Changes to VA Pension Benefits

The Department of Veteran’s Administration (VA) recently announced big changes to eligibility requirements for the VA pension and other needs-based benefit programs. The changes will be effective October 18, 2018.

Some of the very good planning options that are currently available will no longer be available beginning on October 18th. One change is that the VA is adding a three year “look back” period. This will affect transfers the veteran is able to make.

For example, any gifts that you made in the past 36 months, either to a family member or to an irrevocable trust, would be penalized. Likewise, an investment in an annuity would also be penalized. This means you could be prohibited from qualifying for VA pension benefits for up to 5 years, depending on the amount of the gift.

If you have questions about VA pension benefits (especially the Aid & Attendance benefit), call us. If this is something you have been considering to help pay for help at home or in an assisted living facility, the time to act is now.

Giving to a Charity through Will or Trust

Looking for a beneficiary? Consider a charity.

Recently a client of mine said, “Mark, we know that we should have done a Will or Trust a long time ago but we haven’t because we just don’t know who I want our property to go to. We don’t have any children, we’re not especially close to any of our nieces or nephews, and we keep putting this off because we’re just not sure what to do.”

My response was along the lines of, “You’re not the first client who has had this issue. I’ve seen clients do about everything you can think of – give it to children, give it to relatives, give it to charities, and even give it to a trust to care for their pet animals. You just tell me what you want to happen, and we can almost always find a way to get it done.”

After a week of thinking about it, the client called to say, “we’ve decided to give 20% to our relatives and to divide the rest of it among different charities that we like.” I said, “no problem. You give us the names of the charities and we’ll take care of the rest.”

We’ve helped clients with a variety of charities

Over the years, we’ve helped people design gifts to a number of charities – some local, some not. One website that we have found especially helpful in finding out more about charities is CharityNavigator.com. Their website aids clients in understanding the Financial Health and Transparency/Accountability of different charities.

Charity - St. Jude
I enjoy supporting ST. JUDE’S and running in their 1/2 marathon the first weekend of December

Here’s a list of some of the charities for which we have helped our clients design gifts.

  • Jude Children’s Research Hospital
  • Humane Society of Southeast Missouri
  • Mac’s Mission
  • Animal shelters
  • Safe House for Women
  • Animal Legal Defense Fund
  • American Red Cross
  • Doctors Without Borders USA
  • Save the Children Federation
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Greenpeace Fund, Inc.
  • Sierra Club
  • Southeast Missouri University Foundation
  • A variety of churches and religious organizations (from Baptist to Catholic and Mormon to Unitarian)

There are some important considerations with giving gifts including how to ensure your gift goes to what you want and maximizing the tax benefits of your giving. We’re happy to help – especially when it comes to charitable gifts.

Why we Host Estate Planning Seminars

About every 6 weeks our firm hosts an Estate Planning Seminar for the community. These seminars are a great chance to learn more about estate planning and elder law. And better yet, they are FREE to you. There is absolutely no cost to attend.

What you will find at these seminars is useful information for you and your family. This useful information includes ideas that can save your loved ones thousands of dollars and months of wasted time.
Estate Planning Seminar

To learn a little bit more about our seminars, check out this video. Interested in attending? Call our office (573-334-5125) to save your seat for the next seminar.

When’s the Next Seminar?

The dates for our next seminars are:

Tuesday, March 17, 2020 at 11:30 a.m.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 at 11:30 a.m.

PUTTING OFF ESTATE PLANNING?

When it comes to Estate Planning, have you ever thought any of these?

It’s time that we set up a Will…
When dad died, he had a Living Trust – maybe I need a Trust as well?
I think it is time to get my affairs in order…
What do I have to do so my loved ones don’t end up in Probate Court?
If you’ve had any of these thoughts, then the next question becomes very important…

What have you done about it?
If the answer is nothing, we can help.

Procrastinating Estate Planning is common. In fact, one attorney even wrote a book  called “The Procrastinator’s Guide to Estate Planning.” If you’ve decided that you have procrastinated estate planning long enough and are ready to get moving forward, we’re here to help.

Stop Procrastinating Estate Planning

The Law Office of Mark McMullin is focused on “Estate Planning”. Typically, people think of Wills, Trust, and Beneficiary Designations when they think of Estate Planning. We do them all. If now is the right time for to take action, to get your affairs in order, we’d like to help.

