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Anyone Have Experience Using An Elder Law Attorney?

paoli2
paoli2   |     |   2,449 posts since 2011

I recently found a very nice Estate Attorney who redid our Wills, POAs etc, but when I asked him what was the best way for a mother to buy a Condo for her disabled daughter and title it correctly in case that mother ever ended up in a nursing home, he advised me to find one of these new Elder Law Attorneys since they are better informed on these type issues.

I have found them to be very expensive and one insists we have to sign a "retainer" contract with him for thousands of dollars before he even tells us exactly what he would be doing for this money. He calls the retainer "insurance" but even with insurance. you know if it is going to cover you for auto, home or medical. I am very confused about the new Elder Law Attorneys and wonder if anyone on DA has ever used one and if they had good experiences with them. After all these years of trying to save money, I would hate to think if we got the wrong advice, so much of it could be lost by not preparing ahead of time. Thanks for any info or advice anyone can share.



Answers
Bozo
Bozo   |     |   1,141 posts since 2011
"Elder law" attorneys can range from your garden-variety estate planners to annuity scammers who happen to have a law degree. Be careful out there. For starters, contact your local County Bar Association.
paoli2
paoli2   |     |   2,449 posts since 2011
Bozo: You seem to be right on target about my fears. These people want copies of all our financial statements and I don't feel right about giving strangers access to all this in case it gets into the wrong hands. Those statements have all our account numbers etc. on them. So I typed up a sheet of what the assets are (mainly) lots of CDs etc and the amounts and anything else he can just "consult" with me about.

I need to know if he is capable of answering my questions before I let him have access to such personal financial info.So that is why I posted my question on DA to see if any others used these new breed of attorneys for the elderly. I have checked out the one we are seeing and since he is with one of the top such firms, he "seems" to be well qualified but that is on their webpage. I think I just may call in his name to our local County Bar Association just for the heck of it. Thanks for the reply.
Bozo
Bozo   |     |   1,141 posts since 2011
"Elder law" attorneys may be woefully insufficient in some of the more arcane areas of "elder law" investment. For example, ask any representative group of "elder law" attorneys what they know about no EWP for partial withdrawals from IRA CDs for folks over 59 1/2, you will get the predictable "deer in the headlights" look. Been there, done that. Same with RMD management. It's just not their skill-set.
Ally6770
Ally6770   |     |   2,480 posts since 2010
In MIchigan we have in most of our cities a senior citizen agency (in my city it is called Senior Services) who can talk to you about these matters and will have a list of elder law attorney's in your area who will talk to you about what you want. You seem to want someone who can tell you about titling property, insurance etc and do not want someone who will take over your money.
These are two different things. You seem to be talking to an estate attorney. Make sure you get someone that will not take over your money unless that is what you want.
paoli2
paoli2   |     |   2,449 posts since 2011
Ally, what do you mean "take over your money"? From what I was told they will look over what we have and let us know if we need any changes to the Wills and POAs etc. we just had remade by our new estate attorney and maybe a "Special Needs Trust" for our disabled daughter. The only "takeover of our money" will be by what I think are kind of high charges and hourly rates they all seem to charge. No "free consultations" with these lawyers. They know there are not that many who specialize in "Elder Law" so we can't look for a "cheapie". :) We just need to make sure our daughter has funds to support herself after we are gone so I need to make the right decisions now.
Sylvia
Sylvia   |     |   99 posts since 2012
Here’s the American Bar Assoc.’s long-winded answer to the question “Why Elder Law”? https://www.americanbar.org/publications/probate_property_magazine_2012/2014/may_june_2014/2014_aba_...  As I understand it, this specialty evolved from a need for a pro who understands both estate planning and government benefits (e.g., Social Security, Medicare). If you're not comfortable with guy insisting on a retainer, continue "shopping."
paoli2
paoli2   |     |   2,449 posts since 2011
I can't bring myself to pay someone a "retainer" of thousands of dollars so he/she can handle my case "if" I ever have to go into a nursing home. Don't I have a right to know "what" they do to deserve taking my cash years ahead of time (hopefully) and if I die before going to the NH, will they refund the money??

Ally, you seem to have lucked out to be in a state where you have an educated "senior citizen agency". I did find the one in my city but they had no idea what an "Elder" attorney was and gave me a guy who has nothing to do with anything I need.

