Take a Moment Before Signing a Nursing Home Contract

In the scenario where your parent is no longer capable of making decisions, dressing, or eating independently and requires nursing home care. You are stressed and anxious. The nursing home puts a twenty-page contract in front of you. You wish you could flip straight to the last page and sign just to get it over with.

Don’t do it. You could be agreeing to pay thousands of dollars out of your own pocket for your loved one’s care.

Try to get your parent admitted, and before you sign the contract, bring it to an elder law attorney for review and guidance. Once your loved one has moved in, they can’t be evicted just because you want to negotiate the contract. Elder law attorneys look for wording that may not be compliant with state laws or is misleading in some way. Nursing homes want to get paid and may be deliberately vague about financial responsibility.

If you don’t have an elder law attorney, sit down and take a few deep breaths. Read the contract carefully and make a list of questions for a facility representative to answer. Ideally, that person would go through the document with you. Don’t sign until you understand.

Things to Watch Out for in a Nursing Home Contract

A nursing home should not ask you to use your own money to pay for a loved one’s care

Do not sign the contract if it requires you to pay with your own money. Carefully scrutinize any language referring to you as the responsible party, resident representative, or agent.

More language to look out for includes:

  • Co-signor
  • Guarantor
  • Personally guarantee
  • Personally liable
  • Private-pay guarantor
  • Surety
  • Individual capacity

Words like these obligate you, personally, to pay if your loved one doesn’t have the money. Don’t sign if you see something like this: “If the resident does not or cannot pay, I will pay the amount owed for residency charges, services, equipment, supplies, medication, and other charges.” The nursing home can ask you to agree – and you can refuse.

Understand that the facility can legally require you to pay nursing home bills for your loved one if you hold financial power of attorney or are a guardian. However, you are required to spend their money on their care.

When Your Loved One Runs Out of Money to Pay for Care

If your loved one lacks the money, the next step is to apply for Medicaid assistance, not dig into your own pocket. Reach out to an elder law attorney for assistance, as the eligibility requirements and application process can be a bit complex. It will be worth it to have the benefits processed quickly so they can begin sooner.

Everyone in need has the right to apply for Medicaid

The nursing home contract must not require your parent to waive their right to seek government assistance like Medicare or Medicaid, nor can it ask either of you to sign any statement that your loved one is ineligible for benefits.

If your loved one has no money to pay for care, a Medicaid application will be required. The contract may seek your permission to apply for Medicaid for you. You have the right to decline that option and seek an elder law attorney you trust to help you apply instead. Some facilities mishandle Medicaid applications, resulting in an incorrect denial of benefits and lengthy appeal process.

The Medicaid application process begins with providing all financial and medical records necessary for your loved one’s application.

Once eligible for Medicaid, Medicaid pays

If your loved one qualifies for Medicaid, the nursing home must not require an additional payment over and above the Medicaid amount determined by your state.

The nursing home must not demand that your loved one receive additional services not covered by Medicaid and evict your loved one if they decline those services. The facility should ask, in advance, whether those services are desired at a specified additional cost.

Other Considerations in a Nursing Home Contract

  • The nursing home must not require additional donations to a charity as a condition of admittance.
  • Do not agree to arbitration. If you agree, you will be giving up your right to a jury trial if a dispute arises.
  • Understand the nursing home is obligated to protect your parent’s property during their stay. However, use good judgment to safeguard valuable property by keeping it elsewhere.
  • Cross out provisions in the contract that you decline, and put your initials by the strike-outs. Also, be sure to sign the contract only as your parent’s agent. Your signature should read: “[Parent name], by [your name], power of attorney, guardian, or agent.”

To be fair to nursing homes, they are entitled to be paid, and they often have difficulty collecting legitimate debts. Facilities are forbidden from suing to take a resident’s Social Security or pension income. They must comply with strict federal consumer protection restrictions. Despite these payment hurdles, they must still protect frail and vulnerable people from all manner of harm. They also suffer public hostility, thanks to the misconduct of some bad actors.

Our elder law firm always urges cooperation with nursing home personnel if possible because their job is a difficult one. However, you and your family have the right to be protected from bad actors and confusing contract language. No matter how reputable the facility is, consulting our elder law attorneys before you sign an admission contract makes sense and avoids difficulty later.

Contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

Reevaluating Your Retirement Investments: 5 Compelling Reasons

To ensure a comfortable retirement, it’s essential to reconsider your financial retirement portfolio. While you might have accumulated a substantial nest egg in a 401(k) plan, withdrawing money from it comes with significant tax planning considerations. In the early stages of a 401(k), employers match your contribution to the plan. Contributions come out of your paycheck before calculating taxes and compound every year. When you retire, however, the tax impact of a 401(k), 403(b), or traditional IRA can become significant.

Retiring at a Higher Tax Bracket

You have probably been told you’ll be in a lower tax bracket at retirement. However, many people experience the opposite. Your tax rate is expected to increase if you maintain the same standard of living, requiring the same amount of income and tax rate. With your children grown and the house paid off, substantial tax deductions are gone, which may push you into a higher tax bracket. You will pay taxes on withdrawals from your contribution plan(s) annually, whether the money comes from dividends, capital gains, or your contributions. That money will be taxed at your income tax rate at the time of withdrawal. Currently, the top marginal income tax rate is 37 percent, and considering the US deficit, that tax rate could increase in time.

Double Taxation

Unless you have a Roth IRA, distributions from your retirement plans count against you when calculating what percentage of your Social Security is subject to tax. The result is paying more taxes on your retirement plan distributions and Social Security income. You also pay more taxes from capital gains, dividends, and interest from your investments.

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs)

It can be frustrating and expensive if you neglect to make your minimum required distributions. You must withdraw funds from your retirement fund accounts when the IRS deems it necessary. Even if you want to leave the money in the account, as of 2023, the IRS will schedule your withdrawals when you reach age 73. There are stiff penalties for not taking out the required minimum distribution. You may pay an additional 25 percent tax. If you correct the shortfall during a two-year window, it could reduce to 10 percent.

Leaving a 401(k) or IRA to a Spouse

If you’re married, a 401(k) or IRA is the worst account to leave to your surviving spouse. No one wants to die without leaving their spouse financially secure, but these two financial vehicles are fully taxable accounts. Upon your passing, your spouse changes their tax filing status from married filing jointly to single. That takes their tax obligation from the lowest to the highest bracket — probably not exactly what you had in mind.

Both your 401(k) and IRA plans are subject to tax law changes. Every time Congress convenes a session, there is the possibility that increases in taxes on your retirement plans can occur. It’s highly unlikely that your taxes won’t increase. The US debt continues to grow at an alarming rate, and tax increases are used to gain some level of financial control.

Get together with a tax planner to identify ways to move your retirement funds into better financial retirement vehicles. Sometimes conversion can cost a bit of money upfront, but in the long run, you’ll be far better off with regard to your retirement tax obligations.

Contact an Estate Planning or Elder Law Attorney

Connect your tax planner with your estate planning attorney. Retirement and tax planning are heavily tied to money and property being managed, preserved, and eventually distributed to your heirs. Our estate planning and elder law attorneys look at changing tax laws and retirement goals to maximize your family legacy. We also discuss preparing for potential long-term care expenses and how they could affect your retirement income. Costs for health care services continue to rise, and you don’t want to lose significant income to medical emergencies.

Contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

The Importance of Trusts as Estate Planning Tools

Estate planning is a crucial process that entails the distribution of assets and property after the passing of a loved one. Though many people are familiar with wills as a means of distributing assets, trusts can be even more effective.

A trust is a legal arrangement where a person, known as the grantor, settlor, or trustmaker, transfers their assets to a trustee who manages and distributes those assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms specified in the trust agreement. Some people shy away from trusts due to the extra cost, but they can save time and money in the long run. Trusts offer several significant benefits that make them essential components of any comprehensive estate plan.

Probate Avoidance

One of the primary advantages of trusts is their ability to avoid probate. Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person’s will is validated before distributing assets. It can be a lengthy and costly process, subject to court supervision and public scrutiny.

By using a trust, your estate can bypass probate entirely, ensuring a faster, more efficient transfer of assets to your intended beneficiaries. This not only saves time and money but also maintains privacy, as trust documents are not public records like probated wills.


Another important aspect of trusts is their flexibility and customization options. Trusts can be tailored to meet the specific needs and goals of the grantor. For example, if the grantor has minor children or beneficiaries who are not yet responsible enough to handle their inheritances, a trust can be created to provide for their financial wellbeing until they reach a certain age or milestone. This allows the grantor to exercise control over how and when the assets are distributed, ensuring their loved ones are taken care of in the best possible way.

