Living Trust FAQs Everyone Should Know

living trustA living trust allows your loved ones to inherit your assets directly, which means without going through probate court. That means you save time and money distributing your estate to your family members.

The living trust is a useful estate planning tool, and it could save your estate thousands of dollars. Like other legal tools, you should familiarize yourself with how a living trust works. Also, consult with an attorney to find out if a living trust is right for you – or if there is an alternative based on your estate’s unique circumstances.

FAQs on Living Trusts to Know

Before you consider your estate plan “finished,” review these frequently asked questions. They may help you to assess whether or not your estate could benefit from a living trust.

How does a living trust avoid probate court?

A living trust requires that you transfer all assets from your name into the trust; therefore, the trust now owns the assets.  You will then name a successor trustee, who will then manage the trust and distribute the assets according to your wishes after your death.

The process takes a few weeks, and you do not have to worry about court fees or extensive attorney’s fees to complete the process.

Does a living trust protect assets from creditors?

No, it does not. While it is useful, a trust will never protect applicable assets from bankruptcy or creditors. Any legally enforceable debt can use assets from your living trust to satisfy the debt.

Is it difficult to hold property in a living trust?

When you make a living trust, it requires an extensive amount of paperwork.  Then, you will need to sign over your property into that trust. Once it is part of the trust, the hard work is over. However, some people may find the process of getting there time-consuming, costly, and tedious.

Does a living trust protect assets from medical costs?

No, a living trust does not offer such protections. Your living trust can be used to pay for catastrophic medical costs, but it does not generate funds solely for these expenses. You can, however, ask an estate planning attorney to help you set aside funds for unexpected medical costs.

Do you need an attorney to create a living trust?

Technically, you do not. However, it is highly recommended that you use an attorney. Living trusts are complicated legal documents. When you attempt to draft a living trust without professional assistance, you may leave out specific wording, ignore critical statutes, and leave loopholes in your trust documents.

It is best to consult with an attorney in New York so that you can ensure your trust is set up legally – and efficiently.

Do you need a will if you have a living trust?

Yes, you still need a will even if you have a living trust. In fact, it is best if you draft both together so that they work together smoothly. A will allows you to name a guardian for minor children, but also designate beneficiaries and wishes. It will also cover any assets you forget to add to your trust before your death.

Consult with a New York Estate Planning Attorney Today

If you are curious about your options for estate planning, speak with an estate planning attorney in Long Island, NY today. The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. can help you with your living trust, will, and other necessary estate planning documents.

Schedule a free consultation today by calling 516-605-0625, or request more information online.

5 Reasons Why You Might Not Need a Living Trust

living trustA living trust is a way to avoid the hassles and costs of the probate court, and while it is certainly beneficial, it is not beneficial for everyone.

When you are examining your options for an estate plan, realize that not all options apply to everyone. Therefore, it is always best that you consult with an estate planning attorney. An attorney will review your assets and your wishes, then help you decide which components make the most sense in your specific situation.

While you wait for your consultation, here are a few reasons the living trust might not work for you.

5 Reasons a Living Trust Might Not Make Sense for You

Some people can benefit from establishing a living trust right now, while other times you can wait on the living trust or forgo it entirely. Here are five common reasons a living trust is not used – see which might apply to your situation.

Reason 1: Your Biggest Assets are Jointly Owned

You do not need a living trust if your largest assets are all jointly owned. That is because jointly owned assets will pass directly to the other survivor via right of survivorship – which means that your co-owner would automatically inherit the asset anyway.

Reasons 2: Assets with Beneficiary Designations Avoid Probate

If the rest of your assets have designations for your beneficiaries – such as investment accounts, bank accounts, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts – they would avoid probate court altogether. These assets which have named beneficiaries do not go through probate, and your loved ones are allowed to access them right away.

Reason 3: You are Young and Middle Income

A living trust does not usually make sense for anyone in the mid-income range that is under 55 or 60 years old. That is because a living trust doesn’t do anything for you while you are alive, and there is not much reason to worry about one when you are in your 20s, 30s or even 40s.

Reason 4: Simple Estates Often Go through Probate without Issue

Most states now offer streamlined probate court processes, especially for smaller estates. In New York, estates that are classified as “small” will go through the quicker process, which costs less and takes significantly less time too. Therefore, if your estate is already “small” in the eyes of the state, your loved ones would not have the costs or time hassles of the traditional probate court process.

Reason 5: Your Assets are Not in the Millions

The biggest reason living trusts do not make sense is when the estate is small – such as $300,00 or less. However, if you were 45 years old and have an estate worth $1 million or higher, you may consider a living trust.

Consult an Estate Planning Attorney in Long Island, New York First

While these reasons might apply to you, you must realize that every estate is unique and the process of drafting an estate plan is highly complicated. Therefore, your estate may need a living trust even when you may think it is unnecessary, or you meet any of the conditions cited above.

