Legal Intro

Legal Intro

    Many people mistakenly think that estate planning only involves the writing of a will. Estate planning, however, can also involve financial, tax, medical and business planning. A will is part of the planning process, but you will need other documents as well to fully address your estate planning needs.
    In addition, there are many issues to consider in creating an estate plan. First of all, ask yourself the following questions:
    What are my assets and what is their approximate value?
    Whom do I want to receive those assets—and when?
    Who should manage those assets if I cannot—either during my lifetime or after my death?
    Who should be responsible for taking care of my minor children if I become unable to care for them myself?
    Who should make decisions on my behalf concerning my care and welfare if I become unable to care for myself?
    What do I want done with my remains after I die and where would I want them buried, scattered or otherwise laid to rest?
    Thus, through proper estate planning, you can determine:
    How and by whom your assets will be managed for your benefit during your lifetime if you ever become unable to manage them yourself..
    When and under what circumstances it makes sense to distribute your assets during your lifetime.
    How and to whom your assets will be distributed after your death.
    How and by whom your personal care will be managed and how health care decisions will be made during your lifetime if you become unable to care for yourself.

Elder Law: Abuse Or Neglect
Elder abuse can be an intentional act (abuse) or a lack of knowledge/ability to provide care to an older person (neglect). Elder abuse can occur in a variety of ways that include assaultive acts, neglect, financial exploitation and/or psychological or emotional mistreatment. An elderly person is defined as someone who is age 65 or older.

Assault includes causing pain and/or injury by molesting, slapping, bruising, forced sex, cutting, burning, restraining.

Neglect includes refusal or failure to provide adequate care, food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and/or medical aides (glasses, dentures, walkers).

Financial exploitation includes illegal or improper use of cash, credit cards, funds or other assets.

Psychological/emotional mistreatment includes mental suffering or despair caused by name calling, yelling, insulting, ignoring, isolating, threatening, or demanding acts.

Abuse may also include the violation of basic rights such as the right to worship as one chooses, the right to assembly, the freedom to be left alone, and the right to handle oneís personal and financial affairs unless declared incapable of doing so by due process of law.

Senior Legal Assistance: Estate Planning

A Living Trust can help insure that your assets will be managed according to your wishes-even if you become unable to manage them yourself.

In setting up your living trust, you may serve as its trustee initially or you may choose someone else to do so. You can name a trustee to take over the trust's management for your benefit if you ever become unable or unwilling to manage it yourself. And at your death, the trustee-similar to the executor of a will-would then gather your assets, pay any debts, claims and taxes, and distribute your assets according to your instructions. Unlike a will, however, this can all be done without court supervision or approval.

However, not everyone needs a living trust.  Young married couples without significant assets and without children, who intend to leave their assets to each other when the first one of them dies do not need a living trust and would not benefit from having a living trust.  Other persons who do not have significant assets and have very simple estate plans also do not need a living trust.  Finally, anyone who wants court supervision over the administration of his or her estate should not have a living trust. The greater the value of your assets (particularly if you own real estate), the greater the need for a living trust.  Having a living trust could be important in the event of an accident or sudden illness.

Guardianship Or Caregiver Agreements

Conservatorship is a legal term referring to a person who has been deemed gravely disabled by the court and unable to meet their basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. There are two types of conservatorships: Lanterman Petris-Short (Lanterman Petris Short act of 1967, referred to as LPS) and Probate conservatorships. They are governed by the state's individual laws. In California, they are governed by the California Probate Code, and Welfare and Institutions Codes. Some states or jurisdictions refer to it as a guardianship, or even a trustee, instead of a conservator.

Conservatorships are generally put in place for severely mentally ill individuals who are gravely disabled, elderly individuals with Dementia or Alzheimer's Disease who lack mental capacity, or individuals with developmental disabilities who may or may not lack mental capacity. Mental capacity has to be determined by a medical physician or a psychiatrist experienced in the field and is documented and provided to the court as evidence.

A limited conservatorship usually refers to individuals who are developmentally disabled, and they can retain more control over their personal affairs than other conservatees if they are capable. For example, they may retain their right to decide where they may live.


Having a basic understanding of the above-described processes, together with the appropriate documents and notes in hand, will aid you when you meet with either an estate planning specialist or elder law specialist.  It will also bring you one step closer to resolving any legal issues you may have - which in turn will minimize your dependence on attorneys.  Perhaps, it will even minimize family strife.


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