Georgia's Trusted Healthcare, Guardianships, & Special Needs Trusts Lawyers

When & How Often Should You Update Your Will?

Wills Trusts Special Needs Trust Attorney Jeyaram & Associates One of the biggest misperceptions about wills and trusts is that once they’re written they cannot be changed or that it’s difficult to change a will or trust.

This is not true.

Wills and trusts should be viewed as “organic” and “living” documents that can and should be updated as your life changes.

Nothing Stays The Same

We all know the adage “nothing stays the same” to be true. Our lives and circumstances always change – sometimes quickly or in ways that we never anticipated. These changes often impact decisions we’ve made in our will and trust, and as a result, we need to update and change our wills and trusts to reflect those changes.

Following is a sample list of life changes as to when you should update or change your will:

  • Addition of a child (ex. birth or adoption)
  • Death of someone named in the will (ex. guardian, trustee, spouse, child, etc.)
  • Divorce or marriage
  • Change of address
  • A minor turns 18
  • Retirement
  • Your property value significantly changes (decreases or increases)
  • Acquisition of significant assets or finances (ex. an inheritance)
  • Significant change in health (yours or someone named in the will or trust)
  • Prior to turning 701/2 years of age if you have an IRA, 401(k), or other qualified plan that requires you to begin taking distributions at age 701/2.

You Change Your Mind

Recently we had a client update their special needs trust to reflect changes in their relationship with an individual they listed a guardian. The individual initially listed as guardian was experiencing significant personal changes that resulted in estranged relations with the family. As a result, the client named a new guardian for his children.

Even if something as significant as the aforementioned doesn’t happen, you can always update or change individuals listed in your will or trust or how your assets should be allocated. Sometimes our opinions change or our needs change. As a result, it’s important to update your will or trust to reflect those changes.

Time & Changes In The Law

If you have a special needs trust in place, I always encourage clients to review them on an annual basis – especially the letter to guardians. The letter to guardians is the organic plan that details how to best care for a differently abled child if something suddenly happens to you. A lot can change in a year with a child – anything from new routines to new medical conditions to new favorite toys. This letter is the life line for guardians.

Updating your will or trust every 3 to 5 years is ideal. During that time, changes in estate planning laws may have occurred and your attorney can advise you accordingly.

Easy To Update

It’s important to never try to change or update your will or trust by simply crossing out or adding words or lines on the will. These edits invite confusion and could be challenged in court as to whether they are legally valid. As a result, it’s best to contact your attorney when you need to make updates.

While the initial will may take a bit of time to complete since you’re making important legal decisions to protect your family and asset, updating your will or trust is not as involved. Your attorney will prepare a new will for you to sign to revokes the earlier one.

We Can Help

We’ve helped hundreds of families create and update their wills to best reflect and protect their families and assets as their situations change. If you’re not sure how changes in your life will impact your will, just call us. That’s what we’re here for. I can be reached at DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872.

Individuals With Disabilities Can Now Set Up Their Own Special Needs Trusts

Special Needs Trust, Jeyaram Associates, Disability, Wills, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a letter providing guidance to states indicating that individuals with disabilities can now set up their own special needs trust.

Prior to this guidance from CMS, only guardians, caregivers, family members or other third parties could set up a trust on behalf of the individual with a disability.

This is a step in the right direction in allowing people with disabilities to advocate for themselves and be self-reliant to the greatest extent possible.

Individuals with the cognitive ability to set up their own Special Needs Trust and who are under the age of 65 can now create a trust to set aside assets without negatively impacting their eligibility for Medicaid.

Why A Special Needs Trust?

Eligibility for many government benefits is determined based on the resources an individual with a disability has in his or her name.

If a loved one has too many resources, even by just one dollar, he or she may not qualify for, or may even lose, benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

Even if your loved one does not currently receive government assistance, he or she may need it in the future.