Asset Protection

Trusts are also valuable tools for protecting assets from creditors and lawsuits. By transferring assets to an irrevocable trust, the grantor effectively removes them from their personal ownership, making them less susceptible to potential legal claims or judgments. This can be particularly advantageous for people in high-risk professions or with substantial wealth. Additionally, trusts can safeguard assets in situations where the grantor becomes incapacitated, ensuring that a designated trustee manages their affairs and finances according to their wishes.

Philanthropic Legacy

Charitable giving is another area where trusts are especially helpful. If philanthropy is an essential aspect of your estate planning, you can establish a charitable trust to support your chosen causes. Through a charitable trust, you can donate assets while retaining income from those assets during your lifetime. This allows you to support charitable organizations and potentially receive certain tax benefits, all while ensuring that your philanthropic legacy endures.

Estate Taxes

Trusts can also be instrumental in minimizing estate taxes. Through various types of trusts, such as irrevocable life insurance trusts or generation-skipping trusts, you can reduce your overall estate tax liability. By leveraging the tax advantages provided by trusts, it becomes possible to preserve more wealth for future generations and secure a more meaningful legacy.

Adding a Trust to Your Estate Plan

By incorporating a trust, or trusts, into your estate plan, you can expedite the distribution of assets, maintain privacy, and provide greater control and flexibility over how your assets are managed. A trust can also offer asset protection, facilitate charitable giving, and help minimize estate taxes.

An experienced estate planning attorney or elder law attorney can help you navigate the intricacies of trusts and ensure that your estate plan aligns with your goals and aspirations. Contact our estate planning and elder law firm today to learn how we can help you establish a trust to meet your estate planning needs.

Contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

The Job of Family Caregiving

Instead of paying someone else or transferring a senior loved one to a facility, wouldn’t it be much better if a family member gave them care at home? The family member can pay the bills, balance the checkbook, keep the house clean, shop and make meals, and take their aging parent on outings and to the doctor. The senior stays in familiar surroundings getting the care and attention they need, and the family member can even be paid, so they don’t give away their time and labor for free.

What Should Be Simple May Require Legal Guidance

The daughter, Jessica, quit her job to care for Ellen, her mother. But when Ellen fell and needed nursing-home care, the caregiving arrangement cost them nearly $70,000.00 in lost Medicaid benefits. This led to litigation.

The court was sympathetic but was still unable to help. The judge understood that Ellen might as well pay Jessica rather than a third party to provide companion services, especially because she is a member of the family and had Ellen’s best interests in mind. Nevertheless, the court ruled that Jessica failed to document her hours and services with a contract as the law requires. Without that proof, the court found that Jessica should have returned to work instead, where she would have earned more and could afford to hire an agency. Without the required proof, it appeared that mother and daughter had entered into the caregiving arrangement only to give money to Jessica.

Medicaid has Strict Rules Regarding Paid Caregiving Arrangements

The Medicaid rules penalize people for gift-giving, even in a case like Ellen’s. Money or property must not be given away during a five-year lookback period prior to the need for long-term care services. By breaking this rule, Ellen no longer had Medicaid benefits to pay for the extremely high cost of nursing home care.

Other Complications in Family Caregiver Situations

Even if Jessica had treated caregiving like any other job, and if she had documented her work as the law requires with a signed caregiver contract specifying working hours and services provided, and logged her hours as the law also requires – payment under a caregiver agreement must also be reported to the IRS for income tax purposes, or risk stiff penalties.

There is also a risk that a caregiver could be injured on the job. Worker’s compensation insurance would be a good idea.

Consulting and Elder Law Attorney

How a family caregiver is paid is important. It may not be possible for them to receive a lump sum of money; instead, an hourly payment arrangement is required. The hourly rate must match the type of care being provided and the experience level of the caregiver.

A family caregiving arrangement can work under the following circumstances:

  • The caregiver must be capable of the hard work involved
  • They must be properly contracted with hours logged and documented
  • Taxes on the compensation must be properly paid

If your family member treats caregiving like any other employer-employee relationship, the arrangement can be rewarding. But the record-keeping and documentation can be tricky, and mistakes can be very expensive.

To benefit from family caregiving without financial penalties, please contact our elder law attorneys for help. Our law firm is dedicated to keeping you informed of issues that affect seniors who may be experiencing declining health. We help you and your loved ones prepare for potential long-term medical expenses and the need to transition to in-home care, assisted living care, or nursing home care.

This article offers a summary of aspects of elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

How Do Estate Planning and Elder Law Differ?

Although elder law and estate planning are both concerned with aging issues, elder law focuses mainly on issues that seniors face as they grow older.

