Who Should Be Your Estate Agent?

Long Island Estate Planning Attorney - Lamkin Elder LawOne of the most important aspects of estate planning is assigning a power of attorney. The power of attorney is a nationally recognized role, but requirements will differ from state-to-state. This paper gives one or more individuals the power to act on your behalf – operating as your agent. Their power can be limited to just one activity, such as making healthcare decisions, or the power can be general. You can also authorize permanent or temporary power of attorney to a single individual.

These roles take effect immediately once the document is signed or upon the occurrence of an event – such as becoming incapacitated. The power of attorney can also be revoked, but you will be required to submit a written notice of revocation to the individual that is currently acting as your agent.

The person that is assigned a power of attorney is your “agent” or “attorney-in-fact.” With that valid power of attorney, they can take whatever action that is permitted within the scope of the document. For example, they can sell assets or even acquire new assets on your behalf.

While you may be wary about assigning someone so much power over your life and wealth, it is important to realize that without a power of attorney, if you are unable to manage your own personal and business affairs, the court may have to appoint one or more individuals to do so for you – and these may be individuals that you would rather not have managing your life.

Who Should Be Your Estate Agent?

You are allowed to choose anyone as your agent. Most individuals will name a family member, such as their spouse or child to act on their behalf. You can also name more than one person to act as an agent at the same time – but be aware agents may disagree. Co-agents should have special provisions in the power of attorney to ensure there is limited disagreement among both parties.

You should also name a successor agent to your primary agent. This is because if the first agent is unavailable or unable to fulfill their role, you will need a secondary agent to step in and assume their duties. Without a successor, the courts will have to decide an agent on your behalf.

There are no requirements or qualifications needed to be an estate agent. The only qualification is that the person is of legal age and that they are not incapacitated themselves. The best choice is always an individual that you trust and know is responsible enough to carry out your wishes. This person should be impartial and able to put what you request ahead of their own personal gain.

Before Selecting an Agent, Consult with an Estate Planning Attorney

Because of the broad powers that can be assigned to an agent, it is important that you speak with an attorney. Your attorney can advise you as to the roles of an agent and help you not only select the proper party, but designate their powers so that only competent individuals are handling certain aspects of your estate – and most importantly, that they are handling things in your best interests. Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. can assist you with your powers of attorney. Contact him at 516-605-0625 or online for a free consultation appointment.

What Is the Estate Attorney’s Role?

Long Island Estate Attorney - Lamkin Elder LawMost individuals are easily lured by the idea of saving time and money by creating their own estate plan using those do-it-yourself kits or websites. Unfortunately, these alternatives rarely generate a suitable estate plan that accomplishes all of their objectives. In fact, the only way to truly have an effective estate plan is by hiring a qualified estate lawyer that can interpret the laws that bear on tax rights, wills, probate, property, etc. Most importantly, these programs and forms do not offer the legal advice necessary to ensure the estate plan is correct or in accordance with New York State laws.

You Can Still Save While Hiring an Attorney

Save time and money by preparing for your meeting with an estate planning attorney early on. You can organize your information before the meeting – including assets, liabilities, titles and your feelings regarding how you want to provide for family members once you are gone. When you schedule your consultation, you can ask if there is a questionnaire the attorney uses and request that it be sent early so that you can complete it.

Also, have copies of important documents ready, such as your previous will (if any), powers of attorney, life insurance policies, employment and retirement benefits, divorce decrees and any prenuptial agreements.

During the Consultation

Do not be shy about requesting information regarding legal fees and how those fees will be used. You should also carefully review the written agreement between you and the attorney and the provisions for how things will be handled if you are dissatisfied with their service. Engagement letters are a critical component in every attorney-client relationship.

Consider Your Estate Attorney Your Advocate

An estate attorney is your advocate. They are there to protect your loved ones and your estate long after you pass. Because you have spent your entire life achieving your own personal goals, it is important that you have advice and direction from a legal professional. An attorney is an essential component in implementing a well-drafted, legal estate plan that meets your wishes and handles all personal objectives and concerns you may have. Instead of putting your wishes at risk with a do-it-yourself form, you may find that the benefits more than outweigh the costs of hiring a professional.

Speak With a New York Estate Planning Attorney Today

Learn more about how an estate lawyer can help you achieve your goals – including long-term planning. Contact attorney Andrew M. Lamkin today at 516-605-0625 or fill out an online contact form.

The Basics of Estate Administration

Long Island Estate Planning Attorney - Lamkin Elder LawWhen a person dies owning specific assets in their name alone, the estate must then be opened by a representative to handle those assets and settle all of the decedent’s affairs. The estate is opened in the courts with a petition alongside a death certificate. An attorney should always draft such a petition and ensure matters are done properly.

If the decedent dies testate, the original will must be then filed alongside that petition. This procedure is referred to as the “probate” procedure. As long as the will is notarized, it will be considered self-proving. If not, then two witness signatures must also be present on the will in order to make it valid. After the will has been probated, the letters of testamentary will be issued to the estate’s personal representative – also referred to as the executor.

What if the Decedent Passes Without a Will?

