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What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than Estate Planning?

Valentine’s Day is this week (you probably already knew) – and what better way to celebrate than think about estate planning! (I know, I know – that’s probably not the FIRST think you thought of.) Seriously, the most important part of estate planning is the serious conversations that it provokes. 
Everyone over the age of 18 should have an Advanced Health Care Directive. Also known as a living will, this document a) appoints an “agent” who can communicate with health care providers on your behalf if you were to become incapacitated, b) specifies whether you would want life-sustaining treatment if you were in a persistent vegetative state (remember Nancy Cruzan?), and c) allows you to specify a Primary Provider, among other directives. If you're in love with someone, wouldn't you want that person to have the authority to make these very important decisions for you? 
Anyone who has any assets or minor children should also have a will. In a will, you can specify to whom we want …

Special Needs Trusts

If you have a child with a disability who receives public benefits and you don’t want him or her to inherit any major assets from you outright, I may be able to help by preparing a Will that includes a testamentary Special Needs Trust. If your child were to inherit anything outright, you may reasonably fear he or she will lose her public benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and MaineCare benefits. If he or she were to inherit any significant assets (e.g., real estate) from you, these assets may be “countable” from the perspective of the Social Security Administration and the Office of MaineCare Services, and, therefore, he or she would be at risk of losing those benefits – or at least having them reduced.  You would want to include articles in your Will that sets up a Special Needs Trust (SNT) for the benefit of your child. Specifically, the Will could place a portion of your estate into the SNT. The Trust is for the child’s benefit, but the Will would specify that it…

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. One of the toughest cases that I’d ever had to handle personally was one I worked on as an intern at Legal Services for the Elderly (www.mainelse.org). The client was a gentleman with an adult son living in a separate building on the client’s property. The son had access to the client’s house. The son was severely mentally ill and had an alcohol problem, and he would frequently stop taking his prescribed medication and go on drinking binges. Our client had given the son multiple ultimatums that if he didn’t stop drinking and go back on his meds, he would have to move off of the client’s property. The son even had other living arrangements available to him. I don’t remember the son’s source of income, but he apparently had enough money to buy alcohol, at least on occasion. The son had seriously assaulted the client on several occasions, but the client refused to press criminal charges. We became involved after a particularly serious alter…