Tag Archive for: assets

Note: Not Legal Advice!

Can I have sole legal claim over my father’s home? I will have to move to Oklahoma. I will be responsible for paying mortgage, bills, and other living expenses. Along with caring for his medical needs. My two siblings will not be helping. The significant sacrifices have hurt me financially.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Everyone helps at Christmastime! But that was last week. What about the rest of the year? Your father is blessed to have you. Many people do not have anyone willing to step up. But you must protect yourself to protect Dad.

Undue Influence

Basic Rule: Everyone can leave anything to anyone. It is Dad’s stuff. Dad decides who gets it. But. It gets tricky when the favored beneficiary also helps the giver.
Dad changes his plan to increase benefits to you. Here is what happens next:

Case #1: You are just one of the kids. The other kids can complain all day long. It is up to them to prove that you used “undue influence” on Dad. And that is almost impossible. You win!


Case #2: Dad has special trust and confidence in you. Dad depends on you emotionally, medically, and financially. Dad gave you power of attorney. Dad made you his trustee.
Things are different. You are Dad’s “fiduciary.” Dad is dependent on you. Then dies. The other kids complain. Now the “burden of proof” shifts to you! You must prove that you did not use “undue influence on Dad. And that is almost impossible. You lose!


Your friendly neighborhood elder law attorney has seen this movie before. Frequently. To avoid the hassle after Dad dies, prepare now. Several techniques are commonly used to protect Dad’s wishes. And you! We can help you determine the best strategy.

But please. Get this fixed now! Family strife hurts everyone. Save your family. Save your sanity. Save your inheritance.

Do I have to watch my mother’s spending before entering a nursing home? My mother is 95 and living in her home. She withdrawals $2000.00 cash every month for her groceries, eating out, clothing, house cleaning, lawn work etc. She has done this for at least the past 10 years. My question is, if she goes into a care home, will the home consider these withdrawals of money a concern, and prevent her from entering home?

Old Habits Die Hard

Today we have COVID. In the 1930’s it was the Great Depression. Cataclysmic events change the survivors. Like your mother. Depression Era folks never trusted banks again. Cash is king!
Your mother’s cash habit is very common. Social Security checks used to be mailed. Many retirees would immediately cash the check. And go walking around with the cash money. Nowadays, Social Security is Direct Deposit. No paper checks in the mail.

Undaunted, folks like your mother go to the bank and withdraw the cash, just like before. This can be a problem.

Prove You Did Not Give It Away!

Nursing home expenses break most middle-class folks. When broke, Medicaid may pay. But not if you gave your money away. When your mother applies for Medicaid, she must prove that she spent her money correctly. For the last five (5) years.

How can mother prove she did not give her money away? No receipts. No cancelled checks. No paper trails. If mother’s caseworker is a stickler, mother can be in trouble.
Nursing homes want to get paid. Mother has no money. Medicaid will not pay. Now what? Now the nursing home sues mother. Mother has no money. But mother has a house! Not for long…

Solution! Save The Homestead

Record mother’s spending now. Collect receipts. Write checks. Set up Direct Pay for utilities. Develop a track record. When the time comes, you can demonstrate that $2000 a month is mother’s routine spending. Your friendly neighborhood elder law attorney can help.

And Beyond!

Applying for benefits does not mean Nursing Home Poverty or silly Spend Down. Learn how to preserve your loved one’s lifesavings, business, cottage, life insurance. Thousands of middle-class families have learned and use these techniques. Why not yours?

Got Questions? Get Answers!

COME TO A WORKSHOP… (800) 317-2812

Do you find that many things are out of your control in these uncertain times? Some of us busy ourselves with many small chores and errands. We leave big decisions for “tomorrow” because they seem insurmountable. But tomorrow never comes. Paperwork piles up! Investment reports, insurance policies, legal “stuff”. We avoid important decisions. We promise ourselves to do it later. When we have “more time”.

Why does it seem that we are most stressed by decisions that could simplify our lives? By taking steps that improve the lives of our children? Do we actually want more difficulties, complexities, loose ends?