Dying without a will, or intestate, requires the personal representative to receive letters of administration. These letters will only be granted to specific individuals in a prioritized order, which includes:

  1. Residuary legatees
  2. Surviving spouses
  3. Intestate heirs (those with the closest relation get first preference)
  4. Creditors
  5. Other fit individuals

The Duties of the Personal Representative

The estate’s personal representative has many roles, and they are required to use the estate’s assets to pay all debts and obligations, estate taxes, inheritance taxes and to communicate with the beneficiaries of the estate. Just some of the duties that they will be required to fulfill include:

  • Safeguarding and Collecting the Estate’s Assets – They must collect and safeguard assets from theft, vandalism, and destruction. That may mean changing the locks on the decedent’s home, renting a safety deposit box for jewelry and small items, or locking items into a storage unit.
  • Advertising – A personal representative is also required to advertise in a legal newspaper with general circulation. The advertisement must include the decedent’s name, address of the representative and the contact information of the estate attorney.
  • Notification – Executors must then notify all beneficiaries about the death of the decedent within several months of receiving the grant letters. A copy of the will can be included if the death occurred in testate.
  • Filing Inventory – The executor will create an inventory of the estate’s assets not only for tax purposes, but for purpose of distribution later.
  • Status – An executor must keep the state comprised of their actions, including any tax returns and applicable taxes due.
  • Payments – The executor must then also pay all expenses, taxes and other creditor debts from the estate’s assets. This may require selling or liquidating particular assets in order to pay these obligations. In addition, the executor must pay all court filing fees and costs of administration as well as any attorney’s fees applicable to the estate.

Only after everything is completed, and often several months to a year after the decedent has passed, is the estate officially closed and assets are distributed.

Navigate the Complexities of Estate Administration – Speak to an Attorney

Administering an estate is a highly complex process that often requires the assistance of an attorney. Contact attorney Andrew M. Lamkin today regarding your estate plan or for assisting with estate administration. Call 516-605-0625 for a free consultation or contact us online with your questions.

Assessing the Legal Aspects of Organ and Tissue Donation

Long Island Estate Planning Attorney - Lamkin Elder LawEstate planning often involves the preparation of Last Wills and Testaments, Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives for Health Care. It can also involve discussions and planning for long-term care. During that meeting, the option for tissue and organ donation should also be explored. An attorney’s main role is to get their client thinking about potential issues, including guardianship of special needs children, inheritance of property, what to do during incapacitation, etc. When a person is in a coma or legally suffering from “brain death” it is also an attorney’s job to ask how they want their organs and tissues handled.

Unfortunately, tissue and organ donation does not always become a topic of discussion. That is because some clients or even attorneys are too uncomfortable talking about it. It is important, however, that individuals understand that it is a viable option.

Opening the Discussion

By raising the issue of tissue and organ donation, and assisting clients with understanding their rights in regards to making provisions for doing such, an attorney can have a big impact on their clients’ lives as well as on the community.

In New York, competent individuals over the age of 18 years can authorize the donation of their own organs and tissues. This decision can be as quick as becoming a donor on their driver’s license. The driver’s license will then indicate that the individual is a legal “organ donor” and doctors at a hospital facility will be able to carry out their wishes.

Also, an individual can obtain an organ donor card from the Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) by calling 1-800-donors-7 or by going to the core.org website to receive their card. The card must be signed not only by the donor, but in the presence of two witnesses.

Powers of Attorney and Organ Donations

Agents under the Powers of Attorney can also make anatomical gifts as long as they have the consent to do so by the individual. Parties that are authorized under New York law to make anatomical gifts include:

  • Spouses
  • An adult sibling
  • An adult child
  • A guardian of that individual
  • Parent of the individual
  • Anyone with the legal authority to donate the organs and tissues

Agreeing to the anatomical gift can be done in writing or via a recorded message.

The Last Will and Testament can also have specific language pertaining to organ donation wishes. Once the testator dies, the anatomical gift can be given without the need for probate.

Speak with a New York Estate Planning Attorney

If you want to become an organ or tissue donor, you can have language placed under your Powers of Attorney documents and in your Last Will and Testament regarding your wishes. Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin can assist you with drafting your will or revising it to address your organ and tissue donation concerns. Contact him for a free consultation at 516-605-0625 or contact us online.

How to Avoid Inheritance Disputes: 3 Expert Tips

After your death, the last thing you want is your loved ones to fight over your assets and liabilities.  The courts and anyone in the probate system also want these processes to go as smoothly as possible. Even with the best intentions, there are disputes that could arise. And, these disputes can often turn bitter – especially when the emotions of loss are driving everyone’s opinions.

There are things you can do to help lessen the likelihood that your loved ones will have drawn-out courtroom battles and bitter disputes.

Creating an Excellent, Well-Articulated Will

Having a will isn’t always enough – especially if your will is full of holes or missing critical information. Naturally, a will is better than no will at all, because leaving your heirs to figure out inheritance on their own can always lead to disaster.

What Happens if You Don’t Have a Will?

