When Your Child Turns 18 They Are Now a Legal Adult – Without These Docs You Can’t Make Decisions for Them in an Emergency

Leaving the nest to pursue higher education is a momentous step in a young adult’s life. The thrill of new experiences, intellectual growth, and newfound independence is often at the forefront of college students’ minds. Yet, in the midst of this excitement, there exists a crucial but often overlooked aspect: the need for comprehensive healthcare planning. The combination of a HIPAA authorization, healthcare proxy, living will, and power of attorney forms a vital shield of protection for college students and other young adults, ensuring their well-being, autonomy, and peace of mind.

HIPAA Authorization

The HIPAA authorization, an acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a legal document that permits designated individuals, often parents or guardians, to access a college student’s (or other young adult’s) private medical information. Once a person reaches the age of 18, their medical records are legally shielded from family members’ access without explicit permission. The HIPAA authorization acts as a bridge between privacy and the need for critical health-related communication. In a scenario where a college student is incapacitated due to illness or injury, the HIPAA authorization empowers their trusted family members or representatives to collaborate with healthcare providers, gather essential medical information, and make informed decisions about treatment options. It safeguards the student’s privacy while allowing their support system to actively participate in their healthcare journey.

Healthcare Proxy

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The Healthcare Proxy, also known as a Medical Power of Attorney or Advanced Directive, is a document that designates an individual to make medical decisions on behalf of young person if they are unable to do so themselves. A college student might find themselves in a situation where they cannot express their preferences due to an unforeseen medical event. The healthcare proxy steps in as their voice, ensuring that medical decisions align with the student’s values, beliefs, and wishes. Consider a case where a college student is involved in a car accident and is unconscious. The healthcare proxy, appointed based on the student’s prior wishes, can collaborate with medical professionals to make decisions about treatments and procedures. This grants peace of mind to both the student and their family, as they know that critical medical choices will be made according to the student’s desires.

Living Will

While contemplating end-of-life decisions might be unsettling, a Living Will is a compassionate gift a college student or young adult can give to their loved ones. This legal document outlines the individual’s preferences regarding medical interventions and end-of-life care. It removes the burden from family members who might otherwise have to make emotionally challenging decisions during a time of crisis. The transition to college marks a period of newfound independence, where legal and financial responsibilities often fall on the student’s shoulders.

Power of Attorney

However, life is unpredictable, and accidents or illnesses can strike at any time. A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal instrument that empowers a trusted person, often a parent or family member, to manage legal, financial and administrative matters on behalf of the student if they become incapacitated. Imagine a college student facing a severe medical condition that renders them unable to handle their finances or legal obligations. The designated Power of Attorney can step in, ensuring bills are paid, contracts are managed, and critical financial decisions are made with the student’s best interests in mind. The POA provides a safety net, allowing the student to focus on recovery while ensuring their affairs are managed competently.

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Empower and Protect Your Young Adult

The whirlwind of college life and exuberance of youth can distract students and other young adults from considering their vulnerability to unexpected health challenges. The quartet of a HIPAA Authorization, Healthcare Proxy, Living Will, and Power of Attorney stands as an indispensable fortress of protection for college students and others. These documents empower young people to maintain their privacy while enabling their loved ones to support their healthcare journey. They guarantee that medical decisions reflect the person’s wishes and values, even when they cannot express them directly. Moreover, these documents ensure that legal and financial matters are handled seamlessly during times of incapacitation. By embracing these legal instruments, college students in particular can embark on their academic journey with the assurance that their physical, emotional, and legal well-being is fortified against life’s uncertainties.

Marc Guertin is the principal at Marc Guertin, Attorney at Law, LLC in North Haven, Connecticut. Call/Text 203-500-0201 or email Marc@attorneymarc.com to schedule a complimentary consultation.

How to Plan and Pay for Long-Term Care

Over the years I’ve learned that one of the major concerns for many of my clients is the thought of needing skilled nursing care in the future and wondering how they would pay for it. This is a valid concern because spending time in a long-term care facility can be financially devastating. Currently, this type of care can cost about $15,000-$20,000 per month, which can quickly eliminate one’s life savings. There are ways to address this concern, however it requires planning in advance, long before you actually require such care.

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There are three different options to pay for the cost of care. The first option is Long Term Care Insurance. Long Term Care Insurance will pay for your skilled-facility care (subject to the insurance companies rules and restrictions). This type of insurance is effective, however, it may not be cost effective. Long Term Care Insurance policies are an expensive and ongoing cost that make it an impractical option for some.