Getting your affairs in order for both yourself and your families may seem like a task best left for a better time. Could it be that there is not a better time? Have you ever noticed that somehow time slips away? What if now is the best time to choose? While we are in good health, competent to make decisions.

Talk To Someone Who Has Walked Your Walk

I know so many women like you. Joyful women, cheerful, selfless women who spend a lifetime caring for family. But why do you neglect to care for yourself? Generous and giving, you put your plans on hold for others. I am sure you know many other women who embrace life like you. Other women who know what it is all about.

What if you could talk, have a chat with an attorney who has walked that extra mile? In your shoes? Would that be refreshing? Why can’t your wishes compel respect? Why shouldn’t your legacy have meaning? Reflect your values? Why don’t you deserve a LifePlan™?

Remember those piles of reports and statements that have been sitting around? Wouldn’t you feel less stress if you could put your hands on a single, well-organized list of your assets? What would it mean for your children? Wouldn’t this list be an invaluable guide for them? If you became incapacitated? Or at the time of your death?

No one wants to go to the hospital. But if you had to, wouldn’t you like to make those difficult decisions a bit easier on your loved ones? Wouldn’t you lighten the load if you could? LifePlan™ healthcare documents cover virtually all conditions. Saving your family valuable time and resources. Not to mention mental stress. Your LifePlan™ says: Mom thought of everything.

Most of the professional team at the Law Offices of David L. Carrier are women. Younger and older. Attorneys and paralegals. With many years of experience. We welcome the opportunity to talk to other women like us. Like you. Mothers, sisters, wives. We know about your needs and help you get your affairs in order. We have “been there”. We are there.

Let’s face it, you do have the power to create a plan with coherent guidelines. Practical steps with useful information. Handling your assets and health care while you are alive. No squabbling among the kids.

LifePlanning™ establishes clear, workable instructions. To settle matters after your death. Clear. Fair. Quick. No costly and time-consuming probate process. Again, no squabbling.

Isn’t it time for you to talk with someone who’s been on your path? Who has guided others to peace and security? We are waiting to welcome you!
Simplify your life and the lives of your family.

Come in at your convenience. I’d love to talk with you

Just ask for me, Claire Clary, an attorney with The Law Offices of David L. Carrier.

You know how it is. Everybody has something to say. And each one says something different. It is a whole choir singing flat: Financial Advisor. Accountant. Next-door neighbor. Friend from church’s lawyer. That get-out-of-debt guy on the radio. That financial guru woman on public television. Confusing? Yes. Here’s the straight story…

Probate Works Like This. It’s Simple.

1. You run into Meijer (or Spartan Stores or D&W) for a loaf of bread. Before you know it, your arms are full of items you cannot live without. And you are in control of that stuff.
2. But then: You slip and fall! Whoops… the stuff goes flying and makes a big mess. You had total control. Then you had none.
3. Clean Up On Aisle 3!
4. The janitor comes out to clean up your mess. The janitor takes your stuff and decides what to do with it. Where it goes. How it gets there. According to Janitor Rules.

Translation: Here is How Probate Works!

1. You earned and saved. Now you have stuff. Not groceries, but your home, insurance, investments, furniture, automobile, stocks, bonds. You have control. You earned it. It is all in your name.
2. But then: You died. You became disabled. You lost control.
3. Now nobody controls your stuff anymore. Not you. Not anyone else. But somebody has got to figure out what to do with your leftovers… And that’s the job of Probate Court… figuring out what to do with the leftovers.
4. Now a big chunk of your lifesavings goes to probate attorneys and a bit more to probate court.
5. Your beneficiaries get the rest. You hope.

But My Will Avoids Probate! Doesn’t It?

Wills do not avoid probate at all. Your will is nothing but a nice letter to the janitor, asking nicely that the janitor will do as you ask:

Last Will & Testament

Dear Janitor,
When I have slipped and fallen and you find my stuff, please let my spouse/child/someone special help you.
Please pay any bills that you get. Please advertise to see if anyone else wants to claim any of my money. Do not forget to pay yourself and anyone who helps you!

Please do not use your usual rules, but give my stuff to the following folks: 1,2,3…
Thanks Janitor!

Person Who Did Only a Will.

