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How To Ensure Proper Care For Our Fuzzy Children In Our Wills

Will Pet Trust

When we think about creating a will or trust, we think about things like our checking or savings accounts, our family heirlooms and if we have children, how we want them to be cared for when we pass.

However, one of the most important – and often overlooked – parts of preparing for our futures is making sure our fuzzy loved ones are cared for too.

And while pets are legally and technically considered – “property” – as pet owners, we know that they mean so much more to us than just being “property.” They are our companions and a big part of our families.

Leaving our pets’ fate unknown and the thought of having them possibly sent to a shelter is unthinkable. This is where legally documenting our wishes for our fuzzy children is important.

Our Pets Are Family Too!

Traditional wills or trusts treat pets as property. One of the challenges with only including your pet in your will is that it often takes time, sometimes years before the probate process is completed. Your pet will need immediate care. So often we see people dividing their estates purely by percentages. Where does a pet go in that scenario?

When clients want to provide for their fuzzy child, there are a couple of options:

1) Specifically designate who gets ownership of your pet when you pass or

2) Create a Pet Trust. A Pet Trust has benefits beyond simply giving ownership of your pet to someone else.

Pet Trusts can be created in your will or be valid while you are alive and can be implemented if you were to become ill and unable to care for your fuzzy child.  A Pet Trust also allows you to allocate funds that can only be used for your pet’s care.  When we see animals go to a shelter in probate situations, many times it is because family members are not willing to accept the financial burdens of having a pet, especially an older pet.

Things To Consider For Your Pet’s Future

The Pet Trust allows you to leave specific instructions on how your pet should be cared for and by whom, as well how money set up in a trust should be allocated. Some things to think about when setting up a Pet Trust are:

  • Who would take care of your fuzzy child in a way that makes you comfortable? Does your pet know this person? Would this person honor your wishes?
  • If you have more than one pet, would your pet’s guardian be willing to keep all of your pets together?
  • How much money should you set aside? Think not only about current costs, but how much care your pet may need as he or she gets older?
  • Including detailed care instructions such as your pet’s favorite toys or treats. Is your pet scared of thunderstorms or other animals or small children?

While the thought of leaving behind our loved ones when we pass is painful, it’s important that we think about how we can best provide for them now – and in the future. And as pet owners, we know that our pets are more than just “property” –  they are our family too!

Need Help Getting Started?

Our attorneys specialize in wills and Pet Trusts. Not only do we have extensive experience with wills and Pet Trusts, but we are avid pet lovers too! Contact DJ Jeyaram at DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872.

 

Someone You Love Have Alzheimer’s? Here’s Why They Need An Advance Medical Directive

Advance Medical Directive

Why An Advance Medical Directive Is Important

My wife’s grandfather (we call him Opa) has the last stages of Alzheimer’s. I remember meeting him more than a decade ago and he was vibrant, funny and loved to sing.

Now, at almost 90 years old, he does not remember me and spends his days in bed asking the same questions over and over and over.

Recently my wife called to check on Opa and he was crying hysterically. She asked him what was wrong and his sobbing reply was, “Didn’t they tell you? Your grandmother is gone. She’s gone.” And then he hung up the phone.

Of course, my wife called back immediately and her grandmother answered the phone. She had been standing next to Opa (my wife’s grandfather) the entire time and clearly she was alive and well. However, what was not well was Opa’s memory.

It was heartbreaking to say the least. My wife was visibly upset. She has traveled numerous times to help him when he became sick or was hospitalized. Her grandparents live about 2 1/2 hours away.

But with a young family of our own –  including a special needs child – it’s hard for her to get away. That’s where having an Advance Medical Directive in place has been extremely helpful. Even if my wife cannot be there in person, she can at least talk to the doctors and help make decisions on Opa’s behalf.

Thankfully, before Opa’s Alzheimer’s had progressed too much, he agreed for my wife to be his Healthcare Agent and give her the legal authority to make medical decisions on his behalf.

Advance Medical Directive – Why You & Loved Ones Need It 

An Advance Medical Directive is also known as a health care proxy, durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, or healthcare agent. The purpose of an Advance Medical Directive is to legally enable an individual to make decisions on your behalf if you cannot speak for yourself or express your wishes about your health. It also helps those individuals and your healthcare providers know about your treatment preferences. Examples of being unable to make medical decisions for yourself include:

• Permanent illness like Alzheimer’s

• Incapacity

• A coma or persistent vegetative state

• If you are having an outpatient surgical procedure and are under general anesthesia

Hospitals, doctors and other health care providers must follow your Advance Medical Directive’s decisions as if they were your own but only if the Directive is properly executed.