The second option is to pay for the care with your own assets. Many people choose this route until their assets are depleted. At that point, a third option becomes available– Medicaid. Medicaid will pay for many of the expenses associated with skilled nursing care.   


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Some people give their assets away in advance of needing skilled nursing care to qualify for Medicaid more easily. Giving away your money (to a child, for example) may sound like a good idea, but it can be risky. Children can get divorced, sued, have creditor issues, or can become catastrophically ill. As a result, the assets gifted to your child can be lost.


Per current laws, if you are going to give assets away you MUST do it at least five years before you need care in order to qualify for Medicaid. As I said above, it’s not wise to give assets directly to individuals for a variety of reasons. In this case, it’s better to set up an Irrevocable Trust for your assets. Irrevocable Trusts create an opportunity to safely protect your assets. The Trust creates “a wall” between the person needing care (you) and their assets, which protects the assets (inside the Trust) from having to be spent on care. Once the assets have been in the Trust for five years, they are completely protected from skilled nursing care costs. And if you have little or no assets left outside the Trust, Medicaid picks up the tab for the care.

It’s important to know and review your options while you’re still in good health. If you’re thinking about a Trust, the five-year look back for Medicaid begins as soon as you fund the Trust, so the sooner you can make a plan the better. If you would like to learn more about protecting your assets and discuss your unique situation, I offer a free initial consultation. Video, phone and in-person appointments are available.

Marc Guertin is the principal at Marc Guertin, Attorney at Law, LLC in North Haven, Connecticut. Visit AttorneyMarc.com, call 203-500-0201 or email Marc@attorneymarc.com to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Now Is a Good Time to Review Your Estate Planning Documents

As the summer winds down and we round the final corner of 2023, now is a good time to review your estate plan and make sure it still meets your needs and goals. I recommend to my clients that they review their plans at least once a year. Fall will be here sooner than most of us would like, and will be quickly followed by the busiest season of the year for many of us– the holidays. So if changes to your plan are necessary, now is a good time to make them.

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I encourage you to find an hour of time and a quiet space in the next few weeks to review your estate planning documents. These might include Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Directives and Living Wills, life insurance policies, financial records and any other important documents. 

When you’re reading through them, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I understand what these documents do/mean?
  2. Do the documents still represent my wishes?
  3. Are the beneficiaries correct? Has there been a recent birth or death in my family that requires an update or change to my documents?
  4. Are the people I have put in positions of power (executor/guardian/trustee/power of attorney) still the right people for the job? Are they still alive? Are the right back-up people in place? 
  5. Are these Wills (or other documents) so old that they should be in a museum?

Asking yourself these questions as you review your estate planning documents will help you determine if it’s time to make changes to them. If your plan and/or documents no longer conform to your wishes, then it’s time to make an appointment with your attorney or other trusted professional to make the necessary updates. And if you have questions about what’s in your documents or what they do or mean, now is a good time to reach out to your advisor to get those answers.

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Marc Guertin is the principal at Marc Guertin, Attorney at Law, LLC in North Haven, Connecticut. If you would like to talk about your plan, free initial consultations are available via video, phone or in-person appointments. Call 203-500-0201 or email marc@attorneymarc.com to schedule a time to meet.

A Basic Estate Plan Is Simple to Make

Every adult should have a basic estate plan that contemplates both life and death. The basic plan should include four key documents– a Will, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directive, and a Living Will which I describe briefly below.

A Will, short for Last Will and Testament, can be a simple document distributing assets outright to your heirs or it can be more complex; planning for all types of situations from minor children to special needs beneficiaries.  A Will acts like a roadmap on how and when to distribute your assets to your heirs.   

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A basic plan should plan for more than just your death, however. It should also plan for your incapacity. The core document needed for this type of planning is a Durable Power of Attorney. A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an agent who can handle your financial affairs if you should become incapacitated. This document is critically important. Without a Durable Power of Attorney, no one has the power to manage your affairs while you are incapacitated. The only way to get that kind of power once you are incapacitated would be to go to court. This puts additional burden on your loved ones in what would be an already stressful and difficult time.

Healthcare Directives and Living Wills are also extremely important when planning for incapacity as they focus on your health. A Healthcare Directive appoints someone to interact with healthcare professionals and make decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. A Living Will lets you inform your doctors (and loved ones) of your wishes regarding what extraordinary medical procedures you want performed, if you are in a terminal condition with no hope of recovery.  It details your exact intentions, which is incredibly beneficial to your family as it takes the weight of those decisions off their shoulders.

