November 27, 2014










Steps to Estate Planning

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

Make a Will

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

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

Establish a Power of Attorney

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

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

Name a Beneficiary

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

The Bottom Line

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

Estate Planning for a Second Family

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

Factors to Consider

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

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

A Newer Second Family

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

A Brief First Marriage

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

Property Division

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

Communication

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

Legal Help

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

The Importance of a Power of Attorney

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

Powers of Attorney

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

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

The Importance of Powers of Attorney

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

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

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

The Bottom Line

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

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

Estate Planning for Peace of Mind

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

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

Select Your Lawyer and Executor

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

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

Name Your Beneficiaries

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

Devise a Plan to Pass Money to the Beneficiaries

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

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

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

Charitable Giving

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

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

Contact Us

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

Estate Planning in Awkward Situations

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

Estate Planning for Two Families

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

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

What Factors Should Be Considered?

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

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

Contact Us

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

How to Discuss Estate Planning with Your Family

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

What Is Estate Planning?

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

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

When to Talk About Estate Planning

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

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

What Should Be Discussed?

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

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

Contact Us

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

Ten Ways to Prepare for a Successful Retirement

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

1. Start Today

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

2. 401K

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

3. Develop a Retirement Plan

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

4. IRA

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

5. Social Security Benefits

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

6. Build Up A Savings Account

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

7. Plan for Medical Expenses

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

8. Set Goals

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

9. Talk With Your Spouse

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

10. Downsize

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

Contact Us

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

Ways to Help Beat the Loneliness of Your Aging Parents

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

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

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

Encourage your parents to pick up a hobby.

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

Continue to encourage your parents to follow their dreams.

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

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

Contact Us Today

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

What Will Retirement Mean for You?

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

Finding a Balance Between Leisure and Finances

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

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

Things to Take into Consideration When Planning for Your Retirement

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

Trusted Help for Your Retirement Planning

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

Is It Time for You to Review Your Will?

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

Life Changes that Require a Review of Your Will

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

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

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

Make Certain Your Goals Will Be Met

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

Contact Us

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

What to Know Before You Withdraw Your Retirement Funds

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

Early Withdrawals = Real Cash Lost

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

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

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

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

There Is Also Good News

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

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

You Can Even Change Your Mind… With a Few Conditions

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

If Your Situation Is Truly Dire…

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

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

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

Elder Scam Artists – How to Beat Them at Their Own Game – Part 2

According to the FBI, senior citizens are one of the most vulnerable groups of people targeted by scam artists. Over the past year, there have been thousands of cases of fraud against elderly adults. Some of these schemes include healthcare fraud, counterfeit prescription drugs, funeral and cemetery fraud, fraudulent anti-aging products, telemarketing fraud, Internet fraud, investment schemes, and reverse mortgage scams.

There are hundreds of other ways con artists target seniors. As loved ones age, they are more likely to be taken in by expert scam artists or other frauds. It is the responsibility of loved ones to help keep senior family members safe.

In Part One on elder scam artists, some of the most common scams perpetrated against seniors were discussed so that you can recognize how to keep loved ones safe. While this is an important strategy, it is even easier to avoid being scammed if the scam artists cannot reach you or your loved ones at all.

Avoiding Scams and Solicitations

In order to cut down on the number of solicitations for scams geared towards senior citizens, the best defense is to do everything possible to stop the ways that scam artists can reach your loved ones. The following are some important steps you should take today to protect elderly loved ones.

  • Add all phone numbers to the Do Not Call registry. Go to donotcall.gov or call their hotline to add your number and any number at which you can reach senior citizens to the registry. This will protect you from being called by many people soliciting seniors and make the phone number more difficult for scam artists to access.
  • Screen calls using caller ID. If seniors do not answer phone calls from any unfamiliar numbers, they will not be subject to any phishing calls for frauds.
  • Opt out of pre-approved credit offers. Although some credit offers are from respected, legitimate financial institutions, some are from scam artists. Opting out of these offers will avoid some junk and mail scams. If a loved one decides that he or she wants another loan or credit card, you can go together directly to a bank.
  • Limit direct mailings and marketing campaigns. Visiting the direct marketing association website and opting out of their mailing lists will substantially limit what mail elders receive. You can also remind them to opt out of any mailing lists when they fill out forms. The less seniors are bombarded with junk mail, the better equipped they will be to filter the legitimate offers out from the scams.
  • Keep lines of communication open. If you and your family make major decisions together and keep lines of communication open, you will be able to protect each other from many types of scams. The goal should not be to make all decisions for seniors who are still capable of doing so on their own. The goal should be to work together to make sure that no one is hurt by a scam. Talking about decisions as they come up will help.

While it may not be possible to totally avoid all scam artists from contacting seniors, it is much easier to avoid scams by following these tips. Work with elderly relatives to keep them away from scams, always staying vigilant of the possibility of fraud.

Contact Us

Contact us at the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today to find out how we can help with your elder care. We can set up living trusts, protect assets, work out Medicare planning, or set up guardianships. Trust us to do everything in our power to serve the legal needs of your family.

Elder Scam Artists – How to Beat Them at Their Own Game – Part 1

No matter what age, all people are somewhat vulnerable to expert scam artists. They prey on desires and fears, and try to trick people into giving them personal information. Most people, however, have a healthy enough dose of skepticism to filter out scams. Elderly people, on the other hand, are more vulnerable to scam artists.

As people age, they can sometimes become forgetful and more dependent on others. Older people grew up in tighter communities, so they often are more trusting of and friendlier to strangers. Elderly adults are less tech savvy, so they may be fooled by new gadgets. Many seniors may not hear about new scams targeting people in their area. This makes seniors even more likely to fall victims of fraudulent activity.

Furthermore, as the number of senior citizens grows every year, scams designed to target the particular vulnerabilities of older adults become increasingly profitable.