If you do not have an estate plan, the state’s laws will determine how your estate is distributed amongst your family. These intestacy laws can vary, but often involve first your marital status and then surviving children. If you did not want a certain child to inherit something, but didn’t have an estate plan dictating that, you will not be able to say much after you are deceased.

Creating a Valid Will is Important

Writing your intentions on paper and signing it isn’t enough. Instead, you need a will that is well-drafted and in accordance with the state’s laws. If your will is not valid, the courts will not honor your requests. A few things you must have present in order for your will to be valid under New York state laws include:

  • You must be at least 18 years old;
  • You must be of sound mind and body when writing the will;
  • You cannot be coerced into the will;
  • You must have had the intentions to create that estate plan;
  • You must have all assets listed and assign them to heirs;
  • You must have an estate plan that is signed, dated and witnessed.

Skipping Over Probate

Probate court is not automatically avoided with a will. Instead, your property will still go through probate where the court will then transfer property in accordance with your will. These processes are costly and lengthy – sometimes lasting anywhere from six months to a few years. Your estate planning attorney can advise you as to how you can avoid probate, such as establishing a revocable living trust or assigning death beneficiaries on specific accounts.

Create Durable Powers of Attorney and Living Wills

Inheritance disputes often come later in life, especially when an elderly loved one is no longer able to make decisions for themselves. By having living wills and durable powers of attorney already present, you can avoid these disputes regarding your estate and even your health care.

Meet With a Long Island Estate Planning Attorney to Dispute-Proof Your Plan

If you do not want your loved ones fighting over assets and decisions, meet with an attorney from the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today. We can assess your risks, assets and liabilities and help draft a will that is as dispute-proof as possible. Contact us at 516-605-0625 or fill out an online contact form to get started.

Can I Disinherit My Spouse?

You have spent the time and money creating an estate plan, but now you are going through a divorce. This is by far one of the most emotionally and legally trying times any person will ever go through. Not only do you have a myriad of legal documents to deal with, and requirements that can be daunting, but you may accidentally forget about updating your estate plan. Neglecting this very important step could mean that your ex-spouse will still inherit all of your property – which may not be what you intended post-divorce.

Most individuals in a divorce situation do not want their ex-spouse inheriting anything from their estate, which is why it is imperative you speak with an estate planning attorney to disinherit your spouse.

Marital Property and Assets

New York law requires equitable distribution of marital assets, which means all marital assets and liabilities are split equally in the eyes of the law – but not necessarily 50/50. Regardless of who paid for it or whose name is on the asset, the asset is still a marital asset if it was received or acquired during the marriage.

During the divorce process, you will split these marital assets. Some of these may have been associated with an estate plan, which means you will need to update your estate plan not only to reflect the spouse you are disinheriting, but the change in assets. If you are not selling and splitting the profits of those assets, then they would remain in your estate plan and your ex would still be able to receive their share of that property – whether you attempted to disinherit them or not.

Revising Your Will Is Key

Revising your estate plan is the only way you can disinherit a spouse. If you have not created a will, then now is the time to sit down with an estate planning attorney and do so. Your will can create specific instructions regarding your intentions to disinherit your ex-spouse. Because state intestate succession laws will take over if you do not have an estate plan or updated plan, this is an imperative step. You must decide who will inherit from you and who will not – and dictate that within your estate plan for the courts.

The most important feature of an estate plan is clarity. Then you will be able to clearly identify who should inherit property and assets after your death. You will also want to revise your life insurance policies, retirement plans and other documents that list your soon-to-be ex as your beneficiary – because even your estate plan cannot protect against those.

Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney in Long Island, NY Today

If you are going through a divorce, protect your assets from your ex-spouse by speaking with an estate planning attorney. The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. can assist you with revising or creating a new estate plan that specifies who will inherit your assets. Schedule a consultation at 516-605-0625 or contact us online with your questions.

Purchasing a Grave: 5 Things to Consider First

No one likes to think about it, but purchasing a plot for graves is still an important part of the estate planning process. Unfortunately, it is not something people do every day and there is little information out there that tells consumers how they can protect themselves against gravesite scams or to ensure they get fair treatment. Furthermore, gravesite purchases are extremely costly and most individuals are unaware of what they are getting or what they are signing up for when they purchase them.

If you are purchasing a gravesite for yourself or if you and your spouse are purchasing together, there are still a few things you will need to consider first.

Land Ownership

When you purchase a gravesite, it is not the same as purchasing land outright. You do not usually own the land your gravesite is on; instead, someone else has ownership, but you are purchasing an easement or license that allows you to bury a body into that plot. It is best that you clarify if you are purchasing the easement or the land when buying.

How Many Burials in the Same Plot?

Some cemeteries will only allow one individual to be buried in a plot, while others will allow a maximum of two individuals to be buried in the same plot – as long as they are buried on top of one another. However, double-deep plots often come with an extra fee. For couples, sharing a plot may be ideal, but it is a big consideration to make. After all, if you are to split later on, you still share a grave plot, but may not wish to be buried next to one another.