A special needs trust is a way to protect your loved one’s current resources and future benefits.

Through a special needs trust you can leave assets to your child or ward without negatively impacting his or her government benefits.

How Funds From A Special Needs Trust Can Be Used

Government benefits only cover basics such as medical care, food, clothing, and shelter.

Through a special needs trust, a designated trustee for your loved one will be able to provide your child or adult ward with access to things such as:

• a personal care attendant

• out of pocket medical and dental expenses

• vacations

• home furnishings

• vehicles

• hobbies

• education

How To Set Up A Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust is usually part of a comprehensive Special Needs Estate Plan. Our Special Needs Estate Plan includes:

•  Last will and testament

•  Advanced medical directives

•  Financial and durable powers of attorney

•  HIPAA waivers

•  Legacy statement

•  Letters to guardians

•  Child safety and protection cards

•  Original document storage in our vault

•  And, perhaps most importantly, guardianship designations for minor children

We Can Help

We’ve helped hundreds of families set up Special Needs Trusts. As the parent of a child with disabilities, we understand the need to protect your child’s current or future government benefits financial future.

I can be reached at DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872.

Not Sure Who Should Be Your Child’s Guardian? Here Are Some Tips

Guardian, Special Needs Trusts, Attorney, Atlanta, GA Recently a family came in for a special needs trust consult and they were at a loss as to whom they should designate as their child’s guardian.

Although the wife had two sisters, neither of them lived close by; nor took an interest in their intellectually disabled niece. The husband also had a sister, but she didn’t have any children – and never wanted any.

Although both of the couple’s parents were eager to be guardians, the parents were of advanced age and in poor health. And as for extended relatives, well, they were extended and didn’t have any meaningful contact with their family.

It’s OK If The Guardian Is NOT Biologically Related

This scenario is more frequent than may you think. We often talk with families who do not have any biological family that can or want to serve as their special needs child’s guardian. And that’s OK.

You don’t want to designate individuals as guardians if they don’t want to be or do not have a meaningful relationship with your child.

“Our Chosen Family”

One of the things that my wife and I have learned through the years (and being in a similar situation as the couple that came to my office) is that you create what we call “Our Chosen Family.”

Our Chosen Family consists of people who WANT to be a part of our lives and enjoy spending time not only with us, but our special needs son. These are people who we’ve come to trust and love us as if they were our own biological family – and it’s these same people who we have chosen to be our children’s guardians.

Something to consider is that by taking the pressure off of your biological family, this may encourage them to remain engaged with your child. Many times biological family members want to help, but may not be in a position to assume guardianship.

Just because you do not choose someone as guardian, does not mean that they cannot be involved in your child’s life and/or be of assistance to the guardian.

There are several ways to keep non-guardians involved including informal roles like “God-parent” or more formal structures like Micro-Boards.

Things to Consider When Choosing A Guardian

When considering who to chose as your child’s guardian, here are some things to consider:

  • Does the potential guardian have a meaningful relationship with your child?
  • Would your child need to move to live with the guardian? How would this impact your child’s therapies or education?
  • Does the potential guardian have the energy and health to take care of your child?
  • Are they trustworthy and responsible?
  • Would the potential guardian continue to care for your child in a way that you want?
  • Most importantly, do they WANT to be a part of your family and be your child’s caregiver if something were to happen to you?

Also, something to keep in mind is that NO ONE will ever care for your child like you do. So it’s important to keep this in mind and be realistic when selecting a guardian.

We hope that our child will never need a guardian, but if they do, this person will need to quickly step in and make sure your child receives the love and care they need.

We Can Help You Decide

The story of the couple that came into my office has a happy ending.

After talking with them about their “Chosen Family,” the answer as to whom should be their daughter’s guardian was much easier and the person they selected gave them great peace of mind.

So even though the guardian they selected was not biologically related, the guardian was their “Chosen Family.”