As the caretaker of an elderly loved one, one of your biggest responsibilities will be to protect him or her from scam artists. You need to take steps to protect older family members from scams.

Recognizing Common Scams that Target Seniors

One of the best ways to protect loved ones against scams is to educate yourself on the most common scams people use to target seniors. You can teach your loved ones and watch out for any signs that your family is being targeted.

There are many ways scam artists trick seniors into giving them money or personal information. The most common tactics include Internet-based scams, phone calls, direct mailings, broadcast ads, print advertisements, and door-to-door solicitations. The following are some of the most common schemes employed:

  • Living trust seminars or kits: Many estate planning “do-it-yourself” kits or seminars are really ruses to bilk large numbers of seniors out of money for nothing of value in return. Even worse, some of these scams are used to collect personal financial information. The best way to plan for your estate is always to consult an estate-planning attorney who is a reliable member of the American Bar Association. Many of these seminars claim to be “endorsed” by organizations like AARP, when in reality they are frauds.
  • Financial seminars for a “free” big-ticket item: No matter what product they are giving away, it almost never is worth it to attend. These events always involve high-pressure sales tactics for the product they really want to sell (like timeshares, for examples), and seniors may end up purchasing something they do not need and cannot afford.
  • Unsolicited reverse mortgage offers: Legitimate reverse mortgage companies do not send out unsolicited information or offers. It is important to do thorough research before contacting these types of companies.
  • Investment opportunities: Although there are many great options that seniors can use to invest, usually unsolicited offers from unknown companies can’t be trusted. Be careful of pyramid schemes.
  • Healthcare fraud: Many travelling labs will scare elderly patients into getting unnecessary “tests” and then overbill the patient or Medicare.

The most important thing to remember with any offer that you or your loved ones receive is that if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. Do not ever invest money in something without careful and exhaustive research. Most importantly, make sure to keep communication open and honest with seniors, so that you can work together to prevent fraud.

Contact Us

The best way to protect your assets and make investments is through a trusted estate planning and elder law attorney. If you want to keep seniors safe from scam artists, contact us at Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today to find out how we can help. Also, make sure to read the second segment on how to prevent scams before they are ever presented to a loved one.

Deciding on a Retirement Plan

For those who are beginning to think about their financial futures, researching retirement plans can be a stressful and confusing process. However, with just a little research and the guidance of an advisor, starting a retirement plan can be easier than most people think. Several different programs provide tax advantages to both employees and employers, so it is important to carefully weigh all available options before choosing an account that is right for you.

What are Pre-Tax Contributions?

Most retirement funds are funded by a “pre-tax contribution,” meaning that taxes are not taken out of the contribution at the time of the deposit but will instead be owed later when the money is removed from the savings account. For instance, if an individual begins to save money when he or she is 20 years old, the money contributed to the plan is pre-taxed. If it remains in the account untouched until he or she turns 70 years old, the money is tax-deferred, or protected from tax, until a portion or all of it is removed.

Common Types of Retirement Plans

Each of the following accounts has additional restrictions and benefits, so it is important to understand that the information provided is a general overview of the most commonly held retirement savings accounts.

1. Traditional 401(k)

A 401(k) is a pre-tax retirement plan for employees and their employers. It allows eligible workers to contribute pre-tax money into a savings account and permits a “profit-sharing” contribution for the employer to also contribute to the account. While the money remains in the 401(k) or other allowed account such as a Rollover IRA, the money is tax-deferred, and account holders are not required to pay taxes on the money unless it is removed from the account.

2. 403(b)

This pre-tax retirement account is used by some hospitals and public schools as well as other eligible organizations with a non-profit tax status. The 403(b) plan allows both employees and their employers to contribute money into the account.

3. IRAs

There are several types of IRAs including traditional IRAs, Rollover IRAs, and Simple IRAs. Traditional IRAs allow individuals to either work with an advisor or on their own to save pre-tax money while Rollover IRAs allow money to be rolled out while the account maintains a tax-deferred status. Simple IRAs are designed for employers with fewer than 100 employees.

4. Roth IRAs

Roth IRAs differ from the aforementioned retirement accounts as contributions are made after taxes are paid on the money. If the Roth account has been opened for at least five years and the account is taken after age 59½, distributions are tax-free.

Contact Us Today

The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin P.C. is dedicated to helping its clients with their retirement planning needs. Call Andrew Lamkin today at (516) 605-0625 for a free consultation and to learn more about the most efficient ways to choose a retirement plan.

Why You Should Talk to Your Aging Parents about Money

While the popular adage “silence is golden” often rings true, does it apply to the topic of parents’ elder care expenses, living costs, and healthcare? The Fidelity Intra-family Generational Finance Study has recently found that four out of 10 families have not yet had a conversation with their elderly parents about these important matters. According to the study, children want to avoid upsetting their parents while parents worry that their adult children are hoping for a future inheritance. As a result, money often becomes taboo in many families, and important conversations about family finances are simply not happening.

FIGS Study Finds Fewer Families are Discussing Finances

According to researchers, both parents and children did not necessarily feel that it was difficult to have a conversation regarding retirement, healthcare, and living expenses. However, many families found trouble in knowing exactly when to begin the conversation as well as how in depth the conversation should go. One of the most important notes that researchers made was that it was critical not to wait until an emergency occurs to sit down with parents to discuss their future financial plans.

How to Effectively Plan for Parents’ Financial Futures

Before beginning a conversation on such a sensitive subject as money, it is important to realize that the conversation is not a democracy. All of their lives, parents have made their own decisions about their money, and there is a slim chance that they will relinquish control now. Children should realize that they are discussing their parents’ money and, ultimately, the parents have the final say.

There are several keys to facilitate an effective conversation:

1. Treat parents with respect. Above all, always respect parents’ wishes regarding their plans for elder care, healthcare, and living expenses. Avoid attacking, yelling, accusing, and blaming them for their requests, as doing so can only lead to bitterness and resentment.

