April 14, 2021

Did you miss our webinar, “Protect Your Assets: Are you prepared for the cost of long term care?” Well you’re in luck, because here’s the recording!  We were so excited to see a great turnout and wonderful engagement from our audience on this complex and critical topic.

Here is the link to view the video for the webinar: Protect Your Assets: Are you prepared for the cost of long term care?

Call 586-803-8500 with any questions or to book your consultation now.


April 7, 2021


If something happened to you, and all of the sudden you needed long term care, what account would you write that check from? Your checking account or savings account? Do you have a CD that is earmarked for this? Do you have enough money to pay for all of it? Most nursing facilities are upwards of $8,000 per month for a private room.

It’s possible you may never need the care, but 70% of people over age 65 WILL needs long term care at some point. And if you do, how will that affect your family?  Even more so, how will that affect your spouse?  Say your husband is having some kind of long-term care event and you want to keep him at home, where he can no longer take adequate care of himself, you might think: What if my husband falls? What if I have to bathe him? Can I pick him up and put him in the bath tub? Can I help put him in the car? Chances are these questions can keep you up at night. Maybe keeping him at home isn’t the best option any longer. Or you may need to bring in outside help.

What about family dynamics? Is your family arguing about who is going to take care of mom and dad? Questions like: Who are mom and dad going to live with? What about the finances: who is going to pay for all the expenses? Do mom and dad have enough money to pay for this or do we have to? Do they have long term care insurance?  Some of these concerns may come into play when looking at long- term care and the overall big picture question: If you do need the care where is the money going to come from?

Webinar: Protect Your Assets – Are you prepared for the cost of long term care?
Join us April 13th at 6pm

Everyone’s family looks different. This webinar will discuss the ways you can make long term care insurance and estate planning work for your family and put to rest the fears of what could happen. Those of all ages will gain something out of this presentation that plans for life and beyond. We will help you discover long term care solutions that you may not be aware of.

Presented in partnership with long term care expert, Erich Dyer, of Dyers Group.

Sign up HERE to get the information from the experts themselves on the best options for you and your family.


April 7, 2021
The Great Lakes Special Needs Planning Symposium’s EARLY BIRD pricing is ending soon!
Just TWO WEEKS left to lock in this amazing discount of $100 off registration to this highly sought out virtual event. Come hear from top experts in their fields and get the best education on all things special needs planning.
Take advantage now before April 30th! Find tickets, agenda and more here:

The Great Lakes Special Needs Planning Symposium: A one-day immersion course dedicated to building a foundation of knowledge in special needs planning for professionals who plan for persons with disabilities and those who administer special needs trusts. This course is for those who want to learn more about this area of practice as well as experienced planners. Lead by national experts in special needs planning, you will have an opportunity to learn, chat, and mingle with them and top resources to help you in your practice as you are Moving to Mastery™ in this complex and rewarding field.


March 17, 2021

Retirement plans often make up a significant portion of the assets of parents of children with special needs, or of individuals who have become disabled as adults.  In such cases, the question arises as to whether the retirement plan can be put into a special needs trust. The answer, as with many legal questions, is “it depends.” Also, the answer has changed significantly since passage of the SECURE Act at the end of 2019.

There are three different questions that need to be answered:

  • Can you transfer your own IRA or 401(k) into a special needs trust?
  • Should you name a special needs trust as the beneficiary of a retirement plan?
  • Can you transfer an inherited IRA into a special needs trust?

Can You Transfer Your Own IRA or 401(k) into a Special Needs Trust?

This question normally comes up for people who become disabled, whether due to injury or illness, after they have worked and accumulated retirement savings. The answer is a clear no. A disabled person cannot transfer a retirement plan into a special needs trust without first liquidating it and paying taxes on the realized income. If paying the taxes owed is necessary in order to shield the funds in a special needs trust and receive important public benefits, it may well be worth the cost. In fact, the tax cost may not be as high as it seems at first depending on the size of the retirement plan, the individual’s other income, and whether medical expense or other deductions are available.

Should You Name a Special Needs Trust as Beneficiary of Your Retirement Plan?

More often, parents would like to leave all or part of a retirement plan to a trust for the benefit of their child with special needs. This can be done, but it’s a bit complicated. Before passage of the SECURE Act, special needs planners would advise clients to avoid doing so, if possible, to keep the trust simpler. In order to be the beneficiary of a retirement plan and spread the plan withdrawals out over the beneficiary’s lifetime, the trust must qualify as a so-called “accumulation” trust, which presents certain challenges. To avoid this, clients might name their non-disabled children as beneficiaries of their retirement plans and name the special needs trust as beneficiary of other assets.

However, the SECURE Act made it more difficult to stretch out retirement plan withdrawals for the lifetime of most beneficiaries, limiting the withdrawal period to the 10 years following the death of the primary owner. One of the exceptions is beneficiaries who qualify as disabled. So now, in many cases, planners give the opposite advice. If possible, the retirement plan should be payable to the special needs trust so withdrawals and the payment of taxes can be spread out over the disabled beneficiary’s lifetime. In each case, the special needs planner and the client must balance the potential tax savings with the added complication of creating and managing an accumulation trust.

Can You Transfer an Inherited IRA to a Special Needs Trust?