Remember: The Will does not do anything except tell the Probate Court where you want the leftover stuff to go. If anyone finds it. Then reads it. Then follows it. And if no one else complains.

  • If sole ownership and death, then Mess.
  • If Mess, then Probate.
  • If Probate, then Will.
  • If no Mess, no Probate.
  • If no Probate, Nothing for Will to do.

Get the information you need to avoid the janitor! Call 1-800-317-2812

Dedication, Devotion

Just a few months ago.

On a perfect spring morning, two women were reading their Sunday paper. They were remarkably similar. Both had children and grandchildren. Both were reliable volunteers for church and civic affairs. Both were looking forward to their 50th wedding anniversary.

Their comfortable homes were paid for. Both had substantial retirement savings. No debt. No extravagant or expensive habits. Other than spoiling their grandchildren at every opportunity. In a good-natured way, of course.

Both were the sort of middle-class people who enrich the world by their simple presence. And generosity of spirit. Authentic kindness.

Both were primary caregivers for their husbands. Both of whom, after many years as partner and confidant, father and grandfather, best friend and “accomplice” had succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease.

These women take their wedding vows seriously. Better or worse. Richer or poorer. Sickness and health. They said it. They meant it. They lived it.

Their kids think its corny, but they took the words of JFK seriously: “We choose to do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” And Alzheimer’s is hard. Their kids, living in other states, also think it’s a good idea for Dad to be “placed”. What is it with kids these days?

Too Good to be True

As it happens, on this pleasant morning, both women were reading the same article. An account in The Michigan Elder Law Reporter describing the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, known as PACE. The Reporter claimed that PACE provided free, at-home care. All pharmacy needs with no co-pays, donut holes, delays, or frustrating paperwork. Specialist care. Respite care. Durable medical equipment. Supplies. Occupational and Physical Therapy. The list went on and on. It even claimed that PACE was intended to help folks just like her. On purpose. Family members caring for loved ones at home. Staying at home.

Most outrageous, though, was the bold statement that their life savings, their home, their cottage, their security, need not be sacrificed to long-term care costs. That a lifetime of shared work could be preserved for themselves, their children, their grandchildren. How could that happen?!

Two Roads Diverged in a Wood, And I – I Took The One Less Traveled By…

And this is where the women made different choices. One said to herself, “Stuff and Nonsense! I pity anyone foolish enough to believe this… Promises, promises! Too good to be true!”

The other thought, “I never heard of this before. Is it possible? Maybe I should find out more…”

Five years quickly passed.

And That Has Made All of the Difference

Another fine spring morning. But now these women were not so much alike.

In desperation, she turned to cash advances on the credit cards. In her pride, she did not share the burden with her friends or children.

One was physically exhausted. Twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a week. Constant caregiving was taking a heavy toll. Worse was the mental stress. She was facing bankruptcy. She gladly spent the life savings to pay home care workers. She did not really mind selling the cottage. The proceeds had been spent years ago. She was still bound and determined that her husband would never wind up in one of “those places.” Then the cash ran out. She gritted her teeth and took a loan against the house. Twice. Plus, a line of credit. In desperation, she turned to cash advances on the credit cards. In her pride, she did not share the burden with her friends or children. She chose a solitary journey. Until the inevitable day when the house of cards collapsed. She reached for the phone to call her eldest child. Soon they were in a senior housing project, but at least the bill collectors had stopped calling.

The other woman was at the cottage window watching her grandchildren fish from the dock. The last few years had been tough. Her husband no longer knew her or their children. She was making the best of a bad situation. But.

She did not face it alone. Life savings protected. Life choices respected. “Well,” she thought, “sometimes too good to be true turns out even better.”

Her health was good. The PACE folks were a blessing. No worries. PACE had installed a walk-in shower at their home. Several times a week, expert aides came out to attend to her husband’s hygiene. During that coronavirus problem so many years ago, they even helped with her grocery shopping. And housekeeping. In addition to all the medical support. She knew her future was secure. She did not face it alone. Life savings protected. Life choices respected. “Well,” she thought, “sometimes “too good to be true turns out even better.”

Several months later.

