We have not scheduled public seminars for 2018. A number of private seminars are scheduled in cooperation with our professional practice partners, and eligible attendees will be contacted directly. We will update this section if public seminars become available. Enrolling for our Newsletter will assure you are informed of such changes, in addition to other estate planning topics of interest.

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When Parents Need Your Help

With advances in lifestyle and medicine in this county, people are living far longer than prior generations. While life may be getting longer, it isn't always getting better. The natural aging process remains a part of our lives. When our parents get older, children need to recognize that they may need some help.

Perhaps a parent is having physical issues which limit their ability to get out in the world or to provide proper care for themselves. Deterioration of mental acuity is another age-related change that can impair the health, safety and happiness of an older parent. Occasionally these changes are the result of a discrete event, such as a stroke, and the need to assist and/or intervene is obvious. More commonly, the changes have added up over time, and the parent may struggle for a period of time before the existence and extent of the need is obvious to a child.

Decisions may need to be made about a number of factors. Every family faces a different set of circumstances, but common concerns are:

·       Does my parent need help around the home?

·       Are they safe at home?

·       Should they still be driving?

·       Is home-based care or a facility setting appropriate?

·       Who can take care of the necessary arrangements?

·       How will the bills get paid?

These decisions are always easier if the parents have planned ahead for these possibilities, and having a comprehensive estate plan in place for these post-retirement years can help the family succeed in the years ahead.  Such an estate plan might include tools and techniques such as:

Revocable Living Trust – This planning technique permits a parent to act as their own trustee while they are strong, while appointing you (and/or others) as successor trustee. If the parent can no longer take care of their financial affairs, this successor trustee can take  over as trustee of the trust, thereby gaining control over all trust assets without the need to petition a court to declare someone incompetent/incapacitated not appoint a guardian.

Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will –  These documents permit a person to specify who has authority to make health care decisions when necessary, providing both power to the right persons, and preventing interference by others. Further, an adult can specify here how to make the critical "end-of-life decisions" which might arise later.

 “HIPAA” Authorization Form – As health care in this region has become more corporate and less personal, it is important that families be able to keep open communications with health care professionals and facilities. Unfortunately, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, laws often prevent the health care providers from talking with family. A broad family HIPAA authorization provides people within a parent's trust circle with the ability to get information regardless of where and when treatment is provided, keeping everyone in the loop. Many HIPAA authorizations provided by a health care provider are designed to let them talk to insurance companies to get paid, and might provide a space to include one designated contact person, but this excludes other family members and/or friends that have information to obtain or contribute.

Medicaid/VA Planning – Part of long term living is considering how the expense of long term care may be addressed. For families without strong private long term care insurance policies, a part of their estate plan may anticipate the future need to qualify for governmental benefits from Medicaid or the VA Administration to cover the high cost of long-term care. By planning in advance, a person doesn't need to become destitute before qualifying for such benefits.

Having a plan in place will provide invaluable peace of mind for the family, particularly if it is later determined that a nursing home may be the best option. Take the time now to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney so you and your parents will be prepared, whatever the future holds.

About Our Law Office

The Estate Planning Centers at The Coulter Law Offices, LLC is devoted exclusively to estate planning and assisting the families through such transition times with estate and trust administration counseling. We offer guidance and advice to our clients in every area of estate planning, and offer comprehensive and personalized estate planning consultations. For more information or to attend an upcoming seminar, please contact us at (412) 253-7526 or visit us online at www.estateplanningcenters.com.


Do I Have An Estate Worth Planning?

I am often asked this question, and the answer is: YES! If you are the "short answer" type of person, then that is all you need to know, and you can call us for a complimentary review of your estate planning needs. If you prefer longer answers, which unfortunately is my habit, then I offer the following observations.

When people asked me whether they are wealthy enough to consider estate planning, or trusts, or some other techniques, I often relay my observation that we all die with essentially the same amount of assets; i.e. it's all that we have. While some people objectively have greater wealth, and some may have less, we all have something that we want to make sure is properly attended to. The beauty of contemporary estate planning is that there are a variety of tools and techniques which can be brought to bear on a situation, depending upon the goals we are trying to achieve, and the nature of the assets for which we are planning.

Many people don't realize how their assets stack up compared to the country as a whole. It is common to look at our neighbors, or our community, as representative of the general population, and to compare our own situation to what we know, think, or surmise our neighbors have accumulated. When you dig into the actual data, however, a different picture often emerges, and this picture often shows my clients have done a better job than they thought.


A nice source of national data is the Survey of Consumer Finances conducted every three years by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. This national study is specifically designed to help the government and the public understand the financial condition of families in the United States, and study the effects of changes in the economy. The diagram below summarizes the net worth of various age brackets at certain percentage breakpoints across the country. For example, households headed by a primary earner over age 55, with a net worth of $548,910.00, puts them in the top 25% in the country. Even $194,700.00 still puts you in the top half. When you add up the value of your home equity, retirement accounts, savings and investments, etc., you can see where you fall. 

Net Worth for Selected Age Brackets, U.S. 2013

My clients are often surprised how high on that chart they sit. Obviously, these brackets and percentages cover lots of ground, and there are gaps in between. A good online calculator to show your specific percentage compared to the U.S. population, based upon your age and assets, can be found at https://www.shnugi.com/networth-percentile-calculator/.

While finding out where you stand compared to the rest of the country is an interesting, and sometimes illuminating, exercise, it doesn't truly answer the question about whether someone needs to consider estate planning. Passing on wealth to families at death is certainly part of a common estate planning discussion, but other things need to be considered as well, such as:

·       Will someone have authority to manage my affairs if I am physically or mentally unable to do so?

·       Who will have the authority to direct medical care decisions for me, and who might be able to interfere with those decisions?

·       How do I want care decisions made when I am faced with end-of-life issues?

·       Will the actions required following my death be expensive, complicated, and/or slow?

·       If I have young children, who will take care of them in the future, and who can take care of them in a crisis?

·       What would happen to an inheritance if my children experienced a divorce? Or got sick? Or got sued?

·       Do I have loved ones who need protected, either from themselves, or from outsiders who might try to take advantage of them?

·       If I need long-term care, such as a nursing home, will this put what I leave behind at risk?

·       What are the tax implications, in life and after death, of the choices I make?

Each one of the families I speak with is unique. We all have our own circumstances, concerns, victories, failures, assets, liabilities, and 1,000 other things which make us different. There is no one magic estate plan which is right for everyone, yet everyone can start finding what the appropriate answers are for themselves the same way. Contact our office to arrange a complimentary consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you make sense of it all. If you have already done estate planning and would like someone to look it over, we are happy to provide this service as a part of this complimentary consultation process as well.  Since the appointment is free, you don't need to worry that your wealth rank will drop either!

Contact us today to start this process before time slips away. Don’t let protecting your family be one of those things you meant to do, but didn’t.  As always, we are available to answer any questions you may have regarding estate planning issues for your family or your family-owned business.

Feel free to give us a call if you'd like to schedule a time to sit down and talk with a professional about these issues, or any other planning issues on your mind.