Trust And Estates

Bleecker Brodey & Andrews provides the following services in the areas of trusts and estates:  

- Estate Planning (Wills and Revocable Living Trusts)
- Estate Administration - Trust Death Settlement Services
- Comprehensive Estate and Medicaid Evaluations
- Planning for Parents of Children with Disabilities  

The firm’s focus on the estate planning and the public benefits needs of individuals and families enables us to be particularly sensitive to the multiple stresses that these individuals and families confront on a daily basis, which are compounded by the complexities of the American legal and health care systems.  We help our clients navigate these systems by providing answers when they are hard to find and identifying solutions to the client’s particular needs and goals.

These services are provided by attorney Mike Andrews and paralegal Wendy Stokes.  Mike has over 25 years experience in estate planning and related fields.  Wendy has over 20 years experience as a paralegal focused on the area of legal services for older citizens.

What follows is a more detailed description of the legal services Bleecker Brodey & Andrews provides:  

ESTATE PLANNING: We do estate and retirement planning for clients of all ages and circumstances.  After exploration of the client’s needs and expectations, solutions can include the preparation of a Will or a revocable living trust along with associated documents such as a durable financial power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney, and a living will.  Other advanced estate planning techniques are employed as warranted.  

ESTATE ADMINISTRATION: We provide full representation of fiduciaries administering estates.  Probate administration includes filing the petition for probate of will and appointment of the personal representative (executor or executrix), preparing and filing an inventory of estate assets, paying the decedent’s (deceased person) debts, filing tax returns, preparing and filing a final accounting with the Probate Court, distributing assets and preparing and filing a supplemental report with the Probate Court.  If allowed by the Will, a process called unsupervised administration may be used which requires most of the same steps, but without as much Probate Court involvement.  If the decedent died with less than $50,000 in probate asserts, a small estate procedure may be used in lieu of formal probate administration.  

COMPREHENSIVE ESTATE AND MEDICAID PLANNING EVALUATIONS: We begin our representation of many clients with a comprehensive estate and long-term care evaluation.  This evaluation dictates the best planning strategies to pursue to meet the client’s estate planning and long-term health care objectives.  The complex and ever-evolving rules of Medicaid play an increasingly important role with respect to traditional estate planning concerns.  A knowledge of elder law is, therefore, absolutely critical for a truly comprehensive estate planning evaluation plan.  

PLANNING FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: We assist clients with disabilities with legal planning for their long-term needs.  We also advise parents or other family members of disable persons on how they can effectively provide for them, with careful regard for preserving Medicaid and other public benefits.  The firm provides information about planning options, drafts special needs and supplemental needs trusts and other documents as appropriate, and advises trustees of trusts for the benefit of disabled persons concerning trust administration.    

Estate Plans Aren’t Just for Seniors

Young families often fail to plan for the unexpected.  Unfortunately, accidents or illnesses do occur, which can result in one spouse being left with the sole responsibility for raising the children or, even worse, the children being left without either parent surviving.  What to do?

Young couples or single parents with children need to take care of two things if they want to ensure their children’s future.  First, they should provide for their family by doing basic estate planning.

At a minimum, a young couple needs Wills which include a trust to take effect if both spouses die and which provides for the financial care of the children.  In such a trust, a trustee is named to take charge of insurance proceeds and other assets and use them for the benefit of the children in accordance with the parent’s written instructions.

A single parent, similarly, needs a Will which includes a trust for the children.  A trust is especially advisable in this situation.  If there is a surviving ex-spouse, they normally will assume full parental authority for the children, including the children’s finances, without a guardianship being created.  Many single parents do not want their ex-spouse in charge of assets left to the children.  A trust naming someone other than the ex-spouse as trustee takes care of this concern.

Perhaps most important to many young couples and single parents is the question of who will raise their children if they are gone.  A guardian is a person or persons appointed by the probate court to raise your children until they attain age 18.  A parent names a guardian or guardians to raise their children in a Will.  A probate court will normally honor this nomination and appoint the person(s) which the last spouse to pass names in his or her Will.  As important as the question is of who to choose as guardian, is the matter of who one does not want to raise their children.  Absent a clear choice made in a will, a probate court may name someone the parent would not particularly want to raise the children.

As mentioned before, the surviving ex-spouse of a single parent who is also a parent of the children will, absent extraordinary circumstances, assume full control of the children and their assets.  If there is no surviving ex-spouse, it is very important for the single parent to nominate a guardian.  Failure to do so can result in a court-appointed stranger raising the children.

Additional documents called powers of attorney should also be prepared to deal with a parent’s financial and health care issues in case of physical or cognitive disability.  At some point, most families will be well-served to consider a revocable living trust-based estate plan, but at an absolute minimum, parents must have Wills to provide for their children.

In addition to the proper estate planning documents, young families need to provide money to fund the trust that will take care of their children’s financial needs.  Most young families are not blessed with sufficient assets to provide for their children in the event of the parent’s death. 

Thus, the second matter for a parent or parents to take care of is to consult an insurance professional and purchase sufficient life insurance to adequately provide for their spouse and/or children in the event of an untimely demise.  Given the very reasonable rates for term life insurance, cost is not a reason to fail to take this step.

This is the bare minimum needed to provide for a young family in case of the parent’s death.

The Process of Estate Planning
While Mike welcomes the chance to help with the most basic estate planning needs, he recommends the following process to make sure your estate plan is always up to date:  
Step 1: Call for an initial, free appointment at which we’ll jointly evaluate your personal situation and Mike will recommend what he believes to be the best ways to address your needs.
Step 2: Should you decide to proceed, you’ll give Mike your written authorization to act on your behalf and will receive a letter outlining all the details and terms of your agreement.  You’ll know just what to expect.
Step 3: Mike will design the legal documents needed to meet your goals.
Step 4: Document delivery, where you will receive your documents and a full explanation to make sure you understand your estate plan and answer any questions you may have.
Step 5: (if needed)  A funding meeting to assist in funding a trust(s) created as part of your plan.
Step 6: Trust or estate settlement. When the time comes, Mike can provide legal assistance in the administration of your estate plan to ensure your expectations are met.      

How Mike Can be Your Partner
- Free Initial Consultation
- No “selling-up.”  Mike will look at your circumstances and tell you what you do need, and, more importantly, what you don’t need
- A custom-designed estate plan: will-based or trust-based, to address your needs and  concerns
- Reasonable Fees
- Payment Plans
- Program for Free Wills for Young Families
- Practices in Elder law and related areas
- Assistance with funding trusts
- Legacy planning for those interested in leaving behind more than just material assets
- If you can’t come to Mike for health reasons, he will do his best to come to you.