Daniel J. Eccher

Daniel J. Eccher

Levey, Wagley, & Putman, P.A.
  • Elder Law, Estate Planning, Probate...
  • Maine
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Summary

I enjoy helping clients with estate planning and probate administration of estates. I particularly like helping people plan for long-term care while protecting their assets for their families. Let me help you and your family plan for the years ahead.

Practice Areas
  • Elder Law
  • Estate Planning
  • Probate
  • Real Estate Law
  • Business Law
Fees
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Contingent Fees
Jurisdictions Admitted to Practice
Maine
1st Circuit
Professional Experience
Principal
Eccher Law, LLC
- Current
Assistant Attorney General
Maine Office of the Attorney General
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HHS Division
Associate Attorney
Weeks & Hutchins, LLC
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Education
University of Maine - School of Law
J.D. (2014) | Law
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Honors: Pro Bono Publico Award
Activities: MAPIL, Health Law Association
Boston University
MPH (1999) | Epidemiology and Biostatistics
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Vassar College
B.A. (1996) | Biology
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Honors: Phi Beta Kappa
Activities: College Choir and Madrigal Singers
Awards
Katahdin Counsel
Maine Supreme Judicial Court
Pro Bono Publico
University of Maine School of Law
Professional Associations
American Bar Association
- Current
Maine State Bar Association
Member
- Current
Websites & Blogs
Website
Blog
Legal Answers
14 Questions Answered