To see if you could benefit from a living trust, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C.

You may schedule your free case evaluation at 516-605-0625, or contact us online to schedule your appointment.

Who Should be the Beneficiary of Your IRA?

beneficiaryYour retirement account holds your hard-earned money, but if you think you can designate just anyone to receive that money, you might be surprised. Your IRA works just like an ordinary retirement account, which means you have a beneficiary designation attached to it.

When you establish your IRA, you will receive a beneficiary designation form. This form has you specify how much of the money is distributed, and to what party, upon your death. Anyone you write in this form will override anything you have in a trust or will. Therefore, you must consider this designation very carefully.

Should You Name a Spouse?

Most married couples will name a spouse for their beneficiary on a retirement form.

There are advantages to naming a spouse, such as:

  • Your spouse is the primary beneficiary, which gives them flexibility upon your death.
  • Your spouse can roll over the IRA – or leave it as an inherited IRA.
  • Your spouse can elect to take distributions when they leave it as an inherited IRA.

There are also cons to naming your spouse, such as:

  • Your spouse can then name any beneficiaries they would like after they inherit the IRA. This obviously means that they could name someone you did not want to inherit the money.

Should You Name a Trust?

In some cases, it may make sense to name a trust as the beneficiary of your retirement account. This allows you to protect the assets in your IRA – so that your spouse can use the funds, but not change the beneficiary. The purpose of the trust would be to ensure that your assets go to your children and spouse.

When you name a spouse, you must draft your trust so that it is properly worded and effective. Often, this stage is done incorrectly, which is why it imperative you work with an experienced estate attorney.

Sometimes you need a conduit IRA, which manages the IRA more efficiently and ensures assets are distributed on a set schedule rather than accelerated one.

There are cons to naming a trust as beneficiary, including:

  • If the IRAs are not large enough, it will cost more than the IRA is worth for the trustee to manage and distribute the funds.
  • This method can be less economical than other distribution methods.

Should You Name Children or Grandchildren?

When you name children or grandchildren who are still legal minors, then your will must have a guardian of the funds. The guardian then manages the inheritance until the children turn at least 18 years old.

Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney to Explore Your Options Properly

An estate planning attorney can help you with your beneficiary designations, while also helping you decide which route is best based on your personal needs, budget, and a number of assets you currently have.

To explore your options, speak with an attorney today by calling the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. Schedule your free consultation at 516-605-0625, or request more information online.

Estate Plans and Bankruptcy: How are Your Assets Affected?

estate planning and bankruptcyBankruptcy is one of those events in life where even a well-structured asset protection plan can fail you. If you find yourself facing bankruptcy or you have just completed a bankruptcy, you may wonder how this impacts your retirement planning and overall estate plan.

While bankruptcy does have a significant impact on your estate plan, you should not feel devastated. When you work alongside a qualified estate planning attorney, you can put together a plan that protects your assets and helps you still plan for the unexpected regardless of your current asset situation.

Do Not Cash Out

You might be tempted to cash out your retirement accounts to protect them, but that is the opposite of what you should do. Retirement accounts are typically protected from creditor actions, therefore, cashing them out puts your retirement money at risk.

Retirement Accounts are Exempt – Typically

Bankruptcy debtors might retain certain retirement accounts. Qualified retirement accounts include:

  • 401(a)
  • 403(a)
  • 403(b)
  • 408
  • 408A
  • 409

Basically, qualified retirement accounts include any assets or funds that are paid via beneficiary forms, or in the interest of a beneficiary, into a retirement or profit sharing plan according to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

Assets that May be Affected in Bankruptcy

Some assets are not protected when you file for bankruptcy; therefore, these assets will be affected and your estate plan may require restructuring after you have completed bankruptcy.

These assets include:

  • The Family Home – In most bankruptcy cases, you would not lose your home. If, however, you have fallen behind on that home and it is foreclosed on, then you would need to remove that home from your estate plan.
  • Investment and Savings Accounts – While retirement accounts are protected from bankruptcy, your investment, brokerage, and savings accounts are not protected.
  • Jewelry – Expensive jewelry may not be protected. While wedding rings up to a certain value can be protected, other expensive jewelry included in your estate may be liquidated.
  • Luxury Items – Luxury assets, like collections, artwork, vacation homes, and boats are all subject to liquidation. Therefore, if you have included any of these items in your estate plan, that plan will need adjustment after the assets are liquidated.

File for Bankruptcy and Reassess

After the bankruptcy is over, you must sit down with your estate attorney and bankruptcy attorney to create a new estate plan. Your estate planning lawyer will review what assets you have left, adjust your estate plan to reflect beneficiaries and asset distribution, and ensure you have a solid plan.

Concerned about Asset Protection? Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney

If you have recently filed for bankruptcy and need to adjust your estate plan – or you want to protect your assets from creditors, divorce, and other future issues – speak with an estate planning attorney.

