What Are Good Moves For Estate Planning And Elder Law Planning?
In Florida, some actions you take for estate planning purposes aren’t necessarily good for elder law planning purposes. Why not? Why is there a difference? Those are both fair questions.
So let’s see, estate planning primarily concerns legal planning to address the potential for disability, chronic illness, death, and post mortem for your family, loved ones, or favored charities. Well, isn’t elder law also about planning for disability, chronic illness, death, and post mortem issues? Okay, you got me there.
Here’s how I distinguish the two: it’s really just a difference in focus. Old school estate planning focused on taxation, a lot. It still does, but for this year, anyway, the effective individual exemption amount for federal estate taxation is at $5.12 million. With basic A-B (i.e., credit shelter trust) planning, or with portability election, that’s up to $10.24 million per couple. News alert: That’s the 1%! I certainly want to represent the 1% when I can, but I’m more likely to represent the rest of us out of the 99%!
What about trusts and estates, doesn’t estate planning deal with those? Well, yes again, but so does elder law planning.
Here’s the difference in focus: Estate planning is light on leveraging your assets and income to address the cost of living with chronic illness and disability, and heavy on old school legal solutions for transfer of assets, minimizing taxes, and controlling or protecting inheritances. Probate of estates created by wills and administration of trusts are about as old school, post mortem estate planning as you can get. Drafting the corresponding old school trusts, whether revocable or irrevocable, or even a will, whether “simple” or “complex”, is again very old school estate planning lawyering.
Elder law is new school, and much more holistic in both its focus, and its solution set. There’s an old saying that if you’re a litigation attorney, all your legal tools in a lawyer tool box look like a lawsuit. Similarly, to an old school estate planning attorney, all your lawyer tools might look like a trust agreement. Elder law attorneys have to look well outside of that tool box for a solution for each client’s own special needs.
There’s nothing wrong with properly using trusts, and even the “new generation” of elder law attorneys use plenty of trusts, but again, the focus is on the big picture. The question asked by the estate planner is “what legal solution best fits this client?” The question asked by the elder law attorney is “what is the best possible solution, legal, practical, financial, insurance related, or otherwise, that best fits this client?”
Don’t be a victim of one size fits all planning. Know your legal rights on estate planning and act accordingly!