Q. I’m looking to buy my mother’s house and wanted to know a few legal questions.
A: On first blush, without knowing the details, I would advise that you and your mother delay this plan until she has consulted with an Elder Law attorney who has experience with Medicaid (known in Maine as “MaineCare”) applications. The situation you described is fraught with the potential to a) render her ineligible for MaineCare and b) put both of you at risk of losing your home. The problem with buying your mother’s home for less than fair market value is that when she goes to apply for MaineCare, they will impose a penalty period on her during which she won’t qualify for MaineCare (the length of that penalty period would be based on the difference between the amount you paid for it and the assessed value – the greater the difference, the longer she wouldn’t be eligible; during the penalty period, she would have to figure out some way to pay for her care privately). The problem with you borrowing money to add an addition is that if you fall behind in payments, you could both lose your home. If your mother’s intent is to be sure that you get the house even though there is a potential for a MaineCare “Estate Recovery” claim, there are much better, safer, and likely more effective strategies for achieving that goal, but which strategy is the best for your mother’s situation depends on the details. She should sit down with a lawyer with experience in long-term care planning and give him or her all the details. Another concern I have for you is that, if you decide to go through with this deal without each of you having independent counsel, you (individually) could open yourself up to a claim under Maine’s Improvident Transfer of Title Act. The basic risk is that you could be required to give the house back if you didn’t follow several strict requirements of the act. Therefore, I recommend you each get the advice of different lawyers before you decide what to do.
Q. If my dad died without a will, can the probate court designate me as the executor?
A: Priority of appointment of a “Personal Representative” of an estate (Maine’s term for the executor) is set in statute. According to 18-A M.R.S.A. Sec. 3-203, the order of priority is the surviving spouse of the person who died, the surviving domestic partner, other heirs (such as a child), and even a creditor of the estate (in that order). So, if your father is survived by a spouse or domestic partner, that person would have priority over you. The fact that he died without a will does not matter; you would just need to apply to the Probate Court for appointment as Personal Representative for “Intestate Decedent” (someone who died without a will).
Q. What are you recommendations for writing an Advanced Health Care Directive on my own?
A: Not knowing anything about your situation, I would recommend that you talk to a lawyer, because if you are thinking about preparing an Advance Health Care Directive, you may want a Durable Power of Attorney and a Last Will and Testament as well. However, if your situation is urgent, the Maine Hospital Association has posted a standard form on their web site: http://www.themha.org/policy-advocacy/Issues/End-of-Life-Care/advdirectivesform.aspx Unfortunately, you would need to sign an Advance Health Care Directive in the presence of two witnesses and a Notary Public. When we prepare these and other estate planning documents at our firm, we provide our clients with the witnesses and notary, but many hospitals will provide witnesses and a Notary Public in a pinch.
Q. Is there ever a reason you'd go through probate if a will exists?
A: A: Yes; in fact, there may be a duty for a person who has control of a will of someone who has died to deliver it to either the Personal Representative named in the will or the Probate Court in the county in which the person died (18-A M.R.S.A. Sec. 2-902). A will simply lets people know how the testator wanted their probate property distributed after his or her death; it does not help the heirs avoid probate. Probate can be avoided in a few ways. You could change the title on all of your property to joint ownership – or, for real estate, "joint tenancy" – such that the property becomes the joint owners’ automatically upon your death. You could also set up a trust during your lifetime and transfer title to all your property to the trustee of the trust. The trustee could then make distributions of the trust property without putting it through probate. But a will definitely does not protect against having to “go through probate.”
Q. My mother is alive and agrees to be appoint me her PR for when she passes. What probate form should I submit now?
A: Your mother should write a will in which she nominates you as the Personal Representative (PR) of her estate. I do not know of any form that should be filed with the Probate Court before she passes. After she passes, you would file the will and Petition to court for you to be appointed as PR. Here is a link to the “Statutory Will” form: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/18-A/title18-Asec2-514.html She could fill out this form and sign it in the presence of two witnesses and a Notary Public. Maine law also recognizes “holographic wills,” those that are simply written in someone’s own handwriting, signed, and dated. For this type of will, no witnesses or Notary Public is needed. Of course, it would be best if your mother were to consult with an attorney with experience in estate planning to prepare a will for her, especially if she needs advice about anything else. She may also want a Power of Attorney and Advanced Health Care Directive.
Q. I have a squatter problem in my deceased mother's house.
A: You have raised a number of issues. It seems to me as if the most important point is that there is someone living in your deceased mother's house who doesn't have a right to live there. Even if someone has permission from someone else to live there, the person living there should be paying rent to your mother's estate. Has anyone petitioned in Probate Court to be appointed Personal Representative of the estate? If you are her son, you would be a perfect candidate for PR; your mother's husband would have precedence, but if he lives in Idaho, he's not likely to be able to come and do what needs to be done. If you are successfully appointed PR, you can evict the squatter in District Court. You should hire a lawyer for both of these processes, especially because it seems likely to become contentious, so you'll want a strong advocate. Even if your mother's husband is appointed PR, you would have a right to at least part of her estate, according to the statutes that say what happens when someone dies without a will.
Q. Is there such thing as a childs fair share in maine? My brother was my mothers P>O>A and she passed a month ago.
A: Your questions bring up a number of issues. In answer to your first question: generally, yes, each child should share equally in someone’s estate, unless the person who died indicated that one or more children should not share in the inheritance. In your specific case, based on your second question, you seem to be questioning your brother’s actions as your mother’s agent under power of attorney during her lifetime. An agent under power of attorney has a fiduciary duty to the principal (in this case, your brother had a fiduciary duty to your mother). One of his duties as her agent was to “Attempt to preserve the principal's estate plan.” 18-A M.R.S.A. Sec. 5-914. It seems like you are questioning whether he did so. Furthermore, in order for an agent under power of attorney to change the beneficiary designation of a life insurance policy, the power of attorney document must have specifically authorized the agent to do so. 18-A M.R.S.A. Sec. 5-931. If you think your brother overstepped his authority as her agent, you can challenge him in probate court. 18-A M.R.S.A. Sec. 5-917. I recommend that you consult a lawyer with probate experience. You can even ask the court to order your brother to pay your attorney's fees.
Q. what kinds question I ask in probate court ?
A: I'll make three points: First, if your attorney has entered her appearance on your behalf with the probate court, she needs the court’s permission to withdraw, except in limited circumstances. If the court grants that permission, the court should also be willing to grant you a “Motion to Continue” – that is, to delay any upcoming hearing (assuming you want it delayed) – that would give you a) more time to find a new attorney and/or b) more time to prepare. Second, you should be able to find a new lawyer. If you are over 60, you can contact Legal Services for the Elderly at 800-750-5353 and www.mainelse.org. You can also try the Volunteer Lawyers Project (their number depends where you live; log on to www.vlp.org/access-justice-today to find out more). You can also try the Maine Lawyer Referral Service at 800-860-1460. You may be able to negotiate a payment plan or delayed payment – especially if the estate has real estate or some other major asset that you plan to sell. Third, if you do have to represent yourself, the basic issue for the court appears to be whether the will is valid, and the burden is on the person challenging its validity to prove their case. If that is the issue, then you just need to ask questions that poke holes in their arguments. Also, you could ask the person who prepared the will and the witnesses to the signing to testify on your behalf and ask them about the signing ceremony.
Q. Married live in Maine everything is in husbands name only. In his will it all goes to me. Problems??
A: “Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship” would be at least more convenient for you as to title to the house, CU account, and cars. If that were the case, you could avoid having to open your husband's estate in Probate Court to transfer title to those assets if he were to predecease you. If he needs assisted living or nursing home care before you do, it would be better for him to transfer assets to your name alone so that he’d be eligible for MaineCare - but he can do that when and if the time comes. You should be named as the beneficiary on his IRA. You should each have a Power of Attorney and an Advanced Health Care Directive. You may want to get a quote for long-term care insurance, but the premiums are higher the older and sicker one is. You may want to consult a Maine-licensed estate planning attorney for a more thorough analysis of your specific situation.
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161 Main St, Ste 1 - A
161 Main St, Ste 1 - A
PO Box 7
Winthrop, ME 04364
USA
Telephone: (207) 377-6966
Fax: (207) 377-2445