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My sister and I are going to a lawyer to inquire about Living wills, advanced directives, power of attorney and irrevocable trusts regarding my 84 year old mom who is at the beginning stages of dementia. Should we bring her with us to this inital visit with the lawyer or should she and I go on our own first?

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The attorney will speak with all of you, and generally will ask for time alone with her, to get her to speak freely. In this private conversation, he may determine that she knows what she wants OR that she no longer has the capacity to understand what she is signing for. If she is incapacitated, he may recommend you pursue Guardianship. Try to follow his advice.
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The $200K payment wouldn't have specifically been because of the revocable trust; it would have been a function of the value of the estate, composition of assets and other complicated issues.

Is your father alive? There are what are known as "step-up" issues to be considered in estate planning as well.

I think the first subject on the agenda might be to provide the attorney with a list of your mother's assets so determination can be made how best to protect them, and whether or not estate taxes would even be an issue.

My attorney provides a form for clients to complete which lists all of the various kinds of assets. That helps to better determine which should be trust assets and whether others could be held jointly.

Another issue you would want to cover is how to fund the trust. Creating of a trust doesn't automatically mean that all assets are included; they need to specifically be transfered and/or retitled in the name of the trust.

Are you and your sister the only siblings? Are there any other family members who might appropriately participate in decisions about your mother's care? Are her assets now titled in her own name or jointly? These are some questions that would be asked.

But do raise the issue of revocable or irrevocable trust and how either would protect your mother's assets. It's unfortunately not a straight forward issue.
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Thank you so much for your answer. I really appreciate it. I was advised that an irrevocable trust is probably the better option because a friend in a similar situation ended up having to pay $200,000 in estate taxes because she had a revocable trust. Ouch!
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I would say yes. It will give the attorney an opportunity to become acquainted with your mother, and ensure him/herself that your mother can still make her own decisions.

It will give your mother a sense (however limited) of participating in her own decisions, and you won't feel as if you're making plans behind her back.

To the extent that she's capable, she'll need to consider which decisions to make, but allow her the time she needs to absorb the issues. It's hard enough for those who aren't in any stage of dementia to grasp all the issues, if they're fully explained by the attorney.

I think it also shows respect for your mother, that you don't see her as already having been so compromised that you need to make decisions for her. It will be hard enough to navigate that road when you reach it.

Be sure to go in with a checklist of what you might want to accomplish and take copious notes. Even though I worked in law for years and understood many of the issues, estate (and tax) planning is so complex that afterwards I often didn't understand the issues even with my extensive note taking.

Take Mom out for lunch afterward to ease whatever difficulty and emotional concerns may have arisen during the meeting.

Be aware also that some attorneys will prepare an estate plan for a flat fee while others charge by the hour. Be sure to inquire about rates. And if for any reason you don't feel comfortable or like this attorney, feel free to try another.

You might also want to ask about the difference between revocable and irrevocable trusts. I assume you know that once executed an irrevocable trust is just that, whereas a living trust can be amended if circumstances change.

It's good that you're approaching this with an open mind and inquiring about including Mom in participation of decisions that affect her.
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Yes bring your Mom..She needs to make these decisions herself.. Also make sure the Attorney specializes in Elder Law.
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