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End-of-Life Care Decision Making

End-of-Life Care Decision Making

End-of-life care decisions all too often fall to family members—spouses, kids or other loved ones who find themselves making critical choices with little information to go on. End-of-life care plans are meant to offer guidance in these situations and avoid expensive, prolonged care. They take much of the pressure off of loved ones, putting wishes regarding treatment, interventions and palliative care in writing.

Creating an end-of-life care plan is not difficult, but it does take some thought. Some choose to discuss matters with their doctor or family members first. If you’re facing a specific diagnosis, it may be particularly helpful to understand what types of decisions will come up in the course of your treatment. After you’ve decided on what’s most important to you, it’s time to establish an Advance Directive for Healthcare.

Establishing an Advance Directive for Healthcare

In Georgia, Advance Directives offer instructions regarding the type of care you wish to receive or avoid if you can’t make the decision yourself.

In an Advance Directive, you may also state specific wishes regarding palliative care. The goal of palliative care is to make the patient, even one who has no further treatment options, as comfortable as possible. You may wish to die at home, to have your pain managed or to skip aggressive treatments with unknown outcomes.

Advance Directives also cover your wishes regarding:
-Organ donation
-Donating your body to medical science
-Funeral arrangements

Choosing a healthcare agent

Of course, it’s impossible to know what decisions will arise at the end of life. You can state your wishes in an advance directive and share your decisions with your doctor and family, but you may still need someone to make choices for you in the moment if you’re incapacitated. You can designate an agent in your Advance Directive. A healthcare agent acts as your advocate, helping ensure any medical decisions are in line with your wishes.

How to prepare your advance directive for healthcare

An attorney can make the process of planning for end-of-life care less overwhelming, often including your advance healthcare directive as a component of your estate planning. This allows you to consider the entire picture, taking things like long-term care funding into account.

After your documents are signed, you’ll want to share copies with your doctor and your designated agent. It’s also smart to talk about the process and your stated wishes with family members. This way, they have the chance to work through any concerns instead of being taken by surprise at the bedside.

Your values and wishes may change over time. Everyone should have an advance directive for healthcare since an accident or life-threatening disease or illness can strike at any age, at any time—as COVID-19 has all too clearly shown us. As you age, or if you’re diagnosed with a specific illness, you can revisit your documents. Be sure you share new copies with your doctor.

By taking on these decisions yourself, you have a better chance of avoiding treatment situations you know you don’t want. You’re also helping to protect your loved ones from the burden of making heavy choices with only limited guidance to go on.

Speak With an Atlanta Elder Lawyer

At Nadler Biernath, we have experience handling all aspects of elder law. Contact us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation to discuss how we can help your loved ones.

By | 2021-01-25T14:10:18+00:00 January 25th, 2021|Estate Plan, Special Needs Trusts|0 Comments

Probate with Heather Nadler


Hello clients and friends,

Thanks so much for joining Heather Nadler’s discussion on probate. We hope the talk and the great Q&A that followed gave you a starting point for your probate planning needs.

Thanks for joining us! To view our presentation click here.

We’ll be back in January for a Q&A panel with Heather Nadler, Kim Martin, and Laura Akins. Get your questions ready and stay tuned for the registration link!

By | 2021-02-01T23:27:12+00:00 December 22nd, 2020|Special Needs Trusts|0 Comments

Individuals with Special Needs Who Are Changing the World

Individuals with Special Needs Who Are Changing the World

At Nadler Biernath, we work with some exceptional families. Through them, and through our work with the special needs community here in town, we know how important it is for kids with different abilities to see themselves represented in all fields.

The individuals below are standouts in different areas, but all have something in common: They’ve dedicated themselves to making the world more inclusive for people with disabilities.

Ali Stroker

When actress Ali Stroker accepted her Tony award for best featured actress in a musical for “Oklahoma,” she knew how important the win would be for special needs kids aspiring to act, sing or dance professionally. Paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident as a toddler, Ali supports inclusive casting, believing that roles should be open to actors of all abilities, whether they’re specifically written that way or not. Now also the star of a Lifetime Christmas movie, Ali hopes to model a new type of romantic lead.

Kyle Pease

Growing up in a sports-loving house with two brothers, Atlanta native Kyle Pease never assumed his special needs would keep him off the field or course. When his older brother Brent began competing in triathlons, Kyle wanted to find a way to participate, too. In 2011, the two began racing together, using specially built wheelchairs, bikes and rafts to support Kyle, who has limited mobility due to his spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. Now Ironman triathletes, Kyle and Brent run the Kyle Pease Foundation to help other special needs athletes overcome barriers to participating in adaptive sports.