2. Start the discussion early. One of the most common mistakes that many families make is that they think that they only need to have one big conversation regarding family finances. However, the earlier that a family chooses to discuss their plans for the future, the easier the conversations will become. Continued discussions about the subject are much more favorable as plans, circumstances, and needs will change with time.

3. Include all family members. Ensure that all siblings and immediate relatives are included in the conversations so that everyone is fully aware of all decisions and requests, and no one is receiving incorrect or inaccurate information through the grapevine.

4. Understand the parents’ need to have control over their own lives. The conversation is not about preserving or receiving an inheritance; it is about the parents’ rights to be able to live their lives however they want to live them.

5. Provide information. Communication is vital, so it is necessary to thoroughly explain any concerns that a child may have regarding the treatment and care of his or her parents. Obtain any relevant information to support the concerns.

6. Re-evaluate the plan if it is not working. If conversations become heated or family members feel as if they are going around in circles without accomplishing anything, it is okay to take a few steps away from the conversation to clear the air and regain focus on the issues at hand.

7. Agree to disagree. Always remember that it is okay to disagree, and that the conversation is not about who is wrong or who is right. Remember that this is a delicate subject that means a great deal to all who are involved.

Contact Us

Discussing finances with parents can be difficult, particularly if one or both individuals are in poor health. Oftentimes, it may be beneficial to discuss some of the legal and financial aspects of elder care with an experienced elder care lawyer. Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today to schedule a free consultation.

Andrew M. Lamkin Is Named 2014 Small Business Person of the Year

The Chamber Board is proud to announce that one of its Board members, Andrew M. Lamkin, has been named Plainview-Old Bethpage Chamber of Commerce Small Business Person of the Year for 2014. Andrew is Principal of the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., located on Old Country Road in Plainview. He has been practicing law since 2008.

Andrew M. Lamkin received his B.A. in Political Science and History in 1996 from Syracuse University and his J.D. from Widener School of Law in 2006. He is currently an active member of the Plainview Old Bethpage Chamber of Commerce for which he serves as Chairman of the Membership Committee and is a member of the Executive Board.

A member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Andrew M. Lamkin also belongs to the Senior Umbrella Network of Nassau County, and he also serves on the Advisory Board from the Eden II and Genesis programs for adults and children living with autism in New York.

Andrew and his firm exclusively practice in the areas of residential real estate transactions, supplemental needs, estate planning, elder law, estate administration, and planning. Andrew will be honored later this year at a legislative breakfast given by the Nassau County Council of Chambers on October 17, 2014. He was also recently elected as Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce.

About The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C.

The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. is based in Plainview, New York and focuses on practice areas including estate planning, elder law, special needs planning, trusts and wills, estate administration, Medicaid planning, and residential real estate transactions. The Firm provides comprehensive case evaluations to individuals who would like to learn more about their options regarding elder law. Andrew M. Lamkin is a member of the Nassau County Bar Association, the Suffolk County Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association, and the AARP Legal Services Network from Allstate.

Elder Care Benefits in the Workplace

As the Baby Boomer generation ages, more and more working adults are finding themselves responsible for the care of parents or other elderly relatives. In fact, over 40 percent of Americans are currently responsible for the care of elderly family members, and most are doing so in addition to managing their careers and taking care of children or other household responsibilities. Many employers are starting to recognize this trend and are beginning to offer some kind of elder care benefits in the workplace.

Increasing Empathy and Help for Employees with Elder Care Responsibilities

According to the 2014 National Study of Employers published by the Families and Work Institute, growing trends show an increase in elder care support and benefits provided in the workplace from 2008 to 2014. In fact, 75 percent of employers are willing to provide time off for employees to provide elder care without putting their jobs at risk. Furthermore, employers are increasingly more likely to report that they offer elder care resources, referral programs, Dependent Care Assistance Programs (DCAPs), and access to respite care in health plans.

One explanation for this trend given by the Families and Work Institute is that aging upper management is more likely to personally experience elder care issues, making them both more sympathetic to and aware of these needs. The study also cited an overall aging workforce, a greater number of employees dealing with managing elder care, and an expectation that even more employees will need elder care benefits in the next five years even if they are not already providing care for a loved one as reasons for increasing benefits. Interestingly, this trend has not been aided by legal requirements, as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does not expressly provide for the care of the elderly.

Not All Employers Are Equal When It Comes to Elder Care Benefits

Although the trend in workplaces across the country is to increasingly provide for elder care benefits, not all employers guarantee the same or even any elder care provisions. Twenty-five percent of workplaces still have no provisions allowing for employees to take off work to take care of elderly relatives or other provisions supporting elder care. The National Study of Employers categorized companies with the following characteristics as the most likely to provide elder care:

  • Large companies with many employees or operating in multiple locations
  • Nonprofits
  • Employers of few hourly employees
  • Employers of many women
  • Employers with many women and minorities that are in or report directly to executive leadership

Although these types of companies most likely have elder care, some companies that fulfill these characteristics do not provide for elder care benefits. The easiest way to find out what elder care benefits are available in your company is to ask. Your elder law attorney can help answer questions about benefits and planning.

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In general, elder care can be a complex issue to manage for personal, financial, and legal reasons. Oftentimes, it can help to discuss some of the financial and legal aspects of elder care with an experienced elder care attorney. If you are responsible for the care of an elderly relative, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today for a free consultation to find out what you should do to make sure that you are both protected during this difficult time.

