Attorneys Elenora L. Benz, Esq. and Nancy Heslin Reading

FAQs - Elenora L. Benz, Esq.

Benz & Raeding LLCWhat if I am not sure  what my legal needs are?
Come check us  out! Often times, clients meet with us for a one or two hour consultation, paid  for at the time, just for purposes of gathering accurate information as to the  options that they have. Some clients then retain us to do additional work for  them, but others come just for the consultation. Many of our  clients are referred to us by attorneys, bank trust officers, accountants, and  financial planners and managers, and social workers who have already identified  a client’s need for estate planning.

Benz & Raeding LLCWhat’s included in a “complete” estate plan? Why do I need an estate plan?Couple
Wills, Trusts, and Living Wills are an integral part of almost every estate plan. A Durable Power of Attorney is a powerful business tool that should be a part of every complete estate plan. Many people believe that because their total assets are under the federal exemption amount they do not need an estate plan. Nothing could be further from reality. Everyone needs to plan for the orderly distribution of their assets after death and the appointment of executors, guardians, and trustees. This can best be done in a will, created in the context of a “complete” estate plan.

Benz & Raeding LLCNow that there the $5,000,000 federal estate and gift tax exemption has been made permanent, do I still need to do estate planning?
Estate planning is not strictly tax planning. Despite what you may have read in the press or heard on radio or television, you still need to plan your estate and it still may need tax planning. Don’t fall prey to the belief that because there is now a permanent and unified $5,000,000 federal estate and gift tax exemption that you don’t need to do any planning. Now, in fact, is an excellent time to plan your estate with the maximum flexibility built into your documents. The $5,000,000 exemption is indexed for inflation, the tax rate has been raised to 40%, and the new law passed at the end of 2012 has made the concept of portability permanent as well.

Benz & Raeding LLCWhat about other death taxes?
New Jersey has its own version of a death tax which was enacted in 2002, and for which the exemption is only $675,000. In addition to the New Jersey death tax, there is also a New Jersey Inheritance Tax from which only your spouse, civil union partner, and lineal descendants are exempt.

Benz & Raeding LLCWhat are the fee arrangements?
Consultations are paid for at the time of the  consultation. A basic set of estate documents is available at a flat fee. All  other legal work is done on a retainer basis meaning that we ask that you  deposit a retainer with us against which we can bill as services are provided.  On protracted matters such as litigation we will ask you to replenish the  retainer as needed. ALL TERMS and CONDITIONS are spelled out in a retainer  agreement provided for your review before we accept any retainer money.

Benz & Raeding LLCHow is document preparation accomplished?
I prepare all of your estate planning documents. At our second meeting, before you sign your estate planning documents, I will review these documents with you.

Benz & Raeding LLCHow do my retirement plans fit into my estate plan?
Today, significant portions of my clients’ asset mix include company-managed 401(k) plans and self-directed funds known as Individual Retirement Accounts. These tax-deferred retirement plans present challenging issues in the estate planning process. I may recommend that you include in your plan structured beneficiary designations allowing your retirement plan to work within your overall estate plan.

MotherDaughterBenz & Raeding LLCHow often should I review my estate plan?
Depending on their age, I advise my clients to review their estate plan every one, two or three years and to advise me of any personal, business, or financial changes that may affect their own estate plans. Estate planning is an on-going process and not something you do once and then forget about.

Benz & Raeding LLCHow is life insurance used in estate planning?
Holding life insurance in an irrevocable life insurance trust could help keep your heirs’ inheritance from being reduced by estate taxes. That’s one good reason to carefully consider the role of life insurance in your estate plan, either to plan for the liquidity to pay estate taxes or for asset value replacement. Remember, life insurance proceeds are not subject to income tax, but without appropriate planning for their ownership, they are included as part of your gross estate for federal estate tax purposes.

Benz & Raeding LLCHow should I store my estate planning documents?
Many of my clients have fireproof cabinets or safes at home with at least a one-hour rating and so they retain their original documents. If my clients do not have any fireproof storage available, their estate planning documents may be stored with me. Remember, only an original will may be probated without a court proceeding, so proper, safe retention is critical.

Benz & Raeding LLCHow is probate and administration of decedents’ estates accomplished?
From the first appointment with the Surrogate, through the final accounting and distribution of the estate to the beneficiaries, I offer compassionate attention to the bereaved family while providing efficient and timely service, working hand-in-hand with executors and trustees. Because I encourage executors to perform as many of the tasks of administration as they are comfortable handling, the cost of administration can be reduced. My paralegal staff also stands ready to assist with those tasks which the executor or administrator may not be comfortable in handling.


FAQs - Nancy Heslin Reading, Esq.

