Connecticut Legal News: What’s new and what’s not for Connecticut residents.

There have been some updates to Connecticut law that impact Connecticut estate planning and Connecticut advance directives.  Additionally, there are recent developments in the discussion regarding Connecticut Estate Tax changes scheduled for 2018.

  • The MOLST Pilot Project (discussed in our July 2017 article) has been made permanent. Recently, Governor Malloy signed into law Public Act 17-70 which makes what had been a “pilot project” for certain institutions in certain parts of the State, a permanent Statewide option.
  • ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts were authorized by the Connecticut legislature in 2015 (discussed in our April 2015 article). The enabling legislation directed the Office of the State Treasurer to establish a protocol for such accounts for Connecticut residents. That still has not occurred. As a result, a Connecticut resident wanting to establish an ABLE account must do so through a State that allows non-residents to do that. At the present time, that is either Ohio or Kentucky.
  • The new Connecticut Uniform Power of Attorney Act (discussed in our October 2016 article) which became effective on October 1, 2016 was amended. For the most part, the amendments just cleaned up ambiguities in the new law that had become effective on October 1, 2016. Don’t worry if you have a Power of Attorney Instrument signed before October 1, 2016. If it was valid when you signed it, it still is.
  • Public Act 17-91 adopts the Uniform Recognition of Substitute Decision Making Act in Connecticut. This is particularly important for residents who have moved to Connecticut or live part of the year in Connecticut and part of the year elsewhere. The Act says that if you have signed a Power of Attorney Instrument or Health Care Instructions valid in the State where you signed them, Connecticut must recognize the documents as valid, as well.
  • As of the time we go to press, the Connecticut Estate Tax Exemption for property passing to anyone other than a citizen spouse increases, gradually, to the same amount as the federal exemption (presently $5,490,000.00). The increase is phased in over 3 years, beginning in 2018. This is very good news for many Connecticut residents as it will allow for much less complicated estate planning documents.

If you are interested in learning more about any of these subjects, please visit our website and read our blog for recent posts.  For advice specific to you or your family, please contact the office.  We would be glad to meet with you for a no hassle, no charge initial consultation, no matter how long it lasts.

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Steve Celebrates 50 years of practicing law!

We congratulate Steve Floman, our partner, friend, and mentor, who has been practicing law for 50 years, 40 of them from our present location at 378 Boston Post Road. On August 8, 1967, Steve was sworn in to the Connecticut Bar.  Before entering private practice, Steve worked for the New Haven Legal Assistance Association.  Since entering private practice in 1972, Steve has dedicated his practice of law to helping clients in various areas of the law.  During recent years, Steve has focused exclusively on estate planning, long term care planning, special needs planning, and estate administration matters.   Steve is an active member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and has been recognized for his pro bono services by the Connecticut Bar Association.

In April of this year, Steve was honored as a Half Century Honoree by the Connecticut Bar Association at its Celebrate With The Stars dinner.

We all look forward to practicing law and helping clients together for many years to come.

 

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What commonly has been referred to as the 21st Century Cures Act (became law on December 13, 2016) makes an important change for special needs trust planning for a disabled person younger than 65.

  • Who it helps: A disabled person younger than 65 who comes into assets (typically by inheritance or settling a personal injury case) that otherwise would make him/her ineligible for government benefit programs such as Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) or Medicaid can maintain eligibility for government benefits by placing the assets into a specific type of special needs trust (“SNT”) that has been authorized by federal law since 1993.
  • What happened before? Before the 21st Century Cures Act, however, the disabled person was not allowed to establish the SNT. The SNT needed to be established by a 3rd party such as a parent, grandparent, guardian, conservator, or Probate Court. When there was no parent or grandparent around to establish the SNT, it became extremely complicated (and expensive) for the disabled person to get the SNT established.
  • What will happen now? 21st Century Cures Act undoes that inequity by allowing a disabled person to establish the SNT for himself/herself. No longer is a parent, grandparent or other third party required to be the one that establishes the SNT.
  • How this benefits individuals: This will make life significantly easier for a disabled person younger than 65 who needs to preserve eligibility for many means tested government benefit programs.

If you are interested in learning more about special needs trust planning, please visit our website and read our blog for recent posts.  For advice specific to you or your family, please contact the office.  We would be glad to meet with you for a no hassle, no charge initial consultation, no matter how long it lasts.

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Have you ever seen the acronym MOLST?

It is a potentially very important and sensitive written document that stands for Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment. Not all States permit a MOLST. Connecticut has a pilot program, now in place.