If you’re struggling with who to designate as a guardian for your child, we can help. I can be reached at DJ@JeyLaw.com and 678.325.3872.

#SpecialNeedsTrusts #Guardians #ChosenFamily

GA’s City & Urban Hospitals Will Be Impacted By The American Health Care Act

Emergency Sign Healthcare LawPassage of the American Health Care Act in its current or proposed form with significant cuts to Medicaid and Medicare will not only impact rural hospitals and facilities, but city and urban hospitals as well. Here’s how.

Steep cuts to Medicaid and Medicare will result in many of Georgia’s 95 health clinics being unable to keep their doors open. These facilities serve a population that is often primarily at the poverty level, the elderly, unemployed and uninsured.

As a result, city and urban facilities could see a significant increase in uninsured and under insured patients as these patients do not have access to any other options for healthcare.

City & Urban Hospitals Need To Prepare for New Challenges

Hospitals will need to:

• Increase medical and administrative staffing to handle the influx of additional patients, especially for patients that may utilize ER services in place of what would have been primary care services prior to the cuts.

• Absorb the costs of an increase in patients and staffing as there will be little or no government money (or at best temporary money) to assist (Medicaid or Medicare).

• Review internal policies on how to handle additional patients and billing procedures for patients who cannot afford medical care.

It’s imperative for all hospitals to begin reviewing policies and procedures before an influx of patients occurs and the potential for lawsuits arises.

Experienced Healthcare Attorneys

Jeyaram & Associates has more than 50 years legal healthcare experience and has helped numerous city and urban hospitals conduct internal audits, write policies and procedures and ensure compliance with state and federal laws.

Contact Us

Free initial consults. Contact DJ at DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872.

Creating A Special Needs Trust Is Easier Than You Think

Special Needs Trust, Attorney, Georgia, Atlanta, Duluth, Jeyaram & AssociatesWe all know putting into place a will and special needs trust is extremely important to help protect our special needs child now and in the future.

But with all the doctors appointments, therapies, calls to the insurance company and specialists, school work and not to mention laundry, bath time and meal preparation, finding the time to put into place a will and special needs trust seems impossible.

On most days, we’re lucky if we get to drink our cup of coffee while it’s still lukewarm. (I know I gave up the hope of drinking hot coffee a long time ago!)

No, Really. It’s Easier Than You Think

However putting into place a special needs trust really is easier than you think, and the process simply starts with a phone call or an email. Seriously. A phone call or email. That’s it.

When you call us, we’ll get your name and email address and then you’ll receive a questionnaire to complete. Don’t worry – it’s not like applying for a home loan or taking the SAT. And the good news is, you’ll already know most – if not all – of the answers.

Seriously, we ask things like your name, address, your child’s name and disability, a list of your assets, and whom you’d like to take care of your child if something were to happen to you.

No Right Or Wrong Answers

Most of these are answers we can recite in our sleep. No prep needed and there are no right or wrong answers. Further, don’t worry if you don’t know all the answers or if you have questions (like whom you should name as your child’s guardian). We’re here to help you, and we will guide you through the process to ensure that the special needs trust best meets your family’s needs.

Once you complete the form, I’ll review it and follow up with you if I have any questions. And then, a draft of your will and the special needs trust is created and sent to you to review.

We’re Here To Help You

We know you’re busy and adding one more thing to your “to-do” list seems daunting. But setting up a special needs trust is an important legal document to help protect your family and child with special needs. My email address is DJ@JeyLaw.com or you can call me at 678.325.3872. And when you come to the office to sign your will and special needs trust, I’ll have a hot cup of coffee waiting for you. 🙂

Former Jeyaram & Associates’ Interns Shine

Best Atlanta Attorney Lawyers Jeyaram Associates Healthcare Special Needs Trusts Guardianship Will Estate PlanningArnall Golden & Gregory, a large Atlanta firm, recently held a mock trial for its associates to practice and hone their skills (a practice by many large law firms and law schools), and the team that won the largest verdict was named “Team Jeyaram!”