Healthcare Inconsistencies Among States

Every citizen deserves access to high-quality healthcare, but unfortunately the quality of long-term healthcare and healthcare services varies greatly from state to state. A recent study published by the AARP, The Commonwealth Fund, and the SCAN Foundation found that the quality of healthcare is much better in some states than in others. The study assessed healthcare in each state on five main dimensions:

  1. Affordability and accessibility of care
  2. Availability of choice of setting and provider
  3. Quality of life and quality of care
  4. Structural support for family caregivers
  5. Effectiveness of transitions between care and normal activity

These categories were assessed by considering 26 different factors, including the following:

  • Access to Medicaid home care programs
  • Quality and cost of nursing home and home care
  • Private home care insurance coverage
  • Percent of adults with disabilities in the community usually or always getting needed support
  • Percent of nursing home patients with dementia undergoing burdensome transitions
  • Number of home and personal care aides
  • Number of assisted living and residential care units
  • Quality of life and level of stress of family caregivers
  • Percent of home care patients with hospital admission

All of these factors and others were assessed to rank states by the level of care they provided. Top-performing states consistently scored high in almost every category in the study. These states were Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the opposite also was true. Bottom-performing states consistently scored fairly low in almost every category in the study. Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Indiana were the worst-ranked states in the United States.

A trend in the study showed that the gaps in the level of care were vast. This means that while the worst-ranked states did have some of the worst care provided, there were places in each state where you could receive very high quality healthcare. For this reason, the worst-ranked states have the capacity to give much better long-term healthcare services to their citizens if they choose to apply the same standards of care across the board.

While quality healthcare can be found in every state in America, many states could make strides to vastly improve the care they provide to average citizens. This may require examining the healthcare systems of top-performing states for suggestions, reviewing state policies, or committing more state resources to elder care. It is clear, however, that something must be done to assure that every person has access to high-quality healthcare. An elder law attorney can help you make sound decisions in regards to healthcare arrangements for your loved one.

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If a loved one needs assistance healthcare arrangements, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today for a free consultation to find out if you may have a case. Andrew Lamkin and his associates will be by your side every step of the process to assure that your family gets only quality care in the future.

The Right Way to Leave an Inheritance

Most people want to leave a legacy for their children. While an inheritance is never meant to cause conflict, sometimes personal or financial issues can cause tension and complicate the process. By leaving an inheritance the right way, you can avoid these tensions and make the trying time after losing a loved one a bit easier. The following are six key things you should do when leaving an inheritance.

  1. Communicate openly about the will and manage expectations. Tell your family what they can expect from an estate. Children often underestimate the value of an estate by over $100,000. When you are clear about what they can expect, there will be no conflicts later caused by surprises in the will.
  2. Make sure to document important information in your will or estate plan. By detailing what all of your assets are and where the deeds and other information can be found, you can eliminate stress for your heir.
  3. Distribute your assets yourself. Do not simply name one child as the beneficiary of a policy and assume that he or she will distribute equally to the rest of the siblings. If you want assets to be shared equally, say so in the will and list them all as beneficiaries.
  4. Distribute your assets fairly. This does not necessarily mean that you have to distribute your assets equally, but generally, this does cause less friction. Include your family equally in the planning so they are aware of your plans and have the opportunity to add their opinions.
  5. If you distribute your assets unequally, explain yourself. Maybe there is a good reason to leave more to one family member than the others. Perhaps one child makes much more or a child has medical issues that require extra money for care. Not explaining this, however, often leads to resentment. If you do not want to explain this to your children while you are still alive, at least leave them a note so they will not be bitter towards their siblings.
  6. Use a trust to minimize uncertainty. Lawyers who specialize in estate planning usually suggest distributing estate assets to children in parts by putting assets into a trust. This is especially true if children will inherit at a younger age. You can determine not only when and how distributions should be made, but also how money may be used or many other types of provisions. This will assure your inheritance will be used prudently.

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By ensuring that your inheritance is written in such a way, you can minimize the conflict and stress that inheritances often tend to cause. In order to assure that your estate is left exactly how you want it, you need to work with an estate-planning attorney. If you need help planning your estate, contact Andrew M. Lamkin and he will help you navigate the process. Call him today for a free consultation to determine what you will need to do to finish getting your inheritance in order.

What to do When You Inherit Your Parent’s Debt

Losing a parent is always a stressful experience. The loss of someone you love is devastating and emotions run high. That is why inheriting a parent’s debt can be even more stressful. Most people do not know what laws apply to the situation or what they should do to discharge the debts they still owe. There are a few important guidelines to help you more easily determine what to do when you inherit a parent’s debt.

Medical Debt

Medical debt of a parent sometimes must be paid by the estate or by children, and other times, it is not required. The main determination for medical debt is whether or not your parent was on Medicaid.

If your parent was on Medicaid, you will never be directly responsible for the debt. Under Medicaid regulations, the only major asset that a person can possess and still qualify for Medicaid is a home. That home can be placed under a lien in order to recover medical debt, but the money taken from the estate will be limited to the value of the home.

If your parent was not on Medicaid, different rules apply. First, medical bills will be paid out of the assets in the estate. If there is not enough money in the estate, children are required to pay the remainder in some states.  Each state has laws that determine if children inherit the medical debt of a parent under so-called “filial laws.” Thirty states currently have laws that require children to assume medical debts to some extent. New York is not currently a state with such laws, but the amount owed is determined by the state where the medical debt was incurred.

Other Debts

You also may be responsible for other debts left behind by a parent. If you inherit a parent’s home, you will be responsible for paying any mortgage associated with the home, or you can make the decision to sell the house and use the profit to pay off the mortgage. If the value of the mortgage is more than the value of the house, the bank can go after the estate for the difference.

You will not be responsible for paying most other debts left behind by a parent, such as taxes or credit cards. These debts can be taken out of the estate. Government agencies have high priority, so taxes will often be paid off first. Credit cards have very low priority, and sometimes credit card debt can be negotiated, because creditors do not want to risk getting nothing.

