The following questions and answers are taken from a column that Dolores
Coulter wrote for several Genesee County senior center newsletters.
Expenses: Q: I would like to set aside some money to help
pay for college education expenses for my grandchildren but I am also
worried about what will happen if my circumstances change and I need the
money for myself in the future.
Abuse and Neglect: Q: I work at a senior center. A local
pharmacy contacted the center regarding one of their elderly customers who
was having difficulty understanding directions and would become agitated for
no apparent reason. A staff person contacted a family member of the
customer who explained that the family was trying to cope with a difficult
situation. The husband has been diagnosed with dementia, but still
continues to drive. His wife has talked about moving into assisted living,
but the husband refuses to consider it and has told his wife not to discuss
it with the rest of the family. The family is also concerned that the
husband may become violent. They have spoken to a lawyer about guardianship
and conservatorship. The family doctor has written a letter expressing his
concerns and indicating that guardianship or conservatorship is warranted.
We want to help but are not sure what to do.
Family Members and Medicaid: Q. I would like to give some
money to my children or grandchildren but Iím a little confused about how
this would affect my taxes or what would happen if I have to apply for
Medicaid. I have heard that I can give away $14,000.00 to my family members
without having to worry about any taxes. However I have also heard about a
five year lookback period for Medicaid if I give money to family members.
and Conservator: Q: What happens if the court appoints a
guardian and conservator for someone? Does that mean that the person no
longer has any right to make their own decisions?
Handwritten Wills: Q: I am thinking about writing my own
will. I donít have a lot of property and I donít want to spend a lot of
money on estate planning. Is a handwritten will legal?
Property: Q: I added my son and my two daughtersí names on
the deed to my house when my husband died. Now my son is in the middle of a
divorce and his wife is claiming that she is going to get half of my house
in the divorce. Is this true? Even if it is true, should she get half even
though she was at fault in breaking up the marriage? What should I do? Can
I take his name off the deed right now?
Q: I want to avoid probate so I added my
daughter's name on my deed and my bank accounts. When I mention this to my
friend she said that she had heard that this might not be a good estate
planning strategy. Is that right? Discussion
Trusts: Q: What is a living trust? If I have a living trust
do I also need a will?
Home in a Trust: Q: Why do some attorneys recommend that a
home should not be put into a trust and others recommend that it should be?
Mortgages: Q: I see a lot of ads about reverse mortgages.
How do I know whether a reverse mortgage is a good idea?
Marriages: Q: My husband and I have been married for 30
years. It is a second marriage for both of us and we both have children
from our first marriages. How can we ensure that after the second spouse
dies our estate will be divided among our combined children and not just the
children of the second spouse?
Estates: Q: Before my mother died she added my sister and I
as beneficiaries on all her accounts so her estate would not have to go
through probate. However when we were going through her papers we found out
that she also owned some shares of stock and had another small bank account
that was just in her name. Does this mean that we have to probate her
estate? Iím worried about the cost because the total amount involved is
less than $3,000.00.
Q. My husband died recently. All of our property,
except for his car, was either in our joint names or I was the beneficiary
on his accounts, so I didnít think I would have to worry about probate.
However, my husbandís brother died about six months before he did and left
him a small inheritance. Now his brotherís attorney is telling me that I
will have to open a probate estate for my husband, but that it should be
simple because the amount is under $50,000.00. Is that right?
Q: My uncle passed away recently. He was in a
nursing home and had about $250.00 in the patient trust account at the
nursing home. He also had a car in his name which my aunt was using until
she became ill. My aunt has asked me to help her with getting her financial
affairs in order. My uncle left a will leaving everything to my aunt. Does
she have to go through probate to get the car in her name and the $250.00?
Security Garnishments: Q. I have a lot of medical bills and
some other bills that I canít afford to pay that have been turned over to
collection agencies. I need all of my income, which is just Social Security
and a small pension, to pay my regular monthly expenses. I have no money
left at the end of the month to pay the old bills. Iím worried that the
collection agencies might be able to take the money in my bank account. Can
they do that?
Needs Trusts: Q: I have an adult niece who is disabled and
lives with my sister and her husband. They donít have a lot of money and I
would like to leave some money in my will to help take care of my niece.
She receives SSI and Medicaid. I donít want to do anything that would cause
her to lose those benefits.
Deeds: Q: I want to give my home to my daughter after I die
but I donít want the house to go through probate. Can I sign a deed now
that puts the house in her name, but then keep the deed with my other
important papers and tell her she can take the deed and record it after I