I had no idea finding info on titling a property deed was so hard to do. Since we will be paying 100% cash for it, I just want to know if it will be considered a "gift" to her. Most lawyers I have spoken to say since we get about 5 Million dollars of property we can give to our heir without taxes etc., we should not bother to even file Form 709. Others say "file just to be on safe side". Safe side of what?? I had no idea estate lawyers could have such different opinions about something which should be a definite "yes" or "no" issue. And on it goes.
Bozo
Bozo   |     |   1,141 posts since 2011
Paoli2, there is a lifetime exclusion somewhat north of $5 Million (per person) for the estate tax. Many folks conflate the reporting requirement with the tax. Any CPA worth his or her salt knows this. There is no "gift" or "estate" tax unless or until you exceed the lifetime exclusion. The IRS just wants you to report gifts, so it can keep track. Just that simple.

That having been said, state inheritance taxes are all over the place.
paoli2
paoli2   |     |   2,449 posts since 2011
Bozo: You may be that "lawyerman" I have been searching for for 9 months! That's what I needed to know but can you answer the one question none of the others can?. "Do I still have to fill out and send in that Form 709????" And how much is your fee? :) Seriously, thank you for the info!
Bozo
Bozo   |     |   1,141 posts since 2011
Paoli2, yes, theoretically, you need to fill out and submit Form 709 if you "gift" more than the annual "don't have to report" amount. The IRS just likes to keep track of gifts, so it can tote them up and compare to the lifetime exclusion. For example, if you "gift" more than $5 million+ in your lifetime, the estate tax kicks in when you die. The estate and gift taxes are, for most folks, a non-issue.

I think I read somewhere that there is a penalty for failing to submit a Form 709, but (as a practical matter) the IRS has no way of enforcing it.

Example: Joe gives a $250,000 gift to his daughter, Jane. Joe does not submit a gift tax return. How would the IRS ever know of the gift?

I do have to chuckle when it comes to tax compliance issues. We here in the great US of A actually try to comply with our tax laws. Unlike other countries, where tax evasion is a body-contact sport. The failure to file the Form 709 is not a huge issue, because the IRS (presumably) monitors huge estates.
Bozo
Bozo   |     |   1,141 posts since 2011
Further to my post on estate taxes, the estate tax is but a sliver of federal revenue. It is, however, a minefield for "property-rich, cash-poor" small business owners.
Bozo
Bozo   |     |   1,141 posts since 2011
PS: If you understand the penalty for failing to file a Form 709, based on the instructions on the IRS website, kindly let me know. "Estate tax evasion" is probably a crime with few criminals.
Ally6770
Ally6770   |     |   2,480 posts since 2010
Try your county rep. They have people in their offices to help you find the type of lawyer or agency you need to help you. As far as who would know if you gift more than the limit, banks, realtors, auto dealers etc have laws that they must submit
regularly any transactions over a certain amount. Even when you sell a home and the amount is over a certain amount you will get a 1099. I would have someone do your tax return that is a registered with IRS to file returns. They will make the decision if you have to file it or not. They will be responsible but document all your income and gifts on one page with your other paperwork so you can prove you gave it to them. If you go into a nursing home and your money is gone a lien can be attached to anything you own to pay back the money after you die. Anything you gift within 5 years before you would use any funds but your own the recipient will have to give back. It is called clawback.
Ally6770
Ally6770   |     |   2,480 posts since 2010
Here is the state number for your state. See if they can help you. If not try your county or city representative. State Senior Services Help Line: 502-564-6930. Maybe your state also has this information for its residents.
paoli2
paoli2   |     |   2,449 posts since 2011
Thanks anyway but they gave me Rand Paul's office. She didn't even know what a Form 709 was and had to ask someone. She finally said they don't know much about it but that there is a penalty to not file it. She had no idea what the penalty could be. I think I will just get it filed to save more stress on myself. H&R Block has a lady who does them and if she is still alive by the time we finally get that property, I will just pay her to do it. Thanks anyway for the advice.
Bozo
Bozo   |     |   1,141 posts since 2011
Paoli2, Form 709 is filed when you "gift", not when you "get". Stated another way, donors file, not donees.
Ally6770
Ally6770   |     |   2,480 posts since 2010
You do not want your federal senator. If you do not know your county or city or state rep (not the federal rep or senator) ask for their phone number or for the number county or city senior services agency.

You can also look at your voter registration card to find out the district you are in for each and then look up on your computer for the names of the people in your district that represents you. Then  call them. 
Or look at your county and city webpage for your local representative for your district.  
paoli2
paoli2   |     |   2,449 posts since 2011
Don't you think it would be much easier to just pay my HR Block lady to fill out that blasted 709 form when it's time? I'm telling you these people I call seem to live in "la-la land" and don't even know what that form is! On the IRS webpage it states if we give someone anything more than $14,000.00 in a year we must report it on form 709 or there will be penalties. I may try what you suggest but I think they will just put me off again. Thanks anyway.
Bozo
Bozo   |     |   1,141 posts since 2011
Paoli2, to be sure, if you gift over the reporting threshold (it's currently $14,000/person/year or thereabouts), you need to file Form 709. Perhaps "need" is too strong a verb. You "should" makes more sense. As a practical matter, very few folks come within the gift/estate tax. That said, if you are the heir of a family farm in the Midwest consisting of many thousands of acres, you might want to confer with a knowledgeable estate/tax attorney. For most of us, thankfully, the gift/estate tax is just an academic issue. When our estate is worth over $11 million, trust me, I'll give you a nudge.