Estate planning is more than drafting a will. In fact, it is a powerful method of asset protection that ensures that your wealth will be passed on to loved ones.

To get started, schedule a consultation with the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today by calling 516-605-0625. You can also request your free consultation by completing our online contact form.

What is the Federal Inheritance Tax?

federal inheritanceAny time property is transferred to a beneficiary after the original owner passes away, federal inheritance tax applies. Federal inheritance taxes also referred to as the “estate tax,” is a tax that is based solely on the market value of the property transferred to beneficiaries from the estate.

How Does Federal Inheritance Tax Law Work?

Under the federal tax code over sought by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a formula is used to determine if any tax is due on property, assets, or money transferred in an estate settlement. The method used depends on the value of the property, and the method used to transfer it over to the beneficiary.

Calculating the Gross Estate Value

First, the fair market value of the entire estate is calculated, which includes all property, cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, investment accounts, real estate, insurance, and other items of value. The fair market value of all items is totaled up to establish the Gross Estate Value.

Adjusting the Gross Estate Value

After the total value is established, adjustments are applied. Adjustments include paying off debts associated with the estate, such as the remaining mortgage balance on the family home. Also, fees associated with settling the estate come out of the gross estate value, including:

  • Estate administration fees
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Court costs and filing fees

Lastly, the marital deduction is removed from the gross estate value for a surviving spouse receiving property.

Determining the Net Value

Once the applicable deductions are taken from the gross estate, the remaining amount is used for the “net value” of the estate. The net value is what the IRS uses to determine if there are applicable estate taxes due.

New Federal Exemptions

As of 2017, the IRS has updated exemptions for the estate and gift tax. For 2017, the exemption is $5.49 million per individual. Therefore, an individual can leave up to $5.49 million to each hair and pay no federal estate tax. Furthermore, a married couple can shield up to $10.98 million without any taxes being applied.

The Chances of Paying Estate Tax

Unless your estate is worth several million, the likelihood of the IRS requiring your estate to pay any taxes is small.

Furthermore, your attorney can work with you to minimize your estate tax burden using a trust and other charitable methods.

Worried About Federal Inheritance Taxes on Your Estate?

If you are worried that your beneficiaries will be burdened with heavy estate taxes, speak with the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. We can assess the net value of your estate and help lessen the tax burden so that your loved ones do not have to worry about losing a large portion of their inheritance to taxes.

To explore your options, schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today by calling the office at 516-605-0625 or request a consultation online.

Smart Estate Planning Tips for the Entrepreneur

estate planningAs an entrepreneur, you have spent years focusing on how you can grow your business. While this is an important aspect of business ownership, how much time have you put into considering what will happen to your business if you are injured, suffer a chronic illness, or die?

If you fail to plan, you run the risk of unraveling years of hard work and dedication. Furthermore, if you have employees, the fate of their jobs is at risk too, and your loved ones who depend on your company’s income may find themselves without the financial safety net they once relied on.

Business owners need more than a standard estate plan. In fact, they need a customized plan that includes a power of attorney, trust, and succession plan.

Tips for the Smart Entrepreneur Ready to Create an Estate Plan

Whether your business is one year old or 20 years old, now is the time to protect your hard work and the investment you have put into your business. When you are creating an estate plan, consider some of the following:

  • Start with a will. The first step in estate planning is a last will and testament, called the “will” for short. All business owners need a will, even if you intend to create a trust later. A will specifies how your assets are distributed, who will receive them, and who will serve as your estate’s personal representative (known as the executor).
  • Create a power of attorney. Next, you need a power of attorney. This names one person to handle all business affairs if you are incapacitated, suffer from a chronic illness, or cannot make decisions on your own. The person you designate could be another owner or partner, family member, or even company attorney that you trust. The person will have an enormous amount of power over your business, including handling all assets, financial accounts, receivables and payables, and payroll to employees. Therefore, select someone that knows your business and can run it the way you would if you were still there.
  • Set up your trust. A revocable trust is best for the entrepreneur looking to protect their company, but also their family members. Revocable means that you can modify and move assets later to accommodate any business changes. Also, you can designate someone to manage the assets of your trust if you become incapacitated or die.
  • Create a success plan. You need a formal, written succession plan so that your business can seamlessly transfer upon your death. It is important that you identify a person who will be an adequate new owner or capable enough to carry on your business goals, assume the managerial and executive duties, and run the business successfully. The person you select could be a family member, including a spouse, a business partner, or a third party. The succession plan is by far one of the more complicated areas of your estate plan because you must clarify how the business will transfer to the new owner, rules for hiring new employees, and how family members working for the business will be handled upon your death.

Protect Your Life’s Work by Meeting with an Estate Planning Attorney

You have worked hard over the years to create a successful, profitable business. Now is the time to protect all your hard work by creating an estate plan customized with your entrepreneurial work in mind.

The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. knows how much your business means to you, and that is why we are here to help you protect your business from the unknown. Schedule a free consultation today to see how you can create an estate plan and solid succession plan for your business.

