Online resource center to help you explore these key issues, and others, regarding your estate.

Practice Areas

Mr. Miller has many years of experience in designing and implementing a comprehensive variety of Trusts, Wills, and other estate planning documents, as well as settling estates in the most expedient and appropriate method. Further, he counsels and assists clients on becoming eligible for VA benefits and Medi-Cal.

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VA Pension/Aid & Attendance/Medi-Cal

Mr. Miller has been active in the area of VA Pension and Medi-Cal for well over a decade. He uses various specialized types of Trusts as well as non-trust strategies to gain eligibility for his clients and save the family money.

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Probate & Estate Administration

Mr. Miller has been settling estates (both simple and complex) for well over 40 years. The starting point is always to create a strategy to settle the estate in the most efficient manner possible with a minimum of taxes. Often times the strategy created allows the family to bypass Probate Court proceedings.

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The “No Estate” Myth!


By merv,

  Filed under: Blog, Estate Planning

With the troubled economic times we have faced, many people believe that estate planning will be unnecessary.  They offer reasons, such as “My house is under water so there will be nothing left,” or “I don’t have an estate.”  Especially savvy legal consumers might say, “My estate is worth less than $150,000 so no probate will be necessary.”  However, even people in this “no estate” or small estate situation can benefit from thoughtful, advance planning.

Probate avoidance is one of the top-selling reasons for estate planning.  The up-front cost of preparing the appropriate documents is usually significantly lower than the cost of administering a full probate estate.  However, the misconception that probate avoidance is the sole reason for estate planning can lead people to avoid creating a will or power of attorney, which could help prevent significant family squabbles upon death or serious illness.

First, many people do not die suddenly and without warning, particularly in their old age.  As a result, health care decisions must often be made by family members to determine the course of treatment, where to house their elderly, ill relative, and end of life determinations such as whether and when to “pull the plug.”  These decisions are deeply personal and disagreements regarding them among family can lead to needless suffering and expense, or even lawsuits and broken family relationships.  Creating a healthcare Power of Attorney allows you to direct who makes the decisions and to guide that person about your preferences in advance.

Secondly, while your ongoing health needs are being determined, it is possible that you will begin running out of money to pay for it.  In this case, access to your accounts is vital.  However, by simply adding another family member’s name to you accounts you may unwittingly disinherit the rest of your family.  Additionally, if you own a home, your incapacity will hinder your family’s ability to sell it if they decide that they need the amount of the mortgage payment or the proceeds from sale for your care.  Again, proper planning in advance can make the process simpler.  In the case of advance Medi-Cal planning using a QMap trust or advance VA Aid & Attendance non-service connected disability pension beneift planning, using a QVap trust, you could even preserve some of the tax benefits of home-ownership for yourself.

Finally, even when considering the possibility of long-term illness seems overwhelming, it is still important to consider the immediate aftermath of your death.  Regardless of how long your life has been to date, you have spent it accumulating things that you will leave behind.  In Carly Simon’s hit “Like a River,” she sings, “Dear mother the struggle is over now/ And your house is up for sale/ We divided your railroad watches/ Between the four of us/ I fought over the pearls/ With the other girls/ But it was all a metaphor/ For what was wrong with us.”  When your property is sentimental to your children and family, it is helpful to direct who should receive it or how the selection of property should be handled in disputes.  Your funeral and last illness expenses should also generally be provided for through advance planning.

In sum, it is important to recognize that “estate” does not simply refer to the positive value of your assets and “estate planning” is not simply a method of distribution.  Instead, it is a comprehensive method of helping your family cope with an already difficult and emotionally-charged time, while minimizing the possibility of intra-family squabbling.

Carly Simon sings!

Estate Planning: The Price of Organization, Rewards, Gifts, and Wondrous Tax Things… FREE REPORT: This complimentary report, focused on Estate Planning, is comprised of many of Mr. Miller’s articles from his long running column for the largest regional newspaper in San Diego County. This report will guide you through the questions surrounding getting your estate planning in order.

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About Living Trusts

About Living Trusts is hosted by the Law Offices of Merwyn J. Miller, as your online resource center to help you explore these key issues, and others, regarding your estate.

Merwyn J. Miller, J.D.

  • Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law
  • Co-Author of legal text book and of “Don’t Go Broke in a Nursing Home
  • Teacher of law courses at public and private colleges
  • Continuing Education Instructor for attorneys
  • Columnist for largest regional newspaper in San Diego County and professional journals for 15 years, Contributing author to the book “In Your Service: The Veteran’s Friend”
  • Masters Degree in Financial Services - Estate Planning
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