By Matthew A. Quick
A Will (also known as a “Last Will and Testament”) is a legally-binding instrument that, in the event of death, directs property and the care and custody of minor children. A Will does not direct all property in a person’s estate while they are living, only the property that remains titled solely in the name of the deceased. For example, a Will does not direct property that is transferred to a beneficiary at death (as is usually the case with life insurance); a Will does not direct property or accounts that are held jointly and remain with the survivor (such as jointly held real estate or bank accounts); nor does a Will direct property that has been placed in a trust during the decedent’s lifetime.
Regarding the care and custody of minor children, a Will can propose a guardian. In most instances, a Guardianship Information Form or Letter of Intent Information Form is incorporated into the Will, thus giving the proposed guardian information regarding the minor children that includes medical and educational history, religious preference, special needs, recreational activities and other helpful information.
Furthermore, a Will makes arrangements for the payment of debts, taxes, expenses and costs, and elects a person to take the necessary legal steps to carry out the instructions put into the Will (referred to as a “Personal Representative” or “Executor/Executrix”).
In order for a Will to function it must be given power by a court through a process referred to as probate. During the probate process, the Will is authenticated; creditors, fees, costs and taxes are paid; and the directions of the Will are followed. Probate can be costly and time consuming, thus an educated analysis of one’s estate should be completed to determine whether probate should and could be avoided. CAVEAT: consult an estate planning professional before changing ownership of property to avoid probate; the consequences of changing ownership could be unintended and detrimental without appropriate consideration.
Regardless of how complex or simple the estate, a Will is always included in an estate plan, whether it is used to dispose of someone’s entire estate, direct the care and custody of minor children or act as a safety-net for property that was accidentally not included in a trust or other arrangement. Rather than a simple form that can be purchased online or at an office supply store, a Will is a document that requires significant thought to include proper detailed instructions and avoid improper taxes and fees.
This article unfortunately cannot contemplate all types of dental insurance; however, let us consider the two primary dental insurance models: managed care plans and fee-for-service plans. Managed care plans, according to the American Dental Association (www.ada.org), are cost containment systems that direct the utilization of health care. In other words, a managed care plan controls medical costs by (a) restricting the type, level and frequency of treatment; (b) limiting the access to care; and (c) controlling the level of reimbursement for services.
Two main divisions of managed care plans have emerged: a Dental Preferred Provider Organization (referred to as a “Dental PPO”) and a Dental Health Maintenance Organization (referred to as a “DHMO”). A Dental PPO allows the patient to choose a dentist regardless of whether the dentist is in-network or out of network. An in-network dentist under a Dental PPO is contracted by the insurance company to receive a discounted fee for services. Alternatively, an out of network dentist under a Dental PPO does not have a contract with the insurance company; thus, the patient would then likely have to co-pay for services.
According to the American Dental Association, a DHMO is a capitation plan that pays contracted dentists a fixed amount (usually on a monthly basis) per enrolled family or individual, regardless of utilization. In other words, in exchange for a fee, a patient would have access to dentists that are paid by the insurance company. In return, the dentists agree to provide specific types of treatment to the patient at no charge (for other treatments, a co-payment is required). Theoretically, the DHMO rewards dentists who keep patients in good health, thereby keeping future costs low. DHMO models typically offer the least expensive dental plans.
A fee-for-service plan (known as a “dental reimbursement plan” or “DR Plan”) is typically a freedom-of-choice arrangement under which a dentist is paid for each service rendered; and is the insurance plan recommended by the American Dental Association. A DR Plan differs from a managed care plan because the patient pays the dentist directly for each service provided rather than the dentist receiving payment from an insurance company. A patient is reimbursed for the cost of the service by an arrangement with the patient’s employer. The patient can seek service from any dentist under this type of insurance plan and does not have to worry about whether the dentist is in a specific network. Ultimately, a DR Plan offers the patient great freedom and offers both the patient and the dentist broad authority to make decisions that are most beneficial to the patient.
Please visit the American Dental Association’s website, as referenced above, for a list of items to consider before choosing an appropriate insurance plan.
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Adam Winckler, D.D.S., enjoys a general dentistry practice with The Waters Dental Group in Sandwich, Illinois, and Geneva Family Dental in Geneva, Illinois. Dr. Winckler invites any questions or comments via the website of The Waters Dental Group (www.watersdentalgroup.com); the website of Geneva Family Dental (www.genevafamilydental.com); or by phone at 815.786.2146.
Illinois has enacted the Banking Convenience Account for Depositors Act. Much like its Michigan counterpart, the Illinois Act permits a convenience account holder to be added to a bank account. In practice, the financial institution may deal with the person that is a convenience account holder as though they were an owner of the account. However, the convenience account holder does not hold title to the money in the account, thus would not be given the money upon the owner’s death. The convenience account holder is not considered to be a joint owner in the deposit account, simply someone that is helping.
The Illinois Secretary of State will act as a depository for wills and trust documents that a lawyer is safekeeping. In order to deposit the Will or trust, however, the attorney must certify that the person who created the documents cannot be located after a diligent search.
Illinois Real Estate Methamphetamine Disclosure. A seller of real estate in Illinois must now disclose whether the property for sale has been used for methamphetamine manufacture.
I hope this issue of The Estate has been helpful. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns, or to schedule a complimentary consultation. As a service to all current and prospective clients, I travel at no charge to all meetings and consultations throughout Michigan and Illinois. In addition, informational sessions regarding special needs planning and estate planning are provided free to groups of any size. Please let me know if there is any way I can help.