Frequently Asked

Questions

Below are some of our most asked questions and answers regarding the complex topics our practice focuses on:

  • What to expect at the first meeting?
  • What should I bring in to the first meeting?
  • How are we advocates for you?
  • What is an Estate Plan?
  • Who needs an estate plan?
  • Do you need a lot of money for an estate plan?
  • Who needs a trust?
  • What is special needs planning?
  • When should we book an appointment?
  • What is elder law?
  • How can I preserve the quality of life with estate planning?
  • How can I assess benefits and resources with medicare planning?
  • What is medicare advocacy?
  • What is a guardianship?
  • When do you need a guardian?
  • What is a conservator?
  • What is the difference between a guardian and a conservator?
  • Do you need a conservator if you have a guardian?
  • What is a decedent’s estate (probate)?
  • What is special needs settlement planning?
  • What are the functions of a special needs planning attorney?
  • How do we help people with mental illness?
What to expect at the first meeting?

A lot of people are nervous initially when they come in to see the lawyer, might be the first time they’re meeting with somebody. When they come on to see us, it’s because they’re having either a family issue or they just need our help. And so, when they come in, just be assured that, we’re here to help you, we’re here to see what your concerns are and see if we can come up with some solutions.

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What should I bring in to the first meeting?

When you come for your first meeting at the Michigan Law Center, we wanted to make sure that you bring in anything that might help us to solve your problem. So if you are coming in for a social security issue, any correspondence or any letters that you have from the social security is very helpful.  If you’re coming in about an estate plan, bring in your old documents that you have or whatever your current plan is. If you’re coming in for special needs trust or elder law case or you’re planning for a parent, bring in an information about what their assets are, what’s currently going on. A probate issue, bring in anything that you have that you’ve currently filed with the probate court. So anything that would help us solve your problem. Don’t get hang up on making sure you have all your documents in advance, we’ll give you lists and checklists and maybe some homework or assignments to go and get what we need but otherwise, really the most important thing is just to come in.

How are we advocates for you?

What helps make us unique is that we absolutely are ready to face challenges and so when policies aren’t being enforced or guidelines aren’t being followed and it’s hurting our clients, we zealously represent them and make sure that their rights are protected, their lives are protected, and just the quality of care is being followed.

What is an Estate Plan?

An estate plan can be any number of things. An estate plan does not have to be a 2-inch binder full of written documents. A plan is just a plan, and that you have to make sure that you understand where your assets are going to go if something happens to you. So if that means adding proper beneficiaries, it could be just something as simple as that, as long as there is a plan in place.

Who needs an estate plan?

Everybody should have at least a basic plan, which is a durable power of attorney, a living will and a patient advocate and at least, a last will and testament. That is the basic building block. So everybody over the age of 18 really should have at least those basic documents. The first two which is the living will and the power of attorney help to prevent probate during your lifetime – so whether that means you can’t make decisions for yourself or you’re in a position where you cannot tell people what your wishes are, that allows someone to speak for you.

Do you need a lot of money for an estate plan?

You don’t need a lot of money to have or need an estate plan, it really depend on what your circumstances are and what your goals are. So you may have a very modest estate but have a child with special needs which is one of the things that we really focus on at the Michigan Law Centre. You could have a parent that needs assistance or needs to access government benefits to pay for their long term care needs and so that is usually done through trust work.

Who needs a trust?

Who needs a trust is a question that we get asked a lot here. Do you have to have a lot of money to have a trust or to need a trust? No, you don’t. It really depends what your goals are. We focus a lot here on special needs planning and elder law, and usually that in order to protect the individual, in order to access government programs usually requires our trust in order to do that. Do you need to have a lot of money to need a trust? No, it really depends on what your needs are and what your goals are.

What is special needs planning?

Special needs planning means that you either have a family member, a loved one that either needs assistance, protection – it could mean that, that person needs special planning or trust work in order to access government benefit to meet their basic needs. Basic needs means it could be protecting income like social security, it could be protecting medicate benefits and government resources that they depend on, from it could be mental health, from medical needs, their basic medical care, that kind of thing.

When should we book an appointment?

You should really call an attorney, particularly a special needs planning attorney or an elder law attorney, as soon as you realize that you have an issue that needs to be addressed. It could be at the beginning of a law suit, it could be when you’re starting to do your planning, it could be – it’s never too late I guess is the answer, is that to call us and come for a consultation.

What is elder law?