Maintenance Fees

There is typically a one-time maintenance fee you must pay when purchasing a plot at a cemetery. This fee is often referred to as the endowment fee in the contract and the prices will vary depending on the cemetery you select. You will want to ask about the endowment fee to see if that is in addition to the plot purchase or included in the purchase price. Most of the times it is not included and you will have to pay it after you have selected and started the purchase process.

Grave Marker Restrictions

Even if you purchase a gravesite, you could be restricted as to what types of grave markers you can actually place. Some will allow standing headstones, while others will only allow the use of flat plaques. You will want to clarify this when purchasing, especially if you are also preordering a gravestone or thinking about the type of gravestone you wish to place at the site. Ask about any applicable regulations, including size restrictions and material types.

Reselling Your Site

Most importantly, you want to ask about the transferability of the gravesite. If you want to sell the plot, you typically should be able to sell it to anyone you would like, but there are some cemeteries that request to review the purchaser and they reserve the right to refuse to resell.

Enlist the Assistance of an Estate Planning Attorney

If you are picking out a gravesite for purchase as part of your estate plan, enlist the assistance of an attorney. An attorney can help assess the purchase agreement and also make stipulations in your estate plan in regards to the newly purchased gravesite. Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today regarding your estate plan by calling 516-605-0625 or contacting us online for a consultation.

Who to Call for Elder Abuse


Unfortunately, elderly abuse is becoming a growing problem in the United States. Despite the fact that most people know they must respect their elders and it is wrong, elderly individuals are taken advantage of and abused across multiple cultures residing in the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is estimated that one out of every 10 elderly Americans is mistreated by a loved one or stranger.

Elder abuse can take on numerous forms, including mental, emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse. The abuse can be by a family member or a caregiver. The abuse can also include abandonment, neglect or misallocation of funds by a professional. Loved ones that suspect elder abuse should contact the authorities and report the abuse immediately.

Family Members Abusing Loved Ones

The reason elder abuse is so widely underreported is because of the personal relationship between the abuser and the abused. Frail family members are unlikely to contact strangers to report their abuse or mistreatment, especially if it is a loved one committing the abuse. Also, most elderly individuals are unaware of their options and do not even know about the abuse prevention and protection programs available to them – so they just accept the abuse and assume they have nowhere to turn.

The National Adult Protective Services Association states that there has been a dramatic increase of elder abuse across the country since the 1980s, but there has not been a unified approach to correct the problem still to this date. There is no one federal agency that is solely tasked with helping the elderly and addressing abuse or mistreatment; the states have been tasked with the job instead.

Every state has its own program for elder and adult abuse protective services, but a lot of that work falls on the shoulders of already overworked social service and health department professionals.

Finding Where to Turn

To report any form of elder abuse, the National Center of Elder Abuse’s State Resources help find state agencies that are tasked with overseeing these types of cases. Even if mistreatment is suspected, family members or friends should report that behavior and initiate an investigation to protect the individual from further abuse. Also the agency can help locate additional resources for caregivers that are overwhelmed and unable to care for their loved one.

Elder abuse is like any other type of violence. If the abuse is severe or it is an emergency situation, individuals can contact the police or even call 911 for help. Families and elderly loved ones injured by caregivers may need to also enlist the services of an attorney to help with compensation.

Was Your Loved One Injured? Speak with an Elder Law Attorney

Sometimes guardianship issues arise during elder abuse cases. The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. can assist with guardianship requests and help further protect elderly individuals who are being abused by loved ones or their caregivers. Contact us at 516-605-0625 or contact us online to schedule a consultation today.

Funding a Trust

Long Island Trust Funding Attorney - Lamkin Elder Law

Now that you have established a trust, you should transfer all applicable assets into that trust. Doing so will not only ensure your trust is funded, but all of your assets will now be protected by that trust and can hopefully avoid probate court. The process of formally transferring assets into a trust is not complicated, but it should still be done with the assistance of your estate planning attorney to ensure all applicable assets have been properly transferred. Not moving assets over correctly could mean that your trust has no positive effect (or any effect for that matter) on your assets. Instead, assets would be passed through your will and without a will, forced to pass through your state’s intestate succession laws.

Unfortunately, it is all too common for individuals to skip the funding portion of setting up their trust or leave out valuable assets that should be placed into the trust. To ensure your loved ones and assets are fully protected, make sure funding is the first step you take after the trust documents are completed.

Title-Documented Assets

Assets with a title document that verifies you own that asset can be transferred into the trust. You will need a new title document that shows the asset is now held by the trust. Some assets that are titled include:

  • Real estate properties
  • Stocks
  • Bank accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Life insurance policies
  • Investment accounts, such as CDs
  • Vehicles
  • Patents, trademarks and copyrights

For example, if you wish to transfer your home into the trust, you need to prepare and record a new deed that certifies the property is held by the trust instead of yourself. To transfer bank accounts, contact your financial institution and request the ownership be transferred to your trust. The institution typically requires copies of the trust documents, but they handle all transfers after they have evidence a trust exists.

What About Assets without a Title?

There are numerous valuable assets that may not have a titled document. For example, you may have expensive artwork or family heirlooms of significant value that you wish to transfer into the security of your trust. These items can be listed in the trust document so that they are protected by the trust. For a more secure asset transfer, your attorney can draft an Assignment of Property.