After a long day of trial on a recent Saturday, the team consisting of two former Jeyaram & Associates interns Michael Bargar & Madison Pool won the largest verdict – 5x any other award for the day!

My former interns and current friends wrote, “We thought that you would get a kick out of our success given our former roles with your firm!”

We know it was the skills of Michael and Madison that won the day, but maybe, just maybe, their team name helped just a little!

Thanks for sharing this fun story Michael and Madison! We are very proud of you both!

#LoveWhenOurInternsShine

How To Choose A Trustee

Trustee, Trust, Will, Estate Planning, Attorney, Lawyer, Jeyaram, Georgia, AtlantaWhen you set up a trust to protect your assets and finances, one of the most important decisions you will make is who will serve as your trustee.

The trustee (or trustees) is someone who will manage your money and property if you become incapacitated (living will) or for the benefit of others after you pass.

The trustee has a lot of authority, so it’s important to select someone you not only trust and have great confidence in, but also:

  • Makes smart financial decisions
  • Is responsible
  • Can meet deadlines (ex. paying bills on time and filing taxes)
  • Has a healthy relationship with your family
  • Is good at communicating as many decisions and ongoing conversations will need to occur.

Trustees are most often a family member or an institution. Following are some benefits and disadvantages to both:

Family Member

Perhaps the biggest benefits of selecting a family member as a trustee is that they may not charge you a fee to be the trustee and most likely, they have a good understanding of how your family works and what it needs.

However, on the flip side, if you choose a family member to be the trustee it could lead to conflict or resentment especially if there is a separate guardian involved for a minor child or disabled adult. Further, the family member may not have financial prowess and may need to hire someone to help them.

Finally, the family member could become incapacitated, get divorced or pass away. As a result, if you select a family member as a trustee, it’s important to name a successor trustee.

An Institution

If you choose a bank or financial institution as the trustee, there is stability (it most likely won’t die) and more likely financial acumen than a family member. The bank can handle any investments, tax preparations, management, and accounting of the trust’s finances. Further, the bank is regulated by federal laws and uninvolved in family politics.

The downside of naming a bank or financial institution as a trustee is cost. Sometimes banks have a minimum fee. This may make banks cost-prohibitive for small trusts. Further, while the bank may not die, employees at the bank can change frequently making it difficult to build relationships.

Still Not Sure?

Choosing the right trustee is an important decision and can be stressful as there are many factors to consider. However, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you determine whether a family member or an institution will be the best choice for you based on your wants and family’s needs.

We’re Here To Help

DJ Jeyaram is an experienced estate planning attorney who specializes in helping families create trusts – including identifying the best trustee – to meet their needs and situations.

You will work directly with DJ in creating a will or trust that reflects your family. DJ can be reached at DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872.

How To Address Your Adult Child’s Substance Abuse Issues In Your Will

Addiction Substance Abuse Trust Wills Estate Planning Jeyaram AssociatesWhen we start to think about the future for our adult children who struggle with addiction, we worry about their financial and overall well-being.

We want to help them be financially secure after we are gone, but we also want to make sure they are responsible with any inheritance they receive.

This is where setting up a trust and a designated trustee as part of your will can help protect your child.

It’s Important To Set Up A Trust & Trustee

If your adult child has a history of addiction or is unable to make responsible financial decisions, leaving them an inheritance without any kind of guidance or protections could lead to further challenges.

By creating a trust and designating someone to manage assets (a Trustee), you are putting into place protections to help your child from others – including creditors and sometime from themselves. Following are a couple of trusts that may be useful when leaving assets to someone with addiction challenges.

Trusts With Incentives

Trusts can be designed to include incentives such submitting to random drug tests in order to receive some of the assets or that the trust will match dollar for dollar for any earned income.