Contact Us

While these guidelines can help you determine what debts you may inherit from a parent, the process to settle an estate and associated debts can often be drawn out and complicated if you are not experienced in the field. It can help to have an experienced estate attorney settle these complications for you to avoid paying any debts you are not required to settle. Andrew Lamkin has years of experience settling estates for clients in the most beneficial way possible. You can contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin by calling 516-615-0625 at any time for a free consultation.

Your Will Does Not Address Everything

It is a common misconception that a last will and testament is the only document that a person, called a testator, needs in order to give proper instructions for the management of his or her estate after death. There are a number of reasons for which wills are necessary, including the transfer of property and finances. However, there are some important things that your will does not cover or that should not be included in your will.

Funeral Instructions Should Not be in Your Will

While it would certainly seem to make sense to insert your funeral instructions in your will, keep in mind that a will is often not found immediately following a person’s death. If an executor (the person named to manage the affairs of an individual after he or she passes away) cannot find the will in time, then specific wishes for funeral proceedings may be lost. Instead, write out funeral instructions as a separate document and inform your executor of its location.

Concurrent Estates Cannot be Transferred in a Will

If you co-own an estate with another person (referred to as “joint tenancy”), you cannot leave your part of the estate to a benefactor. According to property law, upon a joint tenant’s death, his or her part is automatically transferred to the other tenant. This law exists to minimize the possibility for disputes over concurrent estates.

You Cannot Transfer Assets to Pets

Naturally, you will want to arrange for the care of your pets in a will. However, since a pet cannot own property, you cannot transfer any assets to them. Instead, you will want to explain what you want to be done with the pets, and you may even consider leaving money for the beneficiary appointed to their care.

A Will Cannot Help You Avoid Probate

After an individual dies, the decisions regarding his or her assets will go to probate court. Here they will read the will and decide if it is legitimate. However, even when it is approved, the process can still often be long and drawn out. While a will gives you control over who will receive your assets, and often makes the process easier for family, it will not make the process free of hassle, unfortunately.

Get Legal Assistance

You will want to consider hiring a lawyer with experience in drawing up wills. It is very important that a will be thorough and clear. and it can be difficult to be sure that it is going to do everything you plan for it to do. You can receive help by contacting Andrew M. Lamkin to discuss your will. You can reach our offices at 516-615-0625 and we will be happy to provide you with an initial consultation, free of charge.

Should You be a Guardian to Your Parent with Alzheimer’s Disease?

alzheimersWhile it may seem like the natural step to get legal guardianship over a loved one who is struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease, you should be aware of the level of involvement and commitment required in managing your loved one’s affairs. Not only is this difficult, but the process of actually obtaining a legal guardianship can be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. Thus, it is important to know what is involved in legal guardianships before pursuing one.

Obtaining Guardianship

Whether an individual is granted guardianship over another individual will ultimately be decided by a judge, and that decision involves varying factors that can result in different outcomes.

First, there are two different types of guardianship that a person can be granted over an aging and/or incapacitated loved one: guardian of the person or guardian of the estate. A person granted guardian of the person will have responsibilities including controlling medical treatment and organizing living arrangements of the needy person. On the other hand, a guardian of the estate will only be responsible for the individual’s financial matters.

Therefore, the type of guardianship granted to an individual over his or her family member dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease may depend on the ability to handle necessary tasks of the guardianship. For example, if an individual is attempting to obtain a guardianship of the individual, he or she needs to live close to the person so that daily tasks can be handled. On the other hand, if an individual is attempting to obtain guardianship of the estate, it is beneficial if the individual has experience dealing with financial matters. These factors will be considered by the judge, who will make the final decision.

If You are Granted Guardianship

Once you are granted guardianship, this does not mean that your appearances in court are over or that the decision cannot be changed. You may also have to appear in court for some of the following reasons:

  • You will have to document and report the money that you use from the individual and you may be required to appear before a judge to review your expenditures
  • You may also be required to appear before a judge when faced with a big decision, such as the selling of a house or placing your loved one in a nursing home facility.
  • If other members of your family are not pleased with your power over a shared loved one’s affairs, and/or believe that you are mismanaging them, they can appeal for a review of the case, which could result in additional court time and more lawyer’s fees.

Know Your Options

It can be a difficult to have a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Oftentimes, they are frustrated and angry, incapable of remembering important facts and details about their lives and affairs. Because of this, you may feel that it is your responsibility to care for him or her by obtaining legal guardianship. While this is certainly an option, there are other options. For example, if you feel incapable of performing the tasks necessary to care for the affairs of a loved one, a judge can appoint a paid professional guardian to manage your loved one’s affairs.

Contact Us

If you are applying for a guardianship or are currently reviewing your guardianship, do not hesitate to call Andrew Lamkin at 516-615-0625, and he will be happy to provide you with an initial consultation that is free of charge to discuss your case. This process is difficult for anyone, and having experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel at your side can be of great service.

How to Avoid Paying Tax on Your Estate

property-taxAfter a person dies, if he or she has an estate worth more than $5.34 million, the beneficiaries of the estate will be required to pay estate taxes on however much the individual’s estate exceeds this amount. Currently, this rate is set at 40% in the United States, meaning that if someone’s estate is worth $6.34 million and the owner dies, the beneficiaries will have to pay taxes on the $1 million over the exempted $5.34 million. This would result in $400,000 in taxes, which is a significant amount.

For some, avoiding this tax can be as simple as leaving all of one’s assets to a surviving spouse, which would avoid estate taxes altogether. However, once the surviving spouse also passes away, and he or she now has all of the assets in his or her name, the taxes could again result in a substantial amount. The full amount of both individuals’ exemptions ($10.68 million) can be used, but if the worth of the deceased couple exceeds this, survivors may be required to pay estate taxes. However, there are some ways that an individual can avoid estate taxes, including the following:

  • Gift giving
  • Paying for medical treatment or higher education
  • Giving money to charity
  • Establishing a life insurance trust
  • Eliminating assets from an estate

Here is a closer look at a few of the most prominent methods:

Gift Giving

Any individual can give a gift of $14,000 per year to another person, free from taxation. A benefactor can give this amount to any number of individuals, although if he or she exceeds this amount, taxes will follow. Ultimately, gift giving serves two purposes:

  1. It removes assets from an estate, which will lower estate taxes
  2. It affords an opportunity for the benefactor to preemptively give gifts to loved ones, free from taxation

Also, note that any money given for the paying of higher education and medical bills cannot be taxed, regardless of the amount of money spent. The same is true for money given to charities.