  • What does a MOLST do? A MOLST allows a person who is “approaching the end stage of a serious, life-limiting illness” or who is “in a condition of advanced, chronic progressive frailty” to express binding wishes about the extent of care he/she wants.
  • Is it the same as a DNR? No, it is more extensive than a DNR. A DNR only addresses resuscitation. A MOLST addresses CPR, transfers from home or a facility to a hospital, non-CPR intubation and ventilation, medically administered hydration and nutrition, and dialysis.
  • Is it the same as a Living Will? No, it is more extensive than a Living Will. A Living Will becomes operative only if you are in a “persistent vegetative state” or the “final stage of a terminal illness”. A MOLST is operative much earlier in the process.
  • Why would the Legislature authorize a MOLST? The policy reason for a MOLST is to encourage end of life discussions between an approved health care provider and patient at a time when the patient is not critically ill and the patient (and family) are not in a crisis mode.
  • Who can sign a MOLST? A MOLST can be signed by a certified physician, DO, physician’s assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse who has received special training about end of life discussions. It, of course, also must be signed by the patient.
  • How can I be sure people know about the MOLST? It is on lime green paper to make it easy to recognize. If you are at home, you should paste it to your refrigerator. If you are in a Hospital or Skilled Nursing Facility, it is part of your file and it will follow you from place to place.

If you are interested in learning more about the MOLST or other end of life decision making, please visit our website and read our blog for recent posts.  For advice specific to you or your family, please contact the office.  We would be glad to meet with you for a no hassle, no charge initial consultation, no matter how long it lasts.

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What’s the difference between a Living Will and a Do Not Resuscitate Order?  

A Living Will:

  • Comes into play only if you are in a “persistent vegetative state” or the “final stage of a terminal illness” and are being kept alive by a “mechanical device.”
  • A Living Will tells the world whether you want to be kept alive in those specific circumstances. The choice is yours.
  • A Living Will also authorizes others to communicate your wishes if you are not able to do so.
  • A Living Will can be prepared by an attorney, or any other knowledgeable third party.

A Do Not Resuscitate Order:

  • Can come into play even if you are not in a “persistent vegetative state,” the “final stage of a terminal illness,” or being kept alive by a “mechanical device.”
  • A Do Not Resuscitate Order (commonly called “DNR”) means you don’t want the application of efforts to resuscitate you using methods such as CPR, chest compression, defibrillation, mouth to mouth or mouth to mask, ventilator or any similar medical procedure.
  • A DNR order can only be authorized by a physician. You, or someone authorized to act on your behalf, of course, must approve the DNR order, in writing.

Example 1:

  • You are in reasonably good health and have a heart attack at home. You have a Living Will. Some type of resuscitation is required to keep you alive; it will be administered.

Example 2:

  • You are in extremely poor health, have lost lots of your mental acuity, and have been in and out of hospitals for many serious medical conditions over the past few years. You have a heart attack at home. You have a Living Will. Some type of resuscitation is required to keep you alive; it will be administered.

Example 3:

  • Same facts as example 2 except you also have a DNR order. You will not be resuscitated.

If you are interested in learning more about these types of advance medical directives, please visit our website and read our blog for recent posts.  For advice specific to you or your family, please contact the office.  We would be glad to meet with you for a no hassle, no charge initial consultation, no matter how long it lasts.

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Learn about Connecticut Wills, Living Trusts, Probate, and Long Term Care from our Attorneys

Do you have questions about Connecticut Wills, Living Trusts, Probate, or Long Term Care?

We often write about Wills, Living Trusts, Probate matters, and other legal topics here on our blog and in our social media.  This Spring, we’re offering classes so that we can review these topics in detail.  Please join us to learn more and ask questions that are helpful to you.

CONNECTICUT Probate:

In March we will discuss the Connecticut Estate Administration and Probate Process.

Connecticut Estate Planning: Wills, Living Trusts, Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care InstruCTIONS

In April we will discuss the importance of Estate Planning in Connecticut.  Topics include Wills, Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts, and Advance Directives, which consist of Durable Power of Attorney Instruments, Living Wills, and Health Care Instructions.

Myths and Truths about Connecticut Living Trusts

Living Trusts are a popular planning tool.  This class is dedicated to uncovering the myths and truths about Connecticut Living Trusts.  In this class you will learn about questions to determine if  a Living Trust is right for you.

Planning and Paying for Long Term Care in Connecticut

Finally, we’ll discuss planning and paying for long term care, and what government benefits, like Medicaid, are available to Connecticut residents.

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Connecticut Estate Tax Planning Connecticut Credit Shelter Trust

Many married couples are concerned about Connecticut Estate Tax planning and therefore are interested in a Connecticut Credit Shelter Trust.  A commonly used tool used in Connecticut Estate Tax planning that aims to reduce or eliminate the Connecticut Estate Tax is the Standby Credit Shelter Trust.  The chart, below, demonstrates how a Connecticut Standby Credit Shelter Trust may help married couples to achieve their Connecticut estate tax planning goals.