By having an Advance Medical Directive, a doctor clearly knows whose direction is to be followed in the event your family disagrees as to what medical treatment you would want.

When Should You Set Up An Advanced Medical Directive?

Now. The unexpected in life happens. It happened to one of our good friends. Our friend received a call that her husband had been in a car accident and was unresponsive. He ended up being in a coma for three weeks. Thankfully there was not a dispute between our friend and her husband’s parents. However, if there had been a disagreement about his medical care, an Advance Medical Directive would have been critical.

Opa named my wife as his Healthcare Agent in his Advance Medical Directive during the early stages of his diagnosis. This is important. If he had signed the document during the final stages of Alzheimer’s, the legitimacy and legality of the Advance Medical Directive could be challenged in court if there was a disagreement within her family about his medical treatment. This is why putting documentation in place before you need it is very important.

How Do You Set Up An Advance Medical Directive?

All 50 states have forms online where you can establish an Advance Medical Directive. However, the state forms do not always address the important nuances of your healthcare decisions. For example, if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate, but not terminal, what do you want your life to look like? Do you want to be somewhere you can have a pet? A room with a view? NetFlix? By having an attorney help you set up an Advance Medical Directive, you ensure that your wishes are complete and clear to everyone involved.

Where Do You Start? 

Start having conversations with your loved ones about your medical wishes. These are not easy conversations, but they are important to ensure that your desires are enacted should you be unable to make decisions about your health.

And if someone you love has Alzheimer’s or other permanent or terminal illness, it’s important to put into place an Advance Medical Directive before their health significantly declines.

Contact Us

Our attorneys specialize in setting up an Advance Medical Directives. I have more than 20 years healthcare experience – working with medical professionals and individuals who need medical help. Further, we’ve personally been through the process with our own families. I can be reached at DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872.

 

It’s All In The Details – Creating A Successful Care Plan For Your Children’s Guardians

Death isn’t something we like to talk about, but it’s critical to have a detailed plan for your children’s guardians – just in case. Wills, Trusts & Estates

This past week, my parents came to help my wife and I as we prepared for my wife’s upcoming medical procedure. They came early to learn the kids’ routines such as where their school is, what they eat and their bedtime routines.

Most of us don’t really think much about our day-to-day routines. In fact, we just go. We’re pretty much on autopilot. Having my parents come to help me with the kids was a good dry run for if my wife and I were to unexpectedly pass and we needed our children’s guardians to step in and follow the instructions we’ve prepared.

To help us prepare for her procedure, which would leave her out of pocket for a couple of weeks, my wife typed out every little detail about the kids’ days. Or so we thought. When we did a dry run with my parents, we quickly realized that there were several little – but very important details – that we forgot to include in our notes. And it was these details that would make the difference between a smooth and successful day with our kids versus potential meltdowns and a frustrating experience for everyone.

My wife covered the big ones – what time the kids take their medications, how much and how. Who likes what food, how to maneuver through the carpool line for school and what time they go to bed.

What we forgot to include were things like EXACTLY how to cut my son’s peanut butter sandwich. In her directions, my wife said, “Cut the peanut butter sandwich.” But as my parents were making my son’s peanut butter sandwich during the dry run, they asked, “Do you cut it in half? Do you cut it in quarters?” No. Actually, we have to cut his sandwich into quarter-sized bites and we have to cut off the crust. Wow. Something we do automatically. Failure to include that kind of detailed information could have derailed lunch for my six-year-old special needs son who is in feeding therapy and needs small bites of food to be successful with eating.

Next, my wife wrote specific notes about how to pick up our little girl from preschool (we walk in to get her). As my wife did a walk through with my parents, again, she realized she forgot to include some pretty important details such as:

  • Make sure you have a photo ID or the carpool tag to identify yourself when you pick her up
  • As you walk out of the school, you have to hold her hand as she tends to run out into the parking lot (she’s only 2)
  • And that you need sanitize her hands as soon as you get the car as her brother is medically fragile and a two year old’s hands are a magnificent host for germs.

Again, things we just do without even thinking – but that are really important for keeping our kids safe and ensuring a smooth day.

Further, when my special needs son says “Don Clare” he’s not asking for a person. He’s asking for one of his favorite books. To be honest, I didn’t even know this one. We don’t have a book titled, “Don Clare” and none of the books have a character named “Don Clare.” My son has just begun using two to three word sentences and this was his interpretation of the book titled “Bear Snores On.” How my wife figured this out, remains a mystery to me – and it would have remained a mystery to my parents if my wife hadn’t written it down in our notes after my dad asked her what my son was asking for.  

