VOLUME 24 NUMBER 11
At Fleming & Curti, PLC, we practice elder law. But what does that term mean?
Our practice is focused on typical legal problems faced by older individuals. We also regularly work in the field of special needs planning for individuals with disabilities.
Because the people coming to see us are often the families (and loved ones) of both elders and people with disabilities, our actual clients may not be “old” at all. Of course, each year our definition of “old” shifts at least another year, as well.
For years, all the lawyers at Fleming & Curti, PLC, have been members of The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. That’s the primary national organization for elder law practitioners, and we have been actively involved since its inception.
Here are some of the legal problems we commonly deal with (and think of as elder law):
- Estate planning
- Trusts, and trust administration
- Special needs trusts
- Guardianship and conservatorship
- Long-term care planning
Many of our clients come to us for help in preparing their own estate plans. That usually will include a will, a health care power of attorney, and a financial (general) power of attorney — at least.
We will discuss whether you should also sign a living trust. Most of our clients have been inundated with information about living trusts, and much of that information is confusing and contradictory. We help clients understand their options and make good, informed decisions about trust planning.
Should you sign a living trust? For most of the people we see, the question can be boiled down to a simple cost/benefit analysis, balancing the additional legal fees against possible savings over the longer term.
Of course, some people benefit from (or even need) more elaborate estate planning choices. We can review the usefulness of irrevocable trusts, lifetime gifts, and other choices you might consider. To us, estate planning is not a set of forms and checklists — it is a process of discussion and information exchange. We promise that it will not be scary or threatening to consider what planning choices you should consider.
Trusts, and trust administration
Once you sign a trust — or complete any estate plan — the process is not over. You have some continuing duties and things to attend to. We help keep you up to date.
You might also have become trustee of someone else’s trust because of a death or incapacity. The work involved in acting as trustee can be intimidating (though usually not as daunting as the probate process). We understand trust administration, and can help guide you.
Sometimes we even act as trustee. We do not usually recommend ourselves as the first option, but sometimes family members are unavailable, or unsuitable — or your family situation calls for the particular skills we possess. Because we are familiar with the resources available in Arizona, we also can guide you to other potential trustees, or to other kinds of fiduciaries (like agents to serve under your powers of attorney).
Special needs trusts
One particular emphasis in our practice is in handling special needs trusts. We are active in The Special Needs Alliance, the leading group of lawyers in this practice area in the country. There are benefits, drawbacks, and alternatives to special needs trusts, and we can help you understand them. Whether you are a trustee, a trust beneficiary, or a parent concerned about planning for your child with special needs, we know a little something about the choices you face.
Guardianship and conservatorship
If advance planning can’t be done, or wasn’t done, you may have to rely on the courts. The process of getting someone appointed as guardian — to make personal, medical and living arrangement decisions — for an incapacitated adult is complicated. Getting appointed as conservator — to handle financial decisions for an adult in need of protection or a child — is even more complicated.
There might be options to consider, and we are familiar with them. We advise family members about whether they need court involvement, and we represent them when they do. We also act as guardian and/or conservator in some cases, and we even represent individuals who are subject to guardianship or conservatorship proceedings in Arizona.
Arizona’s probate process is not as confusing or complex as some states, but it can still be overwhelming. We cut through the confusion, tell you what needs to be done, and actually do most of it for you.
With the growing popularity of living trusts and other probate-avoidance techniques, probate proceedings are relatively rare. Fewer and fewer attorneys and law firms are familiar with the probate process. Though it represents a relatively small share of our practice, we remain involved in — and familiar with — the probate process.
Long-term care planning
You may need to consider the high cost of long-term medical or custodial care — whether for yourself or a family member. If so, we can help you to understand the options, your choices for minimizing those costs, and the availability of public benefits programs that might help.
If you live in Arizona — and particularly in the Tucson area — we should be your first choice for an elder law firm. You don’t have to be old — we know we’re not.