All Posts by Debra Robinson

Thank you and give back and be charitable

Thank you!

We are so very grateful that we have clients that have entrusted us to provide them with sound legal advice and guidance in the areas of trusts, estates, elder law, Medicaid, veteran’s benefits and/or business transactions.  

Our firm believes in giving back.  So we have made a donation, made possible by our clients, to North Fulton Community Charities.  This is a charity we love to support as they directly impact our local community. In 2016 North Fulton Community Charities helped over 10,000 individuals and provided over $1.1 million in emergency financial assistance. They assisted over 1,200 adults in obtaining workforce readiness and life skills, and kept over 1,900 families in their homes.  If you would also like to make a donation to this charity, please visit them by clicking the button below.

North Fulton Community Charities


We wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Protect your children's inheritance with a trust

Protect Your Children’s Inheritance with a Trust

Whether you have been married 5 years or 50, you may have a common estate planning concern:  what if one of you dies and the survivor remarries?  A new relationship after the death of a spouse does not necessarily diminish the love the survivor had for the deceased spouse, but it can diminish their children’s inheritance.

Many couples have Wills in which they leave all assets to the other, relying on the other spouse to provide for the children after both of them have died.  But a surviving spouse who loses mental or physical capacity after remarrying will usually rely on the new spouse to handle financial matters.  If the couple is elderly, it is not uncommon for the new spouse’s children to take control.  Somewhere along the way, a new Will is executed by the surviving spouse leaving all assets to the new spouse or his or her children.

Planning to protect your children’s inheritance is not difficult.  Instead of leaving everything outright to your surviving spouse, you can leave your assets in a Trust.  All of the income (interest and dividends) can be paid to the survivor, and the Trustee can be given authority to invade principal if needed for the surviving spouse’s health and support.  The surviving spouse can serve as a Trustee, but to protect the Trust assets there should be a Co-Trustee, such as a sibling, adult child, close friend, accountant or bank.

If the assets are in a well drafted Trust, the new spouse, and that person’s children, will not have the ability to divert the Trust assets.  At the surviving spouse’s death, the remaining Trust assets will be distributed to your children.

Making a Trust part of your estate plan is easy to accomplish while you are alive and mentally competent.  You and your spouse can’t know which one of you is going to become incapacitated or die first, so it’s vital to protect each other and your children by implementing a plan while you are both able.

To learn even more about why you should implement a plan now, we invite you to attend one of our Free Workshops where you can learn even more about how you can really protect you and your loved ones.  Go ahead and click to register today:

Medicaid for Long Term Care

Medicaid for Long Term Care

Nursing home fees are so high that many families find themselves struggling to pay for care.  Without the resources to pay, they turn to Medicaid, the government program that provides financial assistance for long term care for the elderly.

To qualify for Medicaid for long term care in Georgia, an individual is allowed to have $2,000 in assets.  A married couple can have an additional $119,270.  Certain assets are exempt while the recipient and spouse are alive, but after the Medicaid recipient and spouse both die,  Georgia will implement “estate recovery” to get paid back what it has spent on the Medicaid recipient’s care from the exempt assets.

To discourage giving assets away in order to get down to the asset limits, there is a five year look back period.  Assets given away during the five years before applying for Medicaid must be disclosed, and will result in a penalty period.

Although you can’t predict what will happen to your health in the next five years, and you can’t know if you will ever need nursing home care, there are 108 nursing homes in the metropolitan Atlanta area, and it’s likely the owners of those nursing homes are predicting their beds will continue to be filled by future residents.  I’ve never met anyone who looked forward to moving to a nursing home, but I think it’s foolish to fail to plan for what may eventually happen.

It is possible and practical to plan ahead to preserve assets and still be able to receive Medicaid.  Most of the people who plan over five years before needing nursing home care are not multi-millionaires.  They are middle class people who have worked hard all their lives, been responsible citizens, and accumulated a nest egg.  But they know what they have isn’t enough to pay $10,000 a month for nursing home care for an ill spouse, and still provide a decent lifestyle for the well spouse.  They don’t want to lose everything they’ve worked for, and they don’t want to become a burden to their children.

It can be confusing figuring out exactly what you need to plan your future.  That’s why we have created a Free Workshop to educate you on how you can protect your stuff in 3 easy steps.  We invite you to register today and take the first step in planing to have protection for your long term care.

Get your parents to talk

Get Your Parents to Talk

Avoid expensive attorney fees and court costs by preparing before problems arise.

In six of the ten metropolitan Atlanta counties, growth in the older population is exceeding growth in the general population.  If you have parents, grandparents or other family members who are part of that older population, you may find yourself having to step in to take care of their finances or health care.  Would you have a clue about what to do?

Members of the older generations often pride themselves on being independent and they keep their financial affairs private. They aren’t going to volunteer information, and may not take it well if you ask whether they have a legal and financial plan in place. If the conversation becomes unpleasant, you may decide to keep the peace and drop it.

You should think about what would happen if there were a diagnosis of dementia, or a serious illness, and they were no longer able to be independent. Would you be prepared?

