04/19/2015










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 New York

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.

Tips for Naming an Executor

When you consider who to name as an executor of your will, keep in mind that the job of executor is very time-consuming and requires many difficult decisions in order to faithfully carry out the wishes of the deceased. The executor’s job starts upon the death of the decedent and ends once all of the directions contained in the will have been completed and the estate is closed under applicable law.

First, the will must enter probate, the judicial system in place to determine the validity of the will. Subsequently, a determination is made regarding creditors, taxes, the identity of the beneficiaries, and the extent to which each beneficiary inherits from the estate. Additional variables can complicate the job of the executor, including an estate tax audit or a legal challenge to the will. In total, the executor’s role could last from one to several years.

Honest, Vigilant, and Detail Oriented

Given constantly changing tax laws, the enormous amount of personal property in some estates, and the potential for unhappy heirs, the potential executor should have a few basic qualities. First, for the sake of those who will inherit, the executor candidate should be honest and diplomatic. Depending on the estate, the executor may have quite a bit of work to do to get the job done right. Not everyone is good at keeping track of the many items of personal property that might be found in the attic or the basement. Staying focused on the process of taking inventory of the estate and meeting deadlines can be crucial to the work of the executor. When you are thinking of someone to be your executor, ask yourself whether this is someone who can efficiently meet deadlines and yet maintain harmony with all interested parties.

A Younger, Responsible Family Member or Friend

Who knows you better than your family or your best friend? Probably nobody is more familiar with your intentions than your loved ones. In addition, these people in your life might also have the best idea of where all your assets might be located. If you don’t have a family member or a close friend, consider making a list of all the people you do know and start to narrow down that list. During this process, you will probably figure out those who would be best suited for the role of executor.

One problem people commonly run into as they grow older is that their contemporaries start to pass away due to sickness and old age. This is one reason why many people opt for an executor who is younger in age yet responsible. Look to your social circle and identify the younger people within it.

Someone With Experience

Educational and professional background could also be relevant to choosing an executor. While it is true that anyone can hire an expert for consultation on estate issues, the job may be best handled by someone who has related experience, such as an attorney or an accountant. Such people would have familiarity with the issues that may come up, and they also have liability insurance, just in case something goes wrong.

Other Considerations

Some lawyers advise their clients to avoid naming a specific bank or trust company in the will, but rather to appoint someone to interview these institutions and negotiate fees if necessary.

Another popular idea for people with many children is to name all of the children as co-executors. This is generally not recommended, as it will result in arguments, with the larger share of work being done by one or two of the siblings. In addition, if all of the children are co-executors, all of their signatures will be needed when papers need to be signed. This can result is great inconvenience and delay. The better choice is to name one child in that role, while others can be named as alternates.

Of course, the cost of an executor’s services should be considered when naming a person in that role. You should consult with an attorney to gain an understanding of how much applicable state laws will allow fees to be charged to the estate.

Lastly, you should discuss the role of executor with the person you would like to name prior to signing documents. In addition, you should discuss the matter with family members who were not chosen to avoid any hurt feelings.

Contact Us

To discuss your estate plan, call the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, PC today at (516) 605-0625 or fill out our online contact form and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

Five Retirement Mistakes You Should Avoid

When preparing to retire, the last thing you want is to face financial difficulties. While there is no one formula that can guarantee a happy, secure retirement, there are some common mistakes you should avoid so you don’t place your golden years in jeopardy.

Waiting to Start Saving

When you are just out of college and facing student loans and other bills for the first time, it can be tempting to forgo retirement savings. That’s a big mistake. Thanks to the magic of compound interest, the earlier you start putting money away, the more it will accumulate by the time you retire. If you don’t start saving until your thirties or later, you could be costing yourself a bundle.

Not Saving Enough

In addition to starting early, don’t skimp on the amount you put aside, since you might need to live off your savings for two decades or more. If possible, contribute the maximum to your IRA and 401(k) accounts each year and consider a separate investment portfolio so you can put away even more. Take advantage of any matching programs offered by your employer, which are the equivalent of a tax-free raise.