Call 516-605-0625 to schedule your free consultation appointment or inquire about our estate planning services online.

4 Reasons You May Need a Trust

trustsIf you have not considered a trust, now is the time to reconsider. A trust is a great way to pass on your wealth and wishes, and it covers areas of estate planning that a will cannot. If you have substantial assets, a trust could protect those assets better than a standardized will. Furthermore, a trust will protect your wealth for future generations.

What is a Trust?

A trust is not a document; instead, it is a legal structure. It creates instructions on how and when your assets are passed on to your trust’s beneficiaries. There is no single type of trust either; instead, you and your attorney discuss your needs and decide which type will help you reach those goals.

Is a Trust Right for You? Here are 4 Benefits to Consider

A good trust starts by documenting your assets and wishes – something a qualified estate attorney can assist you with. Your trust must adhere to all state and federal guidelines too, otherwise, the courts may not recognize the trust.

When you have a properly drafted and established trust, you can:

  1. Pass on your wealth efficiently and privately. The biggest benefit to a trust is that your estate is now private; not public. With a will, your estate goes through probate, which opens your estate up and it becomes a matter of public record. With a trust, there is no probate court. Instead, your assets are transferred over privately, and you control exactly how and when those assets are passed to beneficiaries.
  2. Be in complete control of how assets are distributed. With a trust, you customize your distributions. You can distribute based on stipulations, such as children can only receive trust funds for college or health care. You can also set ages, such as a child receives 20% when they reach 21 years, 20% at 30 years, and so forth. This ensures your beneficiaries do not receive a lump sum that they can spend quickly.
  3. Keep all assets within the family. You want to preserve your legacy, and a trust can do that. A trust sets goals for your estate and you can ensure remaining assets are transferred to beneficiaries you choose – including family businesses.
  4. Trusts are low maintenance. With a trust, once the assets have been transferred over and everything is set up, there is little you need to do. The only times you must amend the trust is when you need to change a beneficiary or trustee.

Is a Trust Right for Your Estate? Consult with an Estate Planning Attorney in Long Island

The only way to determine if a trust is a right choice for you is to speak with an estate planning attorney. An attorney from the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. can help you decide which type of estate plan is right for you based on your assets and wishes.

Schedule a free consultation with attorney Andrew M. Lamkin today by calling his office at 516-605-0625 or request your appointment online.

5 Things Your Estate Plan is Missing

Estate PlanningYou have gone through the steps of creating an estate plan, and now you assume that you can sit back, relax, and it will do its job. Sadly, too many consumers make this mistake only to realize that they have blatant errors and omissions when they need their estate plans the most.

Review our list of the five common items that an estate plan misses, and how you can correct them. Even if you are missing these items, there is no need to panic. Instead, schedule a consultation with the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. and we can help correct these errors and omissions.

What 5 Items Could be Missing from Your Estate Plan?

Whether you did the estate plan yourself using a template, or you have an attorney complete your estate plan, it is in your best interest to review your plan annually and make sure it is still working to protect you and your loved ones.

Here are five common errors and omissions seen in estate plans to look for too:

  1. A Power of Attorney – An estate plan is not designed solely for when you pass away. In fact, a good estate plan helps in times of incapacitation or serious illness. A power of attorney assigns someone to handle all decisions regarding your children, finances, and health care when you cannot do so yourself. It is a powerful document that should be in every estate plan.
  2. A Back-Up Executor – You named an executor of your estate, which is a great first step. However, you need a backup executor. After all, things change. Executors might move away, pass away, or become unreachable. The courts need a backup to designate as your executor if they cannot reach the primary. Without a backup, the courts must designate a new executor, which takes time, and the person assigned may not be the person you wish to handle the estate.
  3. A Trust – You do not have to be part of the top ten percent to have a trust. A trust is an excellent way to protect family members, but also ensure younger children receive an inheritance when they become legally old enough to accept it. If you have created nothing more than a will, talk to an attorney about adding a trust.
  4. Updates – A will should be updated at least once a year or when any major life event happens. For example, you get married or divorced, have another child, or a beneficiary passes away. By inspecting your will annually, you can catch these errors.
  5. Digital Assets – Digital assets are just as important as tangible, physical assets. These include your online brokerage accounts, bank accounts, blogs, social media accounts, and even online document storage. Today we live in a digitized age; therefore, if your digital assets are not in your estate plan, a bulk of your assets could be missing.

Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney Today to Correct Your Errors

Whether you have recognized that you are missing a few important items in your estate plan, or you would like to create an estate plan to protect you and your loved ones, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at 516-605-0625 or request more information online.

Can I Protect My Child’s Inheritance During a Divorce?

familyYou and your spouse created an estate plan that leaves your child a sizeable inheritance. However, you both have decided that it is time to divorce. Now, you wonder what that means for your child’s future – especially their inheritance.