I Have Finished the Course, I Have Kept the Faith

At the first woman’s funeral, her friends agreed. It was tragic. She had run the race. She had fought the good fight. At the ultimate cost to herself, she did what she believed was necessary. Pouring out the savings and accomplishments of a lifetime in a few short years.

But. Is there anything more tragic than needless suffering? Doing very well something that did not have to be done at all? As one mourner observed, “She killed herself with work and worry, all to keep him out of “those places.” And where is he going now? One of “those places.” It is more than sadness that we feel when a good person refuses the helping hand. It is more than regret when refusal leads to unfortunate consequences.

Not far away, at about the same time.

After the preachers kind words at the cemetery, the other woman turned from her husband’s grave. She too had run the race, fought the good fight. She had been there for him to the ultimate end. Hospice at the house. Familiar PACE folks who supplied the hospital bed, Hoyer lift and other necessary equipment and services. Given fair warning, the kids made it in from out of town. It was sad, heart-breaking. But not tragic. Surrounded by family and friends. Secure. At peace. What did the Lord have in store for her now? She did not know. But she looked forward to finding out.

What did the Lord have in store for her now? She did not know. But she looked forward to finding out.

The Difference

Most people, reading this blog, will choose the path of the first woman. Most people, faced with long-term care costs, will close their eyes. Hope for the best. And watch their life savings evaporate like a snowflake on a hot griddle. Why does the caregiver spouse die first, almost half of the time? Why do hard-working, prudent, frugal, middle-class folks accept nursing home poverty? Most of the time?

Not Chance, Your Choice

There is nothing inevitable about losing your home, cottage, business, lifesavings, independence, security. All of that is a choice. Despite what “everybody else” says. For thirty years, people have told me, “I’ve never heard of this before!” “If this is real, why haven’t I heard of this before?” “My lawyer/financial advisor/accountant/tax person/banker/best friend/fill-in-the-blank never said anything like this…”

Well, here you are. Reading this blog. So now you know. No excuses. We are here to provide information, insight, inspiration. Now it is your turn. To ignore the message. Invite poverty. Or get the freely offered information. To make wise decisions about your life. And that of your loved one. If you want to take the right road, isn’t it time for you to call our office today?

The Law Offices of David L. Carrier, PC
4965 East Beltline Avenue, NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49525
Toll-Free – (800) 317-2812

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are now either considering putting an estate plan in place or reviewing their existing documents. Everyone should have an estate plan in place, whether there is a global pandemic or things are just fine for you now. Planning for the future just makes sense.

Once you decide that you need an estate plan, the next question, is “What documents do I need?”. Every competent adult should have a properly written Healthcare Power of Attorney document and Financial Power of Attorney document. (More on those in a separate article).

Some people wonder if they need a trust, or quickly dismiss a trust as an option – either because they don’t understand the benefits of a trust or think it is only for those with a net worth in the millions.

A trust is a legal document, created by a Grantor, and managed by the Trustee. Often, the Grantor and Trustee can be you – the person who creates the trust. There are many types of trusts and each has its own specific purpose. In general, the Trustee manages the assets in the Trust while the Grantor is alive, and transfers the trust assets to the beneficiaries upon the Grantor’s death.

Years ago, Trusts were a method to save on inheritance taxes. Unless your estate is approaching $11.5 million, this is not a concern for most people. Today trusts are used more for managing your assets while you are alive and distributing your assets the way you wish upon your death.

Trusts provide many benefits, including: 1) the ability to protect your assets while you are alive, by keeping your assets away from creditors or the nursing home, and leaving a legacy, 2) avoiding probate court and saving your heirs legal expenses and time upon your passing, 3) avoiding estate recovery if the State pays for your nursing home care, 4) providing a trust for your beneficiaries so your beneficiaries don’t lose your life savings to creditors, an ex-spouse or the nursing home, 5) the ability to more easily manage your assets if you are alive but not competent, 6) provide special needs planning if your beneficiary is not able to manage his/her assets due to a disability, and 7) a properly funded trust will avoid probate court when you die, and keep your estate private.