The fact that most IRS Form 709 scofflaws aren't in prison is simple to resolve. They're usually dead. 
Ally6770
Ally6770   |     |   2,480 posts since 2010
H&R Block tax preparers are just that they are not registered TAX AGENTS but the H&R Block webpage says the preparers have access to the professionals. But the trouble is that the tax preparers always do not know what they do not know. Also the preparers are not able to get through to the professionals quite often I was told by my ex-neigher who was a preparer for H&R Block. Check out who if anyone would answer any questions to the IRS if a letter was sent. From their webpage---

With the H&R Block brand, taxpayers have ACCESS to more than 70,000 tax professionals-----

Our tax professionals have ACCESS to The Tax Institute at H&R Block, staffed primarily by CPAs, Enrolled Agents, tax attorneys and former IRS agents
A typical client is served by an H&R Block tax professional with more than a decade of experience and hundreds of hours of training
Our tax professionals progress through a 14-level certification program, culminating in master tax advisor status and must complete at least 15 hours of continuing education annually
paoli2
paoli2   |     |   2,449 posts since 2011
Ally, I have never used H&R Block for my taxes but are you mocking them and what they do? Millions of people seem to use them so how can they stay in business if they are so unqualified? It was an employee of H&R Block over a year ago who was the only person who even knew what Form 709 was and said she has done them. Even some CPAs I called were not familiar with the form. I have a copy and even tho I have done all our taxes except for the year I let my relative do them when I was ill, that 4 page 709 seems over my head.

If and when we ever buy that Condo for our daughter, I will have to find someone who can do it for me. I am not risking not sending it in.
Ally6770
Ally6770   |     |   2,480 posts since 2010
I know someone who works the tax season for H&R Block. I lived in a small town for many years and I know the trouble the office in our town got in with the gov and I know the trouble that the corporate office got in and was fined for their practices.
CTM
CTM   |     |   80 posts since 2010
After reading this thread for several days, I think all answers miss the major point - "her disabled daughter".
I believe the first order of business is the investigation of a "Special Needs Trust", especially if the daughter receives, will receive or might receive government benefits. Simply gifting an asset could jeopardize any government benefits.

Look here for a discussion on special needs trusts:
http://estate.findlaw.com/trusts/special-needs-trusts-faq-s.html

I agree with Ally6770's first response, a lawyer's job of advising you on the proper way to title an asset has been conflated with a trustee's job of managing your money/affairs if you are unable to perform those tasks.

Finally, in California, the CA Bar and associated local legal organizations provide an initial consultation for free or a very nominal fee ($25 - $ 50). They may also be able to point you in the direction of the lawyer that specializes in your particular needs.  I believe all states have similar referral organizations.

Here is an example: http://www.socallawyerreferral.com/index.html
paoli2
paoli2   |     |   2,449 posts since 2011
CTM: Yes my disabled daughter is a big part of all this. I have read so much about those SNTs and the only Trustee would or could be me since we have no living friends or relatives to call upon. Obama made it possible recently for the disabled who are mentally able to be able to set up their own Self Needs Trust but it they are as complicated as the others, we will have to find another way to help her.

 We are seeing a couple of Elder Law attorneys in October and I sure hope I can get some helpful guidance from them. One will give me 30 minutes free but the other wants his hourly rate. He is well known in the field and the only other one where we live which I would entrust my personal financial info to. So I better talk fast because I don't want to pay "that" rate for more than an hour! We sure don't have any attorneys in that special field who will speak to us for your $25 - 50's) One thing I need to get settled when I see them is if I really "should" do that blasted Form 709. I have a copy and it is several pages!
paoli2
paoli2   |     |   2,449 posts since 2011
Ok people. It's only fair I share the outcome of my trek into "attorney land". I thought standing my ground with my "former" priest years ago and getting literally put out of our church was something I could never face that was worse. Well I found that something. It is certain egotistic attorneys who when they realize you refuse to purchase their recommended financial products will call you names and basically put you "out" of their office! It seems my brain is too full of "stuff" and he wants no part of me. I had come to the same conclusion about him several minutes into our consultation so I gratefully "thanked him" for being kind enough to refuse to work with me and putting us out before I had to walk out on him. The fact that the products he wanted us to buy were not compliant to what I wanted made him go a bit "ga-ga" because it seems they prefere us to go to them completely uneducated and accept whatever expensive product they throw at us.

