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Avoiding fights over inheritance with revocable living trusts

When parents pass away without clear instructions in place about how to divide their assets upon their death, they may leave family members battling over inheritance for years. Such fights can cause rifts that are sometimes impossible to heal.

A will contains detailed instructions on how a person wants their assets, such as family heirlooms and household items, to be distributed after they pass away. In the absence of a will expressing your wishes, the state will determine how your assets are distributed according to a predetermined formula. While initially less costly than a trust, it is subject to the delay and expense of probate.

However, simply writing a will and consistently updating it is not enough to prevent conflict regarding estate settlements. At the heart of most successful estate plans is a revocable living trust. A revocable trust is essentially a comprehensive method of estate planning and a tool for avoiding probate. Revocable trusts reduce the potential for family infighting about who gets what and keeps matters out of court. As opposed to a will, a revocable trust always remains private.

As the trustee of your own trust, you can decide how your assets should be distributed upon your passing. You can also appoint a trustee to oversee the division of assets based on your wishes if you are unable to do so.

Parents can preserve harmony and minimize the chance of future disputes by communicating their wishes to their children while they are still alive. A revocable living trust will ensure that their estate is treated in a timely and precise manner upon their death. Even families with modest wealth can benefit from smart estate planning for the future.

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Women bear the brunt of costs for Alzheimer’s care, says study

A study by Emory University researchers has found that women shoulder six times the cost of Alzheimer’s disease care than men. The greater burden in expenses is mainly due to the informal care that women provide to family members who have the degenerative brain disorder.

Researchers examined three factors to calculate Alzheimer’s care costs using data collected from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey between 2000 and 2010. They looked at the chances of developing the disease, its duration, and the formal and informal care required for the patient. The findings were published in the journal Women’s Health Issues on Sept. 10.

Results showed that female Alzheimer’s patients have 16 percent higher Medicare costs and 70 percent higher Medicaid costs than male patients over their lifetime. The greatest gender difference was in the cost of informal care, which is often an inherent source of stress. For male patients, the value of the time and energy a female family member is likely to spend in caregiving is 20 times more than when the caregiver-patient roles are reversed, the researchers said.

“There is strong evidence that women face higher risks of being affected by Alzheimer’s as either patients or informal caregivers,” said Zhou Yang, one of the study’s authors. “It is critical to develop public policy interventions aimed at curing or slowing the progress of the disease to benefit the health and economic welfare of women everywhere.”

The researchers recommended policy reforms, such as to Medicare and Medicaid payments, to address the disparate economic impact of Alzheimer’s on women as caregivers and patients.

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California’s Aging Population: Implications for Elders and Caregivers 

Today, the population of individuals over the age of 65 in California numbers approximately 4.5 million people. By the year 2050, it will exceed 11 million. These numbers are even more consequential when we consider the portion of the entire state's population represented by older individuals: 

About 11% of today’s 40 million Californians are 65 or older. By 2020, that population will be 15%. By 2030, it will be almost 20% and a staggering 22.3% by 2050. What are the implications of this?

A recent column by Dan Walters in the Sacramento Bee warns about the aging of health care providers in California. The column astutely warns that we have an aging population that will present unprecedented demands for services and support from our medical and caregiving infrastructures. Even today there is a shortage of trained, capable caregivers through home care agencies, at assisted living facilities, and in skilled nursing facilities. It will only get worse in the future. It is a looming crisis for all who need long-term care facilities and services.
“To rise to this challenge,” suggests estate planning and elder law attorney Michael Gilfix of Palo Alto, California, “we need a new, coordinated, multigenerational approach.” His focus is on the need for more coordination of services and more tailored, focused use of limited family resources. Careful planning to preserve assets and qualify for Medi-Cal, the only program that can pay all or most of the cost of skilled nursing care, must be part of the planning. Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, is needs-based. To qualify, assets must be limited and/or carefully organized. 

This approach is necessary, Gilfix suggests, because there must always be a financial safety net. If all family assets are exhausted before Medi-Cal coverage is obtained, there are no funds available to pay for services that are not covered by the Medi-Cal program.

Children and grandchildren must be viewed as part of the planning and part of the solution. They must participate, coordinate resources, add counsel, and devote time and attention to the needs of their elders. It is self-evident that this is typically a win-win for everyone, but it is rarely done. 
Such planning is more typically pursued by wealthier families through the use of "family offices," but the need is no less critical for the middle class. Middle class families have the power to preserve their homes, their savings, and their legacies. But they must take steps to plan ahead of time.

Attorneys Michael Gilfix and Mark Gerson Gilfix recently co-authored an article entitled, “A New Paradigm: Truly Multigenerational Planning,” published in the September issue of Trusts & Estates magazine, that expands this concept in very practical ways. Gilfix & La Poll Associates, one of the nation’s leading estate planning firms, follows this approach with its clients. For multigenerational planning to be effective, it is critical that steps are taken before the crisis stage.
The Gilfix & La Poll Team

Pioneers of Elder Law - For over 30 years, Gilfix & La Poll Associates LLP has innovated creative legal solutions to help you manage and plan the future of your estate. To contact an estate planning lawyer visit or call 800.244.9424.