Speak with Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. Today

If you want to protect your assets, including non-titled assets, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today. We can explore your options and not only help you establish a trust, but transfer your valuable assets into that trust so that they do not have to endure the hassles of probate court. It is important that your assets are transferred properly; otherwise, your assets could experience more problems – such as a retirement account that requires a full distribution and tax penalties. To get started with a properly funded trust, schedule a free consultation online or call 516-605-0625.

529 Plans and Estate Plans

Long Island 529 Plan Attorney - Lamkin Elder Law

A 529 college savings plan is the ideal way to help fund your child’s future college expenses. What you may not know about a 529 plan is that it is also a valuable estate planning tool. For individuals of wealth, a 529 college savings plan provides an opportunity to help transfer some of that wealth as part of the overall estate plan.

The Rules of 529 College Savings Plans

All 50 states allow the use of a 529 college savings plan. Also referred to as qualified tuition programs, these investment opportunities offering parents numerous tax benefits are overseen by the state’s treasury department. One of the best features of a 529 plan is that you do not have to live in the same state where the plan is established. Additionally, you do not have to send your child to a college in the state where the 529 plan is set up.

Because of this open-ended option, states are now competing with one another – which means they are offering generous contribution limits to parents. These types of plans are a simpler form of investment with minimal risk too, making them ideal for every estate plan.

Using a 529 Plan in Your Estate Plan

From an estate planning perspective, there are several attractive features to a 529 college savings plan. Unlike their competition, the education IRA, you are not restricted by income limits nor are you prohibited from fully contributing to the plan. That means that everyone will qualify to own a 529 college savings plan regardless of how much they make each year.

529 Plans and Tax-Free Gifting

One of the most attractive features of 529 plans is that they allow you to reduce your estate tax obligations with an annual tax-free gift contribution of $13,000. Married couples can contribute as much as $26,000 per year in tax-free gift contributions for each beneficiary (each child) without any federal gift tax issues arising later on.

For individuals that wish to reduce the size of their estate, they can fund 529 plans for their children and reduce the tax burden on the estate as well as their beneficiaries. Each contribution can help reduce the size of a wealthier individual’s estate dramatically and minimize or even eliminate tax obligations altogether.

Grandparent Gifts

529 plans are not exclusively offered to parents. Grandparents that wish to contribute to a child’s education can use a 529 account as well. However, grandparents must keep in mind the federal generation-skipping transfer tax or GSTT. This tax is applied to individuals that are one generation below the gift-giver, such as a grandchild. There is a GSTT exemption and GSTT is not due until that exemption has been exceeded. Grandparents can contribute a maximum amount per year to a grandchild’s 529 plan to reduce their own estate value and still keep their grandchildren free of federal taxes later on.

Speak with the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. Regarding Your 529 Plan

If you are interested in using a 529 college savings plan as part of your overall estate plan, contact attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today for a free consultation. We can discuss your options and help find the best method for reducing your estate tax obligations. Contact us online or call 516-605-0625 to get started.

The Pitfalls of DIY Estate Plans

Long Island Estate Planning Lawyers - Lamkin Elder Law

The age of the Internet is upon us, and that means more sites educating consumers and even offering cheaper DIY alternatives to professional services. One of these popular DIY sites offers estate planning where you can find all of the forms you need, along with information and tutorials. While it may seem like an ideal option, at closer examination you may find that you truly get what you pay for.

Online services offer contract templates and use boilerplate language that claims to offer you maximum protection, but you are also required to create your own terms and other provisions tailored to the unique estate situation you have. Because these online sites are so simplified, they often create more harm to an estate than good.

Common Issues with DIY Wills

DIY kits claim to offer attorney-level advice and guides for drafting an official will; however, it is up to the customer to take the time to read all of the documentation. Also, these guides do not encompass every circumstance and are often too general in their scope. Most importantly, they use generalized laws instead of addressing specific state laws.

If you are thinking about using a cheaper alternative, like a DIY site, here are some pitfalls you may want to be aware of first:

  1. No Residuary Clause – A template lets you name beneficiaries and bequeath assets, but it rarely allows you to indicate how that property will remain after all estate taxes, debts and other expenses are paid. These online templates lack the residuary clause to ensure property passes according to the laws of intestacy. This means that certain assets may go to an individual you never intended.
  2. Fill in the Blank Errors – Another common pitfall with DIY estate plans is that the consumer must fill in the blanks. That means you are required to name your executor and add in beneficiaries, guardians and other provisions. It is easy to misunderstand each provision and accidentally fill in the wrong role with someone you did not intend, such as accidentally listing a beneficiary as your executor.
  3. A Clear Lack of Execution – When it comes to witnessing a will, you are required to have the will notarized and a witness present during the signing. This is easily overlooked on a DIY will and in some cases, you are not even prompted to have it notarized. Also, the sites rarely update with the latest probate laws; therefore, you may have a will that violates those laws.
  4. Not Creating a Trust – While a will is a valuable tool, a trust is also something that most individuals will want to create when they make an estate plan. Unfortunately, DIY sites will not advise individuals about creating a trust or even follow the state laws for drafting one.
  5. Special Needs – DIY kits lack the complexity to handle children, especially those with special needs. They may jeopardize your child’s eligibility for public benefits and assets may be passed incorrectly, leaving your child with nothing.