Reducing Size of Estate

Most methods for avoiding estate taxes have less to do with elimination than mitigation. For example, a person can set up a Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT), which allows an individual to remove his or her house from the estate. The individual still lives there, but after the trust term runs up (usually 10-15 years), the house will be transferred to the benefactors of the trust. While this will not eliminate estate taxes on the house, it does effectively lower them, since gifts given through trusts have a lower tax rate than assets simply inherited.

Get Some Help

Beyond QPRTs, there are a number of trusts and partnerships that you can use to reduce the size of an estate, such as a Family Limited Partnership (FLP) and/or a life insurance trust. There are, in fact, many ways that an individual can help lessen their estate taxes. If you need help planning your estate, contact Andrew M. Lamkin and he will help you navigate the process. You can reach the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin by calling 516-615-0625. Mr. Lamkin will be happy to provide you with an initial consultation, free of charge.

Ensuring Good Care for Your Elderly Parents

If you are the guardian of your elderly parents, you are responsible for their well-being. In addition, you have the right and privilege to make sure that they are treated properly while in a nursing facility. Here are some common problems for nursing home patients that you can avoid for your loved ones:

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is usually the most obvious form of abuse. If bruises or other injuries begin to appear on an elderly patient, it is important to ask about the injuries. Physical abuse can also include restraining or drugging a patient unnecessarily.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse occurs when a caretaker or someone else interacts with an elderly person, causing him or her emotional distress. If verbal, the abuse can include shouting, threatening, or humiliating. If nonverbal, emotional abuse can include isolating an elderly person or ignoring him or her.

Financial Abuse

Because elderly people often need help performing their daily tasks, they may not be as capable in handling their money and assets. Sometimes, this opens them up to financial exploitation. This could include stealing their possessions, forging their checks, or even stealing their identity.

Neglect

However, the most common form of elder abuse is a less-extreme type: neglect. While it may not involve physical violence or psychological distress, neglect can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort for an elderly person. The most common indicators of neglect are bedsores, dehydration, dirty living conditions, and rapid weight loss. Additionally, look for changes in the elderly person’s demeanor. Does he or she seem depressed, angry, or apathetic? Also, note if the elderly individual is getting into arguments with his or her caretaker, as this is often a sign of some sort of problem.

Call Us

The first step that should be taken in guaranteeing that your elderly family member does not have to deal with any of the above issues is to carefully choose the care facility. Upon finding a good situation for your elderly family member, call Andrew M. Lamkin, at 516-615-0625. He will gladly help you file all of the appropriate paperwork and make sure that your loved one’s transition is smooth and carefree.

Helping Your Parent Adjust to a Nursing Facility

If you’re reading this, you’re probably facing the decision to place a parent into a nursing facility. You’re very likely feeling guilty, but don’t. If you didn’t care, you probably wouldn’t be bothering with finding ways to make the transition easier for your parent.

Facing the Facts

Many times, when children make this decision, it is after having spent a great deal of time caring for that parent and ultimately coming to the realization that it has become too difficult. The guilt associated with that decision is a normal response for any caring child. Often, the parent will be hurt or angry and lash out, causing even more guilt. It’s important to understand that making this decision doesn’t make you a bad person.

The Transition

There are many resources online to help you find the right place for your parent. There are some very good facilities, but it will very likely take a month or two for the transition. One of the most important things you can do for your parent is to listen. Allow them to be angry or make accusations without becoming defensive or reacting in anger. Be gentle and patient and let them know that you care about their feelings. Do everything you can to help them feel at home. Bring pictures or items from home to place around the room. Bring children and grandchildren to visit. This is unlikely to have any negative effect on the children, but will often have a very positive effect on your parent. Encourage friends and other family members to visit as well. Remember that this is your parent’s new home. When you visit, knock before entering instead of just barging in. Bring a deck of cards, or a picture album, or other activities to do during the visit.

Be Involved

Get to know the staff. Address any concerns you have with trusted staff members and if there are serious issues that come up, be certain you know how to get help. When there are meetings, bring notes and take notes. Involve other family members as much as possible. Visit often, but allow your parent to adapt to the new environment without being there every moment. Your involvement is important, but just as important is giving your parent the space and time to adjust.

Take Care of Yourself

Be sure that you have a support system available, especially in the beginning. This can be a very tough decision to make, and you may need a friend to help you through it. Don’t neglect yourself and your own needs. There are also support groups available to help you, both on and offline.

Contact Us

If you are concerned about the needs of your elderly parents or a disabled loved one, the law office of Andrew M. Lamkin, PC can help you. Contact them today at 516-605-0625 to get the help you need!

How to Prepare for Retirement

The concept of retirement is meant to invoke feelings of accomplishment and comfort. The average American who saves and plans ahead can enjoy a 20-year retirement. People dream of a nest egg waiting for them once they’ve reached the peak of their working lives, and the desire to settle in and enjoy a life at ease is universal. However, in today’s world of crippling debt, rising interest rates and a dubious economy on the decline, retirement seems more of a dream and less of a reality. In fact, to many it’s a source of stress and worry.

Recent studies show that below 50% of Americans have begun to calculate how much is needed for their retirement. Additionally, one-fourth of Americans claim that they are not confident in their ability to save enough for their own retirement. Although budgeting and planning for retirement can seem burdensome and in some cases even scary, here are three basic and proven methods to give yourself peace of mind when planning for your future and the future of your loved ones.