Elder law means that someone’s requires planning or it’s really a focus on the needs of an individual as they age. And just as there are doctors that specialize in addressing the needs of, medically of people who as they age, we’re attorneys that focusing on the aging process and making sure that all the documents and all the steps are needed either to address concerns in diminishing capacity as you age. People age differently, some people age more rapidly than others and really focus on keeping independence as long as possible. And making sure that all your assets are protected and really, your quality of life is protected as your age. It also means making sure that your family has the tools that they need to help you and ensure that, that is the case so that you can age in place if that’s your wish or protect your assets if you cannot remain at home, or accessing government benefits when necessary in order to make sure that you can age in place.

How can I preserve the quality of life with estate planning?

Medicare planning involves assessing what the persons current needs are, making sure that we understand what their current streams of benefits are, if there are any in place and making sure that we access government resources when necessary to enhance the quality of life and protect assets as much as possible.

How can I assess benefits and resources with medicare planning?

It’s amazing what you can do with a little bit of planning.   Whether it’s, not only financial planning but housing planning, creating social connection for individuals, making sure that they have  the right medical coach. Special needs planning is more than just an estate plan or just a trust, it’s a life plan. The quicker somebody gets in to talk to us, the more that we can do, the more that we can create options for people to provide the highest quality of life as possible and that’s ultimately what we’re about. We want to create high quality of lives for both families, individuals with disabilities and anybody who comes into our office.

What is medicare advocacy?

Most people wouldn’t think about going to an attorney about Medicare, and I think a lot of that is the history of Medicare. Medicare used to be simple for a 30 years – you had part “A”, part “B” and a simple middle plan. Now we have all these complicated plans that private insurers are out there, you see it on the television every day, you see it in the mail. And now we also have prescription drug coverage, and with the affordable care act and various other conversations that are coming in the political sphere, it’s changing constantly. And there are very few people out there actually advocating for individual, for the Medicare consumer. And that’s something that’s of interest to me and something that I’m very passionate about is working with and individual on their particular Medicare coverage and making sure that it is the best possible. I’m yet to meet a client that we couldn’t save literally hundreds of dollars and provide better Medicare coverage because they haven’t had somebody completely standing in their corner, fighting for it.

What is a guardianship?

There’s another aspect to Medicare, and that is Medicare advocacy. Somebody has coverage, but what if that insurer is denying them, or what if that provider saying that is no longer necessary? And it’s important because there are tons of steps that an individual or a representative of an individual can take to ensure that Medicare coverage. The appeals are actually quite pretty straight forward and relatively simple and can save a family thousands of dollars but more importantly, buy time so that we can make sure that smart decisions are made because just a couple of days even of providing additional Medicare coverage in a hospital or in a skilled nursing home facility or in a rehab facility can make a big difference in that person’s life of ensuring that they have the proper treatment for a full recovery.

When do you need a guardian?

A lot of people say, well who needs a guardian? Well, you could need a guardian when you’re little, a child, if there’s nobody that is answering for you or if you’re living with a grandparent say – which is very common a lot of these days, or for a number of reasons. But if you’re over the ages of eighteen and you cannot make decisions for yourself, then that’s the time that you need a court involvement. And so that’s the process that people go through. A lot of times people can do it on their own, sometimes they feel more comfortable with an attorney. But really, a lot of questions come up after their appointment and so on the website, we do have a downloadable pdf file that is a comprehensive guide to people who are serving as guardian for somebody else. One of the things that guardians have to really be concerned about is making sure that they’re aware of the public benefits that their ward receives. And if you need any help with that, feel free to call us. There’s a lot of information on our website about that, and because again, that’s what we really specialize here – is helping make sure that people are informed, and making sure that people understand, they know actually of all these benefits.

What is a conservator?

A conservator is somebody who is appointed by a probate court to deal with financial and legal matters for someone else. There’s different reasons why a person would need a conservatorship. Sometimes it’s physical, where they can’t get out and take care of their affairs to banking and that kind of thing. Otherwise, sometimes when people are on lawsuits or certainly as people age and are less able to handle their affairs. One of the key thing that we do here is help prevent the need for probate court involvement, by having people sign durable powers of attorney. However, there’s not always an opportunity for people to do that or people think about it too late, or maybe the person who they’ve appointed isn’t acting for whatever reason, they’ve become ill or died themselves or they need to have a new person appointed for them. So there’s a variety of reasons why you need probate court intervention and appointment of a conservator. The conservator has to be very careful and make sure that they don’t co-mingle their money with the person’s money that they’re managing. There are some other key mistakes that we help our clients – to navigate the system, to be comfortable and educated as to what their duties are. There’s also some information on our website, there’s a comprehensive guide for acting as a conservator that is downloadable. And also we update this content frequently so that stay up to date as to any changes. We consistently help our clients to one, avoid conservatorship and if it’s unavoidable, help stay current with the probate court system requirement so that they don’t get into trouble there.