Luckily, inheritances are not treated like marital property; therefore, they are not divided equally per the family law statute. If, however, inheritances co-mingle, then they could be subject to distribution in a divorce.

Parents should take precautions to ensure their children’s inheritances are safe from their spouse, adult childrens’ spouses, and other third parties. After all, no one can predict the future – especially when it concerns marital outcomes.

For Nonmarital Children

Non-marital children would have inheritance rights if you were to die without an estate plan. However, they will go through probate court – where numerous disagreements can be unpleasant – in order to receive such inheritance. To ensure that children born before the marriage receive their appropriate inheritance, parents typically create an estate plan. This plan helps to ensure that there are no complications when it comes time to pass down a sizeable inheritance.

To ensure that a child born out of wedlock receives his or her share, parents should be very specific in their will. Parents should plainly and clearly state that they want their half of the marital assets, as well as all pre-marital assets, distributed to that child in accordance with the estate plan.

Protecting an Adult Child at Risk from Divorce

If you have left an inheritance to an adult child, and your adult child divorces, what happens then? Will the estate that you worked so hard to amass and then gift to your child, become marital property that is now subject to asset division with their spouse during a divorce?

Obviously, you would not want that to happen.  So to ensure that the inheritance stays with your child, you must be sure to execute your estate plan properly. This means that you must specify, in your estate plan, that the inheritance is intended for your child only (not their spouse or children). This verbiage makes all the difference, as it ensures that the court will recognize the inheritance as premarital – and not subject to asset distribution during a divorce.

Consider a Dynasty Lifetime Trust

Most parents will decide to give their children an inheritance benefit at a particular age or immediately upon their death. However, once your child receives his or her inheritance, the property now belongs to your child.  It no longer is part of your estate.

Therefore, the inheritance is subject to all assets of your child regarding creditors, divorce, and so forth. Instead of allowing a lump sum to go straight into your child’s possession, consider the lifetime dynasty trust option.

A dynasty trust establishes an asset protection barrier between your child’s inheritance and all creditors (including spouses during divorce). In this instance, the inheritance is left in your child’s lifetime trust.

If your child is not good managing their money, a lifetime dynasty trust is your best option as well. This protects your child from overspending, and protects the child from outside influences. You would use a trustee to oversee your child’s inheritance, manage the funds, and monitor distributions from the trust.

Protect Your Child’s Inheritance with an Estate Plan

To protect your child’s inheritance from themselves, creditors, or a spouse, you need an estate plan. Speak with an attorney at the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today to meet for a free consultation. Discuss your child’s inheritances and how you would like to protect them, and let our attorneys find the ideal solution based on your case.

Schedule a free consultation now at 516-605-0625 or request more information online.

5 Tips for the New United States Citizen with Estate Planning

new U.S. citizensEstate planning is a necessary step, but no one looks forward to it. If you are ready to protect your assets and your family, you must familiarize yourself with the United States estate planning laws. Also, you will need an attorney to help draft your estate documents, especially considering you could have assets in your home country or beneficiaries in another country that you need to provide for as well.

Tip 1: What are the Federal Laws?

Familiarize yourself with the federal estate laws and how they might affect your situation. As a United States citizen, your assets will now be taxed as a national of this country. Therefore, you could have a tax on your gross estate if that estate is higher than $50,000.

Tip 2: Review the Statutes of New York

In addition to considering the estate laws for federal government, you must also examine the estate taxes and statutes for New York. New York has estate taxes, and you may need to protect your assets with the use of a trust – especially if you have sizeable assets that could be subjected to estate tax.

Tip 3: Have an Attorney Help with Situs

Situs refers to where your property is located. For some types of property, it is easy to determine their location – like your family home. Other assets may not be easy to place, especially those in bank accounts overseas or assets that are in another country.

Tip 4: Create a Trust

While a will is the first step in creating an estate plan, you also need to create a trust. In the United States, citizens typically start with a will, but for foreigners that have recently become citizens, a trust could be a good idea.

Trusts help you avoid probate court and the administration of your estate through probate. Realize, however, that property held inside your trust could still be subjected to state and federal inheritance taxes – depending on how the trust is created.

Tip 5: Always Hire an Attorney

As a new citizen of the United States, you have a complex estate to deal with. Even if you do not have a large number of assets, you still need an attorney that can help bypass the complexities of beneficiaries and laws from outside of the United States territories.

An estate planning attorney can help you through these complexities, create an estate plan that handles international and domestic assets, and protect your wealth.

Hire an Estate Planning Attorney in Long Island Today

If you want to protect your assets, regardless of whether you were born here or became a citizen recently, contact an estate planning attorney in Long Island.

The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. can assist you with your assets, will, and setting up a trust.

To get started, schedule a no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys at 516-605-0625 or request your consultation online.

3 Common Issues with Trusts – and How to Correct Them

Living Trust and Estate PlanningThinking about the inevitable is not something anyone looks forward to, but it is in your best interest to do so – especially if you have family or assets you want to protect.

