08/01/2015










Does Retirement Mean You Are Old?

 

Long Island Elder Law Attorney - Lamkin Elder Law

Retirement is meant to be a pivotal time in a person’s life. They have the opportunity to enjoy life, stop working an 8-to-5 job, and possibly even see friends and family more. However, another thing retirement may mean for some people is a sign of being “old.” As a society, retirement and age are closely related, and while a person may retire at 65, that does not necessarily mean they are old. Overcoming the negative mindset about aging is important, not only for creating a positive light on retirement, but it could actually improve a person’s outlook on life too.

Why Age is a Big Issue

People see age as something negative. They do not look forward to aging and the term “elderly” is almost offensive to some people. However, aging is also a symbol of something else: growing and succeeding. A person must age to succeed in life and gain responsibility – both of which are positive things.

How to Overcome the Stigma of Age

To age successfully and overcome negative stigmas, a person must stop being reluctant to the concept of aging. Instead, they should feel more empowered. To do this, a person should prepare for retirement so that it is a rewarding experience – rather than a hassle. This can be done by:

  1. Getting Paperwork in Order – An estate plan should be established long before retirement – and should be reviewed and updated at least once a year or every other year. An estate planning attorney can advise a person as to which documents their estate will need – such as a will, setting up a trust, creating a healthcare directive, and more.
  2. Maintaining Great Health – There are those that age well and those that do not. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, staying active, taking medications and supplements, a person could age successfully without issue. Whether it is swimming daily, taking walks or riding a bike, physical activity will keep the body feeling young and also gives retired individuals activities to fill their days.
  3. Stay Engaged – Often people retire and isolate themselves. Instead, a person should remain engaged with family, friends, and even previous coworkers. Staying active in the community can empower a retired individual and provide them with a more fulfilling life.
  4. Embrace the Change – Retirement provides individuals with the opportunity to explore themselves and the world around them. Instead of looking at retirement as a negative situation or a sign of “old age,” a person should embrace it and look at it as an exciting time in their life.

Prepare for Retirement With an Estate Plan – Meet with Andrew M. Lamkin Today

Retirement can be a rewarding and fulfilling time. With the right estate planning documents in place, you can retire with a secure financial future. Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin today for a consultation regarding your estate plan. To schedule an appointment, call 516-605-0625 or fill out an online contact form.

How Much Will It Cost to Financially Support Your Aging Parents?

 

estate planning

Caring and supporting aging parents can be rewarding, but it can also be a highly frustrating and exhausting experience. When financially supporting your loved ones, it may be much more expensive than you realize. If your parent has little to no financial safety net, then a child may be the sole provider – making him or her wonder not only how much it will cost, but how he or she will plan for their own retirement when they are financially supporting someone else.

According to a study published by MetLife, 10 million adult children over the age of 50 are currently caring for their aging parents. These individuals not only provide care but financial support as well.

Aging Parents Are Running Out of Funds

The situation of elderly parents running out of financial savings is becoming increasingly common. That is because aging individuals are living longer than expected but are not finding ways to make their money last as long as their health. Also, rising long-term care costs are quickly draining what was considered an adequate savings a decade ago.

How Much Will It Cost?

To determine how much it will cost to support an aging parent, children need to assess the financial future and costs associated with their parents. This can include:

  • Healthcare Costs – How much will it cost for health insurance, copays, prescriptions, or in-home care.
  • Nursing – Will the aging parent need around-the-clock nursing care at a facility or in their own home?
  • Savings – Children will need to find out how much money is left in their parent’s savings and what retirement and Social Security benefits they are receiving each month.
  • Equity and the Home – A discussion will be needed to find out what will happen to the family home and more importantly, if there is any equity that can help support the aging parent.
  • Monthly Expenses – Lastly, calculating the monthly living expenses – from groceries to utility bills to even social events – is important.

Long-Term Care Planning Can Help

For families supporting their aging parents, sometimes the solution is not pooling funds together or even selling off assets; instead, long-term care planning is needed. By meeting with an elder law attorney, families can explore their Medicaid options and create a plan that not only protects their aging parent’s assets, but can help pay for medical expenses, nursing home facilities, and more. The cost of caring for an aging parent can easily equal thousands of dollars each month – especially if that parent is in a private care facility and family members are paying out of pocket.

How to Avoid Court with Your Aging Parents

 

Long Island Elder Law Attorney - Lamkin Elder Law

It is not uncommon for children and their aging parents to have issues. Conflicts often arise (including old, once-settled conflicts) when aging parents begin to slowly decline in health and start needing emotional and financial assistance from their children. Any time there is conflict present, it can escalate to the point where a family winds up in court discussing their issues with a judge. These court costs and attorney fees will not only take out funds from the estate, but are often avoidable.

Even if family members do not get along, there is usually a way to avoid legal battles and keep the conflicts out of the courtroom.

Three Ways to Avoid Going to Court

  1. Organize Legal Documents – Some parents create an estate plan, but if they created that plan 30 years ago and have not updated it, now is the time. Certain life changes can severely alter the effectiveness of those documents – from divorces to changing heirs to medical needs. Children should have their parents meet with an estate planning attorney to revisit their documents and make changes as necessary. Also, parents should have a Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive. These documents will prevent costly legal battles when the time arrives and a child must care or make decisions on behalf of the parent. The Advance Healthcare Directive will dictate who can make healthcare decisions on behalf of their parents, while the Durable Power of Attorney allows an agent to have legal authority over the estate.
  2. Plan for Care – Most families neglect to think of the future, especially when it comes to long-term care needs. As parents degrade in health, they may need private care or may even need a care facility. These are expensive and if the estate has not planned for these expenses, families may become aggressive towards one another while trying to find financial solutions. If one sibling is burdened with the costs while the others are not, it could create unwanted friction. This can be avoided by having a discussion, creating a plan, and establishing a system for covering long-term care costs.
  3. Use Mediation, Not Courtrooms – If a dispute does arise, mediation is a cost-effective solution. This organized process is conducted by a trained individual. Both parties will meet with the mediator and he or she will offer suggestions and ways to work out the issues. Most family conflicts can be easily resolved in mediation.

Avoid Family Disputes Altogether with a Sound Estate Plan

By establishing an estate plan that covers things like finances, healthcare decisions, and power of attorney, a family can reduce the likelihood that there will be any disputes in the future. Because emotions often play a vital role in these types of disputes, having legal documents in order can stop any attempt for someone to bring a grievance against the estate.

Take control of your estate’s future by meeting with an estate planning attorney. Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin today for a consultation by calling 516-605-0625 or filling out an online contact form.

When Should Elderly Drivers Stop Driving for Good?

 

Elderly Woman driver

Most individuals want to drive as long as they can. However, there may be a time in a person’s life when they need to stop or at least limit how often they drive, which could be on a temporary or permanent basis, depending on the person. As a person ages, their driving abilities change as well. There are some things older drivers can do to reduce their risk factors, but these do not make up for medical conditions or age degradation that makes it unsafe for a person to drive.

It is important that elderly drivers pay attention to the warning signs that their age may be impacting their ability to drive safe, and either make adjustments or stop driving altogether.

How Age Affects Driving

Age does not automatically translate into bad driving skills. There are numerous drivers that continue to use safe driving practices and even drive into their 80s or 90s. However, age does affect a person’s strength, coordination, and flexibility, which all affect how a person safely controls their vehicle.

Signs That It Is Time to Stop Driving for Good

There is not a set age for when someone should stop driving. Instead, an elderly driver must be on the lookout for signs that their ability to drive safely is declining. These signs include:

  1. Too many “close calls” on the road – meaning almost crashing.
  2. Dents or scrapes are present on the vehicle, but the individual does not know how they received them.
  3. The driver frequently becomes lost while on the road – even in familiar locations.
  4. Response times have lessened dramatically or the individual has a decreased ability to quickly press on the brake.
  5. Vision has dramatically changed.
  6. Hearing has decreased.
  7. Easily distracted or no longer can concentrate on a single object for several seconds.
  8. Taking medications that affect reflexes and senses. A physician may recommend the elderly driver no longer drive or at least stop driving while taking the medication.
  9. Increase in citations, such as tickets for speeding or driving too slow.
  10. Difficulty staying in the lane, accelerating, or failing to use turn signals.

While losing the ability to drive may make some elderly individuals feel as though they have lost their independence, there are benefits to no longer driving. The adjustment will be difficult, but an elderly individual will save money, decrease the likelihood of being in an accident, and can still keep a busy social life by allowing public transportation, friends, or family members to drive them around.

Have You Planned for the Future? Meet with an Elder Law Attorney

As you age, there are many changes. It is important to meet with an elder law attorney to plan out the future “unknowns,”  such as Medicare, Living Wills, and Health Care Proxies. The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin can assist you with your estate and legacy planning needs. Contact us today for a consultation at 516-605-0625 or fill out an online contact form.

