New Rules Issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs

November 28th, 2018 | READ MORE

Effective October 18, 2018, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has new rules regarding the eligibility of applicants applying for pension. These benefits are available to wartime Veterans and surviving spouses of wartime Veterans who are disabled and/or have additional medical needs. There are also financial limitations, which are discussed in more detail below.

Why Did the VA Change the Rules?

Before these new rules were made, the VA offered little guidance on how they determined if an applicant was “in need.” There were vague definitions and limited explanations of who would qualify for these benefits, which led to confusion among applicants and inconsistent determinations of eligibility. Now that the VA has issued clear and bright-line rules, attorneys can better advise their clients and their families, and the integrity and consistency of the pension program is upheld.

Summary of the New Rules

In addition to the minimum active duty, wartime service, and age or disability requirements for these programs, the VA has new rules to determine if an applicant is “in need.” There is now a bright-line rule regarding the net worth of an applicant. This amount is currently set at $123,600.00, and will increase annually. When calculating the net worth amount, assets are combined with annual income (assets + annual gross income = net worth). Out-of-pocket medical expenses can reduce income, and can help applicants qualify for the highest benefit. The home of an applicant is generally not included in this calculation. If the Veteran or other claimant has a net worth over the threshold and thus does not qualify for benefits, there are legal strategies available to get the calculation within the allowed range, including making qualified purchases and accounting for certain medical expenses. In addition, there is now a look-back period of 36 months when applying for needs-based pension. Any asset that was transferred for less than fair market value during the 36-month period immediately preceding the pension benefits application will result in a penalty period, not to exceed five years. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, and there are ways to cure or avoid the penalty. There are other provisions of the new rules that apply to annuities and other financial instruments. Before investing in an annuity or other asset that produces income, be sure to contact our office to discuss the possible ramifications of that investment on VA pension benefits. These new rules provide more certainty when applying to the VA for needsbased benefits. Give us a call if you would like to talk further about the changes, or to explore whether you or a loved one may qualify

2nd Location in Watkinsville Now Open!

October 15th, 2018 | READ MORE

Starting Monday, October 15th, we will begin seeing clients in our BRAND NEW Watkinsville location!

 

Yes, the Conyers office is still open! We will be splitting our time between both offices to ensure we are convenient to all of our clients.  Stay tuned for information on the Grand Opening coming soon.

1800 Hog Mountain Road, Bldg 500, Suite 101
Watkinsville, GA 30677

The French Law Group Scholarship is Here!

May 31st, 2018 | READ MORE
French Law Group

Laura French is a counselor and cheerleader of clients. Laura supports families through the many cycles of life. In her estate planning practice, she sees the wisdom imparted by those who have lived through many life experiences. So, in celebration of our elders and the wisdom they offer, French Law Group is pleased to award the Elder Wisdom Scholarship. This $500 scholarship will be presented to the student who is able to best articulate how student has benefited from the wisdom of elders, and how our broader community may embrace, engage, and celebrate our aging neighbors.

Please click here for submission information.

Using the 2012 Gift Tax Exemption to Reach Client Goals

January 10th, 2018 | READ MORE
Tax Gift Exemption

Originally Posted: 10/01/12 | WealthCounsel Quarterly | Laura French, JD, LLM (Tax)

As experienced practitioners, we have all used the annual and lifetime gift tax exclusions to benefit our clients and help them reach their financial and planning goals. In 2012, Congress has afforded a unique opportunity for all of us to transfer wealth using this year’s lifetime gift tax exclusion. This article will explore a few ways you can utilize the exclusion to better serve your clients. (more…)

How to Pull Off the Great Balancing Act

December 20th, 2017 | READ MORE

Originally posted on June 14, 2016 at LawPracticeToday.org by Nicholas Gaffney

Maintaining a healthy balance between work and personal life can be challenging in any career. With the demanding workflow that comes with being a lawyer finding a balance can often prove to be even more challenging. However, recognizing the need for balance and taking conscious actions to achieving it are essential for success in the legal field.

This month’s roundtable features lawyers from diverse practice areas who share their advice on how to maintain a healthy work/life balance. (more…)

Understanding Gift and Estate Taxes

December 20th, 2017 | READ MORE
Gift and Estate Taxes

Originally published Jul 05, 2017 on iGrad.com by Melissa Horton

Not many jump at the chance to openly discuss death and its implication on one’s finances, but estate planning is a necessary component of any well-rounded financial plan. Through estate planning, individuals can share specific wishes concerning how assets are divvied up not just at the time they pass away, but during their lifetime and the lifetime of their heirs, too. (more…)

The Legal Side of Health Care in Retirement

December 20th, 2017 | READ MORE
Legal side of Healthcare in Retirement

Originally published July 26, 2017 on ThinkAdvisor.com by David LaMartina

An overview of wills, trusts, powers of attorney and Medicaid considerations

From Medicaid qualification to powers of attorney, retirees face a variety of health care concerns that require assistance from both financial advisors and lawyers. Advisors help clients accumulate and spend assets, but to protect those assets against rising health care costs, they must often consult attorneys. (more…)