Begin Saving Now

The first tip to planning for your financial future is the most obvious and it’s also the easiest. You need to get in the habit of saving today, regardless of your budget or situation. Every little bit counts towards your goal, and in time, you can work towards increasing the amount you can save. Remember, whatever you forego today in setting aside funds is an investment towards your future retirement. It’s a good idea to sit down and make a savings plan that your income would allow without putting a strain on your current financial needs. Also, remember that while any money you’ve put aside is yours you can’t touch it.

Debt Management

The most significant cause of stress with regards to the topic of retirement is debt. About a fifth of the American workforce says that debt is a major concern. It’s for this reason that many Americans fear that they’ll never be able to rise above it and reach their savings goals, and it’s also a reason that so many don’t even begin planning in the first place. Debt isn’t only a financial status, it can also become a state of mind as well. By first addressing and then working to diminish debt, working towards your goal of retirement can be done even if you have some red on your ledger.

See Your Employer’s Savings Plan

Many companies offer their employees a 401(K) savings plan. It’s in your best interest to apply and contribute as much as possible. The more you put in, the more your company is willing to match. The option of automatic deductions from your wages is an easy way to keep this going while sticking to your budget. If you’re not participating in the 401(K) savings plan at your work, ask about it and get started soon. If one isn’t already offered by your employer, see about getting one started and how you can help.

Though daunting at first, planning for your retirement is every bit the reality as you want it to be. While saving, managing debt and contributing to your employer’s 401(K) plan are all invaluable ways to reach your goal, there are always more options to help secure your financial future. Never underestimate the value of asking your peers for advice, researching other methods that may better suit your needs and consulting a financial specialist. It’s never too early to begin planning for the future.

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When preparing for retirement, the law office of Andrew M. Lamkin, PC stands ready to help. Contact them today at 516-605-0625 to set up a consultation appointment!

Understanding Guardianship of the Elderly

Understanding all of the intricacies associated with guardianship of the elderly can be a complicated task. However, when looking past all of the detailed legal terms involved, there are a number of simple and easy-to-understand guidelines that should help.

Rules Surrounding Guardianship of the Elderly

In essence, guardianship of the elderly refers to the ability for someone to be deemed by the court to be the rightful guardian for an elderly person. Many times, the guardian is given the title due to the subject being ill or incapacitated and therefore unable to look after him or herself anymore. Those who are appointed by a judge to be a legal guardian for the elderly should understand that they will now have to make all of the decisions for their ward. This means that the guardian is entirely responsible for the well-being of the person for whom they have been awarded guardianship.

The courts must first come to the conclusion that the elderly person in question needs a guardian and cannot make basic decisions. The judge may also choose to grant limited guardianship. For instance, limited guardianship can often be determined if the elderly person can provide for him or herself financially, but cannot do so in regards to physical needs, or vice versa. Once guardianship is granted, the guardian does not have to acquiesce to the demands of the elderly person, as he or she is no longer in charge of his or her own decisions.

Who is Eligible

The most basic of rules for eligibility to be a guardian states that the person must be at least 18 years of age. It’s possible for any person that is officially chosen by the elderly person to become a guardian. Despite this, it is oftentimes impossible for the elderly person to even have the faculty to do so.

Those that are relatives or close family members of the subject can apply to become a guardian, while anyone else that the court deems appropriate may also serve as a guardian. If there is no one available to become the guardian for the elderly person, the Department of Social Services may step in and do so.

Required Documents

Becoming a guardian for an elderly person doesn’t require endless amounts of documents. It’s necessary to apply and fill out any paperwork provided. Once the paperwork has been filled out, it should be taken to a nearby probate court, where they will schedule a hearing. The only fees that are required include a fee to obtain the paperwork and another fee to file.

For anyone considering guardianship of an elderly person, it’s important to understand that this is not a light matter. Being given guardianship over a person’s entire decision-making process is a huge responsibility. If you feel that this is the correct decision to make, the aforementioned guide should help you to have a better understanding of the process involved.

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Let the professionals at the law office of Andrew M. Lamkin, PC answer your questions about guardianship. Contact them today at 516-605-0625 to get the help you need!

Misunderstandings About Social Security Benefits

Social security benefits is a hot topic for both the young and the old. As is the case with any frequently discussed issue, there is a lot of misinformation available. Whether you plan to collect benefits in the near future or you are concerned that there will not be anything for you to collect by the time you reach retirement age, here are five common misunderstandings about social security.

1. You should starting taking benefits as soon as possible.

Although this sounds good on the surface and you may be eligible to start collecting when you turn 62, your benefit will be permanently reduced. It is best to wait until what the Social Security Administration refers to as your “full retirement age,” which is 66 if you were born between 1943 and 1954, in order to get a larger monthly benefit. Plus, benefits increase by eight percent for every year you wait to collect between your FRA and age 70.

2. If your spouse earns more than you do, you should take the spousal benefit.

This benefit can be a real income boost for a low-earning or nonworking spouse. However, the amount you receive is half of the amount of the higher-earning partner’s benefit. Once you file for social security, you will automatically receive the larger of either your own benefit or the spousal benefit.

3. If you are disabled, you can collect social security benefits and SSDI at the same time.

Unfortunately, you are not allowed to “double dip.” If you are currently collecting SSDI benefits, you will be automatically switched to your social security retirement benefit once you reach your full retirement age. You cannot receive both benefits.

4. Social security is only for the elderly.

An estimated 36 million workers who have retired receive social security benefits, while 2.9 million children and spouses of workers who have retired receive these benefits. Another 2.1 million spouses and children of disabled workers receive benefits as well as 8.7 million disabled workers. A total of 3.3 million children 18 years of age or younger receive social security. In addition, the SSA paid benefits to 6.3 million survivors of deceased workers in 2013, including 2 million children.

