What is Elder Law — Four Levels of Lifetime Protection Planning™

Elder Law is the field of law that deals with specific legal issues faced by the elderly population. Estate Planning is needed by adults of all ages. At the Farr Law Firm, our practice of Elder Law and Estate Planning centers around four primary Lifetime Protection Planning Levels of Planning™:

Level 1 – Incapacity Planning

Done to avoid the disastrous legal and financial consequences that often accompany incapacity. Level 1 Incapacity Planning lays the foundation for all of our higher levels of planning, and is often the starting point for new clients because it provides the simplest, quickest, and least costly way to become a client of the Farr Law Firm. If your primary goal is to avoid the disastrous legal and financial consequences that often accompany incapacity, our Level 1 Incapacity Protection is the place to start. Your Level 1 documents will protect you from the public humiliation of being summoned into court to be declared mentally incompetent. These documents will protect your loved ones from the time, inconvenience, complexities, and expenses of lifetime probate (i.e., Guardianship and Conservatorship) should you become incapacitated and unable to manage your own legal, financial, and medical affairs. If you become incapacitated after your Level 1 documents are in place,
your duly-appointed agent(s) will be able to manage your legal and financial affairs using your comprehensive, non-limited, Durable Power of Attorney, and your healthcare wishes will be followed and carried out by the agent(s) named in your Advance Medical Directive.

Level 1 Planning includes the following:

▸ Our proprietary General Power of Attorney, which is durable, nonlimited, and HIPAA-compliant, and contains complete Medicaid asset protection powers, including full gifting and full trust creation and termination powers;

▸ Our proprietary 4 Needs Advance Medical Directive®, which contains our proprietary Long-Term Care Directive®, Health CarePower of Attorney, Near-Death Directive™, and After-Death Directive™, and is of course HIPAA-compliant;

▸ HIPAA Authorization;

▸ Special Power of Attorney for Real Estate (if needed);

▸ Up to one hour of attorney consultation time;

▸ Routine drafting and signing time;

▸ Free registration of your Advance Medical Directive with DocuBank, a national electronic storage and access service, to help ensure that your medical wishes are known and respected when needed.

▸ If appropriate, a Basic Will may be added to Level 1 for an additional fee. The Agent named in your Power of Attorney will be nominated as Executor of your Will to guide your assets through probate after your death. (Note: Both our Level 2 and Level 3 Planning avoid the potential complexity and expenses of probate). Your initial investment as a Level 1 Client includes free introductory enrollment in the Lifetime Protection Plan® ― our proprietary annual
retainer plan that gives you an annual review and update of your existing documents (to accommodate changes in the law, changes in your family or financial circumstances, changes of address, or changes in your wishes), answers to questions that may arise about your planning documents or any other legal matters; review of contracts; and ongoing annual registration of your Advance Medical Directive. Provided you remain continuously enrolled in our Lifetime Protection Plan®, we will credit your Level 1 investment to any higher Level of Planning.

Level 2 – Estate Planning

Planning for the orderly distribution of your assets at death through Revocable Living Trusts, Pour-over Wills, and other legal documents such as a Power of Attorney and our proprietary 4-Needs® Advance Medical Directive which includes our proprietary Long-Term Care Directive®. Level 2 Planning includes everything in Level 1 Planning, but adds the revocable living trust to avoid after-death probate.

If your goal is to avoid the disastrous legal and financial consequences that accompany probate during your lifetime AND after death, and you want to retain absolute and unrestricted control of your assets during your lifetime, then you need our Level 2 Planning, which builds on and includes our Level 1 Planning, but adds a Revocable Living Trust so that your assets, after your death, can be transferred to your loved ones with the utmost simplicity and convenience, avoiding the time, complexities, and expenses that make up the “nightmare of probate.” Just as Level 1 Planning avoids the nightmare of lifetime probate, Level 2 Planning avoids the nightmare of after-death probate.

Though it provides no asset protection for you during your lifetime (e.g, no protection from lawsuits or nursing home expenses) our Level 2 Trust is normally designed to protect each beneficiary’s inheritance from lawsuits, divorce, and nursing home expenses. Our Level 2 Trust also includes numerous other important features not found in ordinary living trusts, such as protection for possible under-age beneficiaries, special needs beneficiaries, and any pets you may own at the time of your death. Estate Tax planning is also provided, if needed, at no additional cost.

