Larson Law , PLLC, practices in the fields of elder law, special needs planning, and estate planning. We work with our clients to find the best possible solution for each client’s unique situation and goals. We have one Olympia location, but we also make home visits. Here are some of the services we provide:
A durable power of attorney for health care lets you choose another person (an "agent") to make health care decisions for you if you cannot make decisions yourself. For example, if you are in an auto accident and cannot communicate to the doctor, your agent can tell the doctor what treatment you would want. You should not choose someone as an agent unless you can trust that they will focus on your wellbeing over their own preferences.
A durable power of attorney for finances lets you choose another person to handle your financial affairs and pay your bills for you if you cannot do so yourself, or if you do not want to do so yourself. For example, if you have memory problems, your agent can keep track of when to pay your bills, apply for government benefits, manage your investments, and sign contracts for you. Without this important document, your loved ones will have to go to court to get authorization to handle your financial affairs. You should not choose someone as an agent for financial affairs unless you can trust them fully and they are able to handle money matters.
A living will (also known as a health care directive) is a type of "advance directive" that describes in advance for your loved ones and health care team what type of medical treatments you want, if any, to prolong your life if an accident or undiagnosed life threatening illness occurs and you are unable to communicate your wishes. A living will applies only if you are not expected to recover and are not expected to live more than six months. All adults should have a living will, and they should also have conversations with loved ones and agents to tell them verbally what they want to have happen to them if they are near death and unable to communicate. Few people like to talk about these things but doing so before you get sick can lift a heavy burden off of those you love if the unthinkable happens.
A mental health advance directive (also called a dementia directive) is a type of advance directive that everyone over age 60 should create before developing dementia. In it, you say what treatment you would want if you develop dementia (or other mental health diagnosis). It is meant to be a guide to your loved ones and doctors.
“Long-term care” means the type of care you need if you have a prolonged physical illness, disability or severe cognitive impairment (such as Alzheimer’s disease) that keeps you from living independently. As a result, you need assistance carrying out basic self-care tasks. Nearly one in two women and one in four men find themselves in nursing homes at some point in their lives. The need for a nursing home lasts an average of three years. The cost of nursing home care averages between five and eight thousand dollars per month and continues to climb ever higher. Worse, Medicare will not pay for it, which explains, in part, why two out of three families run out of money within the first year of a prolonged nursing home stay. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to set aside a nest egg in advance so that the resources exist to improve your quality of life when you need long term care. If you work with an experienced elder law attorney, you can avoid having to spend down your assets to nothing to qualify for Medicaid to cover long-term care costs.
A will is a gift you leave your family or loved ones. It is a gift because it makes the management of your estate very clear and far easier. If you don't have a will, the state will decide what happens to your assets, to your dependent children, and to your financial legacy. With a will, you can do several important things that will make the lives of your loved ones easier when you die:
Decide who will get your property.
Decide who will be the personal representative, also known as an executor, who will wrap up your estate.
Name a guardian to take care of your minor children. Even if you don’t need a will for any other reason, if you have minor children, you should make a will. Otherwise, when you die, a court will decide who should care for your kids.
Name someone to manage any property you have left to your minor children. Property left to children must be managed by an adult. When you leave property to your children (through a will, trust, or life insurance or other beneficiary designation) you can leave instructions about how that property should be managed, typically through a trust or through the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act.
Name someone to care for your pets. You can also leave money to that person to help care for your pets.
If you have a relative you are responsible for who has a physical or mental disability, that person's receipt of government benefits (for example, Medicaid) may be jeopardized if you leave them a portion of your estate outright after you die. A correctly written trust can avoid this. Additionally, a trust is preferable if your loved one may not be able to handle financial responsibilities. It also is generally unwise to leave money to other relatives or to friends on the promise they will care for your disabled relative because those assets may be unintentionally diverted by divorce, bankruptcy or death of the person you counted on. Another danger is that the person you counted on will ignore your wishes or will be unable to fulfill them through no fault of their own.
Blended families can present some challenges when it comes to planning how to support your current spouse after you die while preserving some of your estate for your children from a prior relationship. A QTIP trust is one option to make sure there is something left for your children after your current spouse dies. Also, if your estate or your spouse's estate exceeds the state or federal estate tax limit, special language in such a trust can enable the trustee to make full use of any state and/or federal estate tax exemption for each of you.
For married couples whose assets potentially exceed the state or federal estate tax thresholds, a disclaimer (aka bypass) trust is a flexible approach that enables the surviving spouse to decide whether, at the time of the first spouse's death, estate taxes are a potential issue upon the death of the surviving spouse. A disclaimer trust can enable the couple to save thousands of dollars in estate taxes, which results in more assets passing to their heirs.