Cities Consider Restructuring Due to Increased Elderly Population

 

Helping A Sick Elderly WomanWhile the nation’s senior citizen population has increased at a rapid pace over the past ten years, many elder issues have come to the forefront, including increased medical needs, social security discussion and nursing home debate. A recent report, led by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), considered the growing elderly population in urban development across the country. The organization reported a 24 percent increase in senior living population in cities across the U.S. from 2001 to 2011. The fastest growing demographic is seniors age 80 and up. These statistics lead to the question: How can urban areas adjust their infrastructures to these changing needs of our citizens as they age?

Increasing Accessible and Affordable Housing

One key element in creating senior-friendly cities is to increase accessible and affordable housing. Many people choose to move into smaller homes as they age. After retirement, some must adjust their budget as income decreases and medical expenses increase. Stairs may become challenging, as can property maintenance. City living has the potential to provide one-level apartments with few or no stairs, little upkeep, and easy access to medical services. In certain areas, zoning laws are being re-evaluated to allow families more flexible options for adding additional living quarters. Urban planners are exploring various forms of housing for the elderly.

Transportation and Mobility

As driving becomes more hazardous and difficult with age, public transportation may be vital to an elderly person’s well-being. Going to medical appointments and maintaining a healthy social life are crucial for seniors. Many cities already offer free or reduced price car and taxi services specialized for handicapped citizens. As more elder-based social services are offered, specialized senior bus transportation is explored as well. Discounted metro-cards are offered in many cities already. Organizations are beginning to look to other countries for ideas. For example, Lisbon, Portugal has instilled a public awareness campaign for elderly safety on city sidewalks. To accommodate their needs, walkways must be no less than five feet wide.

Cost Effective Social Services

During a time when the number of seniors is increasing rapidly, many city budgets are unfortunately being cut. The OECD has to deal with this issue in their effort to find affordable resources for growing needs. Examples of free or low cost social services include Nutrition Centers, Recreation Centers, and Meals on Wheels. The OECD’s goal is to keep up with the changing demographic while continuing the search for innovative and effective ways to engage the elderly with each other and the community.

Long Island Premier Elder Law Attorney

If you are a senior thinking about relocating, or you have an elderly loved one living on their own, you may have legal questions about Medicaid, special needs or elder law. Serving New York City, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Andrew M. Lamkin and his team will work with you to ensure your assets are protected and that your benefits will be there when you need them. Contact the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin today.

Important Facts to Know About Nursing Homes and Guardianship

It is less than common knowledge that nursing homes can file for guardianship of their residents to collect debts. However, this practice has increased ten-fold in recent years. In fact, studies show that up to two thirds of all guardianship proceedings nationwide are brought forth by a government entity or institution. Elderly and disabled nursing home residents with unpaid debts are at the core of this seemingly untoward practice. A report by the Brookdale Center of Healthy Aging and Longevity has shown between 2000 and 2012, over twelve percent of Manhattan’s guardianship cases were initiated by nursing homes. A study of the entire state resulted in a similar outcome.

Why Would Nursing Homes Want Guardianship of Residents?

Guardianship transfers an incapacitated individual’s right to make decisions regarding themselves to another party. Once the appointment is complete, the guardian (a person or entity) will make all financial and personal decisions for the individual. Guardianship effectively trumps a healthcare proxy or power of attorney. In situations where unpaid debts are accumulating against the nursing home, the facility may petition for guardianship to avoid family feuds, prevent embezzlement by family members, or to obtain Medicaid coverage. However, many people argue that the real reason for this practice is to force the resident’s family members to pay unpaid debts and settle bill disputes. In these situations, the guardian (nursing home) is usually paid with the incapacitated resident’s money. In fact, a nursing home with guardianship can directly take unpaid debts out of the resident’s bank account.

Although the primary reason for nursing home guardianship is typically financial, the granting of guardianship also gives the facility the last say in the resident’s care. In doing so, the nursing home is able to continue collecting payments by keeping the incapacitated person in their facility. It goes without saying that this type of arrangement creates a scenario in which nursing homes could take advantage of residents.

Can Guardianship Be Avoided?

A guardian has access to an incapacitated individual’s bank account and other readily accessible funds; however, guardianship does not supersede the trustee of a trust. By placing all of your loved one’s assets in a trust before they go into a nursing home, you can protect their assets from guardianship.

Andrew M. Lamkin – Elder Care Attorney

When an individual no longer has the capacity to make financial and healthcare decisions on his or her own, a guardianship proceeding may be required. If you need to help a loved one during this difficult time, you may consider filing a petition for guardianship. This is a complex legal process that requires the help of a skilled elder care attorney. As discussed above, guardianship can also be petitioned for by an institution or government entity. If you are looking for ways to protect your loved one’s assets from this type of guardianship arrangement, an elder care attorney can help you in this situation as well. At the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, we have been representing older New Yorkers and their loved ones for many years. We understand the complexities and emotional challenges surrounding elder care law and estate planning. It is our goal to make this process as painless as possible, and to protect the assets and wishes of you and your loved ones. Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin for a free consultation.

Flexibility is Needed For Long-Term Planning

 

Financial PlannerThe Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, wisely said, “change is the only constant in life.” In terms of long-term planning this is especially true. It is challenging enough to plan for next year, but when your plans involve the distant future (grandchildren and generations you may never meet) the possibility of change increases substantially. What makes sense now may not make sense in twenty years. An ever-changing economy, advancing technology, and uncertainty about the future in general, create an environment in which flexible financial planning is more than just prudent, it is essential. The good news is that there are long-term planning options that provide the necessary flexibility to protect your own future, as well as future generations.

Multi-Generational Planning

It is not uncommon for individuals and families to plan for the next generation (their children and grandchildren); however, multi-generational planning is not as widely practiced or understood. The future tax landscape and financial regulations make rigid estate planning less effective in the long term. However, many people like the rigid structure of certain types of estate planning, such as dynasty trusts. These highly structured trusts make managing individual wealth in the immediate future easier, so they are sometimes preferable to the more flexible options.

One such flexible planning option is a multi-generational trust. These long-term planning tools allow future modification of trust terms, distribution flexibility, and multiple other clauses to protect the funds from future uncertainty. Another method of flexible, multi-generational planning is through a process known as decanting. Decanting occurs when assets are moved from an old trust into an updated trust. This process can only be used in certain situations, and each state has its own laws regulating decanting. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney will understand your state’s stance on decanting and how it affects your long-term planning options.

Giving discretionary power to trustees is another method of multi-generational planning. Trustees can be authorized to make a broader range of decisions regarding assets, and beneficiaries can be given “power of appointment” laws, allowing them to decide what is in their best interest and of future generations. This can be useful in situations where an intended beneficiary doesn’t have the responsibility or capacity to handle the funds. For example, if a favorite grandchild becomes an adult with a serious substance abuse problem, the trustees can put certain restrictions on the disbursement of funds for that individual.

Andrew M. Lamkin – Estate Planning Attorney

No two estate planning situations are the same. Every client has unique needs, and needs an estate plan tailored to those needs. Whether you are planning for a disabled child, safeguarding your estate from unnecessary taxes, or planning for multiple, future generations, The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. can help. We will create a comprehensive plan based on your specific goals, answer your questions, and help ease any concerns. Serving clients in Long Island and throughout New York State, our legal team will draft wills and trusts, administer estates, and help clients apply for Medicaid and nursing home care. Contact us today for a free consultation about your case.

June is National Safety Month

 

safetymonth-juneEvery June, the National Safety Council recognizes the importance of safety education and awareness around the country with National Safety Month. Seniors should be especially aware of ways to protect their emotional well-being and physical health as they experience the physical shifts of aging. As the summer begins, many venture out into the sun for adventure or relaxation with nature, family and friends. From sun exposure to household safety tips, these are a few ideas for seniors to be well while taking advantage of all life has to offer.

Safety Outdoors: Know Your Body

Seniors should be aware of adverse physical effects as the weather heats up. As you age, your body finds it increasingly difficult to stay hydrated. Physical signals that help the body regulate thirst begin to decrease, making consistent hydration a vital part of staying safe and healthy in the summertime. Dehydration also adds to the potential of electrolyte loss (such as salt and potassium) in your body. Drinking water and sweat replacement products are key to keeping these potential problems at bay.

Know the symptoms of heat stroke. Heat stroke is a condition brought on by an abnormally high body temperature. If you plan on being out in the sun for an extended period of time, understand your body’s cues. Find shade quickly, use an ice pack to cool down, and seek medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • Rapid pulse
  • Heavy breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dry skin, with an abnormal absence of sweating
  • Headache
  • High temperature (above 104 degrees)

To stay healthy and energized in the summer sun, choose light, loose-fitting clothing made of natural fabrics. Sunscreen is important for all ages, and hats provide an added level of protection. Wearing sunglasses is vital to decrease sun-exposure that can irritate and damage elderly eyes.

