Estate Planning=Life Planning

By April 29, 2009Uncategorized

Senior News
April 2009, Volume 12, Number 1

Get Your Affairs in Order and Start Living
Too many of us believe that estate planning is something we only need to think about when we (1) are older or more established in our careers and have a little money, (2) have children or (3) are faced with a serious illness.  In reality, “estate planning” has as much, if not more, to do with living as it does with dying.  Estate planning could more accurately be termed “life planning.”  For instance, who will make medical decisions for you when you cannot make them for yourself?  Who will handle your financial affairs, sell your property, pay your bills, or sign contracts on your behalf if you cannot handle these matters by yourself due to illness, dementia or unavailability?  In all these instances, well drafted powers of attorney can make sure that the people you want to serve for you may do so with a broad range of authority.  Failure to have enforceable powers of attorney in place may mean that your loved ones will need to go through the expense and hassle of establishing court appointed guardianships or conservatorships to handle affairs that could have been taken care of more simply with powers of attorney and proper planning.  These estate planning documents benefit you while you are living.

At a minimum, there are four documents that each of us ought to have as the foundation of our “estate” or “life” plan:

1.  Last Will and Testament

2.  Durable Financial Power of Attorney

3.  Health Care Power of Attorney

4.  Living Will

A Last Will and Testament is important to have even if don’t have a large estate because the will indicates the individual you want to handle your affairs when you are deceased.  It provides clarity to your heirs.  If you have minor children, the will may also be used to indicate the persons you want to serve as the guardians and conservators of your children.  If you want to treat your heirs/children differently, a will enables you to dictate the division of your estate when you are gone.  Passing away without a will in place may have unintended results particularly if spouses have children from different marriages.

A Durable Financial Power of Attorney allows you to appoint individuals to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make these decisions for yourself and is valid only while you are alive.  You may be out of the country or suffering an illness.  If bills need to be paid, contracts signed or property sold, an agent under a power of attorney can do this for you.  Durable powers of attorney are of particular importance if you were afflicted with dementia and needed financial planning undertaken on your behalf.   Without an enforceable power of attorney in place, spouses, other family members or friends may be forced to go to court to seek appointment as guardian and/or conservator of your estate.  These court administered process can be costly and unpleasant-and generally unnecessary if proper powers of attorney had been put into place beforehand.

A Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to appoint individuals to make medical and mental health decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them for yourself.  You also may give direction to your agent with respect to organ donation, autopsy and mental health decisions.  These directions will give clarity to and be appreciated by your agent in times that will likely be stressful for them.

A Living Will gives instructions to your friends, family and health care professionals about the level of care you do or do not want in the event you have a terminal health condition, are comatose or are in a permanent vegetative state.  Again, these instructions offer clarity to your wishes and are generally appreciated by family members.

One’s estate may be sufficiently large or complex enough to merit looking at estate planning using forms of trusts or other estate planning tools, but at a minimum, everyone should have a will, powers of attorney and living will.  Estate planning has as much to do with living as it does with dying.

Protect Yourself Against Annuity Fraud
Recently, the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) released an “Alert” warning the general public of Equity-Indexed Annuities (EIAs).  This insurance product can be especially disastrous when purchased by the elderly.

Sales of EIAs have grown considerably in recent years despite the fact that they are extremely difficult to understand. One of the most confusing features of an EIA is the method used to calculate the gain in the index to which the annuity is linked. To make matters worse, there is not one, but several different indexing methods. Because of the variety and complexity of the methods used to credit interest, investors will find it difficult to compare one EIA to another.

Because most EIAs do not qualify as securities, they are insurance products and can be sold by insurance agents.  Most insurance agents selling EIAs do not understand the method used to calculate the gain in the index to which the annuity is linked.  Having represented clients in matters involving EIAs, we are convinced that the elderly are targets for salespeople who have been provided limited training regarding EIAs, and are enticed by abnormally large commissions.  Be on the alert.

The weather is already starting to warm up and it’s only April! Beat the heat this summer and register for an ALTCS 101 training – now offered statewide. This training will keep you up-to-date with the latest in ALTCS rules and eligibility. You’ll walk away with a better understanding of how the program works and the options Arizona seniors have when paying for long-term health care.

ALTCS 101 Training Dates

Tuesday, April 28th
The Peaks
3150 North Winding Brook Road
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
1:30 – 3:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 6th
Capstone Health Plan
914 North San Francisco St.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
*This presentation has an emphasis on DDD

Tuesday, May 12th
JacksonWhite Mesa Office
40 North Center Street, Suite 200
Mesa, Arizona 85201
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Thursday, May 14th
Willow Creek Assisted Living
12322 North 113th Avenue
Youngtown, Arizona 85363
9 – 11 a.m.
*8:30 a.m. Continental Breakfast

Thursday, May 28, 2009
12620 North Cave Creek Rd. #8
Phoenix, Arizona 85022
1:30 – 3:30 p.m.

Already attended an ALTCS 101 but feel like there is still more to learn about ALTCS? New for Spring 2009, ALTCS 102 picks up where the 101 training left off. ALTCS 102 attendees will analyze denials, case and facility studies, the ALTCS redetermination process and study the ALTCS program in the community. If you’re an ALTCS 101 alumnus, register today!

ALTCS 102 Training Dates

Tuesday, May 19th
JacksonWhite Mesa Office
40 North Center Street, Suite 200
Mesa, Arizona 85201
10 – 11:30 a.m.

Wednesday, June 3rd
JacksonWhite Peoria Office
7972 W. Thunderbird Rd., Suite 105
Peoria, AZ 85381
2 – 3:30 p.m.

Thursday, June 25th
12620 North Cave Creek Rd. #8
Phoenix, Arizona 85022
10 – 11:30 a.m.

Seats for all ALTCS 101 and ALTCS 102 trainings are limited. Please RSVP to Julie Allen at (480) 464-1111 or by email at

JacksonWhite Elder Law would like to introduce and welcome our newest team member, Laura Townsend. Laura will be serving the West Valley as one of our Elder Care Coordinators. Before joining the JacksonWhite team, Laura served as the social services director for two skilled nursing facilities, one in Arizona and one in New Mexico. She has also worked in a myriad of capacities in home healthcare for both skilled and private duty services. We are thrilled to have her on board! To reach Laura, please call (623) 974 -1555 or email her at

Need to reach the JacksonWhite Elder Law representative in your part of town? Here’s who you should get in contact with…

Kristin Burns – East Valley, Tucson, Casa Grande and Payson

Tammy Jo Granado – Central Phoenix and JacksonWhite Social Services

Laura Townsend – West Valley and Wickenburg

Jill Preston – Northern Arizona, Prescott and Kingman

Julie Allen – Presentations, Other Legal Questions, ALTCS 101/102 Trainings, JacksonWhite Materials