Genetic Links to Alzheimer’s Uncovered in New Studies

April 3, 2011

Filed under: Asset Protection,Elder Law,Health Care Directives,Holistic Estate Planning — Christopher J. Berry @ 6:45 pm

In a recent NYTimes article, there is a new discovery in Alzheimer’s research.  The two largest Alzheimer’s diseases studies have led to the discovery of five new genes that make the disease more likely in the elderly and provide clues about what might start Alzheimer’s going and fuel Alzheimer’s progress in the brain.

The new genes, according to the article, seem to be linked with cholesterol and inflammation.  To read this article follow the link: New Studies on Alzheimer’s Uncover Genetic Links.

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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.

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Talking to Loved Ones About What Really Matters

November 19, 2009

Filed under: Estate Planning,Holistic Estate Planning,Power of Attorney — Christopher J. Berry @ 4:31 pm

Talking to Loved Ones about What Really Matters

“The Holidays” can mean travel, excitement, gathering together with those you love, stress, conflict, and any or all of these things.

We wish you the happiest of holidays.

We also urge you to take the time this holiday season to talk with those you love about what’s truly important to you, and what’s important for them to know.  Make sure you tell them that you love them.  Make sure you tell them about your estate plan, about where they can find your important legal and financial documents in an emergency, and who your important advisors are (e.g. estate planning attorney, financial advisor, accountant).  We understand that these conversations with family members can be difficult to start.  But they are important.  Talk to those you love about the legal, financial and health care decisions you have made, and take the time, while you still can, to explain your choices.

Talking about your healthcare directives can also be a good lead-in to talking about your other personal and financial choices with those you love.  It’s important — for you and for them.  Take this extra step to ensure that everyone knows what you want while you can still answer questions and provide feedback.  And then eat a lot, have a wonderful time, and enjoy your holiday!

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Planning for Your Elder Years

October 15, 2009

Filed under: Elder Law,Holistic Estate Planning,Long Term Care — Christopher J. Berry @ 8:20 pm

If we were to ask an older person what his or her most important concerns for aging are, we would probably get a variety of different answers. According to surveys frequently conducted among the elderly, the most likely answers we would receive would include the following three principal concerns or life wishes:

1. Remaining independent in the home without intervention
from others

2. Maintaining good health and receiving adequate health care

3. Having enough money for everyday needs and not outliving
assets and income

To address these concerns or wishes and maintain the quality of life wanted in the elder years, it simply takes a little preplanning.

Few people do this kind of planning.

It is human nature not to worry about an event until it happens. We may prepare financially for unexpected financial disasters by covering our homes, automobiles and health with insurance policies.

However, no other life event can be as devastating to an elderly person’s lifestyle, finances and security as needing long term care. It drastically alters or completely eliminates the three principal lifestyle wishes listed above.

The majority of the American public does not plan for this crisis of needing eldercare. The lack of planning also has an adverse effect on the older person’s family, with sacrifices made in time, money, and family lifestyles.

Because of changing demographics and potential changes in government funding, the current generation needs to plan for long term care before the elder years are upon them.

Let us look at some facts.

The population of the “very old,”–older than age 85–is the
fastest growing group in America. This population is at
highest risk for needing care. (Statistical abstract of the United States,
2008, population)
Medical science is preventing early sudden deaths, which
means living longer with impaired health and greater risk of
needing long term care.
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates the risk of
Alzheimer’s or dementia beyond age 85 to be about 46% of
that population.
It is estimated that 6 out of 10 people will need long term
care sometime during their lifetime.
Children are moving far away from parents or parents move
away during retirement making long distance care giving
difficult or impossible.
Government programs–already stretched thin for long term
care services–will experience even greater stress on
available funds in the future.

One of the important things for planning is how to maintain your lifestyle as you age. You may be healthy enough to stay in your own home with help provided for the following activities of daily living:

maintaining a home,
providing meals,
transportation and
shopping services.

This type of care at home is non-medical and must be provided free of charge by family, friends, or volunteers or the care must be paid for out-of-pocket by the family.

Government programs, in most cases, will not pay for this kind of care. It is estimated that 80% of all long term care is non-medical, with 90% of that care provided in the home. It is most likely that your long term care will begin with home care.