Overly Conservative Investments

The last recession has scared some investors away from the stock market, and as you get closer to retirement age, conservative plans are a good idea so you don’t risk a downturn right before you need your money. However, when your account still has decades to grow, stocks produce significantly higher returns over time than safer options like bonds or CDs, which can make a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Retiring too Early

Early retirement might sound like a blessing, but if you jump the gun, you can do triple damage to your net worth. For one thing, you are forgoing the extra income you could be earning by working a few more years. At the same time, you start spending your savings instead of adding to them and accumulating more years of interest. Finally, you don’t qualify for full Social Security benefits until you turn 66, so if you sign up early, that monthly paycheck will be smaller for the rest of your life.

Falling for Rip-offs and Scams

Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people who want nothing more than to get their hands on your nest egg. Beware of financial products that promise lucrative returns, but in reality siphon off your savings via excessive fees. Some people even target the elderly for outright deception and theft. When considering an investment account, annuity, insurance, or other product, research and make sure any people or companies you deal with are legitimate and reputable. Always remember, if it looks too good to be true, it is.

Legal Help

Andrew M. Lamkin can help you handle your retirement and estate planning and steer you away from major mistakes. Call today or fill out our contact form to consult with Andrew M. Lamkin and ensure that you make the most of your savings and enjoy your retirement in comfort and security.

Estate Planning Documents You Should Have

Planning for death is an uncomfortable but necessary part of life. By planning ahead, family members and loved ones can move on after your death without worrying about financial issues. The purpose of estate planning is to decide what happens to a person, their belongings, property, and funds when they become incapacitated or die. Without a plan, families will often have to go through a lengthy and expensive legal process at a stressful time, and assets may not be distributed according to a deceased’s wishes. Read on to find out what estate planning documents all individuals should have.

Living Will, Power of Attorney, and HIPAA Release

A living will is a legal document that details a person’s wishes regarding medical treatments in the event he or she becomes incapacitated. A power of attorney document provides authorization for an individual to act on behalf of a person’s private affairs under certain circumstances. Finally, a HIPAA form authorizes the release of medical records to a person, such as a spouse, to help them make medical decisions on a loved one’s behalf.

Funeral Plans

Ideally, every person should leave a document for his or her loved ones expressing their wishes on how they should be buried and who should be notified in the event of their death. This includes where the funeral should be held, what type of ceremony, where the person would like to be buried, and how they want to be buried.

Wills, Trusts, and Deeds

Choosing between a will and trust will depend on a person’s assets. A will specifies the persons that assets should go to when a person dies; however, it doesn’t specify tax and liability issues. Trusts transfer ownership of assets instead of money. Beneficiaries named in insurance policies or retirement accounts supersede wills and trusts. A deed transfers property rights to a person after death. People who die with assets and no wills, trusts, or deeds will have their property divided according to state laws.

Insurance Policies and Retirement Accounts

Each retirement account and insurance plan including pensions, annuities, and life insurance policies should name beneficiaries. After a person has passed, money remaining in these accounts will pass to the named beneficiary without the hassle or cost of probate court. This may also include social security payments in certain cases.

Bank, Savings, Heirlooms, and Other Items

People should name beneficiaries for all of their bank and saving accounts including money markets, mutual funds accounts, stocks, and bonds. After a person’s death, money in these accounts will pass to the beneficiary without the need for probate process. People should also specify in a will or trust the people to whom precious items should go after their death. Executors of wills and trusts should also know the location of these items.

Why Hire an Estate Planning Attorney?

An estate planning attorney such as Andrew Lamkin, Esq. can help people legally determine how assets should be distributed after they have passed away. Mr. Lamkin can also guide clients with minimizing taxes and costs. To find out more about estate planning, call or fill out our contact form.

Steps to Estate Planning

Estate planning may seem like a morbid topic better left for another time. In all actuality, estate planning provides you the opportunity to plan ahead, prepare family members for the future, and be involved in how matters are handled after you are gone. The process of determining what will happen in the future can provide you and your family with peace of mind and also allow you to focus on the time between now and then.

Make a Will

A will is a basic yet integral part of estate planning. Without a will, your children, your property, and your finances may be subject to what the state deems appropriate following your death. If you have any kind of preference of who would be the guardian of your children and which property would go to which family member, then creating a will is instrumental in avoiding the complication of state involvement. The person you name executor of the will can make sure that the terms of the document are carried out. Things to consider:

  • What property to include
  • Property distribution
  • Alternate beneficiaries
  • The children’s guardian
  • The will’s executor

Establish a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney allows you to designate an agent to speak and act on your behalf in the event that you are alive but can no longer speak for yourself. Depending on your specific needs, this can mean that someone will be responsible for making legal decisions that affect your medical care and finances. Ultimately, a power of attorney ensures that your wishes will be honored no matter what happens. When outlining the terms of a power of attorney, spend time thinking about:

  • Life-saving efforts, such as CPR or artificial feeding
  • Medical interventions to allow and which to decline
  • Who is a trustworthy choice for making your legal, medical, and financial decisions
  • Should this involve one person, or should health decisions be made by one agent and financial decisions by another?