Our kids, like many others, thrive on routine and have favorite objects or TV shows, books or movies. Simple things like their favorite stuffed animal that they need to go to sleep with at night or where they like to hide their favorite sippy cup or the name of their favorite YouTube videos are small details – but they are of big importance to our children and bring them great comfort.

By painstakingly detailing your routines and including details about what makes your child comfortable or happy in your care plan, you are setting your guardians up for success and for a smooth transition in case something were to suddenly happen to you and your spouse.

Need help planning for your children’s future? We can help. Contact DJ Jeyaram at DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872.

5 Things People Forget to Include in Their Will

DJ Jeyaram is quoted in this article published on GoBankingRates and Philly.com. Congrats DJ!

Article by Alaina Tweddale

Many people overlook writing a will until they become parents, launch a business or buy a first home. And even when they do finally craft this important document, estate and financial planning experts say, it is easy to overlook some important details.

We uncovered the biggest things people overlook when drafting a will. Find out if you’re missing a one of these key elements.

1. Alternate Beneficiaries

While most wills include at least one primary beneficiary, it is a common mistake to fail to prepare for a backup plan in the event the beneficiary predeceases the testator.

Furthermore, “it is important to consider whether a beneficiary is capable of inheriting the asset and can manage the asset properly,” said Sandra Martin Clark, partner at the law firm of Manning, Fulton, & Skinner in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Martin Clark says some reasons a loved one should be passed over for beneficiary status include:

  • Age
  • Mental capacity
  • Inability to properly manage assets

“Oftentimes, after a will is drafted and signed, the document is never looked at again until someone has passed away. At that point, it is too late to correct any error or consider a more appropriate planning opportunity,” said Martin Clark.

If the testator’s intent is unclear, or the beneficiary is a minor or found to be incompetent, it can be overwhelmingly difficult and costly to find a solution, Martin Clark said.

2. Provisions for Digital Assets

Digital assets are among the most important things left out of wills today, said Steven J.J. Weisman, an attorney in Amherst, Mass., professor who teaches estate planning at Bentley University, and author of “A Guide to Elder Planning.”

Websites, domain names and online accounts can all have economic value. Planners should also include account numbers and passwords within a will.

“So much of what we do is online or on our computers,” said Weisman. “Without the proper user names and passwords, as well as authorizing someone to have access to these matters, the estate can be severely compromised.”

Information for social media accounts can be important. Although there may not be a monetary value associated with a Twitter handle or a Facebook account, it can be awkward for loved ones to see greetings or birthday wishes posted to the deceased’s wall or news feed.

3. Prearrangements for Pets

Although you cannot leave assets or property directly to a pet, you can – and should – specify a caregiver for your pet, said David Walters, a certified financial planner and portfolio manager with Palisades Hudson Financial Group in Portland, Ore.

Consider naming a secondary caregiver in the event the primary caregiver is unwilling or unable to care for your pet, Walters added. Pet owners can even name a beneficiary for assets earmarked for the care of your pet.

If you do not make any specific provision for your pet’s care, the arrangements may become a source of contention among your loved ones. In the worst case, your pet could end up in a shelter,” Walters said.

4. A Personal Property Memorandum

Personal property mementos can be the most prized items in the estate of a parent or loved one.

“Sometimes, what people fight over are the least valuable items,” said Erik Hartstrom, attorney with Estate Plan Pros in Elk Grove, California.

Examples include a grandfather clock, Mom’s favorite costume jewelry, or even a $1.50 tchotchke Dad kept lovingly tucked in his dresser drawer.

An estate that has heirlooms worth a substantial amount of money can exacerbate the problem.

When there is no written personal property memorandum affixed to the will, beneficiaries may quarrel and sometimes even fracture long-standing relationships.

“Have a conversation with your beneficiaries and find out what is meaningful to each,” said Hartstrom. “You may be surprised.”

5. Trustee and Guardian Designations

It is critical to keep contact and designation information about trustees and guardians up-to-date, said Atlanta-based estate planning attorney DJ Jeyaram.

“This is especially important if both parents or a single parent suddenly passes and there are minors involved,” he said. “The guardians need to be immediately notified to ensure proper care of the children.”

A named trustee and guardian don’t have to be the same person. Without explicit instructions, an unintended new guardian may raise a child, or care for an incapacitated adult. Assets intended for the care of the minor can transfer to someone the deceased did not prefer.

