Trusts and Estates/Elder Law

Don’t leave your future to chance — estate planning

If something were to happen to you tomorrow, do you know what would happen to your assets? Have you left behind legal documentation governing the allocation of your assets and the transfer of your property to your intended beneficiaries? Failure to leave behind proper estate planning documents can result in costly, time-consuming probate hearings for surviving family members and potentially leave your assets to people who are not deserving of them, or even to the State.

At the law firm of James A. Peterson, we explore trust and will arrangements that facilitate the easy resolution of your specific estate planning needs. Understanding how to avoid potential problems is an important component in every estate plan. Our estate planning guides you through tax considerations, asset distribution options and other issues to ensure your wishes are in order.

Not just planning for death

Estate planning should be more that just planning for the distribution of your assets after you are gone. It can also help you maintain, increase and plan for the proper use of your assets during your lifetime. Estate planning might include setting up a trust to fulfill your obligations to your children under a divorce judgment, while protecting it from the interference of your ex-spouse. It might include protecting the value of your business or other assets in the event of your disability.

Advanced directives

Estate planning should also include advance directives concerning issues of your health and medical care, such as Health Care Proxies, Powers of Attorney and Living Wills. This issue has been in the news lately and has been the subject of heated debate. Whatever your personal feelings on the issue, contact the law firm of James A. Peterson. We can help you make sure that your health care conforms to your beliefs and wishes if you should become unable to communicate those beliefs and wishes in the future.

Elder law

Many adult children of elderly parents find themselves in need of guidance when charged with putting their parents’ affairs in order. Understanding the documentation and preparation of records needed, we will work closely with you to provide for the needs of your mother, father or other family member.

Estate planning lawyer James A. Peterson advises, counsels and represents clients in the following areas of elder law:

  • Living Wills
  • Living Trusts
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Testamentary Trusts
  • Special Needs Trusts
  • Advanced Directives
  • Guardianship Proceedings
  • Simple and Complex Wills

Confronted with long-term elderly care needs?

Most elderly Americans who own homes may have trouble qualifying for governmental programs. The expensive cost of private health insurance often means seniors are unable to keep their homes to pay for health coverage. Additionally, long-term care is not covered by Medicare.

In many cases, arrangements can be made to help seniors qualify for benefit programs without requiring a liquidation of their assets. The elder law attorney James A. Peterson can explain these options and guide you in the right direction. We work directly with trust management companies who can assist you in taking advantage of allowances within the law for providing long-term Medicaid coverage to the elderly.


Proper estate planning can provide immeasurable reassurance in the present, and a smooth transition in the future. James A. Peterson is equipped to offer the best in estate planning advice. James A. Peterson remains abreast of current changes in tax and probate law and, in turn, is better able to set up your estate to maximize the preservation of your assets for your heirs or other loved ones. Listed below is some general information regarding estate planning; please review it at your leisure. For a detailed evaluation of your estate planning needs, do not hesitate to call our office immediately.

Probate and estate administration — an overview

Administration of a decedent’s estate involves, among other things, probating the estate, collection of the decedent’s assets, calculation and payment of estate taxes, and the distribution of remaining assets. An attorney who is competent and experienced in probate and estate administration can facilitate this often difficult process in a timely and effective manner. If you need help in the administration of an estate, call us today.

Probating the estate

An estate is the total property owned by a deceased individual (the decedent) prior to the distribution of that property in accordance with the terms of a will, or, when there is no will, by the laws of inheritance in the state where the decedent lived. Probate is the court procedure by which:

  • The will is proved to be valid or invalid.
  • The property covered by the will is shown to be the decedent’s.
  • If there is no will, it is determined how the property is to be distributed, in accordance with the inheritance laws of the state where the decedent lived.
  • Unpaid creditors of the decedent are given the opportunity to file claims against the estate.
  • Fees for administration of the estate are approved and paid.
  • The probate assets of the estate are distributed.

Before the property can be distributed, it is generally necessary to go through probate, or, in the case of smaller estates, a less formal procedure under the general supervision of the probate court.

Preserving estate assets

An important but sometimes neglected responsibility in administering an estate is to look for opportunities to preserve assets for distribution. Reducing estate taxes is one way that an estate can retain more of its wealth for the decedent’s heirs. Some of the ways to accomplish this are:

  • Consider whether administration expenses and casualty losses should be reported on the estate tax return or on the estate’s income tax return.
  • Consider whether there are income tax savings opportunities on the decedent’s final return (such as whether or not a joint income tax return should be filed with the surviving spouse).
  • Consider whether assets should be valued at the date of the decedent’s death or six months later (or, if assets have been distributed prior to six months after the decedent’s death, the date of the disposition of the assets).


Guiding an estate through the probate process and effectively administering that estate to take advantage of every opportunity for preserving value for distribution requires a keen understanding of the probate and tax laws. If you need help in administering an estate, contact attorney James A. Peterson, who is experienced in probate and estate administration, to ensure the most effective administration of the estate.