Stay Connected

Over two million accidents involving people over age 65 are reported each year. About 7,000 of these accidents prove fatal. Staying connected to friends, family and neighbors can minimize injury in your home. Safety proof your home with these tips:

  • Keep an updated, easily accessible list of emergency numbers. Include your police, fire department, poison control and doctor’s number. Keep a friend or family member’s number listed as well.
  • Make a point of getting to know your neighbors. Not only does this provide social benefits, but it can be key in saving time and possibly even preventing an emergency.
  • Know how medication should be stored, and if it can affect you adversely in the summer heat. Make sure caretakers, friends, and neighbors are aware of medications you are taking.
  • Avoid nasty falls, one of the leading types of incidents involving seniors. Ensure clear, clutter free hallways and floors. Bannisters and no-skid tape should accompany all staircases. Rugs should be taped down to prevent sliding.

How the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin can Help You

Aging brings up many legal questions, from issues of estate planning to advanced directives and beyond. It can be an overwhelming and emotional process, as well as a relief to tackle such issues. A member of the Elder Law and Trusts and Estates sections of the Nassau County Bar Association, Andrew M. Lamkin has the experience and professionalism to help you reach your planning goals. Contact Mr. Lamkin and his team for a free consultation.

How the Elderly Can Be Safe Drivers

The loss of a driver’s license can be devastating for seniors. That little plastic card has represented freedom and independence for the last 50, 60, or 70 years of their life. It is widely understood that driving abilities change as people get older, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it becomes dangerous. There are many ways to reduce risk factors and implement safe driving practices as people age. As long as they are cognizant of warning signs, and willing to make adjustments when necessary, elderly people can drive long into their senior years.

Here are a few tips for senior drivers and their loved ones to consider:

  • Understand how the process of aging can affect driving: Everyone ages differently, so there is no magic age at which one can no longer safely drive. Pay attention to how aging is affecting you. Do you have pain or stiffness in your neck that may make it difficult to look over your shoulder before changing lanes? Does weakened arm strength make it difficult to turn the wheel quickly? Have you noticed a diminished reaction time in your day to day activities?
  • Get an annual eye exam
  • Get an annual hearing exam
  • Consult with your doctor: Ask about ailments, or about medications you are taking. Could any of them have an adverse affect on your ability to drive? Are there any available products or resources to help counter these negative effects? For example, tinted sunglasses may reduce the glare if you suffer from glaucoma.
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Make sure you have the right car for your needs: Does your car have power steering and power brakes? Is it an automatic or manual transmission? Get regular maintenance, and make sure your windshield is always clean. If you need certain equipment to make the car easier to operate, an occupational therapist can prescribe this equipment.
  • Be a defensive driver: Today’s drivers are shockingly distracted – texting, looking at their GPS, even watching movies on their smart phones or iPads. You must drive defensively to drive safely on today’s roads. Leave plenty of space between your car and the car in front of you and be extra cautious at intersections.
  • Know your limits: If driving after dark is becoming difficult, or if you are terrified to drive in rain or snow, listen to your gut. Voluntarily making adjustments to your driving habits is responsible behavior and it will help you retain your ability to drive for as long as possible.
  • Listen to your loved ones: It may be hard to accept, but your loved ones usually have your best interest in mind when they express concern about driving ability. If you feel that their concerns are unfounded, there are several self-evaluation tools available online to assist you. It is possible that you just need a refresher course. Your doctor can also help by providing an unbiased opinion. However, if all signs point to “no,” it may be wise to listen to your loved ones. The termination of your driver’s license does not mean the end of your independence. In fact, with today’s resources for seniors, the loss of a license often comes with numerous social benefits.

Call the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin P.C.

Elder law is a complex, emotional area of the legal system because it involves making difficult decisions on behalf of the people who mean a great deal to us. We understand the emotional toll these decisions can take. However, elder law is very different today than 10 or 20 years ago. Seniors are working, traveling, and driving for much longer. Sometimes there is an unfair bias toward elderly drivers, and then again, sometimes the concerns are valid. If you are concerned about the driving ability of a loved one, we can help. Call the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin for a free consultation today.

When Your Elderly Parents Live With You

Senior Care Assistant Reading BookThe decision to move an elderly parent into your home can be a difficult one, both emotionally and financially. However, a consultation with an elder care attorney may put your mind at ease about many of the uncertainties. Having an elderly parent live with you comes with additional expenses, but you don’t have to feel like you’re drowning in a financial abyss. There is help available; you just need to know where to look for it.

In many cases, a child assumes responsibility for most of the parents’ expenses. Sometimes, siblings offer financial assistance at the beginning, but over time, the expenses become the sole responsibility of the child providing housing – out of sight out of mind.

This common situation can be more than financially draining. Fighting with siblings over the shared burden of financial responsibility can destroy those relationships and cause resentment toward the elderly parent. In order to avoid these unnecessary family disputes, it is essential to have a comprehensive, detailed plan in place prior to making any decisions. There are many resources available to ease the financial, physical, and emotional burden of having an elderly parent live with you. It can be an enjoyable experience for all if you plan correctly and know where to turn for help when problems arise.

Easing the Financial Burden

Can my parent still qualify for Medicaid? This is an important question. In New York and other states, a child is not legally obligated to pay for the elderly parent’s care. If your parent is living with you, there is a good chance that he or she qualifies for Medicaid. In fact, programs such as Community Medicaid and Medicaid Home Care provide additional benefits for a parent living in his or her child’s home. Medicaid programs are just one example of the many resources available to you if your parent lives in your home. An elder care lawyer can help you understand your options, save you money, and help protect the delicate relationships with your parent and siblings.

Questions to Ask Before Moving An Elderly Parent Into Your Home:

  • What kind of care does my parent need?
  • How much assistance can I provide?
  • Do we get along well?
  • Will my parent contribute financially?
  • Is my home adult-friendly?
  • Are my spouse and kids supportive of this decision?
  • Will my parent have an available social network?
  • What kind of help can I expect from my siblings?
  • What will I do and how will I feel if my siblings are unable to provide assistance?

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it provides a good starting point for discussion. While not all of these questions may be easy to answer (and some might not have the answer you want), they provide a more holistic view of how successful the arrangement might be. Involve your siblings in this conversation as well. Early planning doesn’t guarantee success, but it increases the chances.

Call the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin P.C.

As elder care lawyers, we talk quite a bit about quality of life for elders, but it’s just as important for you to maintain your quality of life. Moving a parent into your home is a beautiful, loving gesture. However, this selfless gesture can come with added expenses and a long list of stressors. A skilled elder care attorney can help you before, during, and after you have made this very important decision. Call the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin for a free consultation today.

What We Can Learn From Robin Williams’ Estate Problems

Business man pointing to transparent board with text: Estate PlaWhen a grieving family gets hit with unwelcome surprises, things can get ugly. The loss of a loved one is painful, but the process of fighting over sentimental and valuable estate items (from mother’s favorite tea cup to her million dollar beach house) can break the happiest of families in two. The consequences of inadequate estate planning are seen all the time, yet it continues to happen to even the most conscientious planners. Celebrity estate planning disasters are often sensationalized, taking center stage on tabloid magazine covers. However, we can learn from their mistakes.

Robin Williams’ tragic suicide last August shocked millions. Prior to his death, Williams took extra precautions to ensure his estate would be divided fairly among his children and widow. The tax-efficient plan, which included a real estate holding trust and covered everything from his mansion to his memorabilia, seemed water-tight. Unfortunately, his family didn’t think so. What was responsible for the family feud? Basically, it boils down to individual, sentimental items. Not the mansion. Not the cars. Williams’ widow has requested that the jewelry bequeathed to his three children exclude his watch collection. In addition, she is requesting clarification on what exactly is included in “memorabilia.” In fact, the ongoing battle over these items landed the estate’s and heirs’ attorneys in front of a probate judge in San Francisco’s Superior Court last month.

Avoid “General” Language in Estate Plans

What can we learn from the Williams’ family estate problems? For starters, when creating an estate plan it’s a good idea to steer clear of “general” language. Clear and specific words should be used to ensure there is no question as to what is supposed to go to whom. For example, instead of saying “jewelry,” you should specify each item or category of jewelry included in the estate plan. The watch collection goes to my son. The pearl earrings go to my daughter, Sara. The diamond necklace goes to my daughter, Beth. As you can probably surmise from the above example, there can be consequences to a statement as general as the jewelry goes to my children.”

Consider a QTIP or Revocable Trust

There are myriad things to take into consideration when setting up an estate plan, especially for blended families. There are also many excellent tools for dealing with even the most complicated situations. For example, a Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust (QTIP) is an effective tool for blended families because it maintains control of the trust’s assets but provides for the surviving spouse until his or her death. Revocable trusts can be useful in avoiding probate. Wills and trusts can also be supplemented with guidance memos to provide greater clarity. In addition, one of the simplest ways to prevent family feuds once you’ve passed on is by talking to your loved ones now. Set expectations. If your family has some idea of what goes where, it will set the stage for a more peaceful distribution of assets once you’re gone.