How Estate Planning and Elder Law are Similar

No matter what stage of life we’re in, we face challenges. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. We can get into accidents, especially when we’re young and under the impression that we’ll live forever. If you were incapacitated, who would you want to speak for you? Who would you trust to pay the bills or make medical decisions?

Both estate planning and elder law attorneys help you choose the right people to stand in your shoes when you can’t speak for yourself.

As adults, we start families, buy property, and accumulate valuable and sentimental items. If we’re thinking realistically, we want to ensure our families are taken care of and receive our property should something happen to us.

Both estate planning and elder law attorneys help you answer tough questions. Both attorneys also know how to protect your estate from tax burdens and avoid the expense and delay of court proceedings, such as probate and guardianship.

Elder Law Becomes Crucial in Later Stages of Life

Elder law expertise becomes crucial when we get older. We’re living longer, healthier lives – but nobody knows when we, or those we love, will get too sick to make decisions or live independently.

You may want to postpone thinking about these things, but delay or denial about incapacitation or declining health can mean that your entire savings gets wiped out paying for nursing home care. Misconceptions about government benefits, like Medicaid, can prevent you from seeking benefits, cause disqualification, or delays that leave you paying thousands of dollars a month for care out of pocket.

Senior business owners who are retiring need a succession plan for a smooth and profitable transition from their business. Older adults and their families have a quality of life to protect. Many want to stay in their homes as long as possible but must prepare for a time when skilled nursing facility care becomes necessary. Elder law attorneys help seniors allocate financial resources to protect against as many potential problems as possible. That includes preserving your home and savings for a spouse or future generations.

Reasons to Find an Elder Law Attorney

Elder law attorneys create custom estate plans with senior issues in mind. They can help you answer difficult questions and find the right solutions for your family by keeping their best interests at heart. Preparing for the future reduces stress and anxiety in an emergency. Your family will know your wishes and can make decisions for you when you need their help. Part of your plan to pay for long-term care includes how to use Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, or retirement benefits.

Evaluating financial resources and determining eligibility for government benefits is complex and requires knowledge and experience to navigate the process successfully. Elder law attorneys use legal strategies to maximize your resources and will work with your financial advisor to align estate planning strategies with overall financial goals.

Our elder law attorneys want you to enjoy your life and independence for as long possible. And when life becomes harder with age, you’ll have something left over for your legacy. We are dedicated to keeping you informed of issues that affect seniors who may be experiencing declining health. We help you and your loved ones prepare for potential long-term medical expenses and the need to transition to in-home, assisted living, or nursing home care.

This article offers a summary of aspects of estate planning and elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

Discussing Inheritance with Your Children

When you don’t discuss your inheritance with your adult children, you risk negatively affecting their decision-making. Managing expectations and knowing how the inheritance situation will affect them can lead to better decisions. These are practical matters of allocating resources for things like housing, retirement, 529 plans, and more.

When children don’t understand your inheritance intentions, it can result in arguments and legal battles among siblings and other heirs after you’re gone. The solution is a mature discussion with your inheritors, sharing details of your estate plan relevant to your child. You can withhold actual numbers by  a range, such as enough for a home downpayment, can provide a sense of magnitude without committing to exact amounts.

The Great Wealth Transfer

According to the Federal Reserve, the baby boomers are the wealthiest generation in US history. Baby boomers hold 70 percent of disposable income in the US and spend over $548 billion annually. Forbes cites research firm Cerulli Associates stating that as much as $84 trillion may change hands by 2045, and much of the wealth is from high net-worth baby boomers. Millennials will control five times as much wealth in 2030 as they do today. Are they prepared for responsible stewardship?

Many who currently have substantial wealth have concerns that if their children know the extent of their wealth, it will reduce their motivation for productivity and growing into responsible citizens. Most parents prefer their children to live a “real” life, learning to grow their success independently of their parent’s wealth. However, wealth is relative, and many parents also fear losing their ability to cover retirement, medical expenses, and long-term care, maintaining their quality of life while protecting their legacy. Because of this uncertainty, generally managing the expectations of their children’s future inheritance is better than providing exact amounts. Things can change.

Failure to Prepare

Failing to prepare children for what they may inherit can hinder their ability to handle money wisely. Many suddenly feel separated from their friends, isolated, or even confused about relationships. Others may be wasteful and spend their newfound money irresponsibly. Those who inherit even a modest amount can be just as irresponsible without guidance. BLB&B Financial Advisors cite, “it takes the average recipient of an inheritance just 19 days until they buy a new car!” It’s all too common for some inheritors to go further and splurge on lavish vacations and fast living.