Includes all of the Incapacity Planning documents provided under our Level 1 Planning in order to avoid Living Probate, and adds our proprietary Revocable Living Trust and Pour-Over Will. Level 2 Planning also includes an additional hour of attorney consultation time (2 hours total). If you own real estate, we will prepare deeds to transfer each piece of real estate you own into your trust, and we will help you fill out all the required forms to transfer your financial assets into your trust. Deed preparation incurs additional fees. If you have minor children, your Level 2 Pour-Over Will includes the appointment of Guardians to raise your children in the event of your untimely death. If your desired Guardians are not family members or do not live near you, then you should strongly consider adding (for a small additional fee) our proprietary Child Protection Plan™ for each of your minor children so that if you are killed or incapacitated in an accident, the local officials won’t have to call in Child Protective Services and have your children placed into Foster Care. Each Child Protection Plan consists of a set of legal documents that include an Appointment of Temporary Guardians (authorizing persons you choose, such as close friends or neighbors, to take immediate temporary custody of your minor child to avoid the need for Foster Care), a Consent for Medical Treatment form (authorizing your Temporary Guardians to obtain medical treatment and counseling for your minor children), and a Medical Information Form (to record information on each child’s allergies, medications, medical conditions, immunizations, pediatrician contact information, and insurance information). Each Child Protection Plan will be registered with DocuBank to ensure ready access to the documents in case of emergency. Your initial investment as a Level 2 client includes free introductory enrollment in our Lifetime Protection Plan® (see explanation under Level 1). Provided you remain continuously enrolled in our Lifetime Protection Plan, we will credit your initial Level 2 investment if you upgrade to any higher Level of Planning.

Level 3 – Asset Protection Trust for Medicaid and Veterans Benefits

Designed to protect your assets from probate PLUS lawsuits PLUS the disastrous financial consequences of long-term care, especially nursing home care.

If your goal is to protect your assets from probate PLUS lawsuits PLUS protection in connection with Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits 3 years after funding. PLUS Medicaid Asset Protection five years after funding, then you need to consider our Level 3 Planning. Level 3 Planning offers you the peace of mind of knowing that the assets you place in trust:
▸ Will be protected immediately from probate PLUS lawsuits;
▸ PLUS will be protected for Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits 3 years after funding (for wartime veterans who served at least 90 days active duty and at least 1 day during wartime);
▸ PLUS will be protected for Medicaid purposes (completely after five years, with partial protection in less than five years);
▸ May be used by your beneficiaries to enhance your dignity and quality of life if and when you need nursing home care.
Whatever assets remain in your Level 3 Trust will avoid probate upon your death and typically be held for your beneficiaries in a sub-trust designed to protect each beneficiary’s inheritance from lawsuits, divorce, bankruptcy, and nursing home expenses of the beneficiary.

Level 3 Planning includes everything in Level 1 and Level 2, but uses the proprietary Living Trust Plus® Asset Protection Trust ― created by Evan Farr and used by dozens of asset protection and elder law attorneys around the country ― as the central planning document, instead of the Level 2 Revocable Living Trust. Level 3 Planning also allows an additional hour of attorney consultation time (3 hours total).

Whereas the Revocable Living Trust will protect your assets from probate, the Living Trust Plus® is designed to protect your assets in connection with probate PLUS lawsuits PLUS Medicaid benefits PLUS Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits if applicable.

If you own real estate, we will prepare deeds to transfer each piece of real estate you own into your trust, and we will fill out all the required forms to transfer your financial assets into your trust. Deed preparation incurs additional fees.

Your initial Level 3 investment includes free introductory enrollment in the Lifetime Protection Plan® ― our proprietary annual retainer plan that gives you, at no charge: an annual review and update of your existing documents (to accommodate changes in the law, changes in your family or financial circumstances, changes of address, or changes in your wishes); answers to questions that may arise about your documents or any other legal matters; review of contracts; ongoing consultations as necessary and appropriate to continue to carry out your Asset Protection Plan; and ongoing annual registration with DocuBank. Provided you remain continuously enrolled in our Lifetime Protection Plan, we will credit your initial Level 3 investment if and when you need to upgrade to Level 4 Planning.

Level 4 – Life Care Planning, Medicaid Asset Protection, Veterans Asset Protection

Provides comprehensive Medicaid Asset Protection and Life Care Planning, including completion and filing of the Medicaid application and all documents and actions required to obtain Medicaid or to get someone back on Medicaid after protecting assets received via an inheritance or lawsuit settlement. If appropriate, Level 4 includes Veterans Benefits Planning and the filing of a Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension application at no charge.

