We provide legal services with a focus on the needs of older and disabled individuals and their families. This focus enables us to be particularly sensitive to the multiple stresses that these individuals and families confront on a daily basis, which are compounded by the complexities of the American legal and healthcare systems. We help our clients navigate these systems by providing answers where they are hard to find and identifying solutions to our clients' particular needs and goals.
Attorneys Henry Levandowski and Maria Darpino lead our team of experts. With over 20 years in Elder Law experience, Henry and Maria are here to help you plan the right response to your elder care needs for yourself or your elder loved ones.
Expect a strong family-orientation throughout your dealings with us. Our values include patience and compassion as well as experience and expertise — we always remember that we are dealing with families in need. Established in 1996, Levandowski and Darpino serves the Elder Law and Elder Care Planning needs of clients from Philadelphia, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Bucks County, and Chester County
Learn more about our approach to meeting your needs, why you should choose us over other elder law firms, the services we offer, and the concept of Elder Care Planning.
We provide the following legal services:
Nursing Home and Long-Term Care Planning
When a person is aging and no longer able to take care of his or her day-to-day needs, the right decision for long-term care must be made. We help our clients through this difficult time.
When considering long-term care options, many people are concerned with the financial costs. We have helped families find the coverage or funds necessary to pay for care while retaining and protecting their assets. We will find the best way to pay for your long-term care and protect your home and assets for your spouse or children.
Because the complex and ever-evolving rules of Medicaid play an increasingly important role with respect to long-term care planning, knowledge of elder law is absolutely critical for a truly comprehensive long-term care plan.
Medicaid Planning/Medicaid Applications
We will help you plan for the possibility that a family member may need long-term nursing home care. We will recommend an asset protection strategy to meet the cost of nursing home care while protecting your loved one's assets.
We will gather information from you regarding your health, finances, and family objectives. Based on this information, we will create a plan tailored specifically to you and your situation. The plan reviews in detail the options available to you to finance long-term care. We will review with you the Medicaid laws and explain how your assets will be counted for Medicaid eligibility purposes. We will also review any financial transfers affected by the look-back period. The primary objective of the plan is to protect your hard-earned assets. We will create a strategy to protect your assets from the cost of long-term care. Each situation is different, but recommendations may include: a) gifting programs; b) funding certain trusts; and c) deed transfers.
Once we have presented the plan and our recommended strategy, we will help you implement the plan by drafting the appropriate legal documents, completing and submitting a Medicaid application, if appropriate, and working together with your other professional advisors.
Estate planning is more than just preparing a Will. Estate planning involves:
We represent clients seeking guardianship of relatives who can no longer manage their personal or financial affairs and assist family members with fulfilling the duties imposed by the role of guardian.
Most frequently, guardianships are established on behalf of older adults who have lost mental capacity due to dementia, stroke, and chronic illnesses, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, among other conditions, and no one can lawfully act for him or her due to the absence of a power of attorney. There are two types of guardianship, guardian of the person and guardian of the estate. The guardian of the person is in charge of making personal and medical decisions on behalf of a mentally incapacitated individual. The guardian of the estate is in charge of making financial decisions on behalf of such an individual. Frequently, one person will serve as both guardian of the person and guardian of the estate. There can also be co-guardians, where two or more individuals have an equal authority over both personal and medical matters and financial matters. Generally, a guardian can handle the daily affairs of the incapacitated person, including making routine medical decisions and handling payment of bills. However, courts frequently require that the permission of a judge be sought in order to sell a house or to make gifts.
Estate Administration and Probate
Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things a person can experience. Aside from dealing with your sadness and grief, you also have to deal with your loved one's assets and debts. We give you the personal service needed to make this difficult time as easy as possible. One issue that needs to be addressed is how to administer the estate in compliance with the law.
Probate is the legal process by which the deceased person's debts and taxes are paid and assets are distributed to heirs. It is also the way to prove the validity of a Will under which an estate is administered. Estate administration includes the probate and non-probate transfers of the decedent's assets to designated beneficiaries and the preparation and filing of estate inheritance and income tax returns. Probate includes filing the petition for appointment of the executor, preparing and filing the inventory of estate assets, paying the decedent's debts, distributing assets, filing tax returns, and filing an account. If real estate must be sold, we provide representation during the real estate transaction as well.
Special Needs Planning
Estate planning where one of your heirs is a person with a disability is a very tricky matter. Four mistakes frequently made are: a) making an outright bequest to the disabled heir; b) disinheriting the disabled heir; c) distributing your assets to the sibling of the disabled heir; and d) establishing a "support" trust.
The problem with making a direct bequest to a person with a disability is that you may disqualify him or her from public benefits. Medicaid benefits alone may be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over the disabled individual's lifetime.
Many people believe that making a distribution to a sibling, with the understanding that they will take care of a disabled family member is a wise choice. However, this is not a good idea because such assets will then become subject to creditors of that sibling. This means that they could be claimed in a divorce action, or a bankruptcy, or a lawsuit against the sibling. Also there is the possibility of such assets being misappropriated or mismanaged.
Sometimes an inexperienced lawyer may suggest a "support" trust for the benefit of the disabled family member. This is not a good idea because these trusts are considered "available" for public benefit purposes and would therefore disqualify the disabled family member from receiving public benefits.
The answer is to provide for a disabled family member by setting up what is known as a "special needs" trust. The primary advantage of a "special needs" trust is the preservation of eligibility for public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. By using such a trust, the disabled family member can retain public benefits and also enjoy the assets left to them in the estate. "Special needs" trusts help to promote independent living and enhance the disabled family member's quality of life.
Veterans Benefits Planning
Most veterans are unaware of cash benefits offered by the Veterans Administration under a program known as Aid and Attendance. We can assist veterans in qualifying for and obtaining these cash benefits from the Veterans Administration which can be used to pay for long term care, including in home care, assisted living, or nursing home care.
Even if a veteran has been told that they do not qualify for this benefit because they "have too much money", it is important to realize that veterans who meet the service requirement and who have significant, recurring medical expenses can be eligible for this valuable and well-deserved benefit with proper estate planning. Proper planning can accelerate qualification for an otherwise eligible veteran who exceeds the asset or income thresholds. The Aid and Attendance benefit, when combined with Social Security and perhaps a pension, is often enough to pay for assisted living and to prolong assets almost indefinitely.