The Conversation

Experts agree it’s important to talk to children about money and wealth during their adult years to help them learn how to manage money and live beneath their means as a lifestyle habit. Imprinting values, the opportunities money can provide, and their hopes of what they want to accomplish with money are good conversation starters. Providing your younger children with a modest sum of money and parental oversight can teach them how to save and invest, spend wisely, and even demonstrate the importance of supporting charities.

Of course, one of the most effective strategies to teach children about values, spending, and investing money is by example. Parents must use their money in a way that reinforces their values. One way to foster a positive relationship within the family is to purchase a vacation home where everyone gathers for summers, holidays, or annual family gatherings. Other techniques involve permitting children to choose charities to support and provide donations. If your children see you living your values, they will likely adopt similar values.

Estate Planning

Talking to your children about inheritance is an integral part of estate planning. Being transparent, fair, and open to their emotions can help ensure a smooth transition of your assets to the next generation. Keep a few things in mind during discussions:

·       Timing is Important

Have these conversations when children are mature enough to understand the implications of inheritance. Don’t create unnecessary anxiety or misunderstandings by starting the conversation too early.

·       Be Transparent

Be clear about your estate intentions and plans without getting too detailed about the numbers. Being open about your goals and hopes for them can help avoid future conflicts and misunderstandings. Not providing exact numbers keeps your estate planning flexible.

·       Consider Fairness

Consider what is fair and equitable when dividing your assets among children. Each child does not necessarily need to have an equal amount. Consider factors such as their financial situations, relationships with you, and levels of need.

·       Address Emotions

Inheritance can be an emotional topic for everyone. Acknowledge and address any feelings of anxiety, guilt, or resentment that may arise during the conversations.

How an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

There are several ways an estate planning attorney can help when organizing your children’s inheritance, including:

1.     Legal and Tax Implications

Estate planning attorneys understand the current legal and tax implications of inheritance. Your lawyer can help you navigate complex laws and regulations, ensuring your assets’ distributions are most efficient and tax effective.

2.     Drafting Legal Documents

Estate planning attorneys can draft wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and more to help you plan for your children’s inheritance. Tailoring these documents to your specific needs ensures your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

3.     Reviewing and Updating Documents

Estate planning attorneys can review your existing planning documents to ensure they are up-to-date and reflect your current wishes. They may also recommend changes based on shifts in your family or financial circumstances. Informing your adult children of substantial changes is crucial in your inheritance conversations.

4.     Guiding Asset Protection

Estate planning attorneys can guide strategies to protect your assets from potential creditors or legal claims. They can also help plan for long-term care and other future expenses to keep the bulk of your estate intact for your children.

5.     Facilitating Communication

Estate planning attorneys can foster communication between you and your children about your estate planning decisions. These discussions can help prevent future misunderstandings and conflicts.


While an estate planning attorney can help ensure your children’s inheritance is organized and distributed effectively, parents also play a key role. Parents must educate their children regarding the value of money, what it can and can’t do for them, and have open conversations about their future inheritance. Including your estate planning attorney in some of the more crucial conversations with your children about their inheritance can be effective. Your attorney can address any questions from a legal standpoint and help the discussion to remain fact-based, keeping emotions to a minimum.

Failing to talk to adult children about their inheritance can leave them unprepared to handle even a modest amount and often results in the money being quickly squandered. Help your children to maintain your legacy and your family’s intergenerational wealth for years to come.

This article offers a summary of aspects of estate planning and elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

The Simple Things You Can Do To Live Longer

The Simple Things You Can Do To Live Longer

With advances in medicine, technology, and life science, we are now living longer, on average, than previous generations. But simply living a longer life should not be the goal. Maintaining a healthy quality of life should be. After all, who wants to live a long life filled with sickness and ailments?

The earlier you adopt a healthy lifestyle, the better your chance of living a long, healthy life. Here are some simple things you can do to improve your lifestyle.


If you are not a smoker or tobacco user, that’s good. Make sure you don’t become one. Avoid breathing second-hand smoke whenever possible. If you are a smoker, find a way to quit. Try nicotine patches, gum, or hypnotherapy. Figure out what works for you and do it. Breath is life, and keeping your respiratory system healthy increases your lifespan.


