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Greenwich Connecticut Estate Planning Law Blog

Do you have what it takes to be a health care proxy?

Whether you call it a "health care proxy" or medical power of attorney, taking on the responsibility for someone else's medical treatment can be a daunting task.

Do you have what it takes? Here are some of the questions you need to ask yourself:

Don't let the state choose your hiers

You've amassed a few significant assets in your lifetime, but you don't have any direct descendants and no other relatives you care to consider your heirs. So, how do you decide who should be the beneficiary of your estate?

This is an important question. If you don't make some decisions about this issue, the likelihood is that a judge eventually will. Your hard-earned wealth could end up going to people that you don't necessarily know (or like) -- or it could be gobbled up by the state.

Here are some signs your loved one's will is fraudulent

When a family member dies, your grief can be compounded by shock and outrage if the will doesn't match up with your expectations.

Could the will be a fraud? Is that even your loved one's actual signature? Here are some reasons you should be suspicious:

Can you get legal guardianship of a sibling?

Are you contemplating trying to obtain guardianship over a minor sibling?

There are a lot of unfortunate reasons that an adult might want to become the legal guardian of their minor brother or sister. For example, sometimes parents die, leaving the minor without a suitable caretaker. Or, maybe the parents are alive but incapable of properly caring for their minor children because of illness, alcoholism or addiction. Sometimes, a special needs child is too much for a parent to handle. A parent and teen may even clash so badly that it's better to simply remove the teen from the situation.

Dementia can lead to seeking conservatorship over a loved one

It is commonly said that our parents change our diapers in our infancy, and then we must change theirs in their dotage. The point of this phrase is not to imply that you have a literal responsibility for bathroom care for your aging loved ones so much as it is that children often grow to assume many of the same responsibilities over their parents that their parents once had over them. It is the circle of life and an opportunity to repay the love and care of your parents with service to them as they age.

Knowing when it is time to assert yourself and start fulfilling those duties can be quite difficult, especially if your parent wants to remain independent for as long as possible. It can be hard to know when to start taking action to protect your loved one from themselves. The warning signs of dementia, in particular, can start slowly, while your loved one is still cognizant and present enough to feel offended at your desire to help them.

Why should parents set up special needs trusts?

Individuals tend to repeatedly hear that they need to sit down and draft a will as they get older. They're often told that their assets may go to someone other than those they intended unless they document their wishes. Wills aren't just for older people, though. They're for younger individuals too. However, you may need more than a will if you have a child with special needs. You may also need to set up a trust if your son or daughter is reliant upon you and/or government benefits for their care.

If your child receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI), then they likely also qualify for other government benefits such as subsidized housing, vocational rehabilitation and Medicaid. Your and your child may count on these to get the medical care that they need, as a way to have a roof over their head and to cover their basic expenses. If your son or daughter were to lose any of these benefits and you were no longer around, then they could become homeless and destitute, especially if they're unable to work.

Did someone just ask you to be their medical power of attorney?

One of the biggest things someone can ask you to do is to take on the responsibility of being their medical power of attorney.

Also called a health care proxy, you would be called into action only when your friend or relative was unable to make their own medical decisions. That might include a time following a serious accident, times when they're unconscious due to anesthesia or (most likely) during the end of their life when they're suffering from dementia or something similar.

Get help with a bad trustee

Trusts are designed to pass wealth from one generation to the next in a smooth, organized way. Trustees have a pretty big job -- and they're expected to do their best to comply with the expectations placed upon them.

But what happens if you think the trustee isn't up to the job? Removing a trustee isn't something that the court will do lightly, but it is possible. Here are some of the reasons to consider legal action against a trustee:

New law restricts probate courts' power to appoint guardians

Children are no longer children when they reach the age of 18. With the exception of consuming alcohol, people in Connecticut arrive at all adult privileges on the 18th birthday. Before then, however, someone must be legally responsible for their behavior and well-being, and those people are traditionally the parents of the child.

Sometimes, parents are not available because they are deceased, imprisoned or considered unfit to be directly responsible for their children. Probate courts in Connecticut are empowered to determine the best legal guardian for children in this situation, but problems in the past have just led to a change in the law from Hartford.

Sibling rivalry and adult estate disputes

When you were growing up together, you felt like you always fought with your siblings. Life was good -- your family was very well off and you always had everything you wanted -- but you just couldn't seem to get along.

Then you went to college, started your own business, got married and started a family. You forgot about those rivalries. When you all got together for the holidays, you had minor issues, but you generally found a way to get through it. You all went your own ways and things seemed good.

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