Name a Beneficiary

Naming a beneficiary to handle your retirement funds and other bank accounts can simplify a process that can easily become complicated. The funds are usually made available to the beneficiary upon your death. In most cases, you can avoid unnecessary probate processes by assigning a beneficiary.

The Bottom Line

Estate planning can be simple or complicated. It depends on your specific circumstances. Andrew M. Lamkin has experience in estate planning and can answer questions and offer guidance on creating an estate plan that best fits your individual needs. Mr. Lamkin can be reached through a phone call or our contact form. He can be trusted to prepare your estate plan with skill, experience, and compassion. Call Andrew M. Lamkin to start your estate planning or fill out our online contact form. Once it is taken care of, you can focus on more important matters like spending time with your family.

Estate Planning for a Second Family

The purpose behind estate planning is to simplify a potentially complicated situation for family members. When a second family is involved, estate planning may be a bit more involved, but it is no less important. Several factors influence the best course of action to take when determining an estate plan for a second family. It is vital to note that every family situation has different dynamics and ultimately, the decision is yours. This can be based on your relationship with family members as well as the amount of money and/or possessions you have to divide. The goal is to create as little tension as possible to prevent bitterness from developing between people that you care about.

Factors to Consider

The division of money or possessions to a second family should be based on several variables. Things to consider are:

  • How long has the second family been established?
  • What plan for the home and property makes the most sense?
  • What arrangements will cause the least amount of family discord?

A Newer Second Family

Perhaps the second family was acquired later in life following years of marriage to someone else. You will be obligated to your first family simply because of the unbalanced amount of time you invested in the first versus the second. Children you raised with your first spouse until adulthood should not suddenly become less of a priority because you have children in a second family. Provisions for your second spouse and children are certainly warranted, but careful consideration should be given to the members of both families.

A Brief First Marriage

If the second family was established many years ago and the majority of your family life has been spent with them, then it is appropriate to treat the second family as your primary family. Separate provisions can be made for your first spouse and children from your first marriage, but the approach to estate planning in this case will be as though you have one big family instead of two.

Property Division

Property division is the most complicated aspect of estate planning for a second family. Leaving a family home that children from your first marriage grew up in to a second spouse can cause negative reactions. Yet a second spouse may deserve the home depending on the duration of the second marriage. This is where legal advice and careful thought needs to play a part in estate planning.

Communication

A straightforward strategy will be most productive in estate planning for a second family. Be direct with family members, explaining how things will be handled and why. This allows them to understand your reasoning and prepares them for the future. You can also take time to answer questions and take steps to make sure that there will be as little family tension as possible.

Legal Help

Andrew M. Lamkin is proficient in handling estate planning even when the situation may be a bit complicated. Call or fill out our contact form to get in contact with Andrew M. Lamkin. He will help you ensure that your family is taken care of.

The Importance of a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a written document designed to allow someone of your choosing, an agent, to make legal decisions on your behalf in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to do so. Though establishing a power of attorney may seem like a project for a rainy day, there is no better time to address the matter than the present. A carefully considered power of attorney can give you the peace of mind that your wishes will be respected even if you are not able to voice them yourself.

Powers of Attorney

Depending on your specific needs, there are three types of power of attorney generally used. All provide you with the freedom to appoint someone as your agent and dictate the terms of that person’s role in managing your legal decisions. The common types of powers of attorney include the following:

  • A conventional power of attorney remains effective from the time you sign the document until you are deemed incapacitated.
  • A durable power of attorney remains in effect from the time you sign the document and during your lifetime.
  • A springing power of attorney goes into effect once a specific event has occurred, such as becoming incapacitated.

The Importance of Powers of Attorney

One of the more critical aspects of estate planning is understanding that a power of attorney can ensure that your voice is heard even when your ability to speak has been compromised. By placing this responsibility for carrying out your wishes in the hands of the most trustworthy person available, you are taking measures to ensure that certain legalities do not become an issue during a time that complications are least welcome.