Don’t Risk Your Estate – Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. Today

DIY estate plans do cost less, but they cost you more in the end. Having an estate plan drafted to meet the specific circumstances of your estate is the only way to protect your assets and your loved ones. Let the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. help you with your personalized estate plan. Schedule a free consultation online or call 516-605-0625 now.

When There Is Not Enough Money to Pay Estate Debts

Long Island Estate Debts Lawyers - Lamkin Elder Law

After an individual passes, their debts do not cease. Instead, their estate survives and is then obligated to pay any existing debts that the deceased incurred during their lifetime. But what if the deceased’s estate does not have enough funds in the estate account to cover those debts or has no plan for paying them?

Paying Joint Debts

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has strict guidelines for the debts of the deceased. Under those regulations, family members are not required to pay any debts of the deceased from their own assets. However, there are exceptions to this regulation and there are instances where surviving family members may be held liable for any debts. These exceptions include:

  • Someone that co-signed on the debt;
  • Community property states;
  • The deceased’s spouse and if state law requires that the spouse pay for certain debts (such as health care expenses);
  • The individual was legally responsible for resolving any remaining estate debts per probate laws.

Referred to as “joint debts,” these debts are then the obligations of the surviving debt holder. Therefore, if you have joint debts with a deceased individual, you need to contact the lender to review the terms of the loan or credit line and if required, transfer the obligation into your name and address for fulfillment. You also need to ensure future payments on the debt no longer come from the estate account, but from your personal account.

Paying Individual Debts

When debts are in the decedent’s name and there are no joint account holders, these individual debts must be paid by the estate. The executor is obligated to sell any existing assets to raise enough funds to cover these debts as much as possible. If there are no assets and no cash, creditors have no other options for collection.

Executors must follow an order of priority with estate debts, which includes:

  • Administration, funeral and testamentary expenses;
  • Creditors with security, such as a mortgage lender;
  • Taxes and social insurance contributions;
  • Unsecured debts.

When the estate does not have sufficient assets to cover the debts, then the debts are paid from the following assets:

  • Property that was not dealt with specifically in the estate plan;
  • Any remaining assets that are leftover;
  • Property that was specifically left to pay for remaining debts;
  • Gift monies or other bequests in the estate plan.

Create an Estate Plan That Addresses Your Debts – Contact an Estate Planning Attorney Today

It is important that you leave enough assets or create a plan for covering debts your loved ones may be required to pay. The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. can help you devise a plan that ensures joint debts are adequately covered and your individual debts are satisfied. We can explore your options and find creative ways to fund your estate – even when you think there is no way to cover your debts. Contact us now for a free consultation at 516-605-0625 or fill out an online contact form to learn more.

Valid Reasons to Remove a Trustee

Long Island Trustee Removal Lawyers - Lamkin Elder LawFiduciaries that misappropriate trust assets or fail to comply with trust terms can create significant problems for an estate, as well as its beneficiaries. Because a trustee holds all assets of the estate, it is imperative that an inadequate fiduciary is removed. However, removing the individual endowed with the task of overseeing a trust requires special circumstances – and the assistance of an estate planning attorney.

Reasons That Constitute Fiduciary Removal

  1. Failure to comply with trust terms. A trustee has the legal ownership and management of all trust assets. These assets are held for the benefit of the heirs, and the trustee is obligated to act in the best interest of those heirs. If the trustee fails to act in the best interest of the heirs or blatantly ignores trust terms, beneficiaries can petition the court to remove them from their role.
  2. Mismanagement of trust assets. As an elected individual, the trustee has a fiduciary duty to manage all trust assets in a manner that ensures they are not wasted or devalued. If a trustee neglects that duty or purposely neglects their role, leading to a significant decline in trust assets, a petition for removal is valid.
  3. Using trust assets for their own benefit. A trustee who uses their control over trust assets to their own benefit breaches their fiduciary duty to the estate and its beneficiaries. This may lead to a prompt trustee removal by a probate court judge. Unfortunately, if the trustee is a financial institution, beneficiaries may be required to sign a “conflict of interest” waiver, which would allow the institution to legally self-deal in trust assets.
  4. The trustee shows clear hostility toward estate beneficiaries. A trustee must act in the best interests of the estate and cannot allow for a significant breakdown or continuing conflict with beneficiaries. If the trustee shows clear hostility toward beneficiaries or cannot work professionally with the estate’s beneficiaries, the trustee must be removed.
  5. Trust administration methods have led to a breakdown in beneficiary trust. Beneficiaries must trust the individual overseeing their assets. If the way in which the trust is administered has led to a breakdown of confidence in the trustee, leading to further hostility, the beneficiaries can petition for the trustee’s removal.