Estate plans often fail what they are designed to do because they contain severe errors. These errors render them practically useless, and the victims of these mistakes are the heirs to your estate – because the inconsistencies are typically not discovered until it is too late.

If you are setting up a trust as part of your estate plan, there are a few issues seen with these items that must be avoided if you want to truly protect your loved ones.

Assuming a Trust is a Set-it-and-Forget-it Situation

Assuming that your work is done just because you have established a trust is grossly inaccurate. Creating a trust and signing it is really just the first step. From there you must transfer your assets into the trust, because a trust is not valuable if it holds no assets. A financial planner can work alongside your attorney to help you do just that. But even then, your work is not complete.

Each year, you need to review your trust. Look for new assets to add, and include a “pour over” will just in case. These documents ensure that all acquired assets after the trust is established falls into the trust.  This would include any subsequent assets obtained – such as jewelry or motor vehicles.

Beneficiary Designations Do Not Count

Remember when you created your retirement account or established your brokerage account? You had to name a beneficiary. Known as beneficiary designations, those names are permanent and separate from your will or trust.

The party you signed on those documents is the person that will receive the inheritance from your retirement or brokerage accounts.  So if you later create a trust or estate plan and attempt to name a new person as the beneficiary of those accounts, that alone will not work.  The beneficiary designation on your retirement or brokerage accounts will trump your trust or estate plan.

Creating a Trust Schedule

It is important that your child or children do not receive money before they are ready. Therefore, you need to create a trust program, which allows the trustee to give assets in increments to the beneficiaries. For example, you have a $1 million trust. You can distribute one-third of that $1 million by the time the child is at age 30, then another half at age 35, then the remaining balance by age 40.

Just be sure to talk to your children about the fixed schedule so that they understand they will not receive their full inheritance at once.

Speak with an Estate Attorney about your Trust

The best way to avoid common issues when creating a trust is to do so with an attorney’s help. An attorney knows the common pitfalls that can thwart your intentions, and can ensure that your estate plan is error free. Also, the fewer errors you have, the less likely it is that your heirs will have to endure estate plan disputes in the future.

To start the process of setting up a trust, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today for a free consultation. You can schedule your appointment now at 516-605-0625 or request a free consultation online.

Essential Estate Planning Tips for New Parents

estate planning with childrenYou are about to be a new parent. While you are excited about all that entails, what have you added to your to-do list? More importantly, what do you have as a top priority?

Sure, you need to prepare your home for your new arrival, and you want to ensure you are as ready as possible for parenthood. However, you also need to prepare for the unknown – and the only way to do so is with a solid estate plan.

Many new parents overlook the importance of estate planning. Often, they feel like they are too young to worry about the “what ifs,” or just figure that they can do so later after the baby comes. But before the baby is born is the perfect time to draft your estate plan and set up your new bundle of joy for a great future.

Basics for Your Will

For starters, you need to establish a will. Wills are an essential component of an estate plan. While they by no means complete the plan itself, if you do not have a will, you leave your estate up to the probate court judge.

In your will, name a guardian for your children. This person would raise your children and care for them if something were to happen to you and your partner.

While the will is essential, you need to focus on other aspects of estate planning too.

What Else Does Estate Planning Entail?

Estate planning is a complex legal process – much more complicated than you might realize. While you might be tempted to use a DIY form online and just whip up anything that looks right, you would be wise to consult with an attorney. After all, this plan dictates how your children are cared for, how assets are distributed, and what happens to your wealth.

Some aspects of estate planning to focus on as a new parent include:

  • Setting up a trust account. You do not have to be in the top five percent to have a trust – not even the top 50 percent. Anyone can create a trust, including the middle and lower class. The trust is there to protect your beneficiaries and assets. Beneficiaries also do not have to worry about the estate tax, which is beneficial if you have a larger estate.
  • Naming the executor. The executor is the person that handles the administration of your estate if you were to pass on. The administrator (executor) manages the probate process and represents your estate in court as well as any civil matters brought against the estate.
  • Naming beneficiaries for assets. Some assets require that you name the recipient of the account when you open the account, such as your retirement accounts, savings, investment, and brokerage accounts. Be sure to update these beneficiary designations so that they reflect your life after having a child.

Get Assistance with Your New Estate Plan

Whether you have an existing estate plan that you need to update with the name of your new addition or you have never created one, contact an attorney who can help you protect your assets and loved ones. The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. can help with all probate, estate planning, and trust needs.

Schedule your free consultation today at 516-605-0625 or request more information online.

Can I Cancel My Will?

WillCanceling a will is not easy, and if you want your estate handled appropriately, it is imperative that you go through the process correctly. In general, you are not “canceling.” Instead, you are revoking the will itself.

When revoking, you have three ways that you can do so. It is best to always consult with an attorney if you want to revoke your will, because not all methods apply to all estates.