Aside from the importance of having your wishes honored, a power of attorney saves families from facing medical and legal decision-making that may cause emotional anguish or uncertainty, or create relationship discord when family members disagree with how a situation should be handled. Matters that a power of attorney can address include:

  • Do-Not-Resuscitate orders (DNRs)
  • Acceptable medical interventions
  • Life-sustaining measures such as artificial feeding
  • Buying or selling real estate
  • Management financial affairs
  • Entering into contracts or business negotiations

The Bottom Line

The purpose behind estate planning is to make certain that matters are handled to your preference if you are unable to actively make sound decisions. The power of attorney is key for making this possible. Your agent will exercise the authority to make decisions on your behalf based on your individual preferences. Thus, the power of attorney removes the guesswork concerning your wishes once your family is faced with important decisions regarding your medical care and financial affairs.

If you are ready to move forward with a power of attorney, Andrew M. Lamkin is able to see that your individual needs are addressed. Call or use our contact form to contact Andrew M. Lamkin today. He will make sure your voice is heard.

Estate Planning for Peace of Mind

During the course of adult life, there are occasions when we are called upon to serve a role in the disposition of matters relating to the estate of a person who has recently passed away. Although the prospect of facing the duties of Executor of an estate can seem overwhelming to many people, there are ways to minimize the difficulty of managing these duties. Where the decedent has been proactive enough to put together an estate plan, the process of administering an estate can be far less stressful, resulting in peace of mind for all involved parties.

We should all do some planning regarding our property in the event of death. That being said, it is particularly important that those who support dependents and those who own significant assets to engage in estate planning. Estate planning provides control over the disposition of assets upon death. It ensures that your loved ones are provided for in the way that you would most desire. Estate planning reflects your preferences for what should happen to your property after you die. A good estate plan will account for two major issues: first, taxes and probate treatment; second, the simplicity with which the Executor and the beneficiaries can administer the estate plan.

Select Your Lawyer and Executor

While the services of a financial planner are helpful to estate planning, it is absolutely crucial to find a qualified attorney for the purpose of drafting an appropriate legal Will. The Will is the legal document which names your beneficiaries and designates the name(s) of the person(s) who will serve as the Executor to your estate. The Executor is the person who you authorize to distribute the assets in your estate to the named beneficiaries. The Will is fundamental to any estate plan.

Upon your death, the Executor will be obligated to do what you direct him or her to do as stated in your Will. For the sake of the Executor, the Will should clearly state the manner in which your assets should be distributed. In addition, when organizing your estate plan, it is recommended that a small insurance policy be available so that the Executor has funds with which to pay incidental costs associated with estate administration. As a side note to all potential Executors, it is generally advisable to review the Will prior to agreeing to act as Executor. If the Will is overly complicated, you may not want to undertake this responsibility.

Name Your Beneficiaries

With each significant change in your life, you will want to reexamine your Will to make sure any appropriate amendments are made to accommodate for current circumstances. This might mean that upon the purchase of real estate, a review of the Will might be necessary. Attorneys often advise their clients to review the Will once a year. Additional examples of life-changing events might include a marriage, the birth of a child, a divorce, or the death of a spouse or other loved one. Just as life brings changes to family and the nature and value of assets, so must a Will be altered to reflect those changes.

Devise a Plan to Pass Money to the Beneficiaries

You may want to confer with a financial planner as well as a lawyer to consider the tax consequences of passing assets and money to your beneficiaries. Some assets are better designed to avoid severe tax consequences and probate costs. Because many other types of assets are less probate and/or tax-friendly, it is very important to consider the nature of the assets that comprise the estate and whether their value will be diminished by probate and tax obligations. Examples of tax-efficient, probate-friendly assets might include Registered Retirement Savings Plans and Tax Free Savings Accounts.

Make a Plan to Keep Taxes and Other Fees to a Minimum

Ideally, the beneficiaries of your estate will receive the maximum value of your assets. The likelihood of minimizing taxes and fees is greatly enhanced by the proper and thorough drafting of the Will, a well-balanced financial portfolio, and an appropriate amount of insurance coverage.

Charitable Giving

If you wish to make a charitable donation, start a scholarship, or something similar, it is best to check with your financial planner, who can help to ensure that your desired charitable gift is made in a way that is most efficient to the organization of your choice.

