Fee-Only Financial Advisor Rhode Island – Eliot Rose Wealth Management

Top 3 Estate Planning Attorneys in Rhode Island

Last updated 5/28/2024 • By Jason Siperstein, CFA, CFP®, RMA®

Best Estate Attorneys in Rhode Island

We’re excited to share who we believe are the best estate attorneys in Rhode Island. But before we do, let’s cover the basics.

Table of Contents:

  1. What is Estate Planning?
  2. Common Rhode Island Estate Concerns
  3. Top 3 Estate Attorneys in Rhode Island
  4. Why You Should Coordinate with a Financial Planner

We’re excited to share who we believe are the best estate attorneys in Rhode Island. But before we do, let’s cover the basics.

Table of Contents:

  1. What is Estate Planning?
  2. Common Rhode Island Estate Concerns
  3. Top 3 Estate Attorneys in Rhode Island
  4. Why You Should Coordinate with a Financial Planner

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning involves creating legal documents to manage your assets and healthcare decisions if you die or become incapacitated. These documents include items such as:

  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Healthcare Directives

They ensure (1) your assets go to the right people, (2) your finances are handled if you can’t manage them yourself, and (3) your medical care preferences are followed.

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OUR TAKE: Surprisingly, around 68% of people die without a will! This can create many complications for heirs. Proper estate planning can prevent these issues and ensure your wishes are honored!

Top RI Estate Concerns We Hear From Clients

1. Rhode Island Estate Tax

Rhode Island imposes an Estate Tax on estates over ~ $1.8 million (as of 2024).

The tax rate ranges from 0.8% to 16%, depending on the size of the estate. Proper estate planning can help minimize these taxes.

 

Rhode Island imposes an Estate Tax on estates over ~ $1.8 million (as of 2024).

The tax rate ranges from 0.8% to 16%, depending on the size of the estate. Proper estate planning can help minimize these taxes.

Example Scenario
Leslie, a resident of Rhode Island, has an estate worth $3 million at the time of her death in 2024. Rhode Island imposes an estate tax on estates exceeding $1,774,583.

Calculation
1. Total Estate Value: $3,000,000
2. Exemption Threshold: $1,774,583
3. Taxable Estate: $3,000,000 – $1,774,583 = $1,225,417
4. Estate Tax: $1,225,417 * 1.39% average rate = $17,033

Estate planning can help reduce or even eliminate the estate tax. But, even if your net worth is below Rhode Island’s estate tax limit, estate planning is still essential. It ensures that your assets are:

  • Distributed according to your wishes.
  • Managed to avoid family disputes.
  • Easier for your loved ones to handle if you become incapacitated.
  • Protected by a will and healthcare directives, providing peace of mind that your preferences will be honored.

Keep in mind that an Estate Tax  (as described above) is different than an Inheritance Tax

  • Estate Tax: A tax paid on the total value of a person’s property and money after they die, before it is given to their heirs.
  • Inheritance Tax: A tax paid by the people who receive the assets.

Rhode Island does not have an Inheritance Tax. However, if you live in a state that does and someone passes away in RI, you could face both taxes!

2. Medicaid Planning

Medicaid planning is a strategic approach to arranging your assets and income to qualify for Medicaid benefits. Medicaid can cover long-term care (LTC) costs, which are not covered by Medicare and can be very expensive.

Qualifying for Medicaid: Medicaid has strict income and asset limits that vary by state. In Rhode Island, you must meet all of the criteria to qualify:

Medicaid planning is a strategic approach to arranging your assets and income to qualify for Medicaid benefits. Medicaid can cover long-term care (LTC) costs, which are not covered by Medicare and can be very expensive.

Qualifying for Medicaid: Medicaid has strict income and asset limits that vary by state. In Rhode Island, you must meet all of the criteria to qualify:

  • Income Limit:
    • < $2,829 per month for single applicant.
    • If only one spouse is applying, non-applicant income is disregarded.
    • < $5,658 per month if both spouses are applying.

