Elder Law

Practice Areas:

  • Probate
  • Estate Administration
  • Living Trusts & Estate Planning
  • Special Needs Planning
  • Adult Guardianships
  • Asset Protection Planning: Non-Crisis Medicaid Planning
  • Crisis Medicaid Planning

Probate and Estate Administration

Losing a family member or close friend is very difficult. Whether you have known for a while or have just learned that you were named as the personal representative (sometimes called the executor or executrix) to handle the probate or administration of your loved one's estate, the task can seem daunting. Attorney Jennifer Ellsworth-Aults will steer you through the process and provide compassionate guidance and direction so that you can make decisions and move forward knowing your legal responsibilities and the court rules. She will work to make sure you are aware of which assets are included/excluded from the estate, which debts need to be paid, and which beneficiaries are entitled to receive certain assets.

Probate can be a difficult and confusing process during what is already a difficult time. While every estate is unique, below are examples of the areas in which Jennifer will provide help:

  • Determine whether full probate is needed
  • Recording the will with the Register of Wills office and prepare documents for opening an estate
  • Assist the Personal Representative or Executor/Executrix in obtaining Letters testamentary or Letters of Administration
  • Draft the application to obtain a tax identification number for the estate
  • Prepare and send out date of death valuation letters to ascertain account values
  • Prepare signature cards for estate bank accounts
  • Assist in closing a decedent's bank accounts
  • Assist in opening an estate bank account
  • Update decedent's mailing address
  • Negotiate creditor claims
  • Assist in extending decedent's insurance coverage to protect estate for home, motor vehicles, etc. until the estate is distributed
  • Assist in filing life insurance claims
  • Complete Sworn Descriptive List detailing any expenses/liabilities the estate has incurred (such as burial or funeral expenses)

Estate Planning, Wills/Trusts, Advance Health Care Directive, Power of Attorney, HIPAA release

No matter the size of your estate it is essential to have a comprehensive estate plan in place. An Advance Health Care Directive allows you to make medical decisions about your care and name a health care agent in the event you become incapacitated. A Power of Attorney allows you to name an Attorney in Fact to handle your finances either immediately or in the event you become incapacitated. There are a range of trusts and estate plans that can be utilized to allow you to name guardians for your children and establish special needs trusts. A good estate plan will reduce the likelihood of disputes among your beneficiaries and will work to provide protection for your assets from avoidable taxes and penalties to allow as much of your estate to pass to your beneficiaries as possible.

Special Needs Trusts

Jennifer will work with you to protect your special needs child or family member from losing governmental benefits through supplemental or special needs trusts and other disability planning options that provide protection for their assets. It is essential that a plan be set up to prevent your special needs child or family member from being considered "over-resourced" which could result in termination of Social Security, Medicaid and other benefits.

Planning for Medicaid

Planning ahead can allow you to protect your valuable life savings from being depleted by the expense of long-term care and in some instances Medicaid. Many seniors are unprepared for long-term care costs which can exceed $9,000 per month. The earlier you plan, the more options you have in safeguarding your assets. There are certain types of trusts that can help protect your Medicaid eligibility without compromising your assets.

Medicaid planning is a legal, smart way to ensure you will qualify for Medicaid and nursing home care when you need it. You have worked hard to acquire your assets and there is nothing wrong with taking legal steps to make sure that your beneficiaries are able to receive as much of your estate as possible.

Planning ahead for Medicaid is known as non-crisis Medicaid planning. Planning for Medicaid while you are healthy will allow you to put a plan in place to safeguard your assets if you become incapacitated. Contrary to what you may have heard, you do not have to spend down all of your assets and in certain circumstances you may be able to preserve up to half of a single or widowed person's assets or preserve your joint marital assets if your spouse is now, or must soon enter, a nursing home. You do not have to be poor to be eligible to qualify for or benefit from Medicaid.

Crisis Medicaid Planning

Too often seniors find themselves in a situation where they need full time nursing care but have too many assets to qualify for financial assistance from Medicaid, leading to a Medicaid crisis. Having current, updated information and guidance from attorney Jennifer Ellsworth-Aults will allow your family to make the best financial decisions for you. Jennifer understands the complicated and frequently changing Medicaid laws and she will guide family members through what can be an overwhelming task during a stressful time.

While the Medicaid process may seem overwhelming, Jennifer will walk you through the process and explain how sometimes even recently transferred assets will not disqualify you - under certain circumstances.

Helpful links:

Delaware Elder Law Handbook: http://www.delawareelderlawhandbook.com

Adult Guardianship in the Court of Chancery:

http://courts.delaware.gov/chancery/guardianship/index.aspx

Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities Services:

http://dhss.delaware.gov/dsaapd/services.html

AARP: http://www.aarp.org

Alzheimer's Association of Delaware: http://www.alz.org/delval/

Social Security: https://www.ssa.gov/

Medicare: https://www.medicare.gov/

Assisted living in Delaware: https://www.senioradvisor.com/wilmington-de/assisted-living