It is wise to plan now how you will pay for care when it is needed. In evaluating your future income you may find it necessary to add some resources such as long term care Insurance to pay for assisted living or nursing home costs. Long term care insurance must be purchased while you are younger and healthy. Failing health, stroke or other aging issues will not allow you to qualify for this insurance.

A reverse mortgage will also help pay for home care if staying in your home is an option.

Consider where you may want to live in your elder years. Many assisted living facilities offer complete care alternatives with a nursing home wing if needed. Senior retirement communities also offer many amenities with some including home care options.

Now is the time to do estate planning. A professional estate planner will give you direction on how best to protect your assets for future needs and for Medicaid planning.

Do your paper work. Now is the time to create your trusts, will, medical directives in a living will and any other documents you want noted for future use. Gather Insurance policies and bank records where they can be found by family members in case you are not able to get them yourself.

We don’t like to think of our elder years in terms of health problems, but a sudden stroke, heart failure or onset of dementia could make it impossible to carry out our own wishes if preparation was not made ahead of time.

The process of long term care planning involves the following four

1. Knowledge and preparation are the keys to success.
2. Having funds to pay for care expands the choices for care
settings and providers.
3. Using professional help relieves stress, reduces conflict, and
saves time and money.
4. Success is assured through a written plan accepted by all
parties involved.

(The above excerpt is quoted from “The 4 Steps of Long Term Care Planning,” National Care Planning Council)

The National Care Planning Council’ s website — — provides over 700 pages of information for long term care planning and lists services of professional care providers in estate planning, long term care insurance, reverse mortgage, home care and many other important long term care services.

The National Care Planning Council’ s book, “The 4 Steps of Long Term Care Planning,” provides information on what Medicaid and Medicare will cover as well as an overview of professional long term care service providers and how their services can help you create and execute your long term care plan. A check list of what to do to create a plan and forms for creating necessary paperwork are also included in the book.

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How to Choose a Guardian for Your Minor Children

September 11, 2009

Filed under: Estate Planning,Holistic Estate Planning,Planning for Parents with Minor Children — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:47 pm

Choosing guardians for your minor children as you go through the Michigan estate planning process can be a difficult decision for parents.  Often times the decision of who to name is one of the major stumbling blocks for parents and one of the major reasons they put off speaking to a Michigan estate planning attorney.  Don’t let it be! has an article addressing the issue.  You can read it here: Estate Planning: How to Choose a Guardian.

As Michigan estate planning attorneys who have as one of our focuses helping parents with minor children with their estate planning, we have some exercises that we walk our clients through to help them come to a decision and to help them move forward.

Christopher J. Berry, Esq., A Bloomfield HIlls Trust and Estates Lawyer, is a Partner with The Law Offices of Witzke Berry PLLC, which practices in the areas of Michigan Revocable Living Trusts, Living Wills, and Michigan Medicaid Planning, serving Metro Detroit, including Oakland County, Macomb County, and Wayne County from their office in Bloomfield Hills.  We can be reached at 248-971-1700.

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Avoiding The Scary Side of Healthcare and Advanced Medical Directives

September 9, 2009

Filed under: Estate Planning,Health Care Directives,Holistic Estate Planning,Living Will — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:54 pm

bloomfieldhillsestateplanpumpkin.gifLet’s face it, going to the hospital can be a little frightening.  But there are ways to prepare yourself and your loved ones.  A little bit of preparation can make the experience better for everyone: you, your family, and the hospital staff.

  1. Make sure that your healthcare power of attorney is up-to-date.  This document names the person (or persons) you would like to make medical decisions for you if you can’t do so.  Review this document periodically to make sure your choice(s) is still valid.
  2. Review your Living Will.  This document states your desires regarding treatments you would (or would not) want to receive in the hospital if you cannot make these decisions yourself.  Your living will is an important resource for your healthcare power of attorney should he/she need to make decisions about your care.
  3. Make your decision about organ donation and document it.  If you would like to donate your organs at the time of your passing, make that decision now and put it in writing.  One organ donor can save up to 8 lives and the need far exceeds the supply.
  4. Talk to your loved ones about your healthcare choices:  who you’ve named as your healthcare power of attorney, what your medical wishes are, and whether you want to be an organ donor.  The more they know in advance, the easier it will be for them if they ever have to step in.
  5. Carry your DocuBank wallet card.  Our firm provides this card because we know that immediate access to your emergency information and healthcare directives is important.  Make sure that your card is next to your driver’s license in your wallet at all times.
  6. Update the emergency information you store with DocuBank.  This includes your allergies and medical conditions that display on your Emergency Card and can help with your emergency treatment.  Also update your doctor’s and emergency contacts’ names and phone numbers.