Hire Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. to Help with Your Trustee Removal Petition

Beneficiaries faced with the task of removing a trustee need to carefully consider their position. Even if there are adequate grounds for removal, they must consider the potential costs and consequences of doing so – especially if the trustee resists the petition. The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. can assist you with your trustee removal. We will explore your options and if you have a valid reason, we will represent your petition to the court. Contact us online today to learn more, or call 516-605-0625 to schedule a consultation.

Things You Didn’t Know About Estate Planning – But Should

Long Island Estate Planning Lawyers - Lamkin Elder LawMost Americans are aware they should complete an estate plan, but little have done so. An estate plan does not only distribute assets, but it can also protect an individual and their loved ones from creditors, conflict, and much more. Unfortunately, the biggest reason for a lack of pre-planning comes down to information – or the lack thereof. Consumers are often giving into misconceptions about estate plans, and these misconceptions can cost American households thousands of dollars later on.

What Consumers Should Know About Estate Planning

From making important decisions to addressing formalities, there is plenty you should know about creating and maintaining an estate plan.

  1. An estate plan is not reserved for the wealthy. The number one reason Americans do not create an estate plan is because they assume you need excess wealth to have one. In reality, even middle- to low-class citizens could benefit from a well-drafted estate plan. Even those with no assets, but with children, can name a guardian for their minor children if they pass. On the other hand, without an estate plan, a judge will determine the guardian for minor children, which may not be a guardian you would have selected voluntarily.
  2. Estate plans have strict formalities. Despite being in the electronic age, there are formalities with an estate plan. While it may be seen as an antiquated law, wills must be signed in the presence of witnesses. This is not because the law it out of date; instead, it is to protect yourself and your beneficiaries, ensuring that your will is valid and you did not make your decisions under duress.
  3. Estate plans cover all valuable property. Whether you have a retirement account from employment, a coin collection, or a family home, your estate plan can dictate how each asset you own is distributed after your death.
  4. A properly drafted estate plan can avoid probate. Probate court, which involves taxes, fees, and legal costs, can be avoided with a living trust. While a trust does not guarantee an estate will avoid probate, if the trust has all assets titled in your name you can save your heirs the costs and lengthy delays associated with probate court.
  5. Omissions can cause legal issues. Self-drafted estate plans usually lack the complexity required to cover your estate, including any unique aspects of it. A simple omission or use of confusing language can result in an unfavorable outcome. This is why it is imperative your estate plan is drafted by an attorney who understands New York estate laws, giving them the ability to draft a will that addresses your estate’s unique characteristics.

The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. – Estate Planning Attorney

Estate plans should always be customized to the unique aspects of the individual. Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin can help you understand your estate planning options and draft a plan that addresses your concerns after you have passed. Schedule a consultation online or call 516-605-0625 to learn more

Choosing the Executor of Your Estate

estate planningOne of the most important decisions you will make for your estate plan is in selecting the individual (or institution) to be in charge of your assets after you have passed. Also known as the executor, the tasks of this fiduciary can impact your beneficiaries and estate; therefore, there are factors you should consider before selecting a person for the position.

You are allowed to select more than one individual to fulfill these roles, known as co-executors. Some people choose more than one fiduciary – individuals legally obliged to act in your estate’s best interests – to ensure that at least one individual has legal and financial expertise, while the other is close to the family. If you do choose to have more than one executor, be sure to choose two people who can work well together. It is also recommended that you select a successor for each role, in case your first choice is unable to serve.

Choosing Your Executor(s)

The individual responsible for administering your estate is the executor. Because this individual will have direct access to your assets, finances, and resources, it is imperative that you select an individual who is financially stable, responsible, and – most importantly – trustworthy.

The law requires your estate to have an executor so that there is someone responsible for collecting all assets of your estate, protecting your estate property, creating an inventory, paying valid creditor claims (including taxes), representing the estate, and distributing assets to the estate’s beneficiaries. In some cases, an executor may have to liquidate assets (such as selling stocks, bonds, or even furniture) to have adequate cash on-hand to pay taxes, creditors of the estate, and beneficiaries.

Paid versus Non-Paid Executors

One approach is to appoint someone who has no conflict of interest with your estate, meaning someone who has nothing to gain from your will. Many testators will name a paid executor, such as an attorney or accountant, to avoid conflict. Some valid reasons for choosing a paid executor include:

  • Spouses and family members are often burdened with grief; therefore, it is too much of a burden to ask that they are personally liable for all estate taxes, filings, and fiduciary tasks.
  • Executors must gather assets; therefore, a spouse or family member would be required to retrieve money and property loaned to friends, which creates a conflict for that family member.
  • A professional has the ability to call on the advice of other professionals, such as accountants, tax experts, investment counselors, and business administrators to assist them with their fiduciary demands.
  • A professional also has the time and emotional distance to handle the complex role of being the executor, while a family member does not.

Non-paid executors, which are usually family or close friends, can waive the executor’s fee to which they are entitled and serve the estate. However, this individual must be capable of doing the job; therefore, a person should be selected like an employee. A desirable executor is one who has experience handling bills (especially complicated Medicare, ambulance fees, hospital bills, etc.). This individual should be highly organized because they will be required to manage a preponderance of paperwork and meet strict deadlines with the court.