In a worst-case scenario, said Jeyaram, “the children may be put into state custody.”

When you’re ready to put your final wishes on paper, thoroughly consider how you want all aspects of your estate handled – even the seemingly insignificant items. An experienced estate attorney can help you determine all the items you may want to consider when planning your will.

Wills, Trusts, & Estate Planning Client Feedback

Wills, Trusts, Estate PlanningWe love hearing from our clients. We truly believe in spending time with our clients to help them find solutions that best meet their needs.

Here’s a few reviews from some of our clients who we helped set up traditional wills, trusts and estate plans.

“Values Family”

“DJ was extremely helpful in the creation of our will/trust. It was easy to see how much he values family, and he gave us confidence and peace of mind by making a complicated and often difficult process feel manageable.

He was professional yet very personable and made sure that we understood all of the language of the documents. He gave us adequate time and never rushed us throughout the entire process making sure that we had time to think through all important decisions.

He gave us everything we would need to give to all those involved and a very organized presentation of all of our documents to keep.

DJ was wonderful to work with, and I would recommend him to anyone.” – C. Oddi

Originally posted on Google+ 

“Kind and Patient”

“DJ and his team were so wonderful in helping me coordinate my father’s final will, power of attorney and medical directive. The team was kind and patient, explaining all of the steps involved, and assisting with developing the final documents.

As my father was battling a terminal illness, much of our communication was over email. They were very responsive and managed everything with such care.

It was a difficult time in both my Dad’s and my life, but DJ and the team allowed us to check off that box in the process of ‘things to get done,’ so we could focus on the more important things, like spending those last days together.” – L. Efman (sent via email)

“Solid Advice”

“Jeyaram & Associates is outstanding. I can’t say enough good things about DJ Jeyaram. My husband and I needed to create a fairly complicated will. We have multiple properties, 2 children, and 4 grandchildren.

DJ gave us very solid advice. We are so happy he helped us achieve a perfect solution to the distribution of our estate. We’ve already recommended him to several of our friends. Thank you DJ.” – P. Javazon (sent via email)

Contact Us

Need help setting up a will, trust or estate plan? We’re more than to help. Contact DJ at DJ@Jeylaw.com or 678-325-3872.

 

Even If Your Child Doesn’t Receive SSI Or Medicaid, You May Still Need To Set Up A Special Needs Trust

special needs trustSocial Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that typically provides cash stipends to people who have paid into the Social Security system and who can’t work due to disability.  (In some cases, it is possible to receive SSDI even if you haven’t worked.) In most cases, when someone has been eligible for SSDI benefits for two years, the individual also receives Medicare, even if he or she is under age 65.

From a special needs planning perspective, SSDI benefits are fairly easy to deal with because the program does not have an asset limit or a restriction on unearned income, like interest or dividends.  This means that a millionaire who meets the program’s requirements can receive SSDI benefits alongside a completely impoverished person. It also means that from a purely financial perspective, a person with resources doesn’t need to shelter her assets in a special needs trust in order to qualify for SSDI benefits as she would have to do if she were receiving means-tested government benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid.

But this does not mean that SSDI beneficiaries should not have special needs trusts. In fact, there are many benefits to having a special needs trust that go far beyond the ability to maintain eligibility for SSI or Medicaid. For instance, a person with a mental illness may be unable to manage money. A special needs trust would allow that person’s funds to be invested and spent appropriately by a qualified trustee.  In another case, a person with special needs may be able to handle her personal finances but she might live in an environment where she is susceptible to mistreatment by others. In this situation, a special needs trust would provide an appropriate buffer between the beneficiary and the people who would otherwise take advantage of her.

When it comes to special needs planning, you never want to take anything for granted.  Just because an SSDI beneficiary might not need Medicaid and SSI now, it doesn’t mean she won’t qualify for, or require, services from those programs in the future. For instance, an SSDI beneficiary may rely on private health insurance and Medicare, but if she loses her insurance and Medicare doesn’t cover certain medications, it might be incredibly important for that beneficiary to receive Medicaid, which could make a special needs trust essential.

Finally, there is one particular type of special needs trust, called a first-party special needs trust, that is specifically designed to hold the beneficiary’s own assets. In most of the examples above, this is the type of special needs trust that would be required. Unfortunately, only a parent, grandparent, guardian or court can establish a first-party special needs trust for the beneficiary, even if she is completely competent to create a trust on her own. Therefore, if the parent or grandparent of a person who receives SSDI has the capability, it is probably a good idea for him to create the trust for his child or grandchild, on the off-chance that it will have to be used later, instead of relying on an expensive and time-consuming court process.