Christopher J. Berry, Esq., An Oakland Estate Planning Attorney, is a Partner with The Law Offices of Witzke Berry PLLC, which practices in the areas of Michigan Wills and Michigan Trusts, Living Wills, and Michigan Probate Litigation, serving Oakland County, Macomb County, and Wayne County.  We can be reached at 248-971-1700.

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What Happens if a Person Does not have a Michigan Power of Attorney

August 27, 2009

Filed under: Holistic Estate Planning,Power of Attorney — Christopher J. Berry @ 12:21 am

Thumbnail image for michiganestateplanningprobatelawyerquestionAs a Michigan probate lawyer, a question I have seen is “what happens if a person does not have a power of attorney?” Like all good legal answers, it depends.

It really depends on the facts and what the future holds. Basically, if you were incapacitated and did not have an executed power of attorney form, the probate court would be forced to appoint a conservator and/or guardian for you to manage your financial affairs on your behalf. This conservatorship would then be monitored by the court. This is what we call a Living Probate. This Living Probate could last for years with continuous court involvement and legal fees.

Now if that same person had executed a durable power of attorney prior to incapacitation they would be able to avoid the whole court created guardianship and conservatorship process. The power of attorney document would have language appointing who would serve the role and how the agent in fact would serve in their role.

With a power of attorney, the process is streamlined, more cost effect, and you’re able to exert more control over the decisions you were able to make with regard to the powers of the attorney.

Christopher J. Berry, Esq., An Oakland County Estate and Trust Attorney, is a Partner with The Law Office of Witzke Berry PLLC, which practices in the areas of Estate Planning, Michigan Medicaid Planning, and Michigan Probate Litigation.

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Michigan Medicare and Michigan Medicaid receive $1 million contract to develop dual-eligble program

April 20, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Holistic Estate Planning,Medicaid Planning,Michigan Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:50 pm

The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) have awarded Michigan a $1 million innovation contract to improve care and services for individuals dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid according to a recent article in Crain’s.

According to the article, Michigan had applied for the contract to cut Medicaid costs, eliminate duplication of services, expand access to needed care and to improve the quality of care for people enrolled in both programs.  Michigan is one of 15 states to receive the contract.

As a Michigan elder law and Medicaid planning attorney who volunteers with the Area Agency on Aging 1-B and the Michigan Medicare and Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP), this is great news.  For more information on Michigan elder law issues, visit the Michigan Elder Law Center which regularly has news on issues effecting Michigan seniors.

Does Michigan have Estate Recovery in 2011?

April 5, 2011

Filed under: Asset Protection,Elder Law,Holistic Estate Planning,Long Term Care,Medicaid Planning — Christopher J. Berry @ 12:43 pm

As a Michigan Medicaid planning lawyer, a question I’m often asked, even by other attorneys is “does Michigan have estate recovery?”

Estate recovery is the process in which the state of Michigan is able to place liens and get reimbursed for any costs they cover for people receiving Medicaid.  Estate recovery and Medicaid are complicated programs because they are administered jointly with the State of Michigan and the Federal Government through CMS.

The answer is yes.  Yes, Michigan passed an estate recovery law a few years ago.    However, the Bush administration rejected the Michigan plan as not being draconian enough.  Since then it has been tweaked and resubmitted, but still has not been approved.

A catch with the program is that it will affect anyone who entered the Michigan nursing home after the law passed, not just those who entered the nursing home after Federal approval.

Planning Tips for Clients who have Chronic Illnesses

April 4, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Holistic Estate Planning — Christopher J. Berry @ 4:25 pm

When our law firm meets with clients who are suffering from chronic illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or Multiple Sclerosis, there are additional complications that need to be accounted for in any estate planning or elder law planning.  Attorney Gregory Herman-Giddens put together a great blog post summarizing some of the issues entitled Planning Tips for Clients with Chronic Illness.

It is important to keep in mind all the tips he listed when engaging in estate planning, Medicaid planning or working with Veterans Benefits.


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