Senior Citizen's Guide to Metro Detroit - page 10

Elder Law
Say You Saw It in the Senior Citizen’s Guide to Pittsburgh
In my elder law and special needs practice, I counsel
clients and families who are facing difficult issues with
regard to placing their loved one in a facility. Often
decisions are made quickly based on what someone else
has experienced or their own research. The advice of an
experienced elder law attorney can help prevent or resolve
some of the biggest mistakes I see in my practice:
Joint ownership.
Joint ownership tends to be a do-it-
yourself estate plan. People may add someone as a joint
owner in haste when tragedy occurs, or when a loved-one’s
health significantly declines. Many who add individuals
as owners on property, whether a bank account or parcel
of real estate, are doing so for convenience or probate
avoidance not realizing that in fact, they are making an
estate plan.
Adding a joint owner can completely undermine an
existing plan. Sometimes people will choose one child as
the joint owner with the understanding that they will share
the proceeds with their siblings. However, the legal effect
is to disinherit all other children, which often leads to hard
feelings. Further, they are under no legal obligation to
share in the proceeds or could incur tax liability themselves
for distributing the funds.
Joint tenancy can also put your assets at risk. If your
joint owner gets a divorce, is sued, or declares bankruptcy,
your asset may be subject to those claims and be
considered part of a marital estate or reached by claimants
or creditors.
Adding a joint owner may also have unintended
consequences such as rendering someone ineligible for
Medicaid assistance, or cause an increase in otherwise
Beware of Unintended
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