Vermont Estate Planning Blog

Friday, February 5, 2021

Lawyer Joke

Q: What’s the difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer?

A: A bad lawyer lets a case drag on for several years, but a good lawyer knows how to make it last even longer.


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Thursday, February 4, 2021

Tip / News: New Numbers for 2021

Estate/transfer tax

Vermont estate tax exclusion: $5,000,000

Federal estate and lifetime gift tax threshold: $11,700,000

Federal gift tax exclusion (annual): $15,000 [no change from 2020]

Vermont Medicaid

Community Spouse Resource Allowance: $130,380

Home Equity Limit (singles): $603,000




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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Hello 2021—Let’s Get Motivated!

Is there anyone sad to say goodbye to 2020?  For many of us, 2021 epitomizes the symbolic renewal of a new year, with an extra kick of life motivation.  In what ways will you channel this energy?  Unread books, unfinished household improvements, abandoned fitness routines, neglected personal affairs?  This may be the year!

All adults should tend to their personal affairs in some manner, and the task need not be painful.  (Leave the “no pain, no gain” mantra to your exercise regimen!) For some this may be a simple review of existing documents or an update of contact lists and account inventories.   But for others this may be a new venture, and we’ll review the basics.

There are three key components to estate planning: (1) distributing assets at your death; (2) managing your assets and personal affairs during life; and (3) advocating your health care treatment.
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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Fighting Pandemic Blues

Many of us are suffering from pandemic fatigue—at home, in the workplace, and in the community.  Are you taking time for your mental health? And are you finding creative ways to safely connect with family, co-workers, and friends?  Because our office maintains a hybrid model of remote and in-office scheduling, our entire team is never in the office at the same time.  While we have enjoyed some outdoor lunches at the park, our most recent outing involved a local corn maze.  We all made it out!


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Monday, October 19, 2020

Pandemic Lessons Regarding Health Advocates

Autumn is in full swing, and most of us are certainly wishing an end to 2020!  Whether you have had health issues yourself, have assisted a loved one with their health care needs, or are now simply more aware of the fact that you may someday need to rely upon another to make medical decisions, the pandemic reminds us of the importance of advanced health care planning.

All competent adults aged 18 and over should have an Advance Health Care Directive (referred to as a Health Care Proxy or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care in other nearby states).  Should you lack the ability to effectively communicate with your health care professional at anytime, this document specifies who can speak on your behalf and make health decisions.  There are many free versions of sample documents on the Department of Health’s website, and estate planning attorneys also have versions they may create for clients.  If you do one on your own, be careful to follow the directions and obtain 2 qualified witnesses.

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Monday, August 3, 2020

Office Operations - Summer 2020

Although our physical office has re-opened, we are meeting clients by appointment only.   In order to address the needs of our clients and the community while promoting safety for all, limited members of our professional team work in the office on a daily basis.  When possible, our attorneys continue to work remotely, meeting with existing and prospective clients via video or telephone conferencing. For clients visiting our office for a scheduled appointment, we have implemented office safety measures that include physical distancing, facial coverings, sneeze guards, hand sanitizer, and routine surface cleaning.  Remote (virtual) witnessing and notarization of documents is also available when appropriate.
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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Lawyer Joke

A man walked into a lawyer’s office and asked about the fee.

The lawyer responded, “It’s $100 for 3 questions.” 

“Isn’t that a lot?” asked the man. 

“Yes,” responded the lawyer….and what’s your third question?”


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Monday, July 27, 2020

Lady Bird Deed Has Soared into Vermont Statutes

An Enhanced Life Estate Deed (ELED), sometimes referred to as a “Life Estate Deed with Reserved Powers,” “Lady Bird Deed,” “Medicaid Deed,” or “Italian Deed,” graduated from Vermont’s common law into Title 27 of the Vermont Statutes when Governor Phil Scott signed the Vermont Enhanced Life Estate Deed Act into law on July 13, 2020.  Although there are variations of life estate deeds in other states, Vermont has been just one of six states that recognize an ELED.  (The 5 other states include Texas, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, and West Virginia.)

With the common law life estate remaining intact, the main purpose of the ELED Act was to clarify some of the rights and reservations of the property owner (Grantor), settling title questions raised by Courts, lenders, and title insurance  companies.

The following outline recaps the highlights of previously-existing ELED:

¨ Grantor conveys a property interest to a Grantee that takes effect upon the death of the Grantor

¨ Grantee acquires immediate title to property upon death of Grantor, without probate

¨ There is no Gift Tax return requirement, as there is no present gift

¨ The property receives a step-up in tax basis (for capital gains)upon the death of the Grantor

¨ If used as a primary residence, the property is an exempt asset for Medicaid purposes (with an equity limit of $595,000 if no spouse resides there) AND there is no transfer penalty

As an improvement upon existing common law, the ELED Act adds the following clarifications:

¨ Grantor may revoke or revise the deed without consent of Grantee

¨ Granting of mortgage does not revoke the ELED

¨ If a sole Grantee, or a “tenant-in-common” Grantee predeceases the Grantor, that interest will pass to that Grantee’s heirs or beneficiaries in Probate


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Friday, May 1, 2020

Lawyer Joke

Q: What do you call healthy lawyers voluntarily self-isolating in the future?

A: Alternate reality.


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Friday, April 24, 2020

Office Operations

Like many professional businesses, our attorneys and staff have been working remotely since the end of March, serving the needs of existing and prospective clients “virtually.”  In accordance with the Governor’s most recent Order, some staff have returned to our physical location, though attorneys will continue to connect with clients via telephone and video chat.  When our entire team can return to our physical offices, we will continue to routinely sanitize and practice social distancing in order to promote the safety of our clients, staff, and community.


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Friday, April 24, 2020

Indoor Scavenger Hunt-Estate Edition

There’s no debating that we are living through unprecedented and challenging times right now.  While many are combating this pandemic on the front lines, many more of us are following the “stay home, stay safer” model prescribed by our leaders.  And staying home may be on our agenda for longer than originally expected or what some of us think we can tolerate.  The binge-watching, the banana bread baking, the macaroni necklace crafting, the mask-sewing, the spring cleaning, closet organizing, and the list goes on. Have you run out of ways to spend your time at home?

Here’s another suggestion: indoor scavenger hunt—estate edition.

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