Call the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin P.C.

Estate planning can be a complicated and overwhelming process, but it doesn’t have to be. A skilled estate planning attorney will give you peace of mind that your family will be provided for and that your wishes will be honored once you are gone. Call the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin for a free consultation about your estate planning needs today.

May is Older Americans Month

beautiful elderly coupleYou may have never heard of Older Americans Month, but this month-of-awareness has been around for over 50 years. Occurring every year during the month of May, Older Americans Month serves as a time to acknowledge the significance and contributions of our older citizens. At ceremonies, events, and fairs across the nation, we celebrate the older Americans of our past, present, and future.

JFK Helped Establish Older Americans Month in 1963

The significance of this month of awareness becomes more evident when we look at how it began. When it was established in 1963, approximately one-third of all Americans over the age of 65 lived in poverty. This was largely due to the lack of programs to meet their needs. However, their plight was not unnoticed. Concerned people and organizations began advocating for the rights of senior citizens. In April of 1963, president John F. Kennedy met with members of the National Council of Senior Citizens in response to the demand for action. Senior Citizens Month (the original moniker of Older American’s Month) was born from that meeting.

Today’s Older Americans Enjoy the Same Quality of Life as Younger Americans

Every year brings a new theme to Older American’s Month, and this year it is Get Into the Act. This year’s theme focuses on the importance of older American’s being able to take charge of their lives. This applies to taking charge of their health care, getting involved in their communities, and creating positive change in the lives of others. Basically, it celebrates the ability of older Americans to live the same quality of life as younger Americans. People over the age of 65 are working, volunteering, traveling, and engaged in their communities. They are healthy, active, and living longer than ever before. While the longevity and good health of today’s senior citizens is partly because of medical advancements, it is also the result of increased resources, options, and community involvement. When problems arise (whether health-related, financial, or emotional), there are countless programs to address them. Senior citizens no longer need to feel alone, and that is definitely something to celebrate.

Call the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin P.C.

Quality of life is the biggest factor impacting our daily lives. Older Americans are especially vulnerable to a reduced quality of life. If they are suffering, they may be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes, they just don’t want to inconvenience others. However, there are countless resources available and nobody should suffer needlessly. A skilled elder care attorney will be your best advocate by protecting your rights and helping you find the assistance you need. Call the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin for a free consultation today.

When Should You Review Your Will?

willCreating a will is one of the most important steps in planning your estate to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Anyone over the age of 18 who has belongings they want to leave to someone should take the time to create a last will and testament. Your will should reflect changes that occur throughout your lifetime, and regular reviews of your documents will help make sure your will is up to date. You should make it a point to review your will if specific life changes occur.

Changes to Your Family

The structure of your family may change in several ways over the course of your lifetime, and whenever a change occurs which affects how you want to distribute your wealth you should consider making changes to your will. For example, you should review your documents whenever your marital status changes if you plan to leave assets to a new spouse or you want to avoid leaving assets to a previous spouse after a divorce. You should also review your will if you have a child or grandchild if you would like to leave anything to those family members. Conversely, if a family member passes away it is a good idea to review your will if you had that person listed in the document as an heir.

Don’t forget your relationship with the executor of your will. If your executor passes away or your relationship changes, you will probably want to change the executor of your estate as listed in your will.

Changes to Your Assets

Another reason for reviewing your will is a change in your personal assets. Your belongings may change by either increasing or decreasing significantly, prompting a review of your will. If you inherit significant assets or otherwise have a large one-time lump sum that you receive for some reason, consider how you would like to distribute this new asset and include those wishes in your will. On the other hand, if you need to spend a large amount of money on medical bills or other expenses, you may want to revisit your will and adjust it accordingly.

Changes to the Laws

Most aspects of your last will and testament fall under the jurisdiction of the state, and it is the state that decides how your assets will be distributed in the absence of a will. The rules that govern estate distribution and taxation are frequently updated, and it can be difficult to stay on top of the current laws.

Contact Estate Planning Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin

It is a good idea to contact a lawyer to make sure you understand the current laws and to make sure your will is worded in the best possible way for your beneficiaries. The Law Office of Andrew M. Lankin is ready to help you determine how to best handle your personal assets. Please contact us through our online contact form, or call us at (516) 605-0625 to speak with an attorney today.

Having the Tough “Talk” with Your Aging Parents

Estate PlanningHaving the difficult “talk” with your aging parents about elderly living arrangements, end-of-life care, and finances during retirement is one discussion most people would rather put off as long as possible. Putting off this talk too long, however, can delay the discussion until it is too late. If your parents become incapacitated and can no longer communicate their wishes, you would be left in the dark about what arrangements they would want.

When Should You Have the Talk?

Correct timing of this important discussion can help avoid many uncomfortable feelings and make sure you know your parents’ wishes in plenty of time before something happens. Discussing their end-of-life requests before they retire can raise these topics before they are overly worried about their own mortality, yet it will let them know you have their best interests at heart.

Try to bring up the topic in normal conversation, such as talking about someone who has recently put their end-of-life plans into effect. By talking about someone else first, it becomes much easier to casually approach the subject with your parents about their own affairs.

What Should You Talk About?

Some things that you will want to discuss with your parents include retirement finances, assisted living arrangements, and medical contact. You need to know where your parents have financial accounts, insurance policies, and other accounts including social media accounts so you can close these properly when the time comes. If your parents don’t have records of these accounts in one place, help them organize the information to make it easier for them to keep track of and for your own future information.

Ask your parents where they would like to live as they age. Do they want to live out their days in the family home with the help of a home health aide, or would they rather live in a retirement community where they can socialize with other elders and not worry about home upkeep? Review their financial situation to make sure their finances will support their wishes.

Also ask your parents about their medical information. Knowing how to contact their doctors or if they have a living will in place will help you in case of a medical emergency.

What Should You Do After the Talk?

Once you and your parents know how they would like to live out their days and you have all of their account information documented, make sure they put everything in writing and leave the information in a place where you can easily find it, such as a bank deposit box.

For help in preparing documents including wills, living wills, or power of attorney documents, contact an attorney for assistance. The experts at the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin are ready to help you make sure your parents are cared for according to their wishes during their final days. Call us at (516) 605-0625, or contact us through our online contact form to schedule an appointment today. For your convenience, we can meet at our office or in the comfort of your own home.

Estate Planning 101

Estate PlanningDeciding how to divide your assets and making sure your loved ones receive what you want them to have can be a simple matter. However, this is only possible if you understand the process of estate planning and where to begin. On the other hand, it can be a complicated issue that leaves your grieving family members in a state of confusion as they try to determine what your final wishes are. Proper estate planning can clear up any misunderstandings and prevent further stress and possible arguments among your loved ones regarding your belongings.

What is Estate Planning?

Simply put, estate planning is a way to give your possessions to people after you pass away. Anyone who has something and someone they will be leaving behind has an estate, whether it is worth a few hundred dollars or several million. Through a few official papers including wills, trusts, power of attorney documents, and other directives, you can designate exactly how you want your final assets to be distributed, whether it be among relatives, friends, or charitable organizations. Without these documents, your final assets will be distributed according to the state’s decision, even if that plan is not what you wanted.

What Does Estate Planning Involve?

There are a few different pieces that estate planning entails, including those you can utilize during your lifetime and those that are designed solely for your beneficiaries to access.

Some documents designed to benefit you during your lifetime include:

  • Living will: States what your medical wishes are in case you become incapacitated and unable to communicate what you want to happen in certain circumstances
  • Power of Attorney: Designates someone who can act on your behalf in legal matters
  • Revocable trust: Allows you to have access to deposited funds during your lifetime

Some documents you can create to help your beneficiaries include:

  • Your will: Designed to distribute your assets to your designated beneficiaries upon your death
  • Irrevocable trust: A trust which contains funds that, once deposited, no longer belong to you; deposited funds immediately belong to the trustee
  • Funeral plans: Let your loved ones know what your wishes are regarding your own funeral service

Why Should You Plan Your Estate Now?

It is never too soon to begin planning your estate. Accidents happen. Sudden illnesses occur. Circumstances often take us away from our loved ones before we are prepared to go. If you have people you will leave behind, take the stress and worry of dealing with your final wishes away from them by preparing your estate documents right away.

As a champion of elder law, Andrew M. Lamkin is prepared to help you start planning your estate documents now. If you are ready to take the first step toward making sure your loved ones are left with the memories and inheritance you want them to have, please contact us via our online contact form or call us at (516) 605-0625 to speak with us now about preparing your official estate papers.

Estate Planning in a Second Marriage

A married couple planning their retirement lifeSecond marriages and blended families can be a challenge. Now that you are ready to plan your estate, the challenges continue. How do you divide an estate equally among the constellation of heirs titled “His, Hers, and Ours?” These decisions can seem overwhelming, but planning and good advice will ensure that your family will be cared for even after you are gone.