Why do these professionals think that just because one is elderly one takes no responsibility for what they buy from them? I started quoting changes in laws to him and he acted like he was going to swing from the ceiling!! Spouse, of course, kept quiet because he had no idea what he and I were babbling about since finances are not his thing. What gaul! I must admit even if the other attorneys were thinking the same thing about me, they had the decency not to go zonkers and insist we leave their office! I think I will take a rest from all this and put the Condo on hold. I had no idea attorneys had worse egos than even doctors!

So have a good evening all and I will give you a rest from my attorney problems and do hope that someone finds some higher CD rates to cheer us up!
Ally6770
Ally6770   |     |   2,480 posts since 2010
It sounds like you had an estate planner and not an elder law attorney. They are not the same. Look at their credentials and learn of the differences.
paoli2
paoli2   |     |   2,449 posts since 2011
Ally, do you really think I would have wasted our time making consultations with the wrong type of Attorneys? As I posted to Bozo, I got the Elder Law Attorneys for our State and also am quite aware of the difference. Our Estate Attorney admitted he does not do Elder Law. Those are the attorneys who help one in ways regular ones don't and since 1993 the laws have been made stricter for what they can use.

 They also are supposed to know more about helping to protect disabled children when we pass. It's a very needed field, imo, but I think it can attract the wrong kind of people. One Attorney for the best group we have here said I had already made all our assets non-probatable and we had all the proper Wills, POA, and Healthcare Document so he felt there was nothing to do now but wait and see what the future holds for spouse and I before we take steps concerning SNT for daughter. Now "he" was professional! He also has all the credentials he needs. For that fact, so did the others.
Ally6770
Ally6770   |     |   2,480 posts since 2010
I have never had an Elder Lawyer try to sell me anything. To be able to sell anything they have to be registered to be able to sell these products and the initials of their registrations have to be posted behind their names. Maybe this is just my state but I thought it was a federal law. The degrees should be posted on the wall of their office just like most doctors have their degrees posted on their office walls. If you are in their office and not a conference room you would be able to see them.
gbtexas
gbtexas   |     |   66 posts since 2013
In my lifetime I've come across a few, what I would describe as qualified, decent and reasonably price, good lawyers; but very, very few. (The same holds true for tax preparers who are employed by store front firms such as H&R Block.) As a consequence I've learned to take care of may rudimentary issues myself, such as setting up my own corporations and LLCs. There are many books and pubs that any reasonably intelligent person with a strong desire to learn can take advantage of. As a result I've found the need for one to be minimal--to probate a client's estate and to probate my dad's estate (which in Texas is pretty simple) and to represent me in a very, very simple divorce many moons ago. I ended up using lawyers for these, not because of complexity, but because the rumor mills suggested that the judges try to protect their own and make the process of self representation pretty difficult.
Bozo
Bozo   |     |   1,141 posts since 2011
Paoli2, elder law attorneys don't "sell" stuff. They don't have recommended financial products. Sounds like you were steered to an annuity salesperson.
paoli2
paoli2   |     |   2,449 posts since 2011
Bozo, if you don't think their "free" consultations are set up to "sell" you financial products, you must not have had any recently. I got the Elder Law attorneys for my particular State from the internet who gave "free" consultations and they do not take it lightly that one walks out of that consultation without accepting their advice to buy a Trust or two.

This last guy was so angry when he wanted to charge me to recheck Our Wills, POA, etc and redo them and I told him I had already had them rechecked and was told they were fine by another lawyer. He acted like I had committed the crime of the century to  dare have the work of one attorney checked by another. Truth be known, it was our Estate Attorney who did the stuff and recommended we have them checked by an Elder Law Attorney since he did not do anything involved with Elder Law. He even agreed to add any needed additional wording for "free" if I found what he did was not what was needed. HE is the only one of the batch who acted professional and did not try to push other products on us at this time.

Your Elder Law attorneys that we encountered would not even give us a price for their work in case we ever needed them unless we gave them some work in the form mainly of Trusts. One guy had a Trust company office in his lobby but said that doesn't mean we have to use them. Right! Then again, I am not saying our bad experiences are the norm for everyone. Must be something about our State.
Bozo
Bozo   |     |   1,141 posts since 2011
Paoli2, again, it sounds like you were steered to annuity salesmen and/or hucksters who have law licenses on the side. It's sad but true, just having a license to practice law doesn't mean you are competent to practice law.
gbtexas
gbtexas   |     |   66 posts since 2013
Boy, is that ever true.
HollyHolly
HollyHolly   |     |   20 posts since 2015
I had the same experience re expense and not much value added. I found that by searching on the internet I could find the necessary info on my own.