Exercising for 30 minutes each day is imperative for longevity. The best and easiest daily exercise is walking. If you are out of shape and 30 minutes of exercise every day seems unachievable, then start with 10 minutes. As your stamina improves, increase your exercise time to 20 minutes each day. As you build up to 30 minutes of daily exercise, make sure your pace is moderate to vigorous.

Try making a routine of walking every morning. Walking will help you lose weight and gain muscle. Adding other exercises to your routine, such as swimming and weightlifting, will help you create a well-rounded exercise regimen. Joining a class can be helpful since classes are at set times, which can help you establish a routine. Talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.

Healthy Diet

We all know that a healthy diet plays a significant role in living a long, healthy life. There are many books and articles about which diet is the best. The best diet for you, though, is a healthy diet you can achieve and maintain. Talking with your doctor will help you choose a healthy diet that works for you.

When shopping for food at your local supermarket, keep in mind that healthier foods are generally found around the outskirts of the store. You will find fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and dairy products there. The inside aisles of supermarkets are stocked with food products, not real food. Most of these food products are so over-processed and full of chemicals that they are unhealthy.


Consuming alcohol in moderate amounts is not considered an unhealthy practice. Moderate amounts of alcohol are described as two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. If you habitually consume more than a moderate amount, you should work on reducing your alcohol consumption as soon as possible. If you have not caused too much damage to your liver, it will likely heal itself.

Social Interaction

Studies show that socially interacting with other people, as well as with animals, has health benefits. Being socially active can help stave off such health issues as depression, high blood pressure, cognitive decline, and dementia. Here are some ways to add social interaction into your life:

  • Join a club that is focused on your favorite hobby
  • Take academic, artistic, or exercise classes
  • Stay in regular contact with family and friends
  • Adopt a pet
  • Get involved with your neighborhood or community

Planning for a Longer Life

If you end up living into your 80s, 90s, or beyond, make sure your financial life is healthy too. Talk with a financial adviser and an attorney experienced in estate planning and elder law to ensure you have the necessary funds to live comfortably in your later years.

Our law firm is dedicated to keeping you informed of issues that affect seniors who may be experiencing declining health. We help you and your loved ones prepare for potential long-term medical expenses and the need to transition to in-home care, assisted living care, or nursing home care.

Contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

Preparing Your Family for the Unexpected

Preparing Your Family for the Unexpected

Making sure your affairs are in order in case of unforeseen circumstances, such as an accident, incapacitation, or death, is what planning for the unexpected involves. If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that life is uncertain and that caring for you and those you love is imperative, including legal preparedness. An elder law attorney and estate planning attorney can address your concerns and help prepare your family for the unexpected.

Elder and Estate Law

Elder law focuses on legal issues affecting elderly individuals, including health care planning, long-term care planning, Medicaid planning, and guardianship (in Louisiana callee interdictions). They help clients plan for their future needs and ensure protection in cases of incapacity or disability.

Estate law focuses on legal issues relating to the transfer of assets after an individual’s death. They help clients plan for the distribution of their assets, minimize taxes, and meet goals by creating wills, trusts, and other legal documents.

Both elder and estate law overlap significantly, particularly in end-of-life planning and long-term care. For example, an elder law attorney or an estate planning attorney can assist clients in creating a living will or power of attorney for health care decisions. A significant difference between the two legal practices is one focuses primarily on the needs of individuals while living, and the other plans the distribution of assets after an individual’s death.

Why Planning is Important

Many things can happen over your lifetime, and much of it is unexpected. But we can be aware of potential problems and prepare for uncertainty.


·       Healthcare Planning

Put a health care plan in place in the form of advance directives, such as a living will or durable health care power of attorney, ensuring your wishes are followed if you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions. Your loved ones won’t have to struggle with decisions during a difficult time.

·       Financial Planning

Financial hardships happen due to emergencies, requiring additional financial resources, insurance, and more to successfully manage unexpected events.

·       Digital Planning

Ensure your legal documents have digital copies on secure networks, making important documents and information accessible online to those who have your login credentials. Keep a list of credentials in a safe place and let a person you trust know the location.

·       Estate Planning

Many individuals not only create an estate plan, but regularly update their wills, trusts, and other legal documents to ensure their wishes are carried out, and their assets receive protection in case of illness or death. Your estate planning also protects the future of your loved ones.

Legal Planning for the Unexpected

Legal planning means having your affairs in order in case of unforeseen circumstances. These are six steps to increase preparedness:

1.     Create a Will

Not enough people in America have a will. This legal document outlines your asset distribution after your death. If you already have a will, review and revise its contents to address changes.