Overall, formulating an estate plan will require work, including discussions with a lawyer, financial planner, insurance advisor, family members, and potential Executors. If you want to make sure that your beneficiaries receive the assets of your choice with minimal taxes and other fees, it is certainly worth the effort.

Contact Us

To explore your options for putting together an estate plan, call the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. at (516) 605-0625 for a free consultation to discuss your estate planning issues and to begin working on a personalized estate plan. Call today or fill out our contact form.

Estate Planning in Awkward Situations

Estate planning provides the opportunity to ensure that certain family valuables will be divided among loved ones. This process deserves special attention even in straight-forward situations. When the distribution of an inheritance involves a blended or second family, the plan needs to be executed with even more care.

Estate Planning for Two Families

The key to successful estate planning is taking the time to decide who should or would want specific valuables being passed down to the next generation. Many people ensure that provisions are left for a spouse to live comfortably and then distribute the rest among their children. In the event that the person has a second family, however, dividing an inheritance becomes trickier.

Someone with a second family may have biological children from the first family as well as from the second. Stepchildren and multiple spouses add to the complexity. The dynamics of both families need to be carefully considered. An estate plan is a chance to pass down a legacy, not set the stage for family conflict and discord.

What Factors Should Be Considered?

Break down the process into manageable steps. Many factors will impact the final draft of the estate plan, but three key steps to take are:

  • Evaluate commitment to the families: In the spirit of fairness, look at the time spent with the first family before the second one came into the picture. If children from both families, in a sense, grew up together, then approach estate planning from a “one-big-family” perspective, with a focus on the second spouse and regardless of whether or not the children are biological. If the children from the first family were much older when the second family began, then there is an obligation to the older children. Provisions can be arranged for stepchildren in the latter scenario through the second spouse’s portion of the inheritance.
  • Outline the division of property: Take a realistic look at what valuables will be left to the family. Not all the valuables will have financial worth but may be precious to someone in particular. If that possession inadvertently goes to someone else in the estate plan, conflict may occur. The family home poses a particular dilemma for families when adult children feel that a second spouse does not deserve to have the family home. If those children grew up in the home from a young age, the decision regarding who gets the property will need to be carefully considered.
  • Communicate: Once the basics of the estate plan are established, prepare the family members on what to expect. Explain the reasoning behind the decisions on who will receive what in the inheritance. Conversations may become tense, but it is better to resolve issues now rather than to leave it for the family to handle later.

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If circumstances surrounding your estate plan could get complicated, contact Andrew M. Lamkin, an attorney experienced in estate planning. He can help ease the process and avoid potentially awkward moments with family. Call him about estate planning today to ensure your individual situation is managed effectively or fill out our contact form.

How to Discuss Estate Planning with Your Family

Estate planning is often regarded as an issue better left untouched. Broaching the topic of death is understandably difficult for some people. Despite how it sounds, however, there are positives to discussing estate planning as a family.

What Is Estate Planning?

Generally speaking, an estate plan is a legal document outlining the distribution of money and possessions of the person who died. More than that, an estate plan represents a family’s legacy and its passing from one generation to the next.

Certain issues can interfere with the family’s ability to manage a healthy discussion, however. Family members may worry that bringing up estate planning may convey negative motives. For example, an adult child may feel guilty asking a parent about estate planning for fear of appearing in a rush to receive the inheritance. Likewise, a parent may experience reluctance if the inheritance will not be divided equally among the children. These additional worries compound the overall difficulty some family members have in talking about the topic.

When to Talk About Estate Planning

The right time and place are important aspects to consider when bringing up estate planning with family. Special family events, such as dinner or a birthday party, are probably not the best times to start this conversation. Wait for an opportunity to present itself where it can be brought up naturally as in a discussion on planning for the future.

If that moment seems impossible to find, then create one. When the moment feels right, a parent or adult child can approach the other to begin talking about what to expect in regards to handling the estate. Keep the tone loving and sensitive. This topic may trigger strong emotions, but clarify that the process will be easier if it is managed by the whole family and that everyone’s input is valuable.

What Should Be Discussed?

Once the topic has been opened up for discussion, make sure to talk about as many details as possible. The more that is understood about the estate plan now, the less complicated matters will be following the loved one’s death. This is the time to address the reasons behind the decisions regarding the division of the inheritance or other concerns about finances.

The conversation should also touch on circumstances that may warrant revisions to the document. All involved family members need to know where to access the estate plan as well as any other legal documents that may be necessary to locate. Once the specifics are discussed and understood, families may experience a renewed sense of closeness and appreciation for each other and can return their focus back to more enjoyable activities, such as spending time together and making memories.

