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As estate planning and elder law attorneys, we receive this question all of the time. As a general rule of thumb, the answer is no, you are not liable for the debts of another individual. However, there are some exceptions to that general rule, which is why it is essential to seek professional advice when a loved one passes, especially a spouse who had debt in his or her name alone.
For example, there are a few situations where a spouse would be liable for the debt of a spouse, and they are a few of the following:
1. If a spouse co-signs on a loan for a spouse, then they also own the debt.
2. If a spouse is a joint account holder of a credit card with their spouse, then they are also liable for the credit card as a joint owner.
3. If a spouse has jointly owned property, and that property has a liability, then the joint owner would as well.
These exceptions are obviously pretty clear, which all point to the situation where the spouse is either an owner or co-signed for the debt one way or another.
However, in the State of Pennsylvania, there is a doctrine called “The Doctrine of Necessities.” Essentially, it provides that a spouse is liable to provide for the necessities of their spouse. While this is certainly not a doctrine that is used all the time, it is possible that a spouse could be held liable for their spouse’s debt that was incurred prior to death if it is deemed to be a necessity and is deemed that the spouse has a duty to support the other spouse.
Although this is rare, it is definitely something not to overlook and, again, is why we recommended that you seek legal counsel when a spouse passes away to make sure that everything is taken care of properly and that you don’t assume any personal liability for any inadvertent omissions.
Please, if you have any questions or concerns about your financial future should your spouse die, contact us at (717) 844-9218 or fill in our contact us form and we’ll get back to you.
What Are Elder Law and Special Needs Planning?Elder law and special needs planning involve preparing for expected and unexpected life circumstances, including the possibility of becoming incapacitated as well as protecting and providing for future needs of loved ones with disabilities.At its core, Elder Law focuses on the unique needs of older persons and practice areas that address issues of concern for aging adults, adults with disabilities/incapacity, their families and caregivers. Unlike traditional estate planning, Elder Law begins by assisting you with issues associated with a long and healthy life, rather than simply planning for death. It mixes legal and practical issues such as being able to continue residing in your home if you had a chronic condition, having someone help in managing your finances, and not becoming a victim of financial abuse in the process. Elder law endeavors to help you solve the problem of not knowing what you dont know.Special Needs Law focuses on solving legal problems for individuals with special needs and their caregivers. Although there is no uniform definition of special needs, the phrase describes individuals with a wide variety of physical or mental conditions who require assistance with personal care needs, activities of daily living, paying bills, managing finances, etc., who may be vulnerable to and need protection from exploitation or abuse, and who may need access to public benefits or any number of other types of assistance. If you currently provide care for a child or loved one with special needs (such as mental or physical disabilities), you must have contemplated what may happen to him or her when you are no longer able to serve as the caregiver. Frequently, parents and grandparents are concerned about how their children and grandchildren will be cared for after the parents or grandparents deaths and want to plan in advance to protect their special needs loved one. Elder Law and Special Needs Planning encompass many different fields of law, including, for example: Disability planning, durable powers of attorney, living trusts, advance directives, other tools to delegate management and decision-making to another in case of incompetency or incapacity Estate planning, including the management of finances and assets during life and disposition on death using trusts, wills, and other instruments Special/Supplemental Needs Trusts Conservatorships and guardianships Long-term care planning and placements Trust and probate/estate administration Elder abuse and financial exploitation Medicaid planning Retirement and Social Security planningWhen each day seems to present a new challenge, thinking about the future can be overwhelming. A plan can help break things down into achievable pieces. No matter what age or stage, it is getting started that counts.This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.This article was submitted by Ashley Day, Esq., A Day Law, LLC. Reach her at 251-277-3377.