Don’t Wait

Talking about what will happen after your death is not usually a topic of conversation for the dinner table; however, it needs to be addressed. Should you or your spouse die without a will, the probate court will decide how your estate should be divided and, in the event that both spouses die together, that court will decide who has custody of any minor children. Probate court can take years to settle an estate and costs often eat up a sizeable portion of the estate that could have benefited your heirs.

Get Advice

There is more to planning your estate than just having a will, although that is a significant part of your planning. You will need to talk to an estate planning attorney to make sure that your heirs are properly taken care of and that the legal documents drawn up do not interfere with any other contractual obligations that you may have. Divorce settlements, parenting plans, alimony, and child support all factor into how your estate will be settled. For example, your divorce settlement may require you to designate your ex-spouse as the beneficiary of your retirement benefits. You may have brought a significant amount of debt or a significant asset to your second marriage. A properly planned estate will take tax issues, inheritances, and sheltering assets into consideration to keep them from being claimed as payment for medical bills.

Write Out Your Wishes

Before documents are drawn up and filed with the court, there are many things that need to be considered as you plan your estate. Have you raised a stepchild for most of his or her life and you consider him or her an equal heir with your biological children? Is there a portion of your estate that you would like to designate as college tuition for children or grandchildren? Do you wish to allow your spouse to benefit from your estate, but then want the assets to go to your children once your spouse passes on? These are the things you should be ready to discuss with your spouse and attorney.

It’s Too Important

You may be tempted to put off planning your estate, but procrastinating could be disastrous for your family. You may be considering using a free online legal form, or a piece of software to plan your estate, but your family is too important to leave anything to chance.

There are many options available to ensure that your wishes are followed and that your heirs are provided for. The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin is here to help guide you through the process of planning your estate. Call 516-605-0625 or contact us online to schedule an appointment at your home or in the office.

Care Management for Your Aging Parents

multigenerational famillyOften, the responsibility of caring for aging parents falls on the adult children. Many times, only one sibling accepts the responsibility, even though there are other siblings in the family.

As the parent’s health further declines, the adult child must also maintain the parent’s finances, pay the bills, and be the parent’s main source of social interaction. Additionally, weekly doctors’ appointments and trips to the pharmacy can be overwhelming, not to mention the paperwork required by medical insurance, Medicare, or and other sources.

The stress of caring for your aging parent, while at the same time supporting your own family, can strain your relationship with your parent, your spouse, and your children; however, you’re not alone. There is help for what has been termed the “sandwich generation,” people age 40 to 60 who care for an aging parent in addition to caring for their own families. Rather than allowing the stress of caring for your elderly parent to ruin your relationships, seek help from an elder care management professional.

What is elder care management?

Elder Care Management is not health care. Rather, it is a service or set of services designed to help family members make sense of the elder care system and get the help needed to properly and compassionately care for their aging parents. Sometimes called geriatric care management, these agencies work with the aging individual’s family to safeguard the patient’s well being and quality of life for as long as possible.

What is the role of elder care management?

Elder care management services educate caregivers about the services available to them and their parent. They also provide support and guidance, ensuring that the decisions that must be made for the aging parent lead to an optimal life. They assist caregivers in problem solving and mapping long term care plans. Some elder care management services also provide coaching for family caregivers.

What are the benefits of using elder care management services?

  • Receiving support reduces stress, anxiety, and resentment that can be part of caring for your aging parent. This allows you to be a son or daughter, rather than a parent, to your parent.
  • Utilizing elder care management services can help your parent live at home and remain independent as long as possible.
  • Elder care management professionals understand the system and can help you make informed decisions about what must be done for your parent and when.
  • When necessary, these professionals make outside referrals to other agencies and professionals, such as estate planning professionals and attorneys.
  • Some services provided by elder care management services can be paid for using medical insurance or Medicare.

Final Thoughts

Elder care management services are a wonderful resource that can help reduce the stress and anxiety associated with taking care of your aging parents. These professionals understand that caring for an aging parent can be overwhelming for individuals who are also raising their own children, maintaining a home, or considering their own retirement.

The Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin are available as a further resource to help you with any legal issues that your elderly parent might be facing. Call us today or fill out our online contact form and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

10 Easy Ways to Help Protect Your Aging Parents

Elderly mother with daughterMany adult children feel helpless as their parents age. Caring for an elderly parent can be both time-consuming and expensive. However, there are a few simple and cheap things that people can do to keep aging parents safe.

1. Keep floors and walkways clear.

Many elderly people have trouble picking up things from the ground. However, these obstacles present a fall risk. Visiting a parent once a week and picking things up around the house can prevent accidents.

2. Install grab bars in key places.

Many elderly people fall while getting out of bed, in and out of a bath, and other similar places. Placing grab bars will make aging parents feel safer getting up and down while preventing falls.

3. Go for a walk.

Many seniors become more sedentary as they lose balance and strength. Walking, swimming, and other light exercise will keep aging parents fit and capable for much longer. Even taking your aging relative for a weekly walk in the park can make a huge difference.

4. Perform simple repairs.

Simple things like fixing a doorknob or changing a light bulb can make a huge difference in the safety of an elderly person’s home. It’s also important to routinely check smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and other home safety devices.

5. Help manage their medication.

Over-medication and under-medication are both common in elderly people. This is easily prevented by helping the elderly person measure out their pills into daily pill boxes. In addition, review medications occasionally to ensure that they are not taking medications that cause side effects such as loss of balance that may interfere with their independence and safety.

6. Install nightlights.

Poor vision is a common problem for aging parents. Unfortunately, many falls occur when a person fails to see obstacles in their path at night. Nightlights can help prevent these falls. In addition, ensure that your relative has their eyesight checked and is wearing glasses that correct their vision.

7. Review their credit report.

Financial scams and identity theft are both common among the elderly. An occasional credit check or setting up credit alerts can let you know if your parent credit is free from any fraud or scams.

8. Secure their residence.

Elderly people cannot fight back against intruders. Make sure there are functional locks, peep holes, good outdoor lighting, and other safety devices to keep them safe.

9. Help them plan for the future.

Many aging people are reluctant to make plans for future infirmity and death. Talk about a will, do not resuscitate order, power of attorney, living will, and other plans for the future. It’s important to get your relative’s wishes in writing while they are still capable of good decision making.

10. Check on them regularly.

Elderly people are much safer if someone routinely calls or stops by to make sure they’re okay. If falls are a concern, consider getting a life alert button or similar service.

Caring for an elderly relative can be difficult. It’s important to contact a lawyer if you have any concerns about their future and their ability to care for themselves. Call the elder law experts at the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin or fill out our online contact form today if you have any concerns about your aging parents.

 

5 Steps to Finding Happiness in Retirement

retired coupleRetirement is a major step in life. You switch from a life of routine to doing whatever you want, while depending only on yourself. Fortunately, the right moves can make this time liberating rather than scary. Here are five steps to finding happiness in your golden years.

1. Wait to Retire

If you work longer, then you will have more time to save and prepare for retirement. Social Security benefits also increase for each year that you wait to retire up to age 70. You can retire and receive reduced benefits starting at 62, but the higher payments will let you use your savings for things such as vacations rather than everyday essentials. Remember to apply for Social Security three months before you plan to retire.

2. Save

Start to save for your retirement as soon as possible so that interest can accumulate. Even if you just finished college, you should save as much as you can. IRAs, 401ks, and other investment accounts have some very nice tax benefits. You should also work hard to pay off debts like a mortgage or car payment before retirement. Extra bills will leave you with less money to enjoy later.

3. Downsize

Minimize your expenses whenever possible. In many cases, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to be happy. For example, you could buy a cheap used car with cash instead of worrying about car payments. Many people move into smaller houses, condos, or apartments at retirement since their children no longer live with them and they need less space.

4. Stay Busy

Make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and spend time with family. Find a hobby, go on a fun vacation, or volunteer. Many colleges offer free or discounted classes to senior citizens so that they can expand their minds. You can even get a part-time job to help keep you active, healthy, and happy.

5. Prepare or Update Legal Documents

No one wants to think about death or illness, but it’s a necessary part of life. Prepare or update important legal documents such as a will and power of attorney, and review the beneficiaries on retirement plans and insurance. This way, you can make decisions about your own funeral arrangements and make sure that family members will be cared for. Planning ahead saves relatives from the stress of making arrangements while grieving. You also get peace of mind from knowing that a person you trust will make decisions if you are incapacitated.

Contact Us

Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. at (516) 605-0625 for more help with finding happiness in retirement. We specialize in elder law and estate planning, including Wills and Trusts, Medicaid planning, and estate administration. Call us today or fill out our online contact form and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

Keeping Seniors Safe While Driving

Elderly woman drivingWith more people living longer lives, there are now more seniors on the road who continue to use their vehicle for transportation. Approximately 35 million licensed drivers are over the age of 65, which is a 20% increase from the last decade. To ensure that your loved ones are still safe while driving and are not a threat to themselves or other motorists, here are a few tips to follow for important preventative measures.