The Three Methods for Revoking a Will

  1. Writing – A revocation of your will can be accomplished by writing that you clearly express your wishes to revoke your current will. Typically, a revocation in writing is done when you are replacing one version of a will with a newly drafted version. Therefore, your new will would include the revocation in writing and has a statement that all previous wills are considered invalid.
  2. Physical Acts – You can take physical action to cancel your will too, such as tearing or burning the copy of that will. However, this method is not recommended. You must show that the cancellation is valid, and destroying the presence of your will, without proper witnesses, could lead to contests later.
  3. Operation of the Law – Certain events and occurrences allow the law to cancel a will. For example, in a divorce, marriage, or the birth of a child and the child was not included in the new will would constitute a legal cancellation.

Do You Need to Revoke Your Will?

When you create an estate plan, you must know not only how to revoke that will, but when it is necessary to revoke it. Some large events in your life might make you consider a revocation. For example:

  • The birth of a child;
  • The death of a family member;
  • Acquiring valuable assets or property;
  • Obtaining a large sum of money;
  • Encountering a large volume of debt;
  • Permanently relocating to another country;
  • Relocating to another state;
  • A divorce or remarriage.

Often it is more convenient to only draft a new will addressing the changes in your life, then revoke within that will. There is less chance of a will contest if you make changes or amendments to your existing will too.

Should You Cancel if There is a Familial Dispute?

Some clients think that to avoid family disputes they can cancel their estate plan. However, it is not necessary to revoke your will just because your family is debating over its contents. Instead, you can add provisions or various provision amendments to correct any conflict issues.

Will modifications are inexpensive compared to drafting an entirely new will. Also, it could be as simple as your lawyer adding an amendment to the will regarding a particular provision.

The Drawback of Too Many Amendments

While you can do a quick amendment here and there, having too many attached to an estate plan could become confusing for loved ones and even the courts. Therefore, be cautious about adding multiple amendments.

Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney First

If you think a revocation is necessary or you want to learn more about amending your current will, talk to an attorney in Long Island that can help decide which is best based on your situation.

Call the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today at 516-605-0625 for a free consultation or contact his office online to get started.

Estate Administration for Family Members: What to Do First

estate planningYou have gone through the steps of arranging a funeral for your loved one that has passed away. However, now you are dealing with your role as the executor. You must administer the estate, but you are unsure where to start.

You do not have experience or knowledge about the process – and most people serving in this role do not. However, you are not alone. Not only do you have a will to guide you, but an attorney by your side to ensure you complete the process.

First Steps to Take After the Death of a Loved One

Unsure where to start in your role as executor? Here are a few steps to keep you on the right track:

  1. Find the original Will – First, you must locate the original will and ensure that it is the only version. If multiple versions exist, look for the latest version and verify with the lawyer that it is the latest. When you were appointed, the deceased should have told you where the will would be stored. If not, ask an attorney of the deceased or a spouse to see if they know where this document is saved.
  2. Obtain the death certificates – Next, you must get the official death certificate along with official copies. These are obtained from the funeral home or local county clerk’s office.
  3. Search for asset and debt information – The estate plan should detail all assets and liabilities associated with the deceased’s estate. You must find these assets and then have them evaluated. Assets can include everything from property to personal belongings, and even financial accounts. Therefore, it is imperative you take your time locating all assets of the deceased.  Categorize assets based on if they are in the sole name of the deceased or jointly owned.
  4. Collect names and addresses of interested parties – Now you must collect the names and contact information of all concerned parties in the estate. Interested parties are those listed in the will, but also any heirs that are entitled to a share of the estate if there was no will.
  5. Secure the assets – Next, you must secure the property associated with the estate. Secure and inventory all property so that it is not taken by family members, lost or stolen.
  6. Track your time and expenses – You are compensated for your time and all expenses you endure out-of-pocket for being the executor of the estate. Therefore, track your hours carefully. To avoid any disputes about your compensation, detail what you did during those hours and keep receipts for all claimed expenses.
  7. Hire an attorney – You have the right to hire a probate attorney for assistance with the administration of the estate. The estate also pays for your lawyer’s legal assistance, and the decedent should have made a provision or fund specifying costs of the lawyer.

Consult with a Probate Attorney

Consult with a probate attorney for assistance with your role as an executor. In Long Island and New York, you can call The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. for help. Schedule your consultation now at 516-605-0625 or request more information online.

Contracts for Geriatric Caregivers: What do You Need?

Caregiver and Elderly PersonWhether you are hiring someone privately, or you have hired a family member to care for an aging loved one, it is important that you realize this is a business transaction. This person is being hired and compensated for caring for your relative. Therefore, you need to treat it like any other business arrangement – including having a written contract with that party.

Elderly individuals living at home often require some form of assistance while there. The person taking that responsibility to meet the needs of your loved one can do everything from supervising their care to providing cleaning and meal services.