  • Do you know if there is a Power of Attorney or an Advance Directive for Health Care for them?
  • If those documents exist, do you have copies or know where to find them?
  • Do you know if their Power of Attorney was done recently or ten years ago?
  • Was it created in Georgia or the state where they used to live?

If they don’t have an effective Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive, and dementia sets in, it will be too late for those documents to be signed. That’s when you’ll find yourself in Court, filing for a Guardianship and Conservatorship. That process involves a court hearing, multiple attorneys, evidence presented, and thousands in court costs and legal fees.

If they object to seeing an attorney to have the necessary documents put into place because “it will cost too much”, you can explain to them that the money they save, plus a whole lot more, will probably have to be spent on legal fees and court costs down the road.

As hard as it might be to get the older generation to share information they consider private, it will be much harder to deal with the consequences if they don’t.

A great way to get your parents to understand the need to open up, and why, is to bring them to attend one of our Free Workshops together.  We go over the reasons you need to protect your stuff and how it impacts your loved ones.  Click here to register today.

Medicaid VS Medicare

Is it Medicare or Medicaid?

Medicare is the federal program that provides health insurance for those 65 and older, as well as for younger people who are disabled. Medicaid is the federal program, administered by each state according to the state’s own set of rules, which pays for medical care for low income individuals who are aged, blind or disabled.  Medicare is an insurance program, while Medicaid is a welfare program.

Too often, people mistakenly believe that Medicare will pay for nursing home costs if a senior requires long term care.  Medicare does provide a benefit for skilled nursing care, but it is a very limited benefit.  If a patient is hospitalized for a period of at least three days under a stay covered by Medicare, is discharged to a nursing home within 30 days after the hospital discharge, and requires daily skilled nursing or rehabilitation services, then Medicare will provide coverage for up to 100 days.  It will pay the first 20 days in full, but then there will be a copayment required from the patient for days 21 through 100.  After 100 days, Medicare will no longer provide coverage.

Medicaid is the program that pays for long term nursing home care.  To qualify for Medicaid,  the applicant must meet asset and income tests.  In Georgia, an individual is allowed to have $2,000 in assets.  If the applicant is married, the non nursing home spouse, called the “community spouse” is allowed to have an additional $119,200 in 2015.  Some assets, such as a primary residence, are exempt, but are subject to recovery by the state after the Medicaid recipient’s death.  The income cap for 2015 is $2,199 a month.  An applicant can qualify for Medicaid even if the income exceeds the cap amount, by using a special trust called a Qualified Income Trust or a “Miller” Trust.

It is possible to protect and preserve hard earned assets from being completely spent down on nursing home costs, but doing so requires careful planning that takes into account the limitations of Medicare and the rules for Medicaid qualification.

If you’re looking for an expert in helping you plan and protect yourself once you or your loved ones are in retirement, then we invite you to contact our office and schedule an appointment today. We can help develop the right estate plan for you and your needs to make sure you will be protected.

You need more than just a will

You Need More Than Just A Will

If you have a Will, you’ve taken an important step. However, if all you have is a Will, you’ve left yourself unprotected for a significant risk – disability.  The risk is more obvious for the elderly, but illness or an accident can happen to anyone at any time.

What would happen if you were suddenly disabled?  Who would pay your bills, talk with your insurance company, make medical decisions?  If you are married, and have joint accounts with your spouse, then those accounts would be accessible.  But your spouse has no legal right to access accounts that are held only in your name.  Your insurance company, because of the HIPAA privacy laws, is not allowed to discuss your coverage unless you’ve given legal authority.

Planning for incapacity is an essential aspect of a sound financial and estate plan.  Without proper planning, families find themselves in court filing for guardianship and conservatorship in order to make health care decisions and access and manage finances.

In Georgia, the two essential documents to protect yourself and your assets in the event of incapacity are a Financial Power of Attorney and an Advance Directive for Health Care.

A Financial Power of Attorney, sometimes called a General Power of Attorney, enables you to appoint someone as your agent, to manage your financial affairs.  A Financial Power of Attorney can be effective when it is signed, or it can be a “springing” power of attorney that becomes effective only when triggered by a designated event, such as a doctor’s certificate of incapacity, or a panel of family members making a determination of incapacity.

An Advance Directive for Health Care, which replaced the old Georgia Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, enables you to appoint someone to make medical decisions if you are not able to communicate your wishes.  You can also provide instructions on your treatment preferences.

There may be other estate planning techniques that are right for you, such as a revocable or an irrevocable trust.  But the core documents that everyone should have include a Will, Financial Power of Attorney and Advance Directive for Health Care.

If you want to find out more about about the documents we discussed in this article, you can check out our additional resources on our site here.

DIY can end up costing heirs

“Do It Yourself” Can End Up Costing Your Heirs

The concept of “Do it Yourself” is everywhere these days. But doing it yourself when it comes to legal documents can end up in headaches and unnecessary costs to your heirs.

