-related fees.

Understand Your Business Liability

Before the success of his eponymous company, Walt Disney’s first studio, Laugh-O-Gram, went bankrupt when his financial backer went broke. Because of the business’s structure, Disney was left responsible for the company’s debts, which he was unable to pay. Business liability is too often a cause of bankruptcy, with one person suddenly becoming liable for some or all of a company’s financial obligations. Consulting a business attorney before establishing your company can help protect you from liability, while a bankruptcy attorney can help you navigate the financial stresses that follow a split with a partner, associate, or backer.

Bankruptcy can happen to anyone, but these stories are also proof that anyone can bounce back from financial setbacks. With our attorneys by your side, you can not only receive much-needed debt relief, but also avoid other costly mistakes. Contact the bankruptcy attorneys at Bellah Law today to learn more: (602) 252-9937.

Common Questions About the 341 Meeting of Creditors

Anyone considering filing bankruptcy has likely heard about the “341 Meeting of Creditors.”  The name implies the bankruptcy filer will be face to face with people and companies who have not been paid and – provided the bankruptcy goes well – will never be paid.  The prospect of this encounter with creditors can be intimidating!  I am glad to tell you the 341 Meeting of Creditors is not an experience to be dreaded.  Typically, the Meeting is an uneventful formality usually taking less than five minutes.  Below are answers to common questions about the 341 Meeting of Creditors.

 

Q:  Who Attends the 341 Meeting of Creditors?

A:  Contrary to the title, creditors rarely show up at the Meeting.  Typically, the only person asking questions at the Meeting is the Trustee.  The Trustee is appointed by the court to ensure the bankruptcy paperwork is complete and accurate.  It is almost always the case that the only other people in the Meeting are others who filed bankruptcy and their attorneys.

 

Q:  What Happens at the 341 Meeting of Creditors?

A:  The bankruptcy filer is placed under oath and answers the Trustee’s questions about the bankruptcy paperwork.  Even though a judge is not at the Meeting it must be taken seriously.  Knowingly providing false testimony at the Meeting is a federal crime.  The most important thing is to answer all questions honestly to the best of your ability.  The old bankruptcy maxim is a fresh start is freely given to an “honest yet unfortunate debtor.” 

Q:  Where is the 341 Meeting of Creditors Held?

A:  The 341 Meeting of Creditors is typically held in a conference room located in the Federal building housing the bankruptcy court.  People who file bankruptcy in Maricopa County, Arizona will have their Meeting in the bankruptcy court building in Phoenix.  An actual bankruptcy courtroom is not used for Meetings and a judge is not involved.  Although the Meeting is a matter to be taken seriously, the less formal setting makes the Meeting far less intimidating than one might think.   

Q:  Why Is the 341 Meeting of Creditors Required?

A:  The Meeting is required bankruptcy code Section 341.  This is why the Meeting is also referred to as the “Section 341 Meeting” or simply “341 Meeting”.  The purpose of the Meeting is to allow creditors and the Trustee an opportunity to question the debtor.  If the bankruptcy paperwork is correctly completed with the assistance of a qualified attorney the Meeting is essentially just affirming the contents of the paperwork under oath.           

CONCLUSION

The 341 Meeting of Creditors is a small but crucial step toward clearing away debt.  With a seasoned bankruptcy attorney’s assistance the Meeting will be a formality rather than a cause for fear.  If you are considering bankruptcy I invite you to contact Bellah Law to schedule a free consultation. 

Want Your Share of  Retirement Benefits  After Divorce (Dissolution of Marriage) Then You Need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) !

 

Divorce or Dissolution of Marriage

allows you to negotiate for alimony, child support, and other financial considerations from your former spouse. But often overlooked is one crucial form of monetary support: retirement benefits. You may be surprised to learn you can receive a portion of your ex’s retirement savings. All you need is a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO.

 

Despite anything outlined in divorce documents, without a QDRO, you have no right to your ex’s retirement benefits.