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If you are ready to create an estate plan, seek the professional services of attorney Andrew M. Lamkin. Proficient in estate planning, Andrew M. Lamkin has the experience to guide you through the process and is just a phone call away. Call today or fill out our contact form in order to get more information.

Ten Ways to Prepare for a Successful Retirement

There is no better time than the present to start planning for your future. Although it can be confusing and stressful, with patience and discipline you can achieve a successful retirement plan. You cannot depend on Social Security or a company pension plan alone. The following list of things to consider will benefit you if you are just starting out or nearing retirement.

1. Start Today

You can never begin too soon to start saving for retirement. Starting salaries do not always allow for significant savings, but it sets a path for successful retirement planning.

2. 401K

Start by investing manageable amounts. As your income increases, you can increase your contributions. Set a portion of every raise to be added to the amount you contribute. One percent of your yearly income may seem insignificant, but it can add up over a 20-30 year period. Challenge yourself to save a little more on a consistent basis.

3. Develop a Retirement Plan

Several things will affect this plan, from life expectancy to the lifestyle you prefer to live. It will be important to list everywhere your income will be coming from and if it is exhaustible or lifelong. From this list, you will need to readjust your plan and lifestyle.

4. IRA

An IRA is an individual retirement plan. Even if you already invest in a 401K, it is a good idea to open an IRA. It will augment the savings of the 401K. There are several different IRA options. Look at each one to see which fits your individual plan best.

5. Social Security Benefits

Social Security is a part of the retirement plan of most workers. You will need to review each part of this benefit. It is best to start the benefits at a later age.

6. Build Up A Savings Account

Start putting money into a savings account to use for unexpected expenses. Add to this account as often as possible.  Every dollar counts.

7. Plan for Medical Expenses

There are different options available for health care before Medicare starts. You can elect a high deductible insurance plan to keep the premium cost low. Also, the Affordable Care Act now gives flexibility because insurance companies cannot deny you coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

8. Set Goals

Be realistic in setting goals for your retirement. Plan to meet basic living standards and not going above your ability to provide the financial means. This will only cause undo stress. See if your projected income is enough to cover your minimum requirements. If not, you will need to readjust your plan.

9. Talk With Your Spouse

Communication is the key to happiness in this stage of life. It may be stressful going to a lower income than you are accustomed to or downsizing in homes. However, if the lines of communication stay open, it will be much easier to get through this time. Talk about retirement together.

10. Downsize

When planning for a successful retirement, think about downsizing. It is good to downsize before retiring so there are not as many changes in your life at once. Go through your list of assets and make the decision to keep or sell.

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There are many dimensions to retirement planning, but you don’t have to do this alone. The attorneys at Lamkin Law Firm can help you walk through each step confidently. Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. at (516) 605-0625 or fill out our contact form today!

Ways to Help Beat the Loneliness of Your Aging Parents

More than likely you have plans for what you are going to do tonight, tomorrow, the weekend, and even maybe a vacation a few months off. Do your parents? As your parents aged, they may have drawn away from social groups and friends they once had. They will spend their days watching TV or reading instead of going out. Loneliness sets in and it falls on you to help your parents beat the blues. Helping get your parents out and socializing again is not the monumental task you might think it will be. Follow these simple ways to help them get out and enjoy life.

Find local groups, senior centers, and support programs in your area.

You do not have to tackle the enormous task of entertaining your parents by yourself. It is important to remember that there are several organizations and programs already set up to assist you. Contacting your local chapters will give you something solid to suggest to your parents. These centers and care facilities might seem to your parents to be a push to place them in a home. Remind them that you still love them, and then show them the benefits and enjoyment they can have by being with others of their own age and interests.

Encourage your parents to pick up a hobby.

Hobbies are great ways for the young and old to get out and meet new friends. Begin by suggesting simple hobbies they may already like doing. Purchasing and setting up quality materials for your parents is a good way to encourage them, without pressing them too hard. If your mother likes to garden, purchase a large garden bed and a few vegetable plants. If your father likes to paint, buy a quality easel and paint set. When they want out of the house, look for classes offered at your local community college to encourage them to learn new skills and trades.

Continue to encourage your parents to follow their dreams.