You need Level 4 Planning if your goal is to obtain financial assistance to help pay for care that you already need or are likely to need in the future, whether at home, in assisted living, or in a nursing home, so you and your family don’t have to go broke paying for long-term care. Level 4 Planning is not about the preparation of specific documents; it’s about managing the life challenges caused by an illness that requires or is likely to require the need for long-term care. The goal of Level 4 Planning is to promote and maintain dignity, quality of life, and financial security for those who are chronically ill, and their families.

If you’re married, one of the main goals of Level 4 Planning is to protect your quality of life and the financial independence of the healthier spouse. If you are not married, one of the main goals of Level 4 Planning is to enable you to obtain the best personal care assistance possible for your lifetime, in part by protecting your assets to the greatest extent possible in order to qualify you for available benefits to help pay for your long-term care needs and to supplement those needs and maintain your quality of life by being able to purchase things not covered by Medicaid: things such as dentures, hearing aids, eyeglasses, personal items, better medical care, and private aides to provide you with the best level of care available for your situation. A secondary goal of Level 4 Planning may be to preserve an inheritance for your heirs, particularly if you have a disabled or struggling child, grandchild, or another family member who needs special financial help.

Your Level 4 Life Care Plan includes a written Life Care Plan / Asset Protection Plan explaining, in part, which of over two-dozen asset protection strategies make sense in your situation; all appropriate asset protection documents; all research, conferences, advice, expertise, and other services necessary to achieve your desired goals; supervised execution of all documents required under the Plan; and unlimited consultations between you and our attorneys, paralegals, and Client Service staff as necessary to design and implement the Plan consistent with your needs, goals, and desires, and to carry out the Plan to completion.

Level 4 Planning provides comprehensive Medicaid Asset Protection planning, including completion and filing of the Medicaid application and all documents and actions required to obtain Medicaid when appropriate, all at no additional charge. When eligible and appropriate, Level 4 includes Veterans Benefits Planning and the filing of a Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension application, also at no charge.

How much can we protect? If you’re married, we can protect 100% of your assets in connection with Medicaid eligibility, regardless of how the assets are titled. If you’re not married, we can protect at least 40% to 70% of your assets, and sometimes up to 100% of your assets.

In addition to the Asset Protection under Level 4, we’ll assist you if and when needed with the selection of care facilities, entry into care facilities, and review of all paperwork prior to signing; we’ll also represent you in connection with any threatened discharge from a care facility.

Your initial Level 4 investment includes everything explained above for a full year. After the first year, there is optional enrollment in our Lifetime Protection Program®, under which we will handle all annual filings and consult with you as often as necessary to carry out all aspects of your Level 4 Life Care Plan and Asset Protection Plan.

Level 4 Planning includes unlimited consultations between you and our attorneys and staff as necessary to design and implement an asset protection plan consistent with your needs, goals, and desires, and to carry out the plan to completion prior to our filing for Medicaid and/or Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits.

Add-on Elder Law Services

In addition to the Four Levels of Lifetime Protection Planning described above, there are several situations that necessitate additional methods. For example, if you have a beneficiary with Special Needs, you should generally add a Special Needs Trust to your Level 2 or Level 3 Planning.

If you have an extremely high net worth, we may recommend that additional trusts be added to Level 2 or Level 3 to minimize estate taxes, accomplish charitable goals, or both; examples of additional tax-avoidance trusts we offer include Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts, Charitable Remainder Trusts, and Charitable Lead Trusts.

If you have significant wealth inside of a Qualified Retirement Plan, you may want to consider a Designated Beneficiary Trust to protect the stretch-out of your retirement plan distributions over the life expectancy of each of your beneficiaries.

Other Elder Law Services

In addition to the Four Levels of Lifetime Protection Planning described above and the add-on services, we also offer the following Elder Law Services:

  • Special Needs Planning:  Assisting families of special needs children with specialized Estate Planning including the creation of Special Needs Trusts.  Click here for more information about Special Needs Planning.
  • Trust and Estate Administration:  Assisting with orderly administration and distribution of a decedent’s trust and/or estate. Click here for more information about Trust and Estate Administration.

Guardianship & Conservatorship:  

When necessary, we assist clients in connection with obtaining guardianship and conservatorship for adults of all ages with special needs and for incapacitated elders.  Click here for more information about guardianship and conservatorship.

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