2.     Designate Beneficiaries

You can designate beneficiaries on your bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other assets. Revise your beneficiary status in the event of a death, divorce, marriage, or other major life changes so you’re your asset distribution will reflect your intended beneficiaries.

3.     Create a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney allows someone you trust to make legal, financial, and medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.

4.     Create a Living Will

A living will outlines your end-of-life wishes. It includes whether you want to be kept alive through artificial means.

5.     Consider Setting up a Trust

A trust can manage and distribute your assets during your lifetime and after your death. It can minimize probate costs and protect privacy of your loved ones at your death. Furthermore, it often is a less expensive in the long run and more stress free for your heirs.

6.     Review and Update Your Plan Regularly

It’s important to review and update your plan regularly to ensure it reflects your current wishes and circumstances.

Consulting with an elder law attorney or estate planning attorney can help create and ensure your legal documents are thorough and complete. Preparing for an unexpected crisis will reduce the stress on yourself and your family members. A comprehensive legal plan that can address your desires during times of uncertainty can bring you and your loved ones peace of mind.

This article offers a summary of aspects of estate planning and elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

A Guide to Wealth Transfer

A Guide to Wealth Transfer

When one person or entity transfers wealth or assets to another, it is called wealth transfer. The transfer can happen either during one’s lifetime or after one’s death. Wealth transfer strategies refer to the methods used to transfer wealth in the most tax-efficient and effective ways. Below are some popular wealth transfer strategies to consider.


Gift giving is a commonly used wealth transfer strategy. It involves giving a gift to someone, which can be in the form of cash, securities, real estate, or personal property. The annual gift tax exclusion allows an individual to give up to a certain amount, tax-free, to any number of recipients. In 2023, the annual exclusion is $17,000. This means that an individual can give up to $17,000 per person per year to as many different people as they wish without incurring any gift tax liability. The annual exclusion amount is subject to change, so check with the IRS before making gifts. (It is important to note that this exclusion applies to federal taxes only– it does NOT apply to transfers made for the intention of qualifying for Medicaid Long-term care benefits.)


Trusts are legal entities that can hold and manage assets for the benefit of designated beneficiaries. There are many different types of trusts, including revocable and irrevocable trusts. Revocable trusts allow the creator to retain control of the assets during their lifetime and can be changed or revoked at any time.

Irrevocable trusts, on the other hand, cannot be changed or revoked once they are established. They are often used to protect assets from creditors, reduce estate taxes, and provide for beneficiaries. Irrevocable trusts can be a good option for people who want to qualify for Medicaid benefits and not spend all their assets on long-term care.

Family Limited Partnerships

A Family Limited Partnership (FLP) is a type of partnership that is often used to transfer assets within a family while retaining control over them. An FLP is created by transferring assets, such as real estate, stocks, or businesses, into the partnership. The partnership then issues shares to family members, who become limited partners. The general partner, typically the person who created the partnership, retains control over the assets and manages the partnership.

Charitable Giving

Charitable giving is a popular way to transfer wealth and reduce tax liability. By donating assets to a qualified charitable organization, an individual can receive a tax deduction for the value of the donation. Charitable giving can also be structured through a Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT). This allows an individual to donate assets to a trust and receive an income stream for a specified period. After the trust term ends, the remaining assets are transferred to the designated charitable organization.

Life Insurance

Educating yourself on life insurance can be a useful tool for transferring wealth to future generations. Life insurance policies can provide tax-free benefits to beneficiaries. In addition, it can be used to pay estate taxes or other expenses. Life insurance policies can be set up in a way that allow the policy owner to transfer ownership of the policy to a trust or another individual.

Finding the Right Strategy

There are many different wealth transfer strategies available, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. These strategies can have complex tax implications and legal requirements. So, it is important to work with a professional to ensure that the transfer is done in the most efficient way. Consult with a financial advisor and an estate planning attorney before using any wealth transfer strategy.

This article offers a summary of aspects of estate planning and elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

Technology in Senior Care

Technology in Senior Care

It is possible for many aging Americans to live longer and healthier lives in their own homes because of the internet of things and technological advancements such as self-monitoring medical devices, telehealth, and smart homes. Elder law and at-home medical technology uses can intersect in several ways. Whether you are a senior looking to stay in your current home or have an aging parent and want to implement systems that create better safety and communication, an elder law attorney can help you craft a plan.