We’ve helped a lot of other people just like you and would consider it an honor to work with you. You know this is important stuff. You also may not know just where to start or what questions to ask. We will help you with all of that.

What our Estate Planning clients say

Take a look at our Testimonials page and see what our other clients are saying. Notice the towns where these testimonials come from – our clients are your neighbors in Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Marble Hill, Scott City, Perryville, New Madrid, and Poplar Bluff. It’s not uncommon for clients to drive over an hour to meet with us at our office in Cape Girardeau because they want to make sure they are dealing with someone who knows what they are doing.

If you’re ready to get started, just give our office a call (573-334-5125). We would be happy to help you.

What Practice Areas do you Focus On?

Law firms typically focus on specific areas of the law called practice areas. Our primary practice areas are Estate Planning (Wills & Trusts) and Elder Law (medicaid planning & asset protection). We’ve chosen to limit our practice areas to better serve our clients. After all, if you wouldn’t go to an orthopedic doctor for a heart condition. Likewise in the law, most people would think twice before having their divorce attorney prepare a trust.

Practice Areas of Law Office of Mark McMullin
Practice Areas of Law Office of Mark McMullin

The Missouri Bar has Rules of Professional Conduct which we follow. One of the rules (Rule 4-7.4) states that “a lawyer shall not state or imply that the lawyer is a specialist unless the communication contains a disclaimer that neither the Supreme Court of Missouri nor The Missouri Bar reviews or approves certifying organizations or specialist designations.” So most Missouri attorneys choose not to use the word “specialist”.

OUr PRactice AReas

What I will tell you is that for the past 5 years, my practice has been focused on two areas of law: estate planning and elder law. Often people refer to me as an “Estate Planning Attorney”. My firm is built to handle estate planning and elder law cases. You’ll notice that right away – it guides how we answer the phone, how we schedule appointments, and how work flows through our office. If you have another type of case (for example: a divorce) we’ll gladly refer you to another attorney in the area who handles that type of law. That said, if you are looking for an attorney to help you:

  • Get your affairs in order,
  • Prepare a Last Will & Testament,
  • Create a Living Trust,
  • Protect your life savings, or
  • Help you qualify for Medicaid

We are happy to help you. Just call to schedule an initial consultation.

How to Keep Your Son-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law Out of Your Estate

Over-controlling daughter-in-law? Lazy son-in-law? These are just two reasons why parents may want to keep a daughter-in-law or son-in-law out of their estate.

Other common reasons include: (i) the fact that the in-law spends too much money; (ii) the in-law has their own kids; (iii) the in-law will inherit from their own parents and grandparents; (iv) some parents want to keep everything in the “bloodlines” because they inherited from parents and grandparents; others just don’t like their in-laws; and (v) others fear that their children will get divorced in the future and lose their inheritance.

These concerns are real. And parents have several options to address these concerns in an estate planning program. Part of the reason we strongly recommend clients seek out an attorney focused on estate planning and elder law is because they will have the knowledge to help you tailor a plan to your needs and concerns.

One option is simply leave the inheritance to the child – outright. Some parents reason that an inheritance is the separate property of the child so that should take care of it. However, inheritances that children receive are often, either intentionally or unintentionally, commingled to the extent that it loses its separate property status.

A second option parents have is to leave their child’s inheritance to a trust for the benefit of the child. If the parents name the child as the trustee, the child’s spouse could exert influence over the child and force the child to take excessive distributions from the trust. But some parents tell me, “Let’s leave it to a trust for our child and name our child as the trustee. If our child screws it up, so be it. We did what we could do to try to protect him without taking away his access to his inheritance.”

A third option is to leave your child’s inheritance to a trust, but name a 3rd party as the trustee of the trust – in essence restricting your child’s access to his or her inheritance. By restricting your child’s access to the trust, you are restricting your child’s spouse from influencing your child to access the trust. You may even wish to name your child’s children as the principal beneficiaries of the trust so that when your child later passes away, remaining trust assets would stay in the bloodlines benefiting your grandchildren. Your child’s withdrawal or distribution rights become key components to this program.

There are many factors that play into how you leave an inheritance to your children. An expert can help you choose the best option for you and your family.