However, structuring a trust like this should be carefully considered as it could prevent your child from receiving any support despite perhaps their best attempts to beat their addiction.

In addition, money may not be the incentive your child needs to try to modify his or her behavior.

Wholly Discretionary Trusts

If your child has a severe addiction or a history of being financially irresponsible, a Wholly Discretionary Trust may be the best choice. With this trust, the Trustee maintains control over all finances and you can specifically direct how the funds will be used.

For example, funds may be used for tuition or rent (paid directly to a landlord) or medical expenses. This trust helps ensure that the money a child receives does not negatively contribute to their addiction.

Selecting A Trustee

A Trustee is someone you name in your trust to manage the assets you want to pass on to your child. Selecting the right Trustee is perhaps one of the most important decisions regarding setting up the trust.

We often recommend NOT choosing someone in your family as this can create conflict and ultimately lead to estranged relationships. Instead, we recommend selecting an independent person or a corporate trustee.

We’re A Part Of Your Team

Regardless of whether you want to set up a straight-forward trust, one with structured incentives, or a trust with restrictions, the trust should include a Trustee to manage it.

Dealing with a child’s challenges with substance abuse can be emotionally exhausting, financially draining and outright overwhelming.

We’re here to help you figure out the best approach for setting up your will and trust for you child. You don’t have to have all the answers when you meet with us.

We’re here to help you create a plan that best meets your wishes and your family’s circumstances. I can be reached at DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872.

Do Your Loved Ones Know What You Want If You Become Incapacitated? Do You?

will trusts estate planning incapacitatedSpecial blog post by Cassandra Jeyaram, PhD

The week before Thanksgiving, my 90-year-old grandfather passed away at his home. I am so thankful I was able to spend his last few days, hours and minutes with him.

Although he was incapacitated and could not talk, open his eyes or move his body, he knew I was there. I talked to him about his hometown of Winooski, Vermont, played his favorite CDs and told him some bad jokes, at which he managed a half smile on several occasions.

I shared with him how he taught me how to ice skate, fish (and subsequently get a fishing hook out of my belly button) and how to eat watermelon. I rubbed his feet, held his hands, and tried to make sure he was as comfortable as possible.

This Is An Important Conversation To Have With Loved Ones

It was during these last few precious moments with my grandfather that I realized I had never thought about what I would want during my final moments if I were incapacitated. Being incapacitated is something my family never discussed. Although it’s a conversation no ones like to have, it’s an important one.

Upon returning home after my grandfather’s passing, my husband and I sat down to update our wills and document in detail what we both wanted if we were incapacitated.

I would love a view of nature, classical music gently playing in the background and soft blankets. We also wrote down that if someone became upset while visiting me, they would be asked to leave the room. I know my heart would break hearing/seeing/feeling someone I love upset. I included this as I watched my grandmother sobbing over my grandfather with her tears falling on his face.

I can only imagine the heartbreak both of them were feeling after being married 69 years. I could sense my grandfather was holding on for my grandmother and only when my grandmother peacefully fell asleep on the couch next to him did he finally let go.

Some Things To Think About

When we think about “Estate Plans,” we often only think about our wills and what happens if we die. But an important part of our estate plans are our wishes of what we would want to hear, see or feel if we are incapacitated. Some things to consider are, where do you want to be? At home? In a hospital? What sounds or sights would you like? Do you have a favorite CD? Movie? Do you want your pet to be with you? Who would you like to visit you?

While these questions are not exhaustive, they are designed to help you to start thinking about your wishes if you become incapacitated and are unable to communicate. There are no right or wrong answers. It’s what you want.

As I look back on my grandfather’s life and this post, I realize my grandfather taught me many things, including that I need to communicate and document my final wishes.

Documenting Your Final Wishes

If you’d like help with your final wishes, DJ can help guide you through the process and make sure they are a part of your will or estate plan. He can be reached at 678.325.3872 or DJ@JeyLaw.com.