Sinéad Burke

After her TED Talk, “Why design should include everyone,” Irish teacher and writer Sinéad Burke became an international name in the call to improve accessible design, detailing the challenges she faces as a little person moving through public spaces. With a background in fashion blogging, Sinéad also zeroed in on the lack of inclusive sizing, representation and access to interview opportunities in industry jobs. She now consults with major fashion brands on how to better include all body types, hosts a podcast and is pursuing a Ph.D. She became the first little person to be featured on the cover of Vogue UK, in an issue guest edited by Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.

Chris Nikic

When 21-year-old Chris Nikic became the first individual with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman earlier this year, he proved that determination can break down even the most difficult goals. Chris started life with physical challenges that might have held him back: He walked at age 4 and learned to ride a bike at 15. But it was the constant messaging that he should hold himself back—that he should limit his own potential—that left him feeling excluded and isolated. Sports helped, and eventually, working with volunteer coach Dan Grieb, Chris decided to train for an Ironman. His message after the finish: “Do not put a lid on me.”

Alice Wong

A longtime fan of StoryCorps, the public history project recording stories from people of all backgrounds, Alice Wong realized that individuals with disabilities rarely got the chance to share their experiences from their own perspective. Born with spinal muscular dystrophy, Alice created the Disability Visibility Project to function as a hub for disability-related media. The site encourages people with special needs to record their own histories through StoryCorps, submit original essays and participate in other projects, like podcasts or Twitter chats. She also served on the National Council on Disability as an advisor to President Barack Obama.

Kayla McKeon

Kayla McKeon found joy and fulfillment through her participation in the Special Olympics, earning silver and bronze medals in the Athens Games. But, as a woman with Down syndrome, she was still frustrated by many of the antiquated laws in her state limiting the potential of individuals with special needs. She became the first registered lobbyist with Down syndrome, heading to Washington, D.C., to push for movement on issues like marriage access. She continues to advocate for changes that will expand the rights of special needs individuals while preserving their benefits.

Speak With an Atlanta Special Needs Lawyer

At Nadler Biernath, we have experience handling all aspects of special needs planning. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation to discuss how we can help your loved ones.

By | 2020-12-16T23:14:18+00:00 December 16th, 2020|Estate Plan, Special Needs Trusts|0 Comments

Special Needs Planning & Provisions with Kim Martin and Laura Akins

Hello clients and friends,

Thanks so much for joining us for Laura and Kim’s discussion of special needs planning and provisions. It was our best-attended Planning for Peace of Mind live webinar to date! We hope the talk and the great Q&A that followed gave you a starting point for your family’s planning needs.

Thanks for joining us! To view our presentation click here.

We’ll be back next month for a discussion on probate with Heather Nadler. Stay tuned for the registration link!

By | 2021-02-01T23:27:46+00:00 November 24th, 2020|Special Needs Trusts|0 Comments

Planning Ahead for the New Year

While 2020 has seemed like the never-ending year, it is, in fact, drawing to a close. In the midst of planning for a drastically different looking holiday, many folks will have some year-end tax business, including making charitable donations, contributing to SEP IRAs or putting money into 529 college plans. Others will begin dreaming ahead to New Year’s resolutions—retooling exercise plans that were centered on group classes or promising to finish up quarantine house projects.

Tackling your estate planning covers both bases—it’s a smart, forward-thinking financial decision and a “resolution” that you can actually knock out with just a few straightforward steps. This winter, resolve to build an estate plan that works for you, gives you peace of mind and takes at least one thing off your already-busy plate.

Why you need an estate plan
Many people are under the misconception that estate planning is just for the very wealthy. Others think it’s only necessary as you age, ignoring that uncomfortable truth that no one knows when they may become incapacitated or pass away. The truth is, estate planning is for anyone over the age of eighteen, but especially people who own assets, including bank accounts or real property, anyone with children and anyone who wants a say in their potential medical care.

