Melville, New York - Vivian Garrastegui, Elder Law Attorney and Partner in Schneider, Garrastegui & Fedele, PLLC, recently joined The Donna Drake Show: Live It Up! to discuss Wills, Medicaid Planning, and Estate Planning. Vivian Garrastegui, a National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc. Member, explains what happens when someone passes away without a Last Will and Testament, why it is a bad idea to “DIY” vital documents, and how the Medicaid program works.
International award-winning host Donna Drake begins the interview by congratulating Vivian Garrastegui for being a Board Member of the Hispanic Bar and asking her why she chose Elder Law as a profession.
“I have always dealt with the elderly,” Garrastegui says. “I dealt with the elderly in college, trying to get them into auditing courses. In law school, I dealt with the elder law committee. It’s rewarding to give them the peace of mind that comes with knowing their paperwork is in order and that their intentions will be fulfilled after they pass away.”
Drake then discusses the reality of people living longer lives, necessitating Medicare and Medicaid. “When someone realizes they need help, are you the first person they can call?” she asks Garrastegui.
“Yes, that’s exactly what we handle, dealing with the Medicaid program,” Garrastegui replies. “It is a federal program that is implemented differently in every state. We advise clients how to transfer their assets, qualify for Medicaid, and protect their home, which is usually everyone’s largest investment, especially on Long Island. There are several exceptions under the law that people are not aware of. With that, we prepare trusts to protect the assets.”
Garrastegui then discusses the law pertaining to a Last Will and Testament. “It has to be executed before two witnesses, not a notary. This is a common mistake people make. They’ll take their notarized Will to an attorney, but the attorney cannot probate that Will, which is what we have to do through the Surrogate’s Court.”
Drake continues the interview by asking Garrastegui to put people’s minds at ease about working with an estate planning law firm and to explain how getting the right pieces in place can be cost-effective.
“What clients would need would be a Will, a Power of Attorney, a Health Care Proxy, and a Living Will,” Garrastegui replies. “The Power of Attorney gives an individual power over your finances, and a Health Care Proxy gives an individual the power to make medical decisions for you if you cannot make those medical decisions. Those are usually the required documents. Then, if you wanted advanced planning for Medicaid, it could be a trust. And we can go from there. Our office's Medicaid application is for home care or nursing home coverage. We deal with the elderly or the disabled. It’s a puzzle, and we need all the puzzle pieces. Those pieces include personal documentation, a birth certificate, a spouse's marriage license or death certificate, bank records, and tax returns. Once I have all of those pieces, I can submit my application.”
Finally, Drake asks Garrastegui what brings her the greatest joy. Garrastegui explains that her office also handles guardianships. “We deal with guardianships for minor children and try to protect parents’ assets, so they would pass to that child, especially if that child is disabled, to keep that child on Medicaid and a supplemental needs trust. That child can use the assets their parents have left them to buy whatever they need - a computer, a bicycle - and the government would pay for their medical needs.”
Drake ends the interview by asking Garrastegui to offer advice to anyone watching who wants to grow up to be just like her. “Determination and perseverance,” Garrastegui says.
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Clients first entrusted us to help them with their estate planning and elder law issues over 30 years ago. Since then, we have expanded our practice to include real estate, but our focus continues to be on assisting clients with some of the biggest issues they will face.
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