Summary of Connecticut Estate Taxes:

Before trying to achieve Connecticut Estate Tax Planning goals by using a Connecticut Credit Shelter Trust it is important to know the basics of both federal and Connecticut estate taxes. In sum, you may pass an unlimited amount of assets to your United States Citizen spouse without paying any Connecticut estate taxes.  Assets that pass to non-spouse beneficiaries may be taxable depending on the date of death value of the assets. The federal estate-tax exclusion for 2017 is $5,490,000.00 (total) and the Connecticut estate-tax exclusion is $2,000,000.00 (total).

How is a STandby Credit Shelter Trust Created?

Standby Credit Shelter Trusts can be created through your Revocable Trust a/k/a Living Trust.  The Revocable Trust states that when the first spouse dies all of the first spouse’s assets should be given to the surviving spouse, unless the surviving spouse elects to “disclaim” those assets to the Standby Credit Shelter Trust.  The Credit Shelter Trust is “standby,” meaning, it is available for the surviving spouse to elect to use, if at all. If the surviving spouse doesn’t want to use the Credit Shelter Trust at that time, he/she do not have to.  This gives the surviving spouse the opportunity to assess his/her financial situation at that time.

WHO Is the beneficiary of the STANDBY Credit Shelter Trust?

The surviving spouse is the sole beneficiary of the Standby Credit Shelter Trust during his/her lifetime. Although the assets were disclaimed by the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse may still have some use of these assets.  However, the surviving spouse’s use of these assets is dependent upon the cooperation of an Independent Trustee.

Who is the Independent Trustee?

A trusted family member, friend, professional advisor, or a bank/institution would be the Independent Trustee of the CST.

Why would a surviving spouse not want the assets?

If he/she has enough assets in his/her name to meet his/her living expenses and wants to pass assets to other beneficiaries (i.e. children and/or grandchildren) without incurring higher estate taxes.  The Standby Credit Shelter Trust is designed to “shelter” assets from the estate tax that would otherwise be payable when the second spouse dies if all of the assets were in the surviving spouse’s name.

What if the surviving spouse doesn’t like or disagrees with the Independent Trustee in the future?

The surviving spouse may replace the Independent Trustee.  However, he/she cannot replace an independent trustee more frequently than every two (2) years.

What happens after the death of the second spouse?

After the surviving second spouse dies, any assets left in the Standby Credit Shelter Trust are distributed to beneficiaries (i.e. children, family members, friends).

 

Click the picture below to see an Infographic that demonstrates how a Connecticut Standby Credit Shelter Trust works:

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Know the facts before getting a new Durable Power of Attorney Instrument!

In our October 2016 article we wrote about Connecticut’s new Uniform Power of Attorney Act and how it officially came into effect on October 1, 2016.  Have you seen information circulating that intimidates you into acting immediately to update your documents in order to protect yourself and your family? We want to make sure you know the facts about how this change affects you and the Power of Attorney Instrument you may already have.

Fact 1: Even though the law changed on October 1, 2016, if you have a Power of Attorney Instrument that was signed before October 1, 2016 it still remains valid.

  • You should still review your document! Does it appoint who you still want to act as Agent for you?

Fact 2: The new law allows for additional express powers to be added to the standard “form.” These powers are very beneficial for long term care planning and estate planning, and should be included in your new Power of Attorney document.

  • These powers may already be in your current document! If not, you should consider updating your document to include these important powers.

Fact 3: In most cases, a financial institution is now required to accept an acknowledged Power of Attorney Instrument, even if it is old and even if it is not on a form recognized by the financial institution.

  • You do not NEED a new Power of Attorney Instrument to reap these benefits.

Fact 4: If those who care about you think your agent is abusing the authority granted the Probate Court can be asked to look into what is going on.

  • This added “checks and balances” is in place regardless of whether you have a new or “old” Power of Attorney. However, you can now include specific provisions in your new Power of Attorney Instrument which state your express wishes for who the Probate Court should appoint if there is an issue like this.

It is highly recommended that you meet with a lawyer to review any documents you already have and determine if you NEED to execute a new Power of Attorney Instrument. It is never recommended that you sign up through the mail to get a new Power of Attorney, or any estate document, just because a flyer informs you the law has changed.  If you do execute a new Power of Attorney Instrument, make sure it’s not the standard boiler plate form. It should be tailored to your needs and wishes! If you are interested in learning more about the how this change in the law affects you and your family, please contact the office.  We would be glad to meet with you for a no hassle, no charge initial consultation, no matter how long it lasts.

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The Team You Trust

Making decisions about who to appoint to carry out important roles for you after your death can be very difficult.  However, if you don’t proactively select the people you trust and the position needs to be filled the Probate Court will appoint someone for you.  The person appointed may not be the person you would have wanted or you trust.  You can take control by appointing someone you know and trust, thereby avoiding the hassle, time, and expense involved if you do not appoint someone.  We understand that these decisions are difficult for some people and so we’re here to listen and to help! Give us a call to discuss, free of charge! 203-795-1211

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