What is the difference between a guardian and a conservator?

The difference between a guardian and a conservator is that, a guardian is responsible for the care and custody decisions of the individual. So where they live, how they live, and most importantly, making medical decisions for them when they cannot make them themselves. A conservator is only in charge of finances and legal matters. So if there’s another lawsuit, sometimes a conservator has to be the person that would be signing releases, that sort of things. Some of those appointments are avoidable though through proper documentation, estate planning, types of documents or different court appointments. So don’t rush to open up an estate if it’s not necessary. But those are some of the things that we counsel our clients regarding here what’s necessary.

Do you need a conservator if you have a guardian?

If you have a guardian, you don’t necessarily need a conservator. If the person’s only asset that is in their name alone is just social security, then you don’t necessarily need a conservator. A guardian is able to handle social security income alone without any other type of a conservatorship needed, but if the person has an interesting property, or a lawsuit or some other type of legal matter that needs management, then a conservator may be necessary. Sometimes you only need a conservator and not a guardian and so there’s no substitute for good legal advice and so we can give you some guidance. Come in for an appointment if you have any questions about this.

What is a decedent’s estate (probate)?

Probate means that when someone has passed away, it’s the way that their assets are passed along to their heirs at law, and there’s different ways to do that. A lot of people think that having a will means that you don’t need probate, and that’s a very common misconception. If you have a will, that is just the roadmap for the probate court, if you don’t have an estate plan, there is one for you that is part of our legislation and so it’s best to have your wishes in writing through a last will and testament. But again, that doesn’t avoid a probate, there are ways to do that but the probate process is simply opening a file in the probate court, putting your last will and testament on record as part of the public record, and the way that we pass along our assets. So in a probate assets means, something that you own that is in your name alone. And so anything that has joint ownership, or a beneficiary that’s [inaudible 00:00:58] would not go through probate. There are different ways to do that effectively without having any kind of negative consequences. A lot of people make the mistake of adding joint owners on when they really shouldn’t be doing that, and that is probably one of the number one mistakes that I see people doing. There is a time to do that, but most of the time adding people on as joint owners carries with it their unintended consequences that can be very negative for the person who owns the asset as well as the person who is just adding on. A lot of people add on their kid as convenience and there’s better ways to do that.

What is special needs settlement planning?

A special needs settlement planning means that somebody has a lawsuit pending and they need and they need some planning. It actually applies to anybody who is receiving money from a settlement. Attorneys should be calling special needs settlement planning lawyer to come in at least as a consult and on cases at the beginning. Why is it important to have somebody come in at the beginning and meet with the client? Because it sets client expectations especially if they are SSI, which is Supplemental Security Income or Medicate or both. There’s nothing worse than having a client who goes through the process of a lawsuit. First they’ve been injured, they go through the process of the lawsuit itself which can be very stressful for them, and then at the end in order to keep their government benefits, they can’t control their money and that can be very upsetting to people. And so, you know, you’ve worked very hard getting a recovery for somebody and they’re disappointed in the end. So setting expectations upfront is really important.

What are the functions of a special needs planning attorney?

A special needs planning attorney can also help to resolve things like mean resolution issue, CMS reporting and making sure that when you’ve gone through the process of the lawsuit, that you have tied up all the loose end and made sure that your client is protected, and also helps to protect you, to make sure that everything is taken care off.

How do we help people with mental illness?

We represent a lot of people at the Michigan Law Centre. Parents and families where there is a component of mental illness involved. It could be somebody that’s lived independently for a long time and has suffered a breakdown or its a new diagnosis or something that they been living with for a long time that have really been unresolved. And so if they become endangered to themselves or others, then it’s really important that the family file petition with the probate court. We can help outline what the steps are involved, what to expect as a family member, what to expect as a person who may be the subject of a petition. We can help families put together resources to address these concerns and make sure that their loved one is well protected and make sure that they received the services that they need.

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