Take Online Screening Assessments

Online screening assessments are now offered through AAA to evaluate the senior’s driving record, medical history, and vision to determine if they’re still safe to drive. A representative will then drive with the client and assess their skills behind the wheel before sitting down with the senior and their family to discuss if they should limit their time on the road. A driving school may also be recommended where the senior can complete a course, which will also help to lower their insurance.

Purchase a Smaller Vehicle

Many people over the age of 65 struggle to reach the pedals or see over the steering wheel of their vehicle, which can limit their visibility and lead to an accident. Seniors often prefer to drive larger cars that they’ve owned for several decades but may now be a challenge to maneuver. It’s important to trade in the vehicle for a smaller model that will allow them to have more control of the car. The senior should also have a higher seating position for an enhanced view of the road. Family or friends should help them to have a strong understanding of the controls on the new vehicle and feel comfortable operating it. Assistive devices can also be installed on the car to help the senior see blind spots, improve their parking ability, or compensate for disabilities.

Limit Driving Times

It can be difficult for loved ones to speak to seniors about their safety on the road, but it’s important to do so before it’s too late. Discuss your concern for their reaction time or cognitive abilities while stressing the importance that they limit the time of day that they’re on the road. Encourage the senior to avoid driving during the night or in rush hour traffic, which is when they may be more prone to an accident.

Reduce Prescription Drug Medication

Seniors can cause accidents due to limitations with their hearing and vision, but prescription medications can also cause problems. Some medications are more likely to cause fatigue or dizziness and they can make it difficult for seniors to feel alert while on the road. Talk to their physician and discuss switching medications or limiting the amount that they take each day to improve their driving abilities.

If the individual is at a high risk of having a heart attack or a stroke, it may be time to discuss discontinuing driving altogether. Observe their behavior while driving with them to determine if they should have their keys taken permanently due to their current health condition.

At Lamkin Law, we are concerned about elders and elder laws. Contact us today by calling or filling out our online contact form and we will return your inquiry within 24 hours.

5 Red Flags of Elder Financial Abuse by Relatives & Caregivers

Elder abuse - nursing homeMany people know that seniors are susceptible to consumer fraud, telemarketing ploys, and internet scams, but fewer know that by far the biggest threat to an elderly person’s financial security is financial abuse by relatives, friends, and caregivers. In fact, the National Center on Elder Abuse has found that there are over 20,000 substantiated cases of caregiver financial elder abuse in the country each year, accounting for about 20% of all types of elder abuse in the United States.

How does financial elder abuse happen? Very simply, relatives and other caregivers take advantage of a senior’s trust, loneliness, emotional vulnerability, and/or deteriorating mental clarity in order to funnel off their savings, retirement funds, property, or other assets. In some cases, caregivers may slowly force themselves into positions of power or insinuate themselves into wills.

It can be difficult to protect your elder loved ones from financial abuse and to make certain that all they have worked for is protected and used appropriately. One of the best things you can do to protect the seniors in your life from these issues is to be familiar with common elder abuse red flags:

  1. A caregiver is taking a strange amount of interest in the senior and his or her financial affairs.
  2. You observe a sudden uptick in back transactions or credit card transactions that the senior cannot explain.
  3. A caregiver is isolating the senior from other relatives and friends.
  4. Your senior’s bills, such as utility bills or nursing home bills, are suddenly not being paid.
  5. A caregiver without obvious means suddenly has a change in lifestyle or suddenly makes several large purchases.
  6. Your senior has a sudden and unexplained change in lifestyle, or suddenly begins receiving gifts from a certain relative or caregiver.
  7. A caregiver begins accompanying the senior to the bank, signing checks, or writing checks on behalf of the senior.
  8. The senior is confused about his or her finances or where certain amounts of money went.
  9. The senior has a sudden change in personality or mood, either in general or when around a certain caregiver.
  10. The senior is suddenly reluctant to discuss financial matters or matters of his or her estate.
  11. You suddenly lose access to your senior loved one’s bank account or credit card information.
  12. The senior or caregiver unexpectedly wishes to make changes to the senior’s will, power of attorney, or other estate planning documents.

One of the best ways to protect against elder financial abuse is to talk with your senior loved ones about their financial plans, estate planning, and long-term care wishes. Having a plan in place and having their money protected can make it more difficult for caregivers to steal, while also making it easier for you to detect financial abuse if it begins to happen. In addition, consider talking to your elderly loved ones about the prevalence and dangers of elder abuse so that they too can recognize warning signs.

New York Estate Planning Assistance & Legal Advice

The Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin are here to help you with a wide range of elder law issues, including estate planning and protection against elder financial abuse. To learn more about our services, or to speak with an attorney, please call (516) 605-0625 or fill out our online contact form.

Six Considerations When Choosing a Legal Guardian for your Minor Children

guardianshipFor the parents of minor children, one of the most important aspects of your will is naming a legal guardian for your kids in the event that you and your spouse are no longer able to care for them. While it can be extremely difficult to choose who will raise your children in an emergency, you do not want to leave the decision up to the courts.

Below, we’ve listed six important considerations for parents who are choosing their children’s legal guardians.

  • Does the guardian share your values? Even if you have a guardian in mind who is loving and eager to help, it may be a deal-breaker if they do not share your religious background, cultural background, or your basic values. Speak with your potential guardian about their values and whether they would be willing to raise your children according to your wishes.
  • Will the guardian have the financial means to care for your children? If you do not have a plan to furnish your guardian with an appropriate amount of money to raise your children, you will have to consider your guardian’s financial situation. Do they already have children? Are they financially secure? Would your contributions be enough to ease the financial burden of expanding their family?
  • How big will the transition be for your children? Whoever is chosen as the guardian is not the only important factor. You should also consider whether your children will have to move states and school systems. Choosing a guardian in your town or community, even if it is not a close relative, may be easier on your kids than choosing a guardian across the country, away from familiar faces, and away from friends and activities.
  • How old is the guardian? Many parents automatically wish to list their own parents as legal guardians. However, they may not be taking the age and health of their parents into account. If your parents are 65 years old when your children are toddlers, your kids might have to transition through several different homes and caregivers before they turn 18.
  • Is your guardian already a parent? It may be a bonus to know that your guardian has experience raising children and being a parent. It may also be a bonus if your guardian has children that are close with your children. However, you should also ask yourself if your guardian will be able to care for your children in addition to theirs, or if your children’s interests may clash or compete with your guardian’s children’s interests.
  • Do the guardian and your children have a strong relationship? This may be one of the biggest and most important considerations. Simply ask yourself if both the guardian and your children would be happy and healthy living and growing together. This one consideration could outweigh a number of the others.

Choosing a legal guardian for your children is a tough and complicated decision, but it is an extremely important one to make. While you may not be able to care for your children after you are gone, you do have the power to make sure they are raised by someone you love, trust, and admire.

Designate a Legal Guardian in Your Will Today

Are you ready to draw up your will and establish a legal guardian for your minor children? The Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin are here to help. Call a New York estate plan attorney today to get started: (516) 605-0625 or fill out our online contact form.

Is it Too Early to Start Estate Planning?

estate planningAs New York estate planning attorneys, it’s no surprise that we believe that it is never too early to begin planning your estate. We know all too well that life is filled with the unexpected, and far too many people pass on without having their personal affairs in order and their final wishes known.

Estate planning shouldn’t begin only when you turn a certain age, when you get married, when you have kids, or when you reach a certain net worth. Here are four good reasons to start your estate planning today regardless of your age:

  • It will help your family and loved ones. Losing a loved one is difficult enough. When there is not a written a will or any kind of estate planning, it can be extremely stressful and overwhelming. Especially if you are married and/or if you have dependents, estate planning protects your family from the needlessly long and hard process of settling your estate after your death.
  • It will protect you in times of emergencies. We never know what the future will hold. Even if you are strong and healthy right now, no one is invincible. If you are involved in an accident or diagnosed with a terminal disease, already having a will, a living will, a life insurance plan, and a durable power of attorney can make a huge difference in your life and the future lives of your loved ones.
  • It will give you peace of mind. Stop worrying about what might happen if you and your spouse were to lose your lives in an accident, leaving your minor children without a guardian. Or stop worrying about what might happen if you suddenly lose your ability to make medical decisions on your own. Estate planning allows you to be prepared and have peace of mind that both you and your family will be taken care of even in the worst circumstances.
  • It will save you stress and time in the future. Estate planning now means less estate planning later. While it is always a good idea to periodically update your documents (such as in the event of a marriage, birth, death, or divorce), having your central documents in place is something you only have to do once. There’s no reason to delay.

Don’t Put Off Estate Planning Any Longer

The Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin are dedicated to helping individuals and families plan for the future, no matter what it will hold, no matter your age. Whether you are 28 or 88, we can assist you with all aspects of estate planning, from asset protection to living wills to health care proxies. To learn more about how you should get started, or to ask an attorney a specific question about estate planning in New York, please call (516) 605-0625 or fill out our online contact form.