What’s included in an estate plan?
While it’s possible to create DIY, one-size-fits-all estate plans, doing so doesn’t make much sense. That’s because every family is different and every family’s financial situation is different. For the parents of special needs children, for example, an estate plan that doesn’t take public benefits into account could be financially disastrous. Well-crafted estate plans will often include:

      • A last will and testament. This document names your executor and lays out how you want your estate to be handled after you die. If you plan to leave some of your assets to charity, you do so here. The parents of minor kids will also name a guardian should they both die.
      • Advance medical directive and living will. This will allow a person of your choosing to make medical decisions for you if you’re unable. You may also detail your wishes regarding end-of-life or life-sustaining care.
      • Financial power of attorney: Again, if you’re unable, a person of your choosing will be able to help pay your bills, sell assets and handle other financial matters.

    Additionally, families with a special needs child may include a revocable trust to protect that child’s future.

    Why creating an estate plan should be a 2021 goal
    According to the American Bar Association, 55 percent of Americans die without an estate plan, creating expensive problems for their survivors. It’s easy to put off, especially since it may seem not only uncomfortable but also time consuming or daunting.

    Usually, however, it’s only working up the will (pun intended!) to make the first call that’s the challenge. After that, an estate attorney can help guide you through the rest of the process. There will be some things you’ll need to answer yourself, like how you envision end-of-life care, or who you want to raise your children if you pass away while they’re young. But don’t let uncertainty or discomfort stop you from going through the process. It’s possible (and recommended!) to revisit estate plans as financial situations change, kids grow up and values shift.

    Estate planning can protect your minor child, your special needs child, your surviving spouse (or healthy spouse if you’re ill) and your financial assets. It also saves your family from having to make challenging decisions on your behalf and from dealing with issues created without proper estate planning.

    This season, make it a priority to get an estate plan in place, or update your plan if it’s been a long time since you drafted it. We promise it will be easier than running a half marathon, doing a Marie Kondo on your home or giving up carbs.

    Speak With an Atlanta Estate Planning Lawyer

    Planning is more important than ever right now. At Nadler Biernath, we have experience handling all aspects of estate planning, special needs law and elder law. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation to discuss how we can help your loved ones.

By | 2020-11-13T21:22:18+00:00 November 13th, 2020|Estate Plan, Special Needs Trusts|0 Comments

Guardianship with Kim Martin

Hello clients and friends,

We enjoyed another great webinar last month, with 75 attendees joining Kim for a discussion of guardianship and conservatorship. We know it’s not an easy topic, but we hope that the webinar helped clarify your understanding of what protections guardianship offers and when it’s necessary.

We really enjoyed the Q&A for this session as well, especially since we were joined by Laura Akins. Thanks for joining us! To view our presentation click here.

Kim and Laura will team up again Thursday, Nov. 19 (that’s one week before Thanksgiving) to discuss special needs planning and provisions. Stay tuned for the registration link!

By | 2021-02-01T23:28:16+00:00 November 2nd, 2020|Special Needs Trusts|0 Comments

Disability Advocates Push to Make Voting Safe and Accessible in 2020

During the early stages of the pandemic, many voters with special needs experienced new problems when attempting to cast their ballots in the spring primaries. Inaccessible polling places, concerns over contracting the virus and issues with receiving or completing mail-in ballots kept some individuals from exercising their right to vote.

Disability advocates at the national and local level have long pushed for more reliable protections for voters. But now, with a major federal election approaching and continued complications due to the pandemic, advocates are working hard to educate individuals with disabilities about their rights and options in 2020.

What are your voting rights as an individual with a disability?
In Georgia, individuals with physical or mental special needs have the right to vote. Individuals who are under legal guardianship maintain that right, provided that their guardianship order does not specifically remove the right to vote.

While the Georgia registration deadline for the Nov. 3 election has passed, an eligible voter must be 18 by Election Day, have no felony arrest record and be a U.S. citizen. Georgia law states that “mental incompetence” is a disqualifier to registration. However, because the law does not define mental incompetence, this provision does not bar anyone with a disability from registering and voting.

Georgians with special needs also have the right:

    • To vote with assistance, receiving help from the person of their choosing (with limited exceptions)
    • To use an assistive voting device
    • To access a voting unit that allows for sitting or wheelchair use
    • To vote without reading or writing tests
    • To physically access their polling place or an alternative location in their precinct

Preparing to vote in person
If you choose to vote in person this year, voting early is likely the way to go. All polling places are required to be fully accessible. The workers there should understand how to assist you.

Poll workers looking to ensure their location is accessible can find a list from the Justice Department of temporary fixes for common access problems.

You’ll need a photo ID, like a driver’s license, voter ID card or U.S. passport.