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This is just a quick synopsis of the basic estate planning documents every adult should have. Each person is unique so I suggest sitting down with a qualified attorney to discuss your situation and goals. Many attorneys (like myself) offer free consultations to talk more about what documents you should have and answer your questions, including how long it’ll take to finalize your plan and how much it’ll cost. A basic estate plan like the one I outlined above should be affordable for most, and some attorneys will work out payment plans with you if necessary. And it really shouldn’t take more than a few weeks to complete once you’ve engaged an attorney and picked your plan.

Marc Guertin is the principal at Marc Guertin, Attorney at Law, LLC in North Haven, Connecticut. Call 203-500-0201 or email Marc@attorneymarc.com to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Essential Tips for Estate Planning with Special Needs Beneficiaries

If there’s one thing you should learn from reading this article it’s that I strongly discourage people from establishing custodial accounts or leaving cash outright to beneficiaries with disabilities. If you do, the outright distribution of assets may cause unintended problems for the beneficiary. For example, when the assets of an individual with special needs exceed the governmental financial resource limits, the individual may be disqualified from both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.  

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A more appropriate way to pass an inheritance to a special needs beneficiary is to utilize a Supplemental Needs Trust.  A Supplemental Needs Trust containing certain provisions may be established to administer and distribute Trust assets to a beneficiary with special needs without otherwise disqualifying them from governmental benefits. 

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With a properly drafted Supplemental Needs Trust assets in the Trust are not counted for the purpose of determining eligibility for governmental benefits. This makes Supplemental Needs Trusts a valuable tool in planning for disabled individuals and their families. The process requires careful consideration of many issues however, and should be approached with care by a qualified professional. If you would like to learn more about Supplemental Needs Trusts, let’s talk about it.

Marc Guertin is the principal at Marc Guertin, Attorney at Law, LLC in North Haven, Connecticut. Visit Attorneymarc.com, call 203-500-0201 or email Marc@attorneymarc.com to schedule a complimentary consultation.

If You Have Kids Under 18, Choosing a Guardian Is One of the Hardest But Most Important Decisions You’ll Make as a Parent

Parents today face many tough decisions. One of the toughest has to be, ‘Who will care for my children should I pass away or become incapacitated?’ 

Many parents struggle with choosing a Guardian for their minor children. And while that’s completely natural and understandable, appointing a Guardian is one of the most loving and responsible things a parent can do. Practically speaking, adding a Guardian to estate planning documents is the “easy” part; choosing a Guardian is much more difficult. My best advice is to look for a viable choice, not necessarily the perfect choice. After all, the perfect choice does not exist. You are the perfect choice! What you’re really looking for is a “runner up” so to speak.  

How Do I Approach Choosing a Guardian?

Unfortunately, there is no magic answer. Choosing a Guardian is a process that requires thoughtful consideration. Being by making a broad list of possible choices. Include ALL of the people you think could be good Guardians. Do not limit yourself at this point. Consider including your siblings, parents, and other extended family members. Friends can make terrific Guardians as well. 

Focus on Love

Once you’ve made your list, you might be tempted to rule out some choices on your list based on finances. Don’t! It is your job to financially plan for your children. And you can provide funds for your children through proper estate planning. Many parents utilize life insurance to create an “instant estate” to care for the family that they leave behind. So don’t worry so much about the person’s finances or the size of their house. And don’t eliminate a potential Guardian because you think they don’t make enough money.

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Ask Yourself, ‘Does this Person Have the Capacity to Love My Children Like I Do?’

What you really want to think about at this stage of the process is whether the people on your list would genuinely love your children. You want Guardians who will treat your children as you would. When evaluating your list of names, it’s also important to consider their values and philosophies. Is it important to you that the people on your list think similarly about life, child rearing, religion, and education? Maybe yes, or maybe no. But they are important considerations, as these factors will have a direct impact on how your child or children are raised if you pass away or become incapacitated.

Would Your Kids Be a Good Fit with Your Choice?

Next consider some of the practical factors associated with Guardianship. How would raising your children fit into the Guardian’s lifestyle? Do they have the necessary health and stamina to raise your kids? Do the potential Guardians have other children? If so, do they have a good relationship with your children? 

A Difficult Process But It’s Worth It

There are many important considerations when choosing Guardians for your kids. The ones I’ve discussed here are just some of the factors you should think about. It’s a difficult process to go through, but know that as you work through these questions you will ultimately arrive at the “runner up” you’re seeking. Remember to look for love first, and then address the practical factors of whether a person could manage the role. And again while this is challenging to think about, making these difficult decisions now is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child if you are no longer here to take care of them.