Selecting the right type of trust and drafting it for your own specific circumstance should be performed by an experienced Estate Planning attorney. Some people will research articles on the internet, and download a trust thinking that they will save themselves some money. Practicing Estate Planning is not something you want to risk with your life savings. The failure to have a properly drafted and funded trust can be expensive to fix later or cost you money by not properly protecting your assets for you or your beneficiaries. Some of the pitfalls are: not funding a trust, not having the right trust in place, estate recovery by the state, not protecting your beneficiaries.

Estate Planning is more complex than most people think. Don’t make the mistake of not putting a plan in place just because the thought of planning is daunting. The sooner you put an estate plan in place the sooner your life earnings will be protected, which will give you peace of mind.

Call 616-361-8400 now to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Estate Planning attorneys.

by Samantha Sprague, Attorney

CONGRATULATIONS! Becoming a parent is an amazing experience. One thing you should be accustomed to by now is asking questions. Sometimes you get a lot of ‘answers’ to questions you may not have even known to ask.

Whether you’re brand new to the parenting gig, or have several years under your belt, below are 3 common questions that every parent should consider.

1. What happens if I can’t make my own choices?

Self-care is important, to your sanity and to your health, and sets an important example for your little one. I meet with a number of parents who come in with the primary goal of taking care of their kids.

It doesn’t matter if the kids are 2, 22 or 55 – every good parent wants to make sure their kids are protected. However, the first thing any parenting book will preach is to make sure you take care of yourself.

Estate Planning is no different. Even before you bring your bundle of joy into the world, there are two documents you should have in place: (1) Healthcare Power of Attorney and (2) Financial Power of Attorney. This is the entry level of protection to make sure that if something awful occurs (e.g. car accident, stroke, medical procedure, etc.) you know who will be managing your assets and making medical decisions for you.

This is something that you should have in order before your little one arrives, but if they’re already here, there’s no time like the present to get started.

2. Who is going to take care of my child if I can’t?

No one person is invincible. You need a backup plan in case life goes drastically wrong and you are no longer able to care for your children.

What happens if you die?

Some people leave it up to chance and rely on the probate courts to pick someone to raise their kids. Generally, the courts will give preference to family members, but there are a lot of factors that are taken into account for something called “Judicial Discretion.”

Judicial Discretion means that where your kids end up is entirely in the hands of the probate judge, a person who has never met you, does not know your family, and is unaware of your wishes.

What can you do?

Every parent – regardless of how much money they have in the bank or what they own – should have a will. A will is where parents get to determine who is going to raise their kids if they cannot.

If a parent has guardianship and conservatorship language within their will, they get to choose who their child will live with and who will manage the stuff they leave behind for their child.

This does not eliminate parental rights if your child still has a surviving parent. However, if both parents should die or be incapacitated, the testamentary wishes (Will) outlined by the parents serve as guidance for the court.

There are other considerations that should be addressed with blended families, step-parent’s rights, and same-sex parents.

Each situation is unique and you should consult with an attorney on what your legal rights are and how you can make sure you are putting the right documents in place to provide surety that you decide who raises your kids.

3. How do I protect my kids with my Estate Planning?

As parents, we are hardwired to look out for our kids, to protect them, and to teach them to protect themselves when they are able to.

However, everyone approaches parenting a little differently.

There are helicopter parents trying to ‘bunk’ with their college-aged kiddo, and then there are those employing the sink-or-swim method my grandpa used to teach my mom how to swim in Lake Erie.

With your estate plan, you can put ‘safeguards’ in place for minor children, so the assets you leave are protected both FOR them and FROM them until they learn how to manage the money.

One way to ensure that anything you leave is protected is to create a Revocable Living Trust. This is a document that can be modified as your family grows and requires different types of protection.

A common practice within trusts is to put age restrictions in place. When you have multiple children of different ages you can ensure that minor children receive what they need while still allowing for a fair distribution.

If you are like many young parents, you may find that you are worth more dead than alive due to the low cost of life insurance. Making a trust the beneficiary of life insurance policies can ensure the money is protected for your kids.

There are numerous options for protecting assets for your kids. However, whatever you decide to put in place, it is important to remember that as your life changes and your kids grow, you should plan to update your documents. We recommend annual or semi-annual reviews to make sure your documents evolve along with your family.