None of us ever beat the clock. The clock always wins. But we can be smart about it.
As we age, things like estate planning and trust management come to the fore. And attorney William Hayes of South Pasadena will be the first to tell you not all not all trust or wills are created equal. There are big differences depending on the experience of the attorney.
As Hayes noted in a recent interview, in addition to being estate planning attorneys, his office specializes in elder law, an issue of increasing importance.
“This means that we deal with issues of how to protect a client as they age and incur medical bills, and expenses as a result of aging,” said Hayes. “It’s a big issue actually, because the government says that seven out of 10 people over the age of 65 will wind up with long term care health problems and 40% of that number will wind up in nursing homes.”
It’s also a problem for the country itself, since, according to Hayes, 66% of all bankruptcies are due to medical bills.
“So,” Hayes explained, “if you are looking to do an estate plan and you don’t factor in the need to have a strategy in place to pay the bills that come with aging, you ultimately may wind up having nothing.”
Hayes also noted that his office prides itself on creating long term relationships with its clients.
“We don’t see the creation of an estate plan for a client as a single commercial transaction,” he said. “We see ourselves as creating relationships with our clients because as life goes on, the things that were created in that initial estate plan change. Relationships changed, there are divorces and marriages, death, assets change, laws change.”
So, Hayes stresses the importance of maintaining communication with clients.
“We send them newsletters twice a month. We let them know about any changes in the law that affect their plans and when they have questions they can feel free to call us because we don’t charge them for a phone call. So those are just a few of the benefits that we provide.”
The Hayes Law office also puts on seminars specifically geared to clients on matters, such as how exactly to be a trustee, because as Hayes notes, it’s one thing to name someone as your trustee and quite another for them to know what to do once they’ve been named.
“We show our clients, their families, their representatives, how to be a trustee, and what’s required,” said Hayes, “so that they’re not left floundering when the time comes. Because, to just name somebody as the trustee of your trust without telling them what to do is just really just throwing that person into the deep end of the pool.
“One thing I do know,” Hayes continued, “is that whenever people come to our seminars, invariably they say that they enjoyed them and they learned a lot.”
According to Hayes, most people just have a very, very vague understanding of what estate planning is about. And then they come to a seminar and there’s an epiphany.
“In most cases people think, ‘Oh, I’ll just get a will,” he said. “And then they find out that a will is not exactly what they want. And in fact, you know, in all the years that I’ve been doing estate planning, I think I’ve done just one will.”
Most people choose to use a trust after they understand the difference, explained Hayes.
“Because if you have a will, you are required to go through probate court proceedings, Hayes said, explaining candidly, “That’s where most attorneys make most of their money, because we get a percentage of the gross value of your estate. And in addition to the percentage, we are able to charge for all other types of things that are an hourly rate, so as a client or a client, beneficiaries will wind up not getting very much.”
Hayes emphasized, however, his office explains to clients all of the elements that comprise an estate plan, the most important of which is that it’s a trust, which is a revocable document, and amendable any time.
In an estate plan, said Hayes, clients will name the people who will act as successor trustees, and who your beneficiaries will be, or what conditions there might be for those people to receive the assets.
“We set up all types of sub trusts to meet the needs of each individual beneficiary, he added. “In addition to that, with an estate plan, there’s a document, a, “pour-over will,” which is like the traditional will that you think of. But it’s just meant to catch all assets, which may not have been titled in the name of the trust. And that’s important, because if you don’t title assets in the name of the trust, the trust has no impact.”
Hayes stressed that clients need to have the trust, the pour-over will, you have and powers of attorney for dealing with financial papers, and powers of attorney for dealing with healthcare.
“I can’t overstate this,” he said. “It is important that if you really want to have an effective estate plan done, that you must include long term care planning as a part of the estate plan because your plan may be affected, because you’ve spent all your money for a health bill.”
The Hayes Law Firm is at 729 Mission St. #300, South Pasadena, CA 91030
(626) 403-2292. www.losangelestrustlaw.com.