There are lots of reasons to have a special needs trust beyond merely qualifying for government benefits.  If you or a loved one receives SSDI and doesn’t have a special needs trust, our attorneys can help you determine the best estate planning option to meet your needs. Contact DJ Jeyaram at DJ@Jeylaw.com or 678.325.3872.

Credit Cards and Special Needs Trusts: How They Can Work Together

Credit Card Care A special needs trust is designed to supplement the income of an individual with special needs so that she can maintain access to government benefits without necessarily sacrificing her standard of living.

But government benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid prohibit the trustee of a special needs trust from simply giving a beneficiary cash to pay for goods and services herself. Instead, a trustee must pay vendors directly.

Credit cards offer a way for the trustee of a special needs trust to avoid giving a beneficiary cash while at the same time not serving as the beneficiary’s designated shopper.

Because a credit card is technically a loan from the credit card company to the cardholder, the goods or services purchased by a trust beneficiary using a card are not income and do not affect his access to government benefits. If the special needs trust then pays off the balance of a beneficiary’s credit card bill, the payment is likewise not considered income.

Because of this special treatment, an SSI or Medicaid beneficiary who is capable of managing her own affairs can use a credit card to make small purchases, and a trustee of a special needs trust need not micromanage every transaction.

Several very important rules apply to the use of credit cards, however.

  • First, a trustee cannot pay for any charges on the credit card that are for food or shelter.
  • Second, a trustee of a first-party special needs trust that was established with the beneficiary’s own money cannot pay for any credit card charges that a beneficiary may have incurred paying for goods or services that were used by other people because first-party trusts can only be used for the sole benefit of the person with special needs.
  • Third, a trustee should never give a credit card to a beneficiary who is incapable of managing her own financial affairs, or who is involved with people who will take advantage of her.
  • Finally, the credit card rules apply only to credit cards; debit cards are considered cash and should never be used.

Since the rules governing credit cards are complicated, it is imperative that you discuss the ongoing use of credit cards with a special needs planner prior to turning a card over to a beneficiary or paying a beneficiary’s bill.

Please contact DJ Jeyaram at DJ@Jeylaw.com or 678.325.3872 for assistance.

 

Congratulations To Jeyaram & Associates For Being Featured In The Business News Daily

Reprinted with permission from the Business News Daily
Special Needs Trusts

 

Owner DJ Jeyaram Esq. shared the story behind Jeyaram & Associates, a family-focused law firm that specializes in special needs trusts, wills, estate planning and healthcare legal services.

My son Kai, pictured in this photo, was born with a rare genetic condition called Williams Syndrome. He brings us an amazing amount of joy despite all of his challenges.

Soon after my son was born, we realized that we needed a plan to protect him in case anything happened to me or my wife, so we began offering special needs trusts, which help protect children’s current and future government benefits.

I started my business in 2007 after working at a large law firm. I realized that most special needs families could not afford my big firm rates and I was forced to refer these families to small firm attorneys that did not necessarily have the proper training to set up a special needs estate plan. Three months later, I hung out my shingle and have successfully been in business for more than 8 years. It’s been one of the best decisions I ever made.

One of the biggest challenges we face is limiting the number of pro bono cases we take every year. Because we have a special needs child and are ingrained in the special needs community, we meet a lot of families that need legal help but don’t have the necessary resources. We want to help everyone because we always think ‘That could be us.’

RSVP For Free Legal Workshop: Katie Beckett/Deeming Waiver Appeal & Special Needs Trusts

IEP Education LawTwo Things Every Special Needs Parent Should Know

1. How to Win A Katie Beckett Appeal: A presentation on how to appeal a Katie Beckett denial. Almost all applications are initially denied. Learn how to prepare and what to expect – and when to engage a lawyer.

2. Protecting Benefits With Special Needs Trusts: Learn the basics on what a special needs trust is and how it works. We’ll also talk about the ABLE Act and how it works with a special needs trust.

  • When Friday, September 11 at 10:00 am to 11:30 am
  • Where: FOCUS main office | 3825 Presidential Parkway, Suite 103 – Atlanta, Georgia 30340
  • Who : DJ Jeyaram, Esq. – attorney and special needs parent

Please RSVP to Elizabeth@focus-ga.org with your name and the word “Trust” in the subject line by September 1st.

About FOCUS

FOCUS offers comfort, hope, and fun to families with children who are medically fragile or have significant developmental or physical disabilities through a variety of programs. http://www.focus-ga.org/