Benz & Raeding LLCWhat is Long Term Care Planning?
Long term care planning involves much more than buying long term care insurance although that is a great start if you can afford it. Some simple but very important steps are within reach of everyone. A long term care plan begins with executing a health care power of attorney (also known as a health care proxy) in which you appoint someone to make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. At the same time, an advance directive should be executed to guide your health care representative as to what your wishes are for your health care. You should execute a Durable Power of Attorney appointing a responsible person to handle your finances if you cannot manage them for yourself because someone will need to manage your finances, apply for Medicaid or do Medicaid planning, evaluate your Medicare coverage and determine which Medigap policy and Part D pharmaceutical coverage is right for you. These steps are affordable and within reach even if you can't afford long term care insurance.

If you can afford long term care insurance, different  insurers and plans require careful evaluation.  Also, if you have significant assets, a long term care plan  should seek to provide  excellent health care while also protecting some of your assets for future generations. Most of all, a long term care plan provides peace of mind  knowing that should the day come when you cannot provide for your own health care, the people you have hand-chosen are in place with the tools they need to provide for all your health care needs.


Benz & Raeding LLCWhen does it make sense to hire an attorney to handle your Medicaid application?
An elder law attorney can help you qualify for Medicaid by creating a “spend-down” plan if  you have assets that exceed the allowable maximum. An attorney can also be very helpful where one spouse needs nursing home care and the other will be remaining at home by fashioning a plan that protects sufficient assets for the community spouse. If you apply for Medicaid yourself and are denied, an attorney can help you evaluate whether you should appeal that result. If your assets are minimal and you have not gifted away any assets within the last five years, you probably do not need an attorney to assist you. Contact the County Board of Social Services to start the Medicaid application process.

Benz & Raeding LLCIs it true that Medicaid can take my house?
No, Medicaid does not take anyone's house in the sense that they put homeowners out in the street; however, if you are a Medicaid beneficiary and own your own home, Medicaid will have the option of recording a lien against your home after you die for the dollar value of the services they provided to you. For example, if you qualify for Medicaid and Medicaid pays out $97,000 in medical benefits for you, then when you die Medicaid can file a lien against your home to recover that $97,000 when the home is sold. If a spouse is living there, Medicaid will not enforce the lien until after the spouse dies. There are certain other exceptions, but generally Medicaid will have a lien against the property and will enforce the lien when the home is sold.  An attorney can assist you in determining what steps can be taken to avoid a Medicaid lien and whether you would fit within one of the exceptions to the lien law.


Benz & Raeding LLCIs the house protected if Mom and/or Dad transfers title to their adult children?
The answer to that question depends in large part on whether they transferred the house prior to the five year lookback period and whether they were compensated for the transfer. In other words, if the house was transferred more than five years ago or in return the adult children to whom the house was transferred paid their parents fair market value for the house, you shouldn’t have a problem. An attorney can assist you in determining whether such a transfer is advisable for you and also help you weigh the risks.

Benz & Raeding LLCWhat happens if you don’t have a Will, a Power of Attorney, etc....?
If you die without a Will someone will have to apply for letters of administration if your total assets exceeds a fairly low minimum. He or she will also need to post a bond. This process is more time consuming and much more costly than drafting a Will. Also, if you have no Will your estate will pass under the intestacy statute which means that you lose the opportunity to choose who your beneficiaries will be. Likewise, someone will need to file a guardianship application to have a guardian appointed at significant cost to you if you neglect to execute a power of attorney and health care power of attorney while you are competent to do so and later become incapacitated. Guardianships are expensive and time consuming and you don’t get to choose who your guardian will be.

Benz & Raeding LLCWhen is a Guardianship necessary?
A guardian is most often needed when someone becomes mentally incapacitated who never took the time to execute with an attorney two very important documents: a power of attorney and a health care power of attorney. These two documents allow you to designate who you want to appoint to care for you if you cannot care for yourself. If you do not execute these documents and you become incapacitated, the court will appoint a guardian for you. Guardianships can be expensive and time consuming and can result in guardianship contests if family members do not agree on who should be guardian - all good reasons to execute powers of attorney and health care powers of attorney while it can be easily done.


Benz & Raeding LLCIf someone can sign their name, does that mean they are competent to sign legal documents?
Not necessarily. A responsible attorney will always take the time before witnessing a document to make sure that the person executing the document fully understands what he or she is doing.

Benz & Raeding LLCWhat is a Fiduciary?
A fiduciary is a person or entity to whom property or power is given for the benefit of another. Executors, trustees, health care representatives and the person you appoint in your power of attorney are your fiduciaries.

Benz & Raeding LLCCan I probate a Will myself if I am the Executor?
An attorney can help you prepare the application for probate, assess whether there are likely to be taxes due, obtain a tax identification number, settle the estate and prepare an accounting for review by the beneficiaries. A simple estate with few assets and few beneficiaries can often be probated without the assistance of an attorney. 



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