This court-ordered decree specifies that a child, former spouse, or other dependent can receive payments from the retirement plan of an individual. The document essentially makes an ex, child, or dependent into an alternate payee for the plan. In cases where the alternate payee in a QDRO is a minor child, declared legally incompetent, and/or placed in the care of a guardian or conservator, the decree will pay the guardian or conservator instead as if s/he were the payee.

 

A QDRO contains information about the employee and non-employee and a formula to determine the amount/percentage to be paid.  Each retirement plan requires its own QDRO meaning that if an employee has a pension plan and a 401K plan from the same employer there will be two QDRO’s.

 

For the QDRO to go into effect, it must be accepted by the retirement plan and approved by the Court/Judge.   Without acceptance, the document is simply a DRO, or domestic relations order; “qualified” is only added when the retirement plan agrees to the decree. Luckily, even if the order is rejected, most companies provide their reasoning and allow for resubmission. Nonetheless, to prevent this delay, an attorney can work with you to catch any mistakes and file it properly.

 

The last thing on your mind during divorce may be retirement, but don’t neglect this valuable avenue for financial support. Moreover, once your former spouses remarries, if you don’t have a QDRO in place, you may lose all rights to retirement benefits.

 

Talk with a divorce law attorney or family law attorney at Bellah Law about retirement benefits to ensure you and your dependents have access to this valuable source of monetary support. Don’t miss your chance! Call today: (602) 252-9937.

Divorce vs. Legal Separation-What is the difference and what is best for me?

 

Actions for divorce or legal separation are exactly the same.  In the event of an uncontested action or default action, they take a minimum of sixty days.  If issues are contested and your case goes to trial, it can take up to one year to conclude. 

In an action for divorce or legal separation, you must consider issues of child custody, support and the division of assets and debts. 

 Arizona is a no-fault divorce state meaning that in order to obtain a divorce or legal separation, one of the parties must testify that the marriage is irretrievably broken with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.  You do not need to prove abandonment, neglect or abuse. In Arizona, divorce is referred to as dissolution of marriage.

 

Bellah Law usually charges $50.00 for a one-half hour consultation

 

 

 

 

POWER OF ATTORNEY: WHICH one do I need?

Everyone needs or will soon need, a Power of Attorney.  The question is which type(s) do you need. Are you scheduled for surgery, going on vacation but leaving children with grandparents, wanting to protect your assets?  These are only some of the reasons you need a Power of Attorney.

General
Durable Power of Attorney

This Power of Attorney enables you to appoint someone to represent you in business, medical and administrative matters. It is called “Durable” because it remains in effect whether or not you are incapacitated.

Financial/Business
Power of Attorney

You may want to designate someone to handle your business affairs. This is called a Financial/Business Power of Attorney.

Healthcare
Power of Attorney

The Healthcare Power of Attorney appoints someone to make decisions on your behalf whether or not the decision is pertaining to your physical health, mental health or HIPPA issues.

Parental
Power of Attorney

Going on vacation?  Moving, but leaving your children behind to complete a school year?  You can appoint someone to have Power of Attorney over your children
for any length of time up to six months maximum.  This enables the person to act as a parent substitute for all issues except for marriage, adoption and joining the
military.

Can I revoke or modify my Power of Attorney?

Yes. Anytime you want to make a change or revoke the Power of Attorney, you can do so. You revoke the Power of Attorney by destroying it or writing across the front
“revoked” or advising the appointee its revoked.

Bellah Law charges a low cost fee to advise and draft your Power of Attorney.

How Can Deeds Protect My Real Estate from Probate?

Probate is a dirty word in estate planning. The process requires a detour through the courts to determine a will’s legitimacy, often costs money, and stands in the way of beneficiaries receiving their share of an estate in a timely manner. When transferring real estate after death, the delay can be even more frustrating. Luckily, there are options to allow real property to bypass probate entirely.

If You Want to Stay Put

Let’s say you own real estate that you would like to make your residence for the rest of your life and then pass to your child. If you’re certain you’ll never sell the property, you can draft a life estate deed. This deed lists you as the property’s “life tenant,” allowing you to live there until your death, at which point residency will transfer to your named “remainderman,” in this case, your child. The remainderman automatically receives ownership of the property at the time of your death, without having to go through probate.