New York Estate Planning & Funeral Planning

funeral arrangementsEven though your funeral plans and burial plans are not a vital part of your will and trust, planning for them are two important components of estate planning for both you and your family. Not only do you want your family to know your specific funeral wishes, you also want to make certain that you have set aside funds to cover funeral expenses. Below, we’ve answered a few common questions about estate planning and funeral planning.

How should I let my loved ones know my burial and funeral wishes?

It’s a misconception that your funeral preferences should only be listed in your will and trust. Instead, they should appear in a separate detailed document that you leave in a safe place for your loved ones or executor. While you may think that simply leaving verbal instructions with your spouse or children is enough, we recommend leaving a written and detailed document, especially if you have specific requests, wants, and needs.

What information should I include in my funeral plan?

The preferences and information you leave in your funeral plan depends upon what is important to you regarding your funeral, memorial service, and burial. Information that many people outline in their funeral planning document includes:

  •      What kind of ceremony you prefer (specific readings or songs).
  •      Where you should be memorialized and buried.
  •      How you would like your body prepared.
  •      Who you would like to speak or participate in the service.
  •      What you would like to wear or be buried with.
  •      Where you would like loved ones to send memorial donations.
  •      How you would like to pay for the costs of the funeral.

How can I set aside money for funeral costs?

There are several different ways you can make certain that your family and loved ones have access to money for your memorial service, burial plans, and other funeral costs. Your estate planners can assist you with setting up a life insurance policy made payable to an irrevocable trust to avoid estate taxes on the proceeds, or with a separate bank account dedicated to paying for your funeral costs. Some simply make certain to leave enough liquid assets behind that they know the costs can easily be covered. Some designate that certain assets are sold for funeral costs.

Many experts warn against prepaid funeral planning and funeral payment plans. It can be difficult to withdraw or transport your payments if you move geographical locations or change your mind about your plans. In addition, you may lose your money if the funeral home you pay goes out of business.

What happens if I don’t leave instructions regarding my funeral and burial?

If you don’t specify your preferences, your next of kin will organize your funeral and burial — usually your spouse, children, or parents. If you do not have surviving relatives, a public administrator will handle the plans. However, be aware that your family will be grieving and overwhelmed at the time of your death, and they may have difficulty making decisions about your funeral, memorial service, wake, and burial. In addition, if you have multiple surviving children, disagreements may arise regarding your funeral that could have been avoided if you had left a letter or document behind.

New York Elder Law & Estate Planning Attorneys

It can be emotionally and logistically difficult to plan your estate and the details of your funeral and burial. At the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin, we can help you through every step of the process and ensure that your finances are secure and your wishes are met. To learn more about our estate planning and elder law services, please call (516) 605-0625 or fill out our online contact form.

Why the Elderly Need to Beware of Reverse Mortgages

Reverse Mortgage Caution SignWhen a person retires, it’s important that their financial needs are met. In essence, a reverse mortgage is intended to do just that. However, there are a few aspects of a reverse mortgage that the elderly should be aware of in advance. The following will take an in-depth look at exactly why people, especially senior citizens, should be cautious when it comes to reverse mortgages.

Reverse Mortgage Details

A reverse mortgage is intended to provide assistance to elderly individuals as a means of lessening payments as a person grows older. To understand just how a reverse mortgage can be risky for the elderly, it’s first important to know what a reverse mortgage entails. A reverse mortgage can:

  • Provide relief for mortgages and home-related expenses for anyone over the age of 62
  • Provide loans against the value of the home that don’t need to be paid back until moving out or dying
  • Be used for monthly mortgage payments and other applications
  • Be structured in a number of different ways

Why Reverse Mortgages Can Be Risky

While there can be a wealth of benefits for the elderly when receiving a reverse mortgage, there are certain things that everyone needs to look out for when applying for this loan. For instance, there are times when the elderly simply won’t be able to afford a reverse mortgage. It’s important to note that a reverse mortgage doesn’t take away everything that will need to be paid, as borrowers will still be required to pay insurance, property taxes, and any maintenance that needs to be taken care of. It’s also essential that anyone considering this loan looks at all of the fees attached to it beforehand, as upfront costs can be relatively high, though the fact that the loan starts to cover mortgage payments immediately does help with this.

In regards to elderly couples, make sure that both names are on the deed of the house, as there’s actually a chance that the house can be foreclosed upon if one spouse dies and the other does not have their name on the deed at the time that this occurs. Reverse mortgages often require counseling on what the loan entails and the advantages and disadvantages of acquiring one. While this can be relatively beneficial, it can also be exceedingly time-consuming. It’s also extremely important to understand the many options available for a reverse mortgage. If you don’t completely understand, you could choose a loan that isn’t the best choice for you and your specific situation. There are three ways in which a loan can be provided to the elderly: a line of credit, monthly payments, or a lump sum. Every elderly person needs to identify which of these three loan types would suit them best before applying.

If you have questions about reverse mortgages or any other aspects of elder law that you may simply need clarification on, don’t hesitate to contact us today. Call us today or fill out our online contact form and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

Why You Need an Attorney to Create a Will

Signing Last Will and Testament documentIf you have assets of any kind, having a legally recognized will is necessary to make sure your assets are distributed to the people you want to receive them after your death. If you die without a will, a court will be forced to decide who gets your assets. If this should happen, the people you want to provide for may be awarded little or none of your assets. In order to avoid this from happening, it is important for you to take some time and decide how you want your assets to be distributed. Once you have done this, you should contact an attorney who is experienced in writing wills. This is very important because when it comes to your will, you do not want any mistakes when the will is finally read and your assets are distributed. You need to be certain your wishes will be carried out to the letter. Let’s take a look at some or the reasons why you need at attorney to create your will:

Expert advice

While it is possible to write your own will, any of the following situations will require the knowledge and experience of an attorney:

  • If you want to disinherit your spouse, you will normally not be able to do this with a spousal objection. However, an attorney can tell you what rights your spouse has.
  • You are concerned your will might be contested because you were not of sound mind, you were unduly influenced, or the will is fraudulent.
  • One of your beneficiaries is going to require long-term care.
  • You are the owner of a small business and you are concerned about your stake in the business or the rights of the other owners.
  • You have complicated plans for your will, such as leaving some of your assets in a trust.
  • You want to know what your options are concerning your will.

There will not be any errors

Wills can be very complex, especially if you have complicated finances, or if you want to distribute your assets to a large amount of people. You may also want to put certain restrictions on when a specific person will be allowed to receive their inheritance. In these complicated cases, you will need an experienced attorney to make sure the document is worded in precisely the right manner. Otherwise, there is a chance your wishes may not be followed correctly by the executor of the will. An attorney will also ensure that the will is properly witnessed and signed, allowing it to be legally recognized by a court of law. When it comes to the legality of wills, even the smallest mistake in the way it is worded or signed can render it invalid.

An attorney understands the legal issues of writing a will

There is much more to writing a will than simply deciding the recipients of your assets after your death. Inheritance tax is an important issue that an attorney can explain to you. If you want to set up a trust for your children or grandchildren to protect their money and ensure it is not squandered, you may need the advice of an attorney. The average person does not have the required knowledge of these important issues. An attorney can guide you through the complicated process of writing your will, ensuring you make choices that are in your best interests.

Executor of your will

Choosing the executor of your will is an important decision. The executor is the person who will handle all of the estate arrangements after your death. Some people prefer the executor of their will to be an objective person outside of their family. These special arrangements are best handled by an experienced elder law attorney.

The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin P.C. can assist you in the writing of your will. We will be happy to discuss your options with you. Call us today at (516) 605-0625 or fill out our online contact form and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

Why Winter Weather is Tough for the Elderly

Car with winter tyres installed on light alloy wheels in snowy oMany may not appreciate the environmental climate changes that commonly occur anywhere from fall to spring. For older citizens, ice and snow pose possible fall hazards that could result in broken bones. Journeying outdoors while wearing non-skid boots or having a companion reduces fall risks. However, colder indoor and outdoor temperatures also present additional dangers. Even with mild temperature decreases, winds lower outdoor temperatures even further. A 30 degree sunny day drops quickly to 15 degrees when 30 mile per hour winds occur. The National Institute on Aging advises that cold weather and precipitation carry potential hazards of hypothermia and overexertion.

Risk of Hypothermia

The term hypothermia refers to a condition that occurs when someone’s body temperature drops beneath the normal range and remains lowered for an extended length of time. As people age, the ability to maintain a normal body temperature decreases. Cardiovascular conditions that affect blood circulation contribute to the problem. Older people oftentimes become less active, which generates less body heat. These factors may put an elderly person in danger despite being exposed to even milder cold temperatures.