Your parent’s dreams did not end when they got older. It is never too late for them to start dreaming again. Begin the conversation by asking them what they wanted to do when they were your age. Encourage them to think beyond what they did for a living. Some great ideas are to have them start a small business, obtain a degree, learn to speak a new language, write books, or start working again. If your father laments that he never got to spend time with you and your siblings, see if the local library has a time where volunteers can read to children. Your mother may have regretted never following her writing passion, so encourage her to write short stories and have them printed locally.

Loneliness is often seen as something that just happens as one gets older. This is not true; loneliness is a large concern and can be a sign of other problems. Ignoring the problem will only make the situation worse. Be sure to ask your parents what their plans are for the weekend, the next week, etc. If your parents do not make plans or have any activities they can attend, take the time to talk to them about getting out in the community and finding new friends and activities.

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The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin P.C. can help you with non-legal issues such as nursing home placement, retirement planning, and long term care insurance. Call Andrew Lamkin today at (516) 605-0625 for a free consultation and get help navigating your elderly parents through this difficult time.

What Will Retirement Mean for You?

No longer do people think of retirement as a time to rest and do nothing. Many people plan to work well into their 70s, seeing retirement as an opportunity to change careers and do something that they truly love doing. Whether it is turning a hobby into a part-time business or choosing to work to stay active, retirement is no longer considered as a time when you are “put out to pasture.”

Finding a Balance Between Leisure and Finances

In order to enjoy your retirement, you must have a financial plan. Retirement dreams are different for each person; however, the one constant is the fact that you need to be financially prepared for your retirement. The reality of health care costs and inflation dictate that you must a plan in place to pay for retirement long before you reach retirement age.

The retirement plan you choose will be based on your financial needs as well as your current age and the age at which you wish to retire. To accomplish your goals, consult with an estate planning and retirement attorney as early as possible. Andrew Lamkin specializes in retirement planning and he will take the time to help you make good choices while also considering your needs and wishes.

Things to Take into Consideration When Planning for Your Retirement

  • What do you want to do during retirement? Do you view retirement as an opportunity to sleep in and relax, travel, become more active in your community, or begin a second career? Knowing what you want to do during your retirement years will help you plan a financial strategy to allow you to do what you want after you retire.
  • When do you plan to retire? Have a target age in mind so that you can focus your retirement planning to have enough money to fund all of your retirement years. As more people live longer, they are facing the possibility of outliving their retirement accounts. Make sure that you plan accordingly so that you do not deplete your retirement savings halfway through your retirement.
  • What does your spouse think about retirement? You may assume that both you and your spouse have the same retirement goals; however, this may not be the case. Discuss your ideas about retirement now so that you can both make adjustments to work out any differences you may have in regard to your visions of retirement.
  • Plan for the unexpected. Your retirement planning attorney will explain the various estate planning documents that you want to draft now in order to plan for unexpected events. He will explain the benefit and importance of having wills, powers of attorney, trusts, and living wills. He can also explain how each of these estate planning tools can help protect your retirement investments and plan for your future.

Trusted Help for Your Retirement Planning

To ensure that your retirement is exactly what you have dreamed it would be, call the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin P.C. for assistance with your retirement and estate planning. Call Andrew M. Lamkin at (516) 605-0625 for a free consultation to discuss your retirement planning options and to choose a retirement plan that is best for you.

Is It Time for You to Review Your Will?

Many people believe that once they have executed their Will, they need give it no further consideration. Nothing could be further from the truth. People need to make sure their Wills are current and relevant to the circumstances of their lives as those circumstances change. People need to be active participants in this process as well as active advocates to meet their desired goals.

Life Changes that Require a Review of Your Will

In determining changes in life that point toward a Will review, you need to consider not just your own life, but the lives of your children and loved ones. Most people realize that marrying would be a trigger for reviewing your Will, but they fail to consider that a marriage of their children or birth of grandchildren should act as triggers as well.

An example would be that you have three children and your Will gives all of your assets to the survivors of the three in equal shares. Then your son has a child of his own. Your Will would leave nothing for that grandchild if something happened to your son. There are a variety of these sorts of situations that must be considered to make certain your Will serves your purposes.

Perhaps you have moved to a different state that has different laws concerning Wills, you or your loved ones’ marital status has changed, you have another child, there is a death among your loved ones, you have a desire to change your heirs, or you have disposed of or obtained major assets. All of these should result in a review of your Will. The fact is, estate laws in New York state change regularly, as do tax laws concerning estates. Therefore, even without life changes, you should do regular reviews of your Will to make certain it is current with the state of the law.