If you ‘d like to come in and talk about updating your existing plan or making a new one, I offer free initial consultations and am available to meet over video, by phone or in-person at my office in North Haven. Call 203-500-0201 or email Marc@AttorneyMarc.com to schedule a time to get together.

What’s the Difference Between Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts?

The difference between revocable and irrevocable Trusts is pretty simple. One Trust is capable of being reversed, and the other is not. But that answer isn’t usually what my clients are looking for when they ask me this question. What they really want to know is, ‘What type of Trust is right for me?’

Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts are similar.  Both types of Trusts act like a legally constructed container (a box) that holds property for the “beneficiary” of the Trust. The beneficiary can be an individual, an institution or a charity.

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Revocable Trusts are like an open box. You can put assets into and take assets out of the box. The box is like an alter ego for yourself. You have total control.  In contrast, an Irrevocable Trust functions like a closed box. You can put assets into the Irrevocable Trust but give up direct control.   Your designated trustee controls the assets inside the Irrevocable Trust, not you.

Revocable Trusts are good at minimizing the Probate process. They are also very good at avoiding or minimizing estate taxes. Revocable Living Trusts are beneficial in many other ways as well.  Unfortunately, they are not good at protecting assets against the high cost of nursing home care, a deciding factor for many.

If the costs of nursing home care are a concern, Irrevocable Trusts can help. Irrevocable Trusts are a legal entity separate from the person who creates it. As a “closed box trust” Irrevocable Trusts insulate the assets inside the trust from the cost of nursing home care.  However, they must be set up properly and well in advance of nursing home care.

If you’re not sure what kind of Trust is right for you, let’s talk about it. Call or email me to schedule a complimentary estate planning consultation. I will help you put together a plan that fits you and your family.

Marc Guertin is the principal at Marc Guertin, Attorney at Law, LLC in North Haven, Connecticut. Visit AttorneyMarc.com, call 203-500-0201 or email Marc@attorneymarc.com to schedule a complimentary consultation.

My Kids, Your Kids and Our Kids – Planning for a Blended (Step) Family

A blended family or step family is often comprised of children who are natural to only one parent, as well as children that are natural to both parents.  Planning for blended families focuses on several issues including disinheriting ex-spouses, protecting children from previous marriages, providing for the new spouses, providing for the children of the new marriage.

Imagine Your Ex-Spouse Managing Your Estate

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Without proper legal planning, your ex-spouse, as surviving parent/Guardian, would likely be appointed by the Probate Court to manage the inheritance you leave to your children.  That’s right, your ex-spouse… managing your money.  To make matters worse; what if your children later predeceased your ex-spouse, and were single and childless at that time?  Who would inherit your assets then? That is right… your ex-spouse, as the next-of-kin of your children, would inherit your assets.   

Proper Planning Protects Everyone

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In the absence of a Prenuptial Agreement to maintain separate assets, most spouses in blended families tend to blend (combine) their wealth.   However, if you predecease your new spouse, then you may forever disinherit your own children of your share of such blended wealth!  Thereafter, upon the death of your new spouse, your assets may be inherited by your stepchildren, or even by your new spouse’s next spouse and their children.  A Will with Trust provisions or a Revocable Living Trust can prevent this problem.

Proper planning can control where your assets go, and how they are used when they get there.  This is especially important when planning for blended families and their unique needs.  Although blended families face unique issues, these obstacles can be overcome through proper planning. 

If you’d like to sit down with me and talk about putting together a plan, I offer free initial consultation. Video, phone and in-person consultations are available. Call me at 203-500-0201or email marc@attorneymarc to schedule an appointment.

I’ve been appointed Executor. Now What?

By Attorney Marc Guertin

When a person passes away, their assets and estate need to be managed and distributed according to their wishes. This crucial responsibility falls on the shoulders of an executor. An executor is an individual or a professional appointed by the deceased person in their will or by a court to administer their estate. The role of an executor is a significant one, involving various responsibilities and duties.

Initiate the Probate Process

One of the primary responsibilities of an executor is to initiate the probate process. Probate is the legal process of proving the validity of a will and distributing the deceased person’s assets. The executor must file the necessary documents with the appropriate court to commence the probate proceedings. This includes submitting the original will, death certificate, and other required paperwork.

Asset Inventory and Valuation

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An executor must identify and locate all the assets and liabilities of the deceased person’s estate. This involves creating a comprehensive inventory of the assets, such as properties, bank accounts, investments, personal belongings, and debts. The executor also needs to obtain professional valuations of the assets to determine their fair market value.