Legal Documents

Elder law attorneys can assist older adults when creating legal documents, such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies, in an online environment. These and other legal documents are crucial to have in place as they authorize someone to make decisions about the older adult’s medical treatment and the use of at-home medical technology.

Meetings with your estate planning or elder law lawyer and family members can happen virtually, and some states now legally recognize e-signatures. Creating these documents without leaving your home benefits seniors with mobility and transportation issues and protects against exposure to infectious diseases.

Privacy and Security

Elder law attorneys can advise older adults on the privacy and security of their personal information and medical data when using at-home medical technology. Secure network communication protocols will keep hackers from stealing your information and ensure the data integrity of communications with medical professionals and entities.

Medicaid Eligibility

Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income individuals, may pay for certain at-home medical technology if it’s deemed medically necessary. An elder law attorney can help older adults navigate the Medicaid eligibility process to ensure they receive all the benefits to which they are entitled.

Telehealth services allow Medicaid to reach more seniors at a lower cost than ever. Whether you’re having issues with eligibility, understanding home health services, or selecting home health providers, an elder law attorney can help you understand your Medicaid options.

Long-term care planning

Elder law attorneys can help older adults plan for future needs of long-term care, including using at-home medical technology to help them age in place and maintain their independence for as long as possible. Incorporating at-home medical technology into long-term care planning may include the following:

  • Monitoring Health – Technology such as wearable devices, remote monitoring systems, and telehealth services can track vital signs and send alerts to caregivers if there are any concerns.
  • Medication Management – Personal emergency response systems (PERS) and smart home devices can ensure that older adults are safe and can call for help if needed.
  • Mobility Aids – Robotic exoskeletons, stairlifts, and smart home devices can help older adults with mobility issues move around their homes and control the environment (locks, lighting, temperature) more easily.
  • Social Engagement – Virtual reality, video conferencing, and social networks can connect older adults with loved ones and socialize with others combating isolation and feelings of loneliness.
  • Care Coordination – Medical technology can connect older adults with care providers and healthcare professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and social workers, to monitor the care and support they receive at home.

At-home medical technology is a more affordable option than expensive institutional care. When planning for long-term care, it’s important to consider how technology can help older adults maintain their independence and quality of life.

Guardianship (Interdictions)

In some cases, older adults may be unable to make decisions about their medical treatment or use of at-home medical technology due to cognitive decline or other health issues. Elder law attorneys can assist in appointing a guardian  called a Curator to make these decisions on behalf of their loved one.

Getting Started

An elder law attorney can help an aging adult, and their family understand what at-home medical technology is available and if government programs will pay for it. Getting seniors to use at-home medical technology can be challenging and generally falls under the direction of the family. There are several strategies to implement to make the process easier:

  1. Keep it simple by starting with the basics. Then gradually introduce more advanced features as your loved one becomes more comfortable with the technology.
  2. Make sure the senior understands the benefits of the technology. Explain how it will help them stay healthy and independent and make their life easier.
  3. Demonstrate how to use the technology. Walk your loved one through the setup and use of each device, making sure they know how to operate it.
  4. Provide your loved one with a user manual or guide for reference.
  5. Schedule regular check-ins with your loved one to see how they’re doing with the technology, answer any questions, and ensure their communications with medical professionals are timely and accurate.
  6. Provide your loved one with technical assistance while visiting, and have them contact you if they experience technical issues. Everyone needs reliable IT support.
  7. Look for local support groups and online communities so your loved one can connect with others using similar technology.
  8. If your loved one is having difficulty understanding or not using the technology, consider hiring a professional to help with device setup, training, and guidance.
  9. Encourage your loved one to engage in a trial period with each new technology and see how they feel about it. If they don’t use or are uncomfortable with that particular technology, there might be better solutions.

Many providers make smart home technology for aging adults. The best options depend on the specific needs and preferences of the older adult. Also, compatibility with existing technology and devices. Technology needs will also change with additional health challenges that invariably occur when aging.


Elder law attorneys can recommend at-home technology so that an aging adult can safely live at home. Family members must participate in the installation of the technologies to ensure their loved one’s security and privacy. Technology alone is not a solution. A support system, including family, friends, lawyers, and healthcare providers, must coordinate efforts in the senior’s best interest.

Whether you need to plan for future at-home health care or already require care management via remote health monitoring. Consumer health technology can make senior care more patient-centric, personal, and accessible.

This article offers a summary of aspects of estate planning and elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.