5. Social security is ending.

The SSA reports that it had a surplus in 2012 and anticipates surpluses through 2020. Currently, benefits will be paid until 2035, and financial experts hope that changes will be made to increase revenue before then. However, even if the SSA does not make any changes, the current rates at which payroll taxes are taken will likely cover roughly 75 percent of all future benefits.

6. Do not worry about IRA distributions.

Unfortunately, many retirees fail to calculate the impact that required IRA distributions will have on the taxation of Social Security benefits. These folks could find themselves blindsided as up to 85 percent of a client’s SS benefits could be subject to federal income taxes depending on that person’s modified adjusted gross income.

Whether you have reached retirement age or you are young and are looking toward the future, it is important to have a complete understanding of how social security works to protect yourself against any unfortunate surprises in the future. Solid planning, hard work, and smart decisions can help to ensure that you and your family are financially sound once you reach retirement age.

The law office of Andrew M. Lamkin, PC stands ready to help you with your Social Security needs, questions, and concerns. Contact them today at 516-605-0625 to get the help you need!

Do’s and Don’ts of Planning Your Will

When it comes time to write your will, it can be tough to know exactly what you should do. As with most legal tasks, there is a right and a wrong way to do things. This list can give you some ideas of smart moves to make when it comes to planning your will.

1. Do Not Procrastinate

Many individuals procrastinate creating a last will and testament due to fears about making decisions concerning their death. While no one wants to consider their own death, it is a fact of life that eventually happens to everyone. Writing a last will and testament does require a certain amount of knowledge to ensure it is valid in your geographic region, but there are many helpful resources available that are low-cost and easy to access. In addition, many attorneys’ offices have a basic and affordable fee for helping individuals to write a last will and testament.

2. Do Have a Sound Mind

Of course, if you are a multimillionaire who owns numerous houses and businesses, then creating a will is more complex. An important rule in every jurisdiction is that an individual must be of sound mind when writing a will to help avoid legal disputes. That means creating this important legal document before developing dementia. Statistically, less than 50 percent of the population creates a last will and testament, leading to many legal problems that can last for years. Without a legal will, the decisions about the division of property such as money and houses will be left to the court system.

3. Do Have Expert Witnesses

Designing an effective last will and testament generally means that probate hearings are handled quickly, allowing a chosen executor to pay outstanding debts. At the same time, you can make sure that heirs, including surviving spouses or minor children, will have necessary provisions. A will that is worded correctly according to a geographic region’s regulations helps to prevent legal battles between family members or business partners. By creating a will with the assistance of an attorney, you have expert witnesses to verify its legality. An attorney can keep the will in a safe place away from natural disasters such as fire and floods and people who might try to change the will without your consent.

4. Do Not Delay Due to Small Details

Planning a last will and testament takes time to consider the smallest details such as deciding who will get valuable jewelry or family keepsakes. However, needing to make decisions concerning a legal will should not lead to delaying. Begin by considering things such as bank accounts and property before deciding who gets less valuable items. A professional attorney can help you make adjustments to a will when personal circumstances such as a divorce require changes.

5. Do Seek Expert Legal Advice

An attorney is able to look at your situation objectively to make suggestions for scenarios you may not have considered, including several family members passing away at the same time. This type of situation can lead to major problems concerning a last will and testament to determine who will have custody of young children or receive property. A properly written will can prevent bad feelings that could cause family feuds that lead to battles in courtrooms that can last for several years.

Contact Us

If you need help with your will or the will of a loved one has you concerned, contact the law office of Andrew M. Lamkin, PC. With our qualified, experienced attorneys handling things, you can stop worrying about your future. We pride ourselves on helping our clients receiving the best service possible.

 

The Basic Tenets of Estate Planning

The term “estate” has some connotations that may make it seem as though estate planning is something only high-income individuals have to consider. However, nearly everyone is an estate owner. To have an estate, you simply need to own something of value that you wish to pass on to someone else. Although you technically do not need an estate plan, as each state has rules to determine how your possessions will be passed on, having an estate plan ensures that your specific desires are fulfilled. Unfortunately, the state default rules, known as the intestacy system, do not depend on what individuals want, but are instead rigid procedures that provide an efficient means for property to be passed on. Thus, estate planning can help you make sure your property is passed on according to your desires, while minimizing taxes and maximizing the amount actually delivered to your intended beneficiaries.

The most basic vehicle for estate planning is the will. Wills can be made fairly quickly and easily and offer a great level of flexibility in disposing of your assets. A will allows you to designate who will be the recipient of property, designate guardians for any minor children, provide donations to charity, and more. You can change a will up until your death, so even if you are uncertain of how you will feel in the future, getting a will sooner rather than later is advantageous. Wills are relatively inexpensive and have few formal requirements, making them a useful, basic tool for estate planning.

Estate planning also commonly makes use of trusts, which transfer property to a trustee you have designated to manage and distribute the assets of the trust according to your wishes. While you can set up trusts during your lifetime, testamentary trusts — those created by will, which are different from ‘inter vivos’ wills set up during your lifetime — help you make sure that your desired asset management strategy is followed even after your passing.

You can set up your trust in many ways in order to provide for your loved ones, a charity, or some other type of organization. A trust may be set up to be primarily an investment tool, with very few distributions, or it may be set up to allow for regular distributions to the beneficiaries you designate. A trust allows you to pass on assets with the peace of mind that all of the assets will be responsibly managed in your absence, even when giving assets to inexperienced investors. In this way, trusts can be useful as gifts that stand the test of time.

While there are other tools and strategies to consider in estate planning, wills and trusts are basic ways to help you achieve the primary goals of estate planning: ensuring your assets are distributed as you desire and avoiding unnecessary taxes, fees, or losses.

SOURCES:
http://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/the-basics-of-estate-planning-1.aspx