  •  Asset Limit:
    • < $4,000 for applicant spouse.
    • If only one spouse is applying, the non-applicant spouse’s limit is 50% of assets up to $154,140, thanks to the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA).
    • < $8,000 is both spouses are applying.
  • Asset Exemptions:
      • Primary home (in most cases)
      • Primary car
      • Burial plot
      • IRAs and 401Ks if they are in “payout status,” meaning that one is taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). Not all states have this exemption.

Example Scenario

Robert is applying for Medicaid in Rhode Island in 2024, with Karen as his community/well spouse. Here are the details of their financial situation:

Financials:

  • Karen:
    • $1,500 from part-time job and $3,000 from RMDs ($4,500 total)
    • IRA: $500,000 (in payout status, taking RMDs)
    • Automobile: $30,000
  • Robert:
    • $1,200 all from RMDs
    • IRA: $275,000 (in payout status, taking RMDs)
    • Burial Plot: $5,000
  • Joint:
    • Savings Accounts: $10,000
    • Stock Brokerage Account: $200,000
    • Home: $450,000
  •  

Eligibility Assessment

  • Part 1: Income Assessment
    • Karen’s income is disregarded. [disregarded]
    • Robert’s income of $1,200/month is taken into consideration. [considered]

NOTE: Even though IRAs, as an asset, are not counted, Robert’s RMDs do count as income.

PASS | They meet the income limit. Karen’s income is not considered and Robert’s income is below the Medicaid income limit of $2,829/month for a single applicant.

  • Part 2: Assets Assessment 

Step 1: Calculate the total of all considered assets. As shown below, this amounts to $210,000 – comprised of $10,000 in savings and $200,000 in a brokerage account.

      • Jointly Owned
        • Savings Accounts: $10,000 [considered]
        • Stock Brokerage Account: $200,000 [considered]
        • Home: $450,000 [exempt]
      • Owned by Karen
        • IRA: $500,000 [exempt in payout status]
        • Automobile: $30,000 [exempt]
      • Owned by Robert
        • IRA: $275,000 [exempt in payout status]
        • Burial Plot: $5,000 [exempt]

Step 2: The CSRA allows Karen to retain 50% of countable assets up to $154,140 in assets. Running the numbers we get a CSRA of $105,000 ($210,000 ÷ 2) that Karen is allowed to keep.

FAIL | Robert needs to spend down the portion of assets ($101,000) that are above the limit before he would qualify for Medicaid. Calculations below:

    • Total Countable Assets: $210,000
    • Karen’s CSRA: $105,000
    • Robert’s Medicaid Asset Limit: $4,000
    • Assets Robert Needs to Spend Down: $210,000 – $105,000 – $4,000 = $101,000
 

As mentioned previously, Medicaid qualification is very strict, requiring applicants to meet both (1) income and (2) asset criteria. Although the income requirements were met, the asset requirements were not, meaning assets ($101,000) would need to be spent down before eligibility can be achieved.

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OUR TAKE: Many people are unaware of the “Well Spouse Asset Exclusion,” allowing the non-applicant spouse to keep up to $154,140 in assets.

As shown in the example above, without planning, individuals may have to spend down their assets to qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid planning can help protect assets and ensure they are passed on to heirs. Techniques include:

  • Irrevocable Trusts: Transferring assets into an irrevocable trust can help protect them from being counted towards Medicaid eligibility.
  • Medicaid-Compliant Annuities: Converting countable assets into an income stream for the non-applicant spouse.

As shown in the example above, without planning, individuals may have to spend down their assets to qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid planning can help protect assets and ensure they are passed on to heirs. Techniques include:

  • Irrevocable Trusts: Transferring assets into an irrevocable trust can help protect them from being counted towards Medicaid eligibility.
  • Medicaid-Compliant Annuities: Converting countable assets into an income stream for the non-applicant spouse.

Transferring assets to family members can help qualify for Medicaid without depleting resources, preserving your estate for heirs. However, Medicaid’s five-year look-back period can penalize transfers made within this time, leading to delayed benefits. Proper planning is crucial to avoid these penalties.

Without further ado, onto the list:

We have clients who have worked with all three of these firms and consistently report very positive experiences.