Mark McMullin
Missouri Estate Planning Attorney
www.CapeGirardeauLaw.com
Phone: 573-334-5125

Transferring Land to Revocable Living Trust

This afternoon I was able to visit with a client when he came in to pick up his estate planning portfolio. He remarked that “we sure did have to get a lot of things cleaned up. Thank goodness we found out about that. We would have hated to leave that mess for our daughter.” What he meant by that is that in the processing of transferring property to his trust, we discovered several issues with land he owned in Kentucky. Now I am a Missouri attorney and focus on Missouri law so when clients need a real estate deed drawn up to transfer land in a different state to their revocable living trust, we often work with attorneys in the state where the land is located to get the real estate transferred.

In this instance, the land was a vacation house located near Kentucky Lake. While working to transfer the lake house to the client’s trust, several issues with the current deed were discovered. It took a couple hundred dollars and about 3 weeks to get these issues cleared up. Yet, had my clients not taken care of these issues and left it for the daughter to deal with, it would have likely cost her thousands of dollars and taken months! There is an important lesson here – if not addressed by you, issues typically become more expensive and difficult to fix, not easier.

So often my clients tell me that they have procrastinated doing estate planning for years. Perhaps in part because of that procrastination, when they finally choose to get their affairs in order, they almost always report feeling relief! If the time is right for you or a loved one to get your affairs in order, we’re here to help. Each day we help educate individuals what their options are and help them implement solutions that make things easier on their spouse and children.

Cape Girardeau, MO Office Open

In March, I moved law offices. As anyone who has ever moved knows, it takes a little bit of time to get unpacked and set up. Yet, after several weeks of late nights and working weekends, we are full-speed ahead at our new location at 2007 Independence Street in Cape Girardeau.

Below are pictures of our new office.

Law Office of Mark McMullin. 2007 Independence Street
Law Office of Mark McMullin. 2007 Independence Street

Reception DeskThe reception desk


Waiting Area

The waiting area

Conference Room

Our conference room

Save Time & Money by Skipping Probate

This afternoon I have a young client coming in. In fact, she just celebrated her 18th birthday. So you may be asking yourself, why would a young woman need to come see an estate planning and elder law attorney shortly after her 18th birthday?
The reason: because her deceased father didn’t do any estate planning, now his 18-year-old daughter has to handle getting his affairs in order. Perhaps that sentence is a little blunt, perhaps even harsh. Yet, it is also true.
An Estate Plan serves as a blue print for you and your family. It puts you in control. Yet, without it, you may leave a mess that your loved ones have to sort out.
As so often is the case, the father in this scenario didn’t have a great deal of wealth. By most economic standards, he would have been considered lower middle class. Yet, regardless of one’s wealth, there are a few foundational estate planning documents everyone needs: A Durable Power of Attorney, a Healthcare Directive, and some type of transfer instrument like a Will or Trust. By not having these, the little property he did pass on to his children created a legal mess… complete with underage beneficiaries, unintended beneficiaries, and completely unnecessary court costs and probate fees.
Planning is better – not only for you, but especially for your loved ones.

“So What Is ELDER LAW?”

Front Door at Law Office of Mark McMullin

On the door of my new law office, it says “Estate Planning & Elder Law”. It didn’t take long for someone to ask the question, “So what is Elder Law?”

Elder Law means that we strive to serve a broad range of legal issues that affect seniors including business succession planning, estate planning, long-term care planning, Medicaid planning, and asset protection. Two examples will illustrate the type of issues that we help clients with on a day-to-day basis.

Recently I had a single client who owned an apartment building and a few other pieces of real estate. He needed a Limited Liability Company created for his real estate holdings, and then he wanted a trust to ensure that things were simple and easy for his two children. That’s more of a classic estate planning client. That’s one type of case we work on each day.

Another recent client was a husband and wife. The husband was 11 years older than the wife. Also, the husband’s family had a history of experiencing health issues about age 70. The husband’s father had required skilled nursing home care for several years and it had wiped out all of his parent’s savings except for his mom’s house. What this couple wanted, especially the husband, was a plan or strategy, so that if one of them went into a nursing home, the other would not end up broke. This is more of an elder law client. For them, we were able to use a trust as part of a strategy to protect their assets.

More and more, individuals are telling us that they want to be proactive and do what they can to protect their hard-earned assets. We can help you do that. Our clients often report how much they learned about strategies they didn’t even know existed during their initial consultation. If you would like to schedule an initial consultation, give us a call at 573-334-5125.

The Law Office of Mark McMullin – Estate Planning & Elder Law