Hypothermia Symptoms

When the body temperature falls to 96 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, the symptoms of hypothermia may begin. Initially, the affected person may look or sound confused. Reaction time diminishes. The individual may complain of feeling sleepy. Speech becomes slurred and overall shivering accompanies a stiffening of the limbs, which slows physical movement. The pulse also weakens. The condition represents an emergency that requires immediate medical intervention.

Prevention Tips

  • When the weather turns cold, older people should wear layers of loose clothing. Each layer serves to trap warm air and thus keep the body warmer.
  • Wearing gloves, mittens, hats, or scarves prevents body heat from escaping via the hands and head.
  • Before going outdoors, stretch indoors to raise body temperature.
  • Indoors, wearing long underwear beneath normal clothing traps body heat. Elderly residents might additionally consider wearing socks and slippers. Use afghans or blankets to prevent heat loss from arms, legs, and shoulders.
  • Keep thermostats set to a minimum of 65 degrees Fahrenheit. While many are tempted to reduce indoor heat for financial reasons, the action could trigger hypothermia. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides the elderly with funding that assists with heating costs.
  • Consult with a healthcare provider to help assess medications that may contribute to hypothermia. Have the prescriptions or dosages altered if needed.
  • Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages before venturing outdoors. While alcohol creates the illusion of warming the body, blood vessels actually expand, which allows heat to circulate away from internal organs where it is needed most.

Overexertion

For someone diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, outdoor activities could put an unnecessary strain on the heart and increase the risk of heart attack. These activities may include walking through snow drifts or wet snow. Lifting heavy shovels filled with wet snow are also ill-advised.

Prevent Overexertion

  • Dress properly.
  • Get a ride to the intended destination if possible.
  • If possible, find someone else to shovel the snow.
  • Take it slow and stop for frequent breaks during the activity.
  • Shovel small amounts of snow with each scoop.

The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin P.C. can assist your family with a variety of legal and non-legal matters concerning the elderly. Call us today or fill out our online contact form and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

What Exactly is Elder Law?

Elder LawElder law is focused primarily on the needs and laws governing the treatment of the elderly. Unique legal issues can plague older adults as well as their families, and elder law attorneys are well versed in the protections available for the elderly.

Not long ago, elder law was not a specialization for attorneys. Many people sought the advice of a general attorney for their will and estate planning as well as their business contracts. In elder law, the attorney is specialized and knowledgeable about the laws regarding the elderly.

Long-Term Care

Elderly family members might need to be in a nursing home as they the ability to care for themselves. It can be tough for family members to navigate the complicated arena of health insurance, as well as Medicaid, without an adviser who knows the qualifications of insurance programs. Before seniors are unable to care for themselves, they can see an elder law attorney to plan for the future, too.

Estate Planning

This is commonly known as creating a will, but there is more to the process. There are probate and tax issues to consider. It does not matter how much money or what kind of property will change hands. The planning should be done with the guidance of an elder law attorney who will advise you on the documents you need.

Living Trusts

A living trust is essentially the same as a will but with a slight difference. A will only becomes active after the person has died. A living trust dictates your preferences in the case that you are alive but no longer able to make sound decisions. It can be helpful to plan finances as well as living arrangements in case you are unable to do so. An elder law attorney can help you protect your assets, appoint a trustee, and other complex tasks.

Fraud, Neglect, and Protection

Unfortunately, elder abuse is a real threat to seniors. It can come in the form of fraud, neglect, or outright abuse. An elder law attorney will be able to find the right resources for seniors who are being exploited. In some cases, it can be nursing home abuse. Sadly, not every nursing home has the best interests of the senior at the forefront. Seniors can be the target for frauds from family as well as strangers. An elder law attorney will be able to protect a senior from these issues.

Guardianship

When an older adult loses the ability to make decisions, someone has to step in to fill that void. Often, it is a family member. In other cases, the court has to appoint a guardian to make decisions. An older adult can decide who should be their guardian long before it is a necessity. An elder law attorney can help with the process.

In elder law, it is important to have an attorney who is familiar with the intricacies of the law. The attorney should know about local resources and be able to direct the senior and his or her family to the correct organizations for help.

We will be able to help protect you or your family member, as well as help you navigate the confusing rules and regulations. Call us today or fill out our online contact form, and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

Handling Elderly Loved Ones with Deteriorating Driving Skills

The ability to drive is more than a skill. It is a symbol of a person’s independence. Thus, when people get to an age that driving may no longer be advisable, the situation needs to be approached with care. Though this type of conversation is not bound to be easy, failure to have it could result in the elderly person or someone else being injured or even killed.

Taking a Sensitive Approach

No one wants to give up his or her freedom. Not driving because of old age may seem like good sense, but much more is at stake for the person giving up the keys. Aging forces people to face many changes, and admitting to an inability to drive is one of the more difficult ones. Remain compassionate when talking to an elderly person about this topic, and be prepared to listen to a range of emotions. Consider what it would feel like to suddenly have to rely on others to go to the store, the post office, visit friends, etc. It can feel humiliating.

Here are some tips about approaching this delicate topic:

  • Set aside some quiet time to have the discussion.
  • Encourage honest feelings of fear, sadness, or anger.
  • Listen and reflect on what the person says to show understanding.
  • Offer empathy not judgment.
  • Don’t aim for immediate resolution; plan to talk again in a few days.

Know the Signs That Someone May Need to Stop Driving

Unless the elderly person suffers from a condition that renders him or her from making a sound decision, you cannot force someone to stop driving. Ultimately, your role is to be supportive not forceful. You can stay alert for signs that the person may need to stop driving, including:

  • An increased number of traffic citations
  • Trouble switching pedals
  • Slow response times
  • Episodes of disorientation and confusion
  • Limited mobility that could affect steering

Avoid telling that the person that he or she needs to stop driving. Inquire about how the driving process has been going and bring up something that brought on the concern, such as a recent fender bender. Don’t make general comments that friends and neighbors can help give rides to places; actually find out what services are available to the elderly, such as driving services from organizations like the YMCA. Once it is clear that a conversation needs to happen, plan to do it soon. Waiting could be catastrophic.

The Bottom Line

Life transitions are not always easy. Recognizing that it is time to stop driving can be very difficult to accept for some people. Having supportive family can make the process easier.

If you or your loved one needs assistance with elder law, including wills, estate planning, or retirement, call the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today at (516) 605-0625 or fill out our online contact form and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

Reporting Elder Abuse in Long Island, NY

The extent to which older Americans are victims of elder abuse is difficult to accurately pinpoint. Estimates range between one million and two million for the number of people 65 years of age or older who have been abused or exploited, but the actual numbers are probably much higher. There is a shocking reason for this lack of clarity: It is estimated that only one out of every six incidents of elder abuse is reported.

Categories of Elder Abuse and Their Effect on Victims

Forms of elder abuse include the following:

  • Physical abuse that involves the use of force such as hitting, slapping, kicking, and pushing.
  • Emotional abuse occurs when the abuser intimidates, threatens, ridicules, or scares the victim. Emotional abuse may also include isolating the victim from friends and relatives.
  • Neglect occurs when food, clothing, shelter, and medical care are withheld from the victim.
  • Sexual abuse occurs when the elderly victim is forced to watch or participate in sexual acts.
  • Abandonment occurs when the person responsible for an elderly person’s care leaves the victim alone without arranging for someone else to care for the person.
  • Financial abuse covers a wide array of activities including theft, misappropriation, embezzlement, or misuse of an elder’s real or personal property.

Recognizing the Signs of Elder Abuse

Breaking the cycle of unreported cases of elder abuse begins with recognizing signs that an elderly friend, relative, neighbor, or acquaintance might be a victim in need of help. One of the difficulties in recognizing the signs of elder abuse is differentiating between abuse and dementia, frailty, or other conditions normally associated with the aging process.

Another factor that can hinder the recognition of elder abuse is the reliance that is placed on information or explanations offered by caregivers who might also be the abusers. This might occur when the elder is unable to communicate because of a mental or physical condition.

Common signs of elder abuse that should not automatically be dismissed as age-related occurrences include:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Failure to take medications
  • Caregiver’s refusal to allow the elderly person to be alone with other people
  • The reluctance of the elder to speak in the presence of another person
  • Unpaid bill
  • Missing jewelry or other valuables
  • Unusual financial transactions
  • Presence of suspicious or unexplained legal documents

Reporting Suspicions of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse in New York is investigated by the county Department of Social Services Adult Protective Services workers. A report of suspected elder abuse can be made by calling the central helpline of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services at 1-844-697-3505.

Depending upon the preference of the person making the call, the operator will provide the telephone number for the local county Adult Protective Services unit having jurisdiction, or the caller may provide information to the operator about the elderly victim to be forwarded to the local APS unit for investigation.

Contact an Elder Law Attorney

The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin P.C. might be able to protect you or a family member from elder abuse through estate planning for asset protection, durable powers of attorney, and health care proxies, and guidance to assist you in reporting the abuse and recovering damages. Contact us today at (516) 605-0625 for a free consultation or fill out our online contact form and we will get back to you within 24 hours.