Make Certain Your Goals Will Be Met

The most important point to remember is that people want their assets to be distributed in accordance with the plan they have made, and that plan will change as life circumstances change for them and their loved ones. If people fail to act when these changes occur, and fail to review and update their Will, assets may not transfer in accordance with the intended plan. Most people have likely not worked hard their lifetimes to see their plans fail.

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The death of a family member causes stress and strife in all families. No one can change that. What can be done is to have a current, up to date Will that will help in moving plans forward for loved ones in the fashion you desired. There is a great benefit in having an experienced attorney that knows how to work with you in planning your Estate and meeting your intended goals effectively. Andrew Lamkin has this experience and is ready to help. Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin by calling 516-615-0625 for a free consultation to discuss your needs.

What to Know Before You Withdraw Your Retirement Funds

The longer you live, the more situations you will encounter where cash would certainly come in handy. Whether you face significant medical expenses, incur debt in an upside-down mortgage, or simply could use more liquidity in terms of assets to help yourself or your family, you may be contemplating what would formerly have been unthinkable: touching the retirement fund prior to your “official” retirement age. You are certainly free to use your assets in the way that seems best — it is, after all, your money — but be sure you weigh all the potential ramifications of such withdrawals, both short and long-term.

Early Withdrawals = Real Cash Lost

The amount by which you are penalized depends on several factors and the most important is your age. If you withdraw funds prior to age 59½, you incur both a reduction in total funding available and an early distribution tax. The amounts differ depending on whether your money is in Traditional or Simple IRAs, whether your state imposes taxes on these early withdrawals in addition to the federal penalties, and whether you qualify for any exceptions to the early-distribution rules.

With no exceptions in place, you can expect some “hits” on your retirement income’s bottom line. Prior to age 59½:

  • You will be liable for both federal income tax and a 10% early distribution tax on any previously untaxed funds in Traditional IRAs or other qualified retirement funds.
  • You will need to absorb a 25% additional early distribution tax instead of 10% on a Simple IRA, within two years from the first day the funds are deposited.

These penalties also apply to 401(k) plans, 403(b) tax-sheltered annuity plans, and any plans you have set up as a self-employed worker. In other words, be prepared to “pay the piper” for a pre-retirement quick infusion of cash.

There Is Also Good News

Even if you are “too young” for your retirement money to come to you otherwise unencumbered, you can escape many penalties if you withdraw the funds for one of several specific purposes:

  • Qualified college costs for yourself, your spouse, children, or grandchildren.
  • Unreimbursed medical expenses that add up to more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income — in other words, expenses that are deductible on Schedule A. You can take this exception even if you do not normally itemize.
  • Medical insurance for you if you are unemployed. The amount you pay for medical insurance for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents can be exempt from penalty if you have received unemployment compensation for at least 12 weeks.
  • Purchase of a first home — for which you can exempt up to $10,000.
  • Costs associated with a total disability. The exception depends on your furnishing proof, certified by a physician, that you cannot perform substantial gainful employment.
  • Rollover into another qualified retirement account (such as a Roth IRA) within 60 days. (Of course, this does not release the cash to you, but it does eliminate a potential penalty.)

You Can Even Change Your Mind… With a Few Conditions

One thing you may not know about retirement funding: you can generally “take back” one contribution made to a traditional IRA without a penalty, as long as you do not deduct the contribution from your taxes and take the funds out before the year’s tax deadline.

If Your Situation Is Truly Dire…

Sometimes, you truly need the cash, penalties or not. In those extreme circumstances, you can actually withdraw funds from an IRA in what is referred to as “substantially equal periodic payments.” The payment is determined by the IRS, based on your life expectancy — and you must take that amount. This is a strictly regulated option. You cannot change this arrangement before you attain age 59½ or for five years, whichever period is longer. Stopping or canceling incurs a 10% penalty, retroactive to the date you first began the payments.

With all of these time constraints, this is not a terrific choice for those under 50. Even if you are over 50, however, this qualifies as a worst-case-only option: it whittles away your funding for when you are actually retired, and that is a terrible time to come up short.

A retirement funding shortfall is not something anyone wants, and guidance from Andrew M. Lamkin can help you balance emergency cash needs and sensible funding for your future. Call the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin at 516-615-0625 and ask about an initial consultation, free of charge.