Perhaps you have a special needs trust and have inherited an IRA. Can the IRA be transferred to your trust without having to be liquidated first? Here the answer is less definite. There’s no regulation that directly answers this, but there are IRS rulings that have permitted such a transfer without having to liquidate the IRA first in individual cases. Absent a regulation that directly addresses this, the challenge may be less the law and more the willingness of the bank or investment firm where the account is located to permit such a transfer to the trust. They may well first require that the account owner obtain a ruling from the IRS that is specific to the account in question. The cost of obtaining such a private “revenue ruling” in most cases would outweigh the potential benefit of making the transfer to the trust.

As you can see, the subject of retirement plans and special needs trusts is a complicated one.  If you want to know how a retirement plan can fit with your or a loved one’s special needs trust, talk to your special needs planner.


May 15, 2020

1. Dying Intestate

If you die without a Will or some other form of estate planning, the state in which you reside and the IRS will simply make one for you. Of course, they have no interest in avoiding or reducing estate taxes, minimizing estate administration costs or protecting your family and legacy. The distribution of your assets will just be turned over to the Probate Court. The probate process is needlessly time consuming, frustrating and expensive. It is also open to the public, meaning creditors, predators or anyone else will have complete access to all information about your estate. For the vast majority of people, the benefits of a Will or other estate planning tools far outweigh any initial costs.

2. Having an “I love you” Will

An “I love you” Will is one in which all the decedent’s assets have been left to the spouse. On paper, it might seem to be a caring, thoughtful gesture, but the reality is quite different. That’s because such a Will simply passes the complex issues and problems associated with transferring and protecting wealth onto the spouse or other loved ones. An “I love you” Will creates more problems than it solves, particularly for future generations.

3. Giving property outright to your children

Here is another “solution” that might sound good at first, but ignores several important realities. For instance, what if the child in question is too immature to handle the responsibility of a large sum of money on his or her own? What if the child suffers a severe financial setback that puts the inheritance at risk to creditors? What if the child marries a fortune-hunter, is addicted to drugs or alcohol, gets divorced or remarried? In short, you may need to protect your children and heirs from their own poor decisions.

4. Owning property jointly

There are two types of joint ownership, Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS) and Tenants in Common (TIC). Problems with JTWROS include postponement of probate until last tenancy, loss of the double step-up in tax basis, and outright distribution. With TIC, you also lose the double step-up in tax basis, and your property is subject to the estate plan of each tenant as well as probate for each tenant.

5. Not having a trust

A trust is the single most effective estate planning tool available. There are many different types of trusts. Among the better known and more commonly used are revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts and testamentary trusts. In addition to protecting your privacy, a trust will help you leave what you want, to whom you want, in the way you want—at the lowest possible cost.

6. Not funding your trust A trust can be thought of as a safe. It can do a great job of protecting your hard earned wealth, but if there’s nothing in the trust—i.e. nothing in the safe—what good does it do you? None whatsoever. Which begs another question, why would someone go to the trouble of creating a trust and then not fund it? The answer is quite often that the person in question simply never gets around to it. He or she procrastinates, resulting in an unfunded trust—which is worse than no trust at all. Estate Planning The Ten Most Avoidable Mistakes

7. Not having your documents reviewed and updated Once they have their estate planning and other documents created, many people simply file them away and never look at them again. Big mistake. An outdated plan can be as bad or even worse than having no plan at all. Your documents should be reviewed, at the very least, every two years. Why? In a word, change. Your needs and goals change; your financial situation changes; your children grow older and their needs change. The law itself is constantly changing. And even if you’ve specified a trustee or executor, the named person’s ability to follow through on your wishes may change as well. Updating your plan allows you to take these changes into account and avoid unintended consequences.

8. Dying in 2011 We may say this tongue in cheek but, given the current status of the laws governing estate taxes, there is nothing funny about how much of your estate will be lost to estate taxes should you pass away in 2011. That’s because the Bush administration’s 2001 estate tax modifications will expire in 2010, meaning the exemption amount will return to the 2002 level of $1,000,000 (down from $3,500,000 for 2010) and the maximum rate will increase from 45% to 55%. If you think this is unusual, consider this: laws governing estate taxes have changed more than 20 times since 1986. Which only underscores the importance of getting expert legal advice to prepare for and cope with continuous change.

9. Thinking a Living Trust alone is enough The Living Trust is a powerful estate planning tool, but to truly ensure your wishes are carried out should you become incapacitated and incapable of making decisions for yourself, addendums can be extremely helpful. For example, an Advanced Healthcare Directive can dictate how you wish to be cared for and what steps you authorize medical personnel to take to prolong your life. A HIPAA Authorization can ensure your privacy while still making crucial medical information available to the people you want to have it. A Power of Attorney for financial affairs determines in advance who will be able to make financial decisions for you. Other commonly used addendums include Pourover Wills, Assignment of Personal Property, Community Property Agreements, Appointments of Guardianship or Conservatorship, to name a few.

10. Not understanding that the biggest problem is not the IRS If the biggest threat to preserving your wealth is not the IRS, who or what is? Frankly, it is human nature. None of us wants to think about our own deaths or the possibility of becoming incapacitated. Consequently, we tend to put off taking the steps necessary to prepare for what the future may hold. We procrastinate. And our loved ones often suffer the painful financial consequences. Perhaps Walt Kelly put it best: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Michele P. Fuller Attorney At Law


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