Georgia early voting runs from Monday, Oct. 12 to Friday, Oct. 30. You can check the Secretary of State’s site for locations and hours. DeKalb County and Fulton County, for example, have multiple early voting locations with varying hours and weekend availability.

You can also use Georgia’s My Voter Page to determine your polling place if you choose to vote on Election Day, Nov. 3.

Preparing to vote with a mail-in ballot
This year, voting by mail-in ballot has taken off as individuals avoid the potential Covid exposure of in-person locations. As of early October, a quarter million ballots had already been returned in Georgia. Anyone can request a mail-in ballot, and you may do so online or by sending in an application.

After placing a request, you can verify that your application was accepted, but keep in mind that the closer Election Day gets, the harder it will be to receive your mail-in ballot and return it on time. You’ll likely want to have an alternative in-person voting plan.

If you’ve received your ballot, you can return it either by mail (be sure to affix correct postage) or by hand-delivering it to a dropbox in your registered county. The box must be in your registered county for your vote to count. If you choose to vote by mail, your ballot must be postmarked by Tuesday, Nov. 3 and received by Friday, making it important to get it in the mail early.

While there are likely to be some gains for the special needs community with the increased availability of absentee voting, mail-in ballots don’t work for everyone. Disability advocates across the country have sued their state boards of elections, arguing that mail-in paper ballots make voting privately and independently impossible for some voters, especially those with visual impairments.

The American Civil Liberties Union is pushing for electronic absentee ballot options that allow voters to use screen readers, digital magnifiers or text-to-speech software to complete their ballots. The ballots are then printed and mailed or dropped off.

However you choose to vote this year, remember that a disability does not have to prevent you from being able to exercise your right to vote.

Speak With an Atlanta Special Needs Lawyer

If you’re the parent or loved one of an individual with special needs, you’ll want help protecting his or her future. Call Nadler Biernath today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation to discuss how we can help your loved ones.

By | 2020-10-22T14:45:29+00:00 October 21st, 2020|Estate Plan, Special Needs Trusts|0 Comments

How to Apply for Benefits as a Grandparent

How to Apply for Benefits as a Grandparent

If you’re a grandparent raising a child, it can be challenging to handle the extra expense. Even if you’re still working or are financially comfortable, the costs of education, medical care, food, clothing and college savings can be a lot to absorb. And if you’re on a fixed income, it may seem difficult to continue to meet your own needs and provide for the child, or children, you love.

In Georgia, more than 100,000 grandparents are the heads of households raising grandkids. Of these, more than 57 percent work, nearly 24 percent live in poverty and almost 27 percent have a disability. Fortunately, there are numerous benefits available for grandfamilies, depending on work history and financial need.

SSDI Benefits for Grandkids
For individuals with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, grandchildren may be eligible for auxiliary benefits. To receive auxiliary benefits:

  • Kids must be under 18 and living with a grandparent before turning 18
  • Their parents must be deceased or disabled
  • The children must have received at least half of their financial support from their grandparent in the year before the grandparent became eligible for SSDI (or have been living with the grandparent from birth if they are under a year old)

If the grandparent has legally adopted the grandchild, then the child must be unmarried and under the age of 18.

For grandparents with special needs grandkids, auxiliary SSDI benefits may continue past age 18 if the child is considered disabled as became so before age 22.

Social Security survivor’s benefits may also be an option to grandchildren whose parents have passed away.

Public Benefits Available to Grandparents
In addition to SSDI auxiliary benefits, grandparents may qualify for other public benefits based on need. These include:

  • Medicaid for kids
  • State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Child Care and Parent Services (CAPS)

Many grandfamilies also use Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to help cover some of the costs of raising a child. Assistance may come monthly or provide short-term help (allowing a grandparent to buy a new car seat or pay a bill).

Child-only TANF grants take the child’s income into account (usually child support payments or SSI payments. The national average for child-only TANF grants is about $8 per day. Family grants require the grandparents meeting Georgia income requirements and are only available for a limited period.

With so many potential programs available, all with their own requirements, it can be a challenge to determine what resources are available. It’s especially challenging when the grandchild has special needs and has his or her own benefits eligibility requirements and options. Some organizations focus specifically on this need: Project GRANDD (Grandparents Raising and Nurturing Dependents with Disabilities) helps with referrals, case management and support groups.

Speak With an Atlanta Elder Law Attorney

At Nadler Biernath, we know it can be tricky to work out benefits eligibility. We have experience handling all aspects of elder law and special needs law, positioning us to help you support your grandchildren. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation to discuss how we can help your loved ones.