Most importantly, the law does not allow convicted felons, minors, or non-U.S. citizens to serve as fiduciaries. While a nonresident can serve as an executor in the state of New York, it is often best if the executor is local so that they can meet the demands of their position.

Schedule a Time to Meet with Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, PC

Selecting an executor is extremely important. An estate planning attorney can assist you with not only your estate plan, but also with selecting a responsible, suitable executor for your estate. Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, PC online or call 516-605-0625 to schedule a consultation.

How Your Cell Phone Can Help in an Elder Abuse Case

elder abuseElder abuse is a growing issue in the United States. While estimates vary, it is believed that four to six percent of elderly Americans are abused. According to research provided by the National Incidence Study on Elder Abuse, approximately 450,000 elderly individuals experienced some form of abuse in 1996.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse does not have to be physical, though physical contact is the most common. Any form of mistreatment that results in harm or a loss is considered abuse under the law. The New York State Office for Aging categorizes elder abuse into several categories, including:

  • Physical Abuse – Any physical force that results in serious bodily injury, impairment, or pain. This can include assault, battery, or the use of inappropriate restraints.
  • Sexual Abuse – Any non-consensual sexual act of any kind with an elderly individual.
  • Domestic Violence – Violence from an intimate partner or family member, especially when the violent acts are used to exercise power or control.
  • Psychological Abuse – While no bodily injury occurs, psychological abuse is still against the law. This can include the willful infliction of emotional or mental anguish, humiliation, threats, or verbal conduct.
  • Neglect – This applies to caregivers (both professional and family) who fail to provide a reasonable level of care under elderly care standards.
  • Financial Abuse – This includes the illegal use of an elderly person’s property, resources, and funds.

How a Cell Phone Can Help

Whether an elderly individual is being cared for in a professional facility or in their own home, providing them with a cell phone can help prove elder abuse. Just some ways a cell phone can help include:

  • Contacting Authorities – Many elderly victims do not report their abuse simply because they are kept from using a phone. By providing them with a cell phone, they are more likely to contact the authorities or loved ones to report abuse.
  • Video – Capturing video of threats, battery, sexual misconduct, or even psychological abuse offers key evidence in proving that the abuse exists.
  • Photos – A cell phone can be used to capture photographs of injuries immediately after the abuse – including restraint marks. Because cell phones are equipped with Meta data, they will automatically timestamp when the photo occurred, which can later be used at trial.

Speak with an Attorney Regarding Your Elder Abuse Case

Elderly individuals are a prime target for abusers, especially elderly individuals with dementia. If you suspect abuse, contact the authorities and then an attorney right away. At the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, PC we offer comprehensive representation for elderly individuals to ensure that their rights and health are protected – especially when they cannot protect themselves. Contact attorney Andrew M. Lamkin online or call 516-605-0625.

Does Retirement Mean You Are Old?


Long Island Elder Law Attorney - Lamkin Elder Law

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

Why Age is a Big Issue

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

How to Overcome the Stigma of Age

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

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

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

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

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


estate planning

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

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

Aging Parents Are Running Out of Funds

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

How Much Will It Cost?

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

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

Long-Term Care Planning Can Help

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

How to Avoid Court with Your Aging Parents


Long Island Elder Law Attorney - Lamkin Elder Law

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

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

Three Ways to Avoid Going to Court

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

Avoid Family Disputes Altogether with a Sound Estate Plan

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

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

When Should Elderly Drivers Stop Driving for Good?


Elderly Woman driver

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

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

How Age Affects Driving

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

Signs That It Is Time to Stop Driving for Good

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

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

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

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

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

Cities Consider Restructuring Due to Increased Elderly Population


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

Increasing Accessible and Affordable Housing

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

Transportation and Mobility

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

Cost Effective Social Services

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

Long Island Premier Elder Law Attorney

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

Important Facts to Know About Nursing Homes and Guardianship

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

Why Would Nursing Homes Want Guardianship of Residents?

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

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

Can Guardianship Be Avoided?

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

Andrew M. Lamkin – Elder Care Attorney

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

Flexibility is Needed For Long-Term Planning


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

Multi-Generational Planning

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

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

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

Andrew M. Lamkin – Estate Planning Attorney

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

June is National Safety Month


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

Safety Outdoors: Know Your Body

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

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

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

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

Stay Connected

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

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

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

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

How the Elderly Can Be Safe Drivers

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

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

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

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

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

When Your Elderly Parents Live With You

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

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

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

Easing the Financial Burden

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

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

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

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

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

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

What We Can Learn From Robin Williams’ Estate Problems

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

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

Avoid “General” Language in Estate Plans

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

Consider a QTIP or Revocable Trust

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

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

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

May is Older Americans Month

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

JFK Helped Establish Older Americans Month in 1963

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

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

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

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

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

When Should You Review Your Will?

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

Changes to Your Family

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

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

Changes to Your Assets

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

Changes to the Laws

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

Contact Estate Planning Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin

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

Having the Tough “Talk” with Your Aging Parents

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

When Should You Have the Talk?

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

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

What Should You Talk About?

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

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

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

What Should You Do After the Talk?

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

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