However, be aware that the remainderman technically owns the property but is allowing the life tenant to reside there until death. Should you decide to move, you will have to sell your interest in the property, while the remainderman retains ultimate ownership. Likewise, if a remainderman decides to sell his or her right to the real estate, the new owner will have to respect the life tenant’s right to the land until death. Because of these nuances, consult an estate planning attorney before drafting a life estate deed.

If You Want Some Flexibility

If you don’t want to commit yourself to a property for the remainder of your life, consider a beneficiary deed. As the name suggests, this flexible deed transfers ownership to a named beneficiary upon the death of the owner. Unlike a life estate deed, ownership of the real estate remains with the original owner; the beneficiary only receives property rights after the owner’s death. In fact, if you hold a beneficiary deed, you can not only change the named beneficiaries at any time, but also revoke the deed if you decide to sell the property.

Is A Beneficiary Deed the Best Option?

 Although beneficiary deeds work well for avoiding probate, they don’t offer you the best protection in the event of incapacity of one or more owners of the property.  Setting up a revocable living trust may be a better option depending on the circumstances.  See the blog entitled “Beneficiary Deed or Revocable Living Trust?  Which option provides the best protection?” for more information.

What’s Right for You?

At Bellah Law, we’re passionate about creating an estate plan that reflects your individual needs, including your hopes for transferring real estate. Contact one of our estate planning or real estate lawyers today to find the best deed to avoid probate and provide a smooth transition for your loved ones. Call us today: (602) 252-9937.

Wills and Trusts: Unusual Provisions

At Bellah Law we sometimes face unique requests from our estate planning clients. 

Planning for Pets

Jane Goodall once said, “You cannot share your life with a dog… or a cat, and not know perfectly well that animals have personalities and minds and feelings.” America seems to agree. According to the American Pet Products Association,  we spent over an estimated $75 billion on our furry friends in 2019, up almost $3 billion from 2018. The law reflects what we value, and law schools like Harvard and Berkeley now include courses on animal law. In other words, you’re not alone in wanting to consider your pets in your estate plan.  

You can stipulate who will care for your pet after your death and allocate money for the upkeep. Choosing a guardian for your pet should entail serious consideration, taking into account a new owner’s financial situation, temperament, and living situation. You can even create a pet trust, which designates money specifically for a pet’s care. If a specific caretaker doesn’t come to mind, you can still ensure your animal friend goes to a charity or rescue shelter, helping it find a new forever home.

Disposing of Remains

In the era of themed weddings and Pinterest-inspired everything, a funeral can be just as customized. Some funeral homes now specialize in themed funerals, from equestrian to Super Bowl themes. Space Services, Inc. allows customers to launch a loved one’s cremated remains into space. Many people even wish to be buried with beloved belongings — items buried with author Ronald Dahl include chocolates, a bottle of wine, and a power saw.

Of course, your loved ones can choose how to dispose of your remains and celebrate your life, but perhaps take Bela Lugosi as a cautionary example — he was buried in his Dracula costume, despite stating how much he didn’t want to be linked to the character.

Future Children

In our medically advanced age, estate planning considerations can include planning for future children. Frozen genetic material, like eggs, sperm, or embryos, can be included in your Will and other documents as potential heirs, despite the possibility of those heirs being born after the parent is deceased. Guardianships, inheritance, and trusts can all be created for genetic material. Since this is a new and changing area of estate and family law, consulting an estate planning lawyer is crucial to protect you and any future offspring.

We Care About What You Care About

Don’t assume your loved ones will remember the funeral idea you had one summer evening several years ago. Don’t be intimidated by the perceived complications of planning around a beloved pet or frozen material. Above all, don’t be afraid to ask your lawyer how detailed, unorthodox, or personalized you can make your estate plans. If you care about it, we care about it, and we therefore want to make sure you have it in writing.

Call today

Call Bellah Law today. We’ll make sure your estate planning wishes are honored.   (602) 252-9937.  Call 602-A-LAWYER.