Bloomfield Hills, MI Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney

March 22, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Estate Planning,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 9:56 pm

The Michigan elder law attorneys at Witzke Berry PLLC  advise Oakland County seniors and their families on Medicaid planning, veteran’s Aid and Attendance benefits, and estate planning in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and throughout Oakland County, Michigan.

Our goal as respected estate and elder law lawyers is to help our senior and veteran clients maintain their dignity and independence in the event of incapacity, protect their assets from taxes, legal proceedings, and long-term care costs, and preserve a legacy for their family.

If a loved one is facing the cost of home care, assisted living, or a nursing home stay, it’s important they speak with a highly qualified Michigan elder law attorney who is accredited with the VA if they are a veteran.

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Keeping Your Assets out of Michigan Probate Court

Filed under: Do It Yourself Estate Planning Gone Wrong,Estate Administration,Probate,Probate Litigation — Christopher J. Berry @ 2:36 pm

As a Metro Detroit estate planning and probate lawyer, I try to keep up on the latest news and blogs regarding probate and estate planning in Michigan.  That’s when I ran accross my friend and colleague, Grand Rapids Estate Planning Lawyer, Michael Lictherman’s latest blog post entitlted “Tips On Keeping Your Michigan Estate Out of Court.”

In his post he references another article and has a few quality tips on keeping your estate out of the probate court, which most of our clients wish to do.

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Vets Push VA to Do More for Caregivers in New Plan

March 21, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 6:38 pm

Interesting article from the Associated Press.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A long–awaited plan to give caregivers of severely wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans some extra help was unveiled Wednesday by the Veterans Affairs Department with few specifics about when it would be fully implemented and potentially fewer families reaping the benefit than expected.


Sarah Wade, who along with her veteran husband, Ted, joined President Barack Obama on May 5 when he signed the law that instructed the VA to provide more support to family caregivers of those hurt in the recent conflicts, is among those wondering whether she will qualify for the extra support. And, if so, when.

Ted Wade, 33, lost his right arm and sustained a traumatic brain injury in a roadside bombing in Iraq in 2004 while serving with the 82nd Airborne Division. Sarah Wade now takes care of him.

She said she’ll be watching closely to see how the VA’s proposal is written and interpreted.

“If he doesn’t qualify, I’m going to be devastated,” said Wade, 36, of Chapel Hill, N.C. She said there are very few long–term care options for her husband except for going into an institution. “Year after year after year, I’ve heard about being patient and how we weren’t prepared and we’re trying to create programs and we’re trying to create benefits. It’s been one empty promise for years.”

Among the benefits included in the law was a monthly stipend based on average home health aide costs in a veteran’s hometown. The law also includes health insurance and mental health help for caregivers. The law for the first time instructed the VA to provide help directly to a veteran’s family members.

Under the plan, caregivers for about 10 percent of the critically wounded from the recent conflicts would be eligible, an estimated 850 veterans, said Katie Roberts, a VA spokeswoman.

But Sen. Patty Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in a statement that the way Congress had written the law, about 3,500 veterans should have a family member who is an eligible.

“Unfortunately the plan they put forward today is simply not good enough. The VA outlined how they intended to limit this benefit to an even smaller group of caregivers than intended by Congress, which is unacceptable,” Murray, D–Wash., said.

Roberts said the VA and Congress were “engaging in conversation about the appropriate approach on eligibility” and the VA “recognizes the obligation to make sure the criteria are clinically workable and follow the requirements of the law.”

The VA rolled out the plan under pressure from Murray and some veterans’ service organizations frustrated by the VA’s pace. The law was supposed to be implemented by the end of January.

Roberts said the VA will be working with them and others in the veterans’ community to make it happen, but she didn’t offer a timeline.

“While some services will be available right away the others will take thoughtful, deliberate work to make sure the caregivers of our most vulnerable veterans have access to all additional services,” Roberts said.

Jeremy Chwat, a spokesman for the Wounded Warrior Project that lobbied for the law, said the lack of information about when the services will be available is unacceptable.

“By VA’s own admission the regulatory process is going to be long and the caregivers who have already waited so long are now being told by this administration to wait even longer,” Chwat said.

While the enhanced benefits are for the caregivers of the severely disabled veterans from the recent conflicts, the VA said it is improving other existing programs for caregivers of veterans from all eras. It named a caregiver coordinator at each of its medical centers and last week rolled out a caregiver support hotline, which has already received more than 700 calls.