The short answer is no, they are not the same. A DNR stands for a DO NOT RESUSCITATE order. A Living Will is a completely different document that is used during a very different time.A DNR should be entered into at your doctors office or in the hospital, not at your local estate planning and elder law attorneys office.Typical estate planning documents that an attorney will assist you with would include a financial and medical power of attorney as well as a Last Will and Testament and maybe a Trust of some type. The confusion often lies in the fact that in a medical power of attorney, you will often see a Living Will as a part of the document.This is collectively known as an Advance Healthcare Directive if medical power of attorney and living will are together in one document. The Living Will does not kick in until the individual is end-stage medical. While there is a very long medical definition for this term, I simply like to state it as when two qualified physicians put in writing that there is no realistic hope of recovery and that you will always remain vegetative, comatose, permanently unconscious, and terminally ill. A medical power of attorney, living will, or advanced health care directive are often documents that are obtained from your estate planning and elder law attorney and not from your health care provider.On the other hand, a DNR or DO NOT RESUSCITATE order is intended to let emergency and other medical professionals know whether or not they should resuscitate you. Methods often used for resuscitation would be things such as defibrillators, breathing tubes, ventilators, CPR, and other invasive techniques.The DO NOT RESUSCITATE order comes into play when the heart has stopped beating or the person has stopped breathing. The medical power of attorney, on the other hand, comes into play when the person simply cannot answer questions for themselves. That could be for numerous other reasons, such as being under sedation or incapacitated, unconscious due to an accident, or unable to speak.Certainly, it does not necessarily mean that the heart has stopped beating or that you have stopped breathing. The Living Will does not kick in until the end of life, but the heart is often beating, sometimes due to heroic and lifesaving measures, but the DNR will prevent those heroics if that is your wish.We truly believe that it is imperative for you to talk to your estate planning and elder law attorney about the estate planning documents as outlined above as well as discuss with your doctor about a DNR order. While you are discussing the DNR order, we would also recommend that you have a conversation with your healthcare professional about a POLST (Physicians Order of Life-Sustaining Treatment). These are documents that will be obtained directly from your doctor and they will be able to assist you with the nuances of how they work.We hope this article provided insight into the definition of a DO NOT RESUSCITATE order and the difference between a medical power of attorney and a Living Will. If you would like further information about these items, contact our office. Wed be more than happy to assist you. Call us at (717) 845-5390.
It is very easy with everything that is going on in our country and our world right now, to be concerned about the pandemic and start to think about your own mortality and planning. While we recommend planning at all times to always be prepared ahead of time, this certainly provides a reminder for us to stop and take a look at our current situation to make sure that we have at least our basics in place. Powers of AttorneyEach person should have a financial power of attorney that authorizes another individual to make financial decisions on their behalf in case they cannot. They could be unable to because of an illness or an incapacitation or simply just not in town, or maybe they are traveling out of the country. We cannot stress the importance of having a financial power of attorney in place to avoid the necessity for guardianship. We have discussed in detail in other blogs and articles about powers of attorney and guardianships, and we would encourage you to please take a further look at those, and why it would become important to have a financial power of attorney in place.A medical power of attorney is an essential document that authorizes another individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are not capable or able to make those medical decisions for yourself. Although there is a healthcare statute in the state of Pennsylvania that will name the next of kin to be able to make those healthcare decisions in case you cannot, we stress the importance enough of having this document in place to ensure that the people that you want making those decisions can make them without unintended people being named as well. When you reach the end-of-life stage it's also important that you have in place a living will. If the living will is coupled in one single document with a medical power of attorney, that is also considered an advanced healthcare directive. We recommend having these documents in place to ease the burden on your family. This will save them from having to make those end-of-life decisions if two qualified physicians put in writing that there is no realistic hope of recovery that you will always remain end-stage medical or vegetative, comatose, permanently unconscious, or terminally ill. There is certainly a lot that goes into the medical definition, but plainly stated, it is imperative to decide for yourself how you would like those decisions to be made rather than to put the burden on a loved one to feel like they have to play God or pull the plug on their family member. Review Your Current Documents, Including Beneficiaries, to Ensure They Meet Your Needs and Desires We encourage anyone who has planning in place to not assume that it is up to date or that it is what their current wishes are, things change over time. It is also important to review all of your beneficiary designations on accounts, such as life insurance policies, annuities, retirement accounts, etc. Often, the most overlooked item is reviewing the beneficiary designations of an account, and it is probably the most critical thing that can screw up an estate plan. Please make it a priority to review your documents to make sure they accurately reflect your wishes. If you have questions or need to make some changes we would be more than happy to see you at one of our workshops to discuss the different documents and how they can assist you and your family. We certainly understand if there is any anxiety or stress that you are experiencing but encourage you to be prepared no matter what, which will give you a sense of comfort and security. If you would like further information about this topic or to learn more about our firm, please visit us at www.bellomoassociates.com or call the office at 717-845-5390.
We Educate so what happened to the Bellomo Family doesn't happen to yours!Our firms mission is to ensure that you and your family never needlessly, painfully suffer. Every team member has a personal story that has brought us here to advocate for you and your family. We want to replace your burden with peace of mind. We have the answers, but more important, we have your back.Bellomo & Associates, LLC advises Individuals and families, business owners, senior citizens, and their families about the estate planning and elder law challenges facing them today. For seniors and their families facing the issues of aging, or for those of any age who wish to protect their familys financial future, we counsel clients and provide solutions on Asset Protection; Specials Needs Trusts; Wills; Trust Design; Medicaid; Estate Planning; Nursing Home Matters; and Estate Administration. For our clients who own businesses, our team assists them with succession planning for their business in conjunction with their estate planning. We have office locations in York, PA, and Lancaster, PA.We offer FREE workshops! Our workshops are fun and entertaining ways to learn! We provide you with the information to decide what is right for you. If after attending, you decide we arent the right fit no problem! Youll never feel any pressure from our team.