1. Rampino Law, Ltd.

Kenneth R. Rampino is known for his compassionate approach to elder law and estate planning. He graduated magna cum laude from Roger Williams University Law School and is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Ken’s background as a high school teacher and Peace Corps volunteer adds a unique perspective to his legal practice. His firm focuses on elder law, estate planning, Medicaid planning, and special needs trusts.

Key Services:

  • Wills and Trusts
  • Estate Administration
  • Medicaid Planning
  • Special Needs Planning

Suitability:

  • Best for moderate to high-net-worth individuals seeking personalized, compassionate legal services in estate and elder law.
  • Smaller firm size, which can provide more personalized and direct service.

Location: North Kingstown, RI
Website: Rampino Law, Ltd.

2. Paster & Harpootian, Ltd.

John M. Harpootian specializes in personal and financial planning, trust and estate administration for high-net-worth individuals, and business succession planning. He holds degrees from Boston University in Economics and Law, and he is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. His firm provides sophisticated representation focusing on trust, estate, and probate law.

Key Services:

  • Estate Planning
  • Business Succession Planning
  • Probate Administration

Suitability:

  • Tailored for high-net-worth individuals and families needing advanced estate planning and business succession planning.
  • Smaller firm size, with a reputation for handling high-net-worth estates, with a focus on sophisticated planning strategies.

Location: Cranston, RI
Website: Paster & Harpootian, Ltd.

3. Moonan | Stratton

Moonan | Stratton is a boutique law firm located on the East Side of Providence, Rhode Island. It is a women-owned and women-run firm that specializes in trusts and estates, elder law, and business and real estate matters for individuals, families, and companies.

Key Services:

  • Wills and Trusts
  • Estate and Trust Administration
  • Business Succession Planning

Suitability:

  • Serves high-net-worth individuals and general estate planning needs.
  • Offers comprehensive services with significant resources and a long-standing reputation.

Location: Providence, RI
Website: Moonan | Stratton, LLP

Why Coordinate with a Financial Planning Firm?

1. Ensuring Proper Funding of Trusts

Benefit: A financial planner can ensure that a trust is properly funded.

Why It Matters: Creating a trust is just the first step; it must be properly funded to be effective. This involves transferring ownership of assets into the trust. A financial planner can oversee this process, ensuring all intended assets are transferred correctly, which is crucial for the trust to function as intended and provide the desired protection and benefits.

Benefit: A financial planner can ensure that a trust is properly funded.

Why It Matters: Creating a trust is just the first step; it must be properly funded to be effective. This involves transferring ownership of assets into the trust. A financial planner can oversee this process, ensuring all intended assets are transferred correctly, which is crucial for the trust to function as intended and provide the desired protection and benefits.

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OUR TAKE: You’d be surprised at the number of unfunded trusts we encounter. While it may seem straightforward, the estate process can be intricate. We make sure all I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed to prevent any oversight and ensure your trust operates effectively.

2. Coordinating Tax and Legal Implications

Benefit: A financial planner can coordinate with tax and legal professionals to optimize your estate plan.

Why It Matters: Estate planning has significant tax implications. By working with attorneys and tax advisors, a financial planner can help structure your estate to minimize tax liabilities while complying with legal requirements. This integrated approach ensures that you benefit from the best tax strategies without overlooking legal considerations, ultimately protecting more of your wealth for your beneficiaries.

3. Aligning Estate Plan with Financial Goals

Benefit: Aligning your estate plan with your overall financial goals.

Why It Matters: A financial planner ensures that your estate plan supports and aligns with your broader financial goals, such as retirement planning, investment strategies, and wealth preservation. This integrated approach helps ensure that all financial decisions work towards the same objectives, providing a cohesive and comprehensive financial strategy that enhances your overall financial security and legacy planning.

If you would like to chat about any of these estate planning firms or how a firm like us can lead you through the process, please feel free to get in touch!

By Jason Siperstein, CFA, CFP®, RMA®

Jason Siperstein is a fee-only financial planner that specializes in retirement planning. He is based in Rhode Island and serves clients locally and across the country. Jason is called on by local and national news to share his insights.

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