Veterans’ service organizations had pushed for more support for all caregivers of veterans, but Congress was not able to come up with enough money to do so. Under the law, the VA must report to Congress within two years about the possibility of providing the enhanced benefits to all caregivers.

The goal is to keep veterans out of nursing homes, said Deborah Amdur, chief consultant for VA social work.

“We know that being able to remain in your home surrounded by family and friends, people do better,” Amdur said. “There’s no question about that.”


VA website for caregivers:


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Veterans are missing out on VA Benefits that they have earned

Filed under: Elder Law,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 6:34 pm

There are many Michigan veterans who are missing out on the important veterans benefits that they have earned through honorable service to our country.  The main benefit that I see Metro-Detroit veterans missing out on is the VA Aid & Attendance benefit, otherwise known as the “non-service  connected pension.”  As a Michigan VA Benefits elder law attorney, I have been accredited by Veterans Affairs to assist and counsel veterans on obtaining their VA Benefits.

The VA Aid & Attendance benefit can be a very significant addition to a veteran’s financial situation, especially if there is home care, assisted living or nursing home care involved.  For a married veteran, the Aid & Attendance benefit can be as high as $1,949 per month.

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The Extra Hoops Gay and Lesbian Parents Must Jump Through

March 24, 2011

Filed under: Estate Planning,Holistic Estate Planning,Planning for Parents with Minor Children,Power of Attorney,Will — Christopher J. Berry @ 7:39 pm

There was an interesting article in the New York Times discussing the issues that a lesbian couple in Beverly Hills, Michigan had in trying to create a family.  As the article indicates, Michigan does not allow same-sex couples to perform second parent adoptions, which would allow one partner to adopt the other’s biological or adopted children.  However, Michigan recognizes second-parent adoptions performed elsewhere.

This inability, in Michigan, to adopt, is just one of many legal and financial hoops that same-sex couples must jump through.

The article lays out some of the chief issues same-sex couples must address and many of it through legal documentation.  One of the first key documents is a parental authority document establishing the ability of both parents to have legal authority to act as parents.

Additionally, last wills and testaments must be updated to ensure there is guardianship and co-parenting rights if one of the parents were to pass away.  It’s important to establish the legal authority before any blood relatives.

Often times it is important to have revocable living trusts in place to manage any property if one of the parents were to pass away.

Obviously, the couple also needs incapacity documents establishing each other as patient advocates and to receive HIPAA authorizations so that each can receive medical information on the other.

To read more on the recommendations, read the NYTimes article here.

Veterans Benefits Assistance Scams–Annuities and Assisted Living Facilities?

Filed under: Elder Law,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 2:55 pm

An elder law colleague of mine started an interesting discussion on one of the latest VA Benefit scams.  Basically the scam works like this, an annuity company (under some other guise, such as an association of some sort) will advertise and promote VA Benefits to seniors.  When a senior calls, they will be referred to a partnered assisted living facility provided the assisted living facility refers them back to the annuity salesman (again under some other name), and will prepare the VA application free of charge in addition to providing “financial planning.”

The company gives out Medicaid planning advice (unauthorized practice of law) and tries to sell the family an annuity that makes no planning sense whatsoever.

To me this sure seems to meet the definition of a scam (victimize: deprive of by deceit).

Do I Want a Springing Power of Attorney or Immediate?

March 23, 2011

Filed under: Estate Planning,Power of Attorney — Christopher J. Berry @ 2:50 pm

The financial durable power of attorney is a document that appoints an individual to manage financial decisions for you.  The power of attorney, too often is an afterthought in the eyes of clients (and even sometimes, attorneys).

Typically the power of attorney is set up to be “springing”, what this means is that when you become incapacitated the power of attorney “springs” into effect and the person you’ve appointed to serve as agent-in-fact now has legal authority to make decisions.

The alternative route is that the power of attorney becomes effective immediately.  The advantage of this is that the named agent-in-fact does not need to wait on the disability provision of the document to trigger.  Typically a “springing” power of attorney will have a provision that it does not become effective until two licensed physicians sign off  to say that the creator of the document, called the “principal”, is incapacitated.  For example if a spouse was traveling, the agent-in-fact spouse would not be able to sign for the principal spouse because the disability trigger had not been switched on.

The power of attorney is a powerful document and its important to understand the differences between a springing power of attorney and one that is effective immediately.  If you have questions on the differences, its important to talk to a Michigan estate planning attorney.


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