After you have agreed on compensation, which should be realistic hourly wages compared to other service providers, you need to draft a contract.

Why Do I Need a Formal Caregiver Contract?

The caregiver contract allows you to hire a family member to care for a loved one at-home and be compensated for their time and services. These agreements recognize and reward the person for their service. Also, it ensures that loved ones are guaranteed formal care.

A contract is essential because:

  • It reduces any misunderstandings or family feuds over who takes responsibility for the loved one.
  • Compensation for services rendered is written down and formalized so that no disputes arise.
  • Long-term care insurance can also cover such services, even if a family member renders them.
  • A well-drafted contract can also avoid the costly delays of government benefits.

The Elements of a Quality Caregiver Contract

When drafting a contract, it should not only follow the formalities but include all applicable laws for the state. Items that you must include in your contract are:

  • Time and Services – You must specify the time and what associated duty must be performed. If you have specific items that a caregiver must complete, these must be listed in the contract so that it is agreed upon that the caregiver will do them.
  • Hours of Work and Schedule – A strict schedule should be drafted, just as you would with normal employment. The hours of work should be included, such as start and stop times. Days off should also be specified including how holiday care would be handled.
  • Compensation Rate – The rate of compensation must be included in your contract to ensure no disputes over wages arise. Compensation can be in hourly, or you can opt for a salary amount, but put in a disclaimer that hours must be met to receive salary wages.
  • Employment Benefits – If you have a full-time caregiver, you are required to provide benefits. Therefore, you must have a description of all benefits given to the caregiver outlined in the contract.
  • Termination Conditions – While you might not intend to terminate the agreement, you need termination conditions which would allow the caregiver to cancel their work contract and any associated penalties that might apply in doing so.
  • Reimbursement – If your caregiver encounters expenses, you must include all reimbursement procedures for the care-related costs he or she experiences.
  • Substitutes – If the primary caregiver is sick or unavailable, what will be the procedure for replacing them with an alternative, and who will be responsible for finding that substitute or backup caregiver?

Speak with a Long Island Elder Law Attorney for Your Contract

It is best to have a local attorney draft the caregiver contract for you. A lawyer understands local statutes that apply to your caregiver arrangement and can ensure you have a solid contract that protects all parties involved.

Schedule a free consultation with the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. to discuss your contract needs by calling him at 516-605-0625 or by requesting more information online.

The Basics of Elder Law

Elder Woman Young WomanElder law is an area of law about the elderly. An elder law attorney is well-versed in cases that involve seniors and senior rights. Lawyers practicing in elder law focus on the important decisions made later in life, including helping their clients receive care, complete an estate plan, provide protections to loved ones, and even conservatorship.

A Legal Specialist for the Elderly

An elder law attorney works as a specialist. Their focus is on the needs specifically of older adults. These requirements are nowhere near the same as younger adults. They assist in financial and estate planning issues, but also help with day-to-day concerns, such as life planning, Medicare, and assisted living.

An elder law attorney looks out for the best interests of their client, and they handle numerous challenging situations for those clients.

Ways an Elder Law Attorney Can Help You

An elder law advocate can help with multiple tasks, including:

  • Wills and Estate Plans – Estate plans, including making plans for minor and adult children, adults with special needs, probate court, and other estate issues.
  • Durable Power of Attorney – Providing protection for when the unexpected happens, and someone needs to make decisions on a senior citizen’s behalf.
  • Health Care and Planning – From creating a health care power of attorney to planning for government-funded healthcare, patient rights, and long-term care.
  • Advance Directives – Drafting advance directives including long-term planning documents and a durable power of attorney.
  • Nursing Home Rights – For seniors who anticipate that they will live in a nursing home or assisted living center, a lawyer helps explain their rights and even file claims when rights are violated.

Estate Planning

Estate planning and estate administration are two critical services that elder law attorneys provide to their clients. This allows the transfer of that person’s property to other family members or even an organization upon his or her death.

An elder law attorney will draft a will, help establish a trust (if necessary), plan for estate taxes, and help with the distribution of assets. In certain cases, the attorney may help his clients through the probate court process or find alternatives to probate.

Medicare Planning

Medicare is something that most seniors will rely on when they retire. Receiving these benefits is not easy, and states have specific rules for Medicare. A lawyer can help elderly individuals plan long-term for their government insurance.

Social Security Benefit Issues

Elder attorneys can also contribute to resolve issues regarding Social Security benefits during retirement. These problems might include applying for benefits, disability, and Social Security, securing benefits, transferring them to spouses and dependents and so forth.

Meet with an Elder Law Attorney in New York

Protecting yourself and your loved ones is critical regardless of age. However, when you get older, you need an advocate that protects your rights to substantial benefits and gives you the opportunity to provide for loved ones in the future as well.

In Long Island, turn to the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. for all your elder law and estate planning needs. Schedule a free consultation today at 516-605-0625 or request an appointment online.

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