Estate Administration

Once the assets are identified and valued, the executor is responsible for managing and administering the estate. This includes safeguarding the assets, paying off debts and taxes, and ensuring that the estate’s assets are properly managed during the administration period. The executor may need to open an estate bank account to handle financial transactions on behalf of the estate.

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Communication and Notification

Executors are responsible for notifying beneficiaries and creditors about the death of the estate owner. They must communicate with various individuals and entities, such as family members, beneficiaries, financial institutions, and government agencies. Executors should keep all relevant parties informed about the progress of the estate administration process.

Distribution of Assets

One of the most critical duties of an executor is to distribute the estate’s assets to the beneficiaries according to the instructions laid out in the will. The executor must follow the legal requirements and any specific provisions outlined in the will while making these distributions. This can involve transferring property titles, distributing financial assets, and coordinating the transfer of other assets.

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Tax Compliance

Executors are responsible for ensuring the estate’s compliance with tax laws. They must file the necessary tax returns on behalf of the deceased person and the estate. This may include income tax returns, estate tax returns, and any other applicable tax forms. Executors should work closely with tax professionals to fulfill these obligations accurately and on time.

Executors play a crucial role in ensuring that the deceased person’s wishes, as expressed in their
will, are carried out. They act as fiduciaries, holding a position of trust, and must act in the best
interests of the estate and beneficiaries. Executors bring order and structure to the estate administration process. They ensure that the necessary legal and financial steps are taken promptly and accurately, which helps to prevent disputes and conflicts among beneficiaries and creditors.

Marc Guertin is the principal at Marc Guertin, Attorney at Law, LLC in North Haven, CT. Visit AttorneyMarc.com. Call 203-500-0201 or email marc@attorneymarc.com to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Estate Planning for Artists and Other Creatives

Estate planning is essential for everyone, but it can be especially important for
artists and creatives. Not only do these individuals often have unique assets and
income streams, but they may also have specific wishes for how their intellectual
property and legacy are managed after they pass away. In this article, we’ll explore
some key considerations for artists and creatives when it comes to estate planning.

Identify Your Assets
One of the first steps in estate planning is identifying your assets. For artists and
creatives, this may include not only physical assets like artwork or studio
equipment, but also intellectual property like copyrights, trademarks, and patents.
It’s important to have a clear understanding of what you own and how it’s valued,
as this can help inform decisions about how to distribute your estate.
Consider a Trust
For many artists and creatives, a trust can be an effective estate planning tool. A
trust is a legal arrangement in which a trustee holds and manages assets on behalf
of beneficiaries. There are several types of trusts. One common option is a
revocable living trust. This type of trust allows you to retain control over your
assets while you’re alive, but it also provides a plan for managing your assets if you
become incapacitated or pass away.
A trust can be particularly useful for artists and creatives because it can provide for
the ongoing management of intellectual property rights. For example, you might
create a trust that holds the rights to your artwork or music and designate a trustee
to manage those rights after your death. This can help ensure that your creative
legacy is protected and managed according to your wishes.

photo of woman writing on tablet computer while using laptop
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Plan for Digital Assets
In today’s digital world, it’s important to consider how your digital assets will be
managed after your death. This might include things like social media accounts,
websites, and online storage accounts. Depending on the terms of service for these
accounts, it may be difficult or impossible for your heirs to access or manage them
without proper authorization. One way to plan for your digital assets is to create a digital estate plan. This might involve creating a list of your digital accounts and login information, as well as instructions for how you want those accounts to be managed after your death. You might also consider designating a digital executor who can help manage your digital assets in accordance with your wishes.
Consider the Tax Implications
Another important consideration in estate planning is the tax implications of your
estate. Depending on the size of your estate, there may be federal and/or state
estate taxes that need to be paid. It’s important to work with a qualified estate
planning attorney and/or tax professional to understand the tax implications of your
estate plan, and to develop strategies for minimizing tax liability.

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Communicate Your Wishes Finally, it’s important to communicate your wishes to your loved ones and trusted
advisors.This might involve discussing your estate plan with family members, friends, or business partners, as well as providing copies of important documents like your will or trust. You might also consider designating a trusted individual to serve as the executor of your estate or the trustee of your trust. By communicating your wishes clearly, you can help ensure that your creative legacy is protected and managed in accordance with your desires. This can provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones and help ensure that your legacy lives on for future generations.

Marc Guertin is the principal at Marc Guertin, Attorney at Law, LLC in North Haven, CT. Call 203-500-0201 or email marc@attorneymarc.com to schedule a complimentary consultation.