A married couple owned a residence with their son, as joint tenants with right of survivorship.  That meant there would be no probate when one of the three died.  They wanted to take their son’s name off the deed, but instead of hiring an attorney, they bought a form at an office supply store and prepared the deed themselves.  Their son learned after both parents died that the deed they prepared was not with right of survivorship, so each of them owned 50% of the property. That meant probate was required for two estates instead of one.  By doing it themselves, they saved a few hundred dollars, but cost their son five times that much after their deaths.

A widow redid her Will shortly after her husband died, with the assistance of a lawyer.  A few years later she decided she wanted to change the Executor, but did not want to pay the lawyer to make the change.  She crossed out the Executor’s name, handwrote in the name of the person she now wanted, dated and initialed the change.  After she died, her family learned that you can’t make changes to a Will by crossing out and initialing.  The person she no longer wanted as Executor was the one appointed by the Court.  She saved money by doing it herself, but she left her estate in the hands of someone she no longer trusted.

A young couple used a do it yourself program to prepare their Wills.  The wife was killed in an accident.  After she died, the husband discovered that she’d reversed names when she filled in the blanks, and her sister was named Executor instead of her husband.  Not only did the sister live out of state, but she was a terrible procrastinator. They saved money by do it yourself Wills, but caused the grieving husband unnecessary delays and frustration.

You won’t know what mistakes you might be making when you do it yourself.  By the time your heirs find out, it will be too late.

That’s why we want to invite you to attend one of our Free Workshops where you can learn even more about how you can really protect you and your loved ones.  Go ahead and click to register today:

I’m Single. Why Do I Need Estate Planning?

Having a Will may not seem important to someone who isn’t providing financial support to other family members.  But if you’ve worked hard to accumulate assets, don’t you want to able to decide who gets to benefit from those assets?  Did you know that:

  • You could arrange some of your assets to pass by beneficiary designation, or in payable on death accounts, in order to avoid probate and ensure you determine who receives your inheritance
  • If you own a home solely in your name, it would have to go through probate at your death.  Without a Will, it will be up to state law to determine who receives your property.  But with a Will, you make that decision

For a single person, it is even more important to have a plan in place for incapacity.  The plan should include both of the following documents:

  • Financial Power of Attorney – A single person usually doesn’t have joint accounts with someone else. How would your bills get paid if you were in an accident or became very ill?  With a properly prepared Power of Attorney, you can name someone to take care of your finances if you aren’t able to.
  • Advance Directive for Health Care – This document names someone as your agent to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to communicate. By designating that person as your representative under the HIPAA privacy laws, you’ll make sure all your medical information will be accessible to your agent.

It can be difficult for a single person to choose someone to serve as agent, whether for financial or health care decisions.  If family is the most comfortable choice, but they all live far away, it’s better to have the document and name someone far away, rather than not have a plan at all.

Without any incapacity documents, if you fall ill or are in an accident, and are unable to manage for yourself, someone would have to go to court, to petition for guardianship and conservatorship.  Your hard earned dollars would pay for lawyers and court costs, and the person appointed by the court to take charge of your financial and health decisions might be the last person you would want.

Single people should protect themselves and their assets through careful estate planning so that you have the care and support you deserve.

Isn’t it time you take the first step in protecting yourself and your future?  We can help you plan for all stages of your life, and are ready to find the right estate plan that will meet your individual needs.  Single people should protect themselves and their assets through careful estate planning so that you have the care and support you deserve.  Contact us at (770)817-4999 or click here to get started!

Who Makes Medical Decisions When A Child Turns 18?

If someone you love is about to turn eighteen, that’s the age a child becomes a legal adult in Georgia.  An eighteen year old may be graduating from high school, starting a first job, headed off to college, or just having fun.  The future is exciting and unknown, and no one is thinking about bad things that might happen.

But bad things do happen.  People have accidents, or fall ill.  If something happens to a young child, the parent or guardian has the legal right to make medical decisions.  What most people don’t realize though, is that as soon as someone turns eighteen, under the law, that eighteen year old is an adult.

Under the federal HIPAA privacy laws, health care providers are prohibited from disclosing an adult patient’s private medical information, unless authorized by the court through a legal guardianship, or authorized by the adult in writing. It doesn’t matter if you are a relative, even if you are the mother or father.

In a Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care, an agent is named to make all health care decisions if the injured or ill adult is unable to communicate his wishes, and the agent is authorized under the HIPAA privacy laws to have access to all private medical information.

Without this important legal document, families find themselves in court, filing for guardianship.  That process is expensive, delays access to needed medical information, and causes additional distress in a family already going through a difficult time.

The solution is simple.  Before an eighteen year old heads off to college, or out of the family home to an apartment, give him the gift of knowing his family will still be able to take care of him if he needs help.  Have him sign an Advance Directive for Health Care.  Having the document won’t prevent tragedy from happening, but it will enable a young adult to know he’ll have the protection of those who love him quickly available if it is ever needed.

Set up an appointment to create an Advance Directive for Health Care for your son or daughter today!  Click to contact us.