By | 2020-09-15T17:32:51+00:00 September 15th, 2020|Estate Plan, Special Needs Trusts|0 Comments

How to Utilize your Special Needs Trust and Maximize Retirement Benefits Under the SECURE Act

You’ve probably heard of the new Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, signed into law late last year. The act created some major changes for anyone with long-term retirement savings, including those who may wish to leave their accounts to beneficiaries with special needs.

Until the act became law Jan. 1, 2020, most beneficiaries of retirement accounts could “stretch” the distributions over their lifetimes. This, of course, led to a lower tax liability year to year, allowing the beneficiary to avoid big withdrawals and grow the inheritance in the tax-deferred account.

The SECURE Act eliminated this stretch provision for most beneficiaries, requiring them to withdraw the assets within 10 years. Fortunately, however, beneficiaries who are disabled or chronically ill are still allowed to stretch distributions over their lifetimes, making this an important consideration for anyone planning for a loved one with special needs.

Using Your Trust to Maximize Retirement Accounts under the SECURE Act
In response to these changes, considering how to designate beneficiaries of retirement accounts is more important than ever. A properly drafted special needs trust can be designated as a beneficiary of a retirement account. Having a special needs trust designated as a beneficiary of a retirement account helps to ensure beneficiaries receive the maximum benefits allowed under the law.

With a properly drafted special needs trust, beneficiaries who meet the conditions for exemption may:

  • Stretch retirement account distributions over their lifetime
  • Still be eligible for public benefits, including Medicaid and Supplemental
  • Security income
  • See any potential issues handled by a care manager or advocate
  • Have bequeathed assets protected from creditors

What next steps should you take?
If you have a special needs beneficiary and a tax-deferred retirement account, you should review your beneficiary designations and it may be time to set up a consult with a special needs attorney to revisit your plans. The new SECURE Act substantially changes the way retirement accounts are distributed, and utilizing a special needs trust can help ensure your beneficiary receives the greatest value from your retirement funds, while also helping to maintain benefits eligibility. In some cases, existing trusts and estate plans may need to be modified to reflect the new law’s changes.

Speak With an Atlanta Special Needs Lawyer

If you’re the parent or loved one of an individual with special needs, you’ll want help protecting his or her financial future. At Nadler Biernath, we have experience creating and funding trusts. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation to discuss how we can help your loved ones.

By | 2020-08-26T19:23:09+00:00 August 26th, 2020|Special Needs Trusts|0 Comments

Is a Guardian Legally Responsible for the Acts of a Ward?

Is a Guardian Legally Responsible for the Acts of a Ward?

When parents or other loved ones decide to seek guardianship and conservatorship, they do so because their family member cannot make critical decisions alone. Guardianship and conservatorship, which may both be held by the same person, allow the loved one to manage the ward’s health and safety and the ward’s finances, respectively. 

But guardianship is also about facilitating as much independence as possible—allowing the special needs individual to fully participate in decision-making within a safe, protected framework. 

Sometimes, of course, a ward leaves the boundaries of that framework, making decisions independently or under the influence of others that are not healthy, wise or legal. If the ward commits a crime or has an accident is the guardian liable? 

Guardianship and Liability

When choosing to seek guardianship, some families worry about their own legal or financial liability. Perhaps the potential ward has a history of violence or reckless behavior. The truth is, some guardians have great difficulty in effectively managing their ward. 

Because of this, guardians are not legally or financially liable for their wards’ actions in most cases. Provided the guardians are fulfilling their role in good faith, the structures of guardianship protect them. 

Conservators must also act in good faith when managing their ward’s assets and property. A conservator may be held responsible for a ward’s financial losses only if the conservator directly violates his or her fiduciary duty. While most families will combine the two roles into one, designating a single person as guardian/conservator, this doesn’t have to be the case. If finances are a source of conflict, or if the guardian does not feel comfortable handling them, a third party may be selected as conservator. 

Considering whether to file for guardianship and/or conservatorship is a big decision with many factors. In most cases, concern for personal liability doesn’t need to be a significant consideration. 

Speak With an Atlanta Guardianship Lawyer

At Nadler Biernath, we know the decision to seek guardianship can be a challenging one. We have experience handling all aspects of estate planning, special needs law and elder care law. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation to discuss how we can help your loved ones.

By | 2020-07-21T19:48:50+00:00 July 21st, 2020|Special Needs Trusts|0 Comments