04/26/2018










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.

The Basics of Suffolk County Wills and Trusts

Elder Care Attorney Helping Families in Suffolk County Prepare Wills and Trusts

Wills and TrustsWills and trusts are essential estate planning techniques that protect your assets, but also your loved ones. While there are plenty of facts and guides out there, getting started with the basics helps you decide which method of estate planning is right for your situation.

Naturally, you should consult with an attorney that specializes in Suffolk County wills and trusts to explore your options. An attorney reviews your current estate and helps you decide which level of protection you need.

Without an Estate Plan, the Government Decides

If you die without an estate plan, you have died intestate. That means that the government now has the authority to decide how to divvy up your assets and which relatives receive them. The laws in New York specify which family members qualify for an inheritance, and the line of succession is followed strictly. If you do not want your estate to fall into the hands of individual family members, creating a will or trust can ensure your property goes to the family members you want.

Understand the Role of the Trust

The trust is an agreement that allows you to transfer your property from your ownership into the trust. The property is given to a trustee for the benefit of a third party, such as your family member. Trusts are used to ensure better estate taxes, but also to place conditions on inheritances. Unlike a will, you can dictate when and how much a family member receives in your trust.

Also, your trust helps your loved ones avoid the issues of probating assets, and the costs of going through probate court.

There are Various Types of Trusts

Trusts come in many forms, including spendthrift trusts, special needs trusts, life insurance trusts, and so forth. To decide which type of trust you need, you must speak with an estate planning attorney.

For example, you might use a living trust. A living trust allows you to maintain control of your assets even if you become incapacitated. Living wills offer more flexibility, including the ability to revoke or dissolve your trust if your needs change.

A Will or Trust is an Evolving Document

While your will and trust might be established with a set number of factors, realize that your estate planning needs change, and sometimes you must adjust your will or trust documents accordingly. Numerous life changes might require a correction, such as a divorce, new addition to the family, or purchasing and selling assets.

Always Meet with an Attorney for Suffolk County Wills and Trusts

Wills and trusts are something your attorney, and you work together to create. When you work alongside a trusted attorney, you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and your assets.

To get started on your estate plan, speak with a lawyer from the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today. You can schedule a free consultation by calling 516-605-0625, or you can complete an online contact form, and someone will be in touch with you as soon as possible.

Who Has the “Capacity” to Make a Will?

Estate Planning Lawyer Assists Long Island Residents with Creating Wills and Trusts

older man and caregiverWhen you start the process of estate planning, you will hear various terms. One that is important is that of “capacity.” When it comes to creating a will, one must have the proper capacity to do so. As the testator (the person whom the will is for), you must have the capability to not only create, but also sign, your legal document. The statutes are clear as to what constitutes testamentary capacity; within the statute, it states that a testator must be of sound mind to create a will.

What is “of Sound Mind?”

While the statute might specify that a person must be of sound mind, it is important to understand what constitutes that form of testamentary capacity.

The testator has sound mind at the time of the draft and execution of the will by knowing the objects of the estate, the property possessed, and what he or she wants to do with that estate. Further, he or she could still have a sound mind even if age or disease impairs mind or memory – what’s most important is that testators have an intelligent knowledge of their estates and their wishes.

To determine if a person is of sound mind, the courts typically look for three things:

  • Knowledge of his or her bounty. This refers to the knowledge of relatives and beneficiaries that might be named in the will. Understanding who they are, how you wish to distribute to them, and where they stand regarding your estate qualifies as part of the capacity. If a person does not know the beneficiaries by name or who they are due to a mental illness, he or she may not be considered of sound mind by the courts.
  • Knowledge of property and possessions. Furthermore, a testator must know what his or her estate consists of in terms of property. This does not mean that the testator must know every asset – even a person of sound mind might not know this. Rather, the testator must know what property is intended to be given to beneficiaries. If only one beneficiary is named in the will, there is no need to recall any property.
  • Desires for property within the estate. Furthermore, a person needs the capacity to know how he or she wants to distribute the estate to beneficiaries.

Testamentary Capacity is Not the Same as Business Capacity

A person running a business has a higher capacity requirement than the requirement for drafting a will. Testators can still be of sound mind regardless of whether they are ill, weak, or old. Physical weakness is not ground for incapacity unless a mental capacity issue exists, as well. Faulty memory due to age – not disease – is also not grounds for capacity questions.

Contesting a Will Based on Capacity

If you feel that an estate plan was drafted when a loved one was not of sound mind, then you do have the right to contest that will in probate court. However, you must prove that the testator lacked the mental capacity to execute that will at the time when it was signed.

For information about testator capacity or for assistance with a will contest, schedule a free consultation with the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin at 516-605-0625 or consult with an estate planning attorney online.

Steps to Take After a Loved One’s Death

Compassionate Attorney Assisting Grieving Family Members throughout Long Island, NY

Grieving WomanThe death of a family member is emotionally and mentally traumatic. While you are tempted to retreat and deal with your grief, there may be loose ends that you must clear up for your loved one. As the person in charge of keeping everything organized, it is important that you know what steps you must take to do so.

There are some important tasks you must address quickly, while others can wait a few days or weeks.

Your Essential Checklist Steps

  1. Handling the Death Declaration: If your loved one did not die at a hospital or hospice care facility, you will need a death declaration. This requires you to contact 911 and report the death. If there is a DNR, give that to the first responders so that they do not attempt to revive. If the paramedics are permitted to do so, they can declare the death. If not, the individual may require transport to a local hospital for declaration.
  2. Transporting the Body: Next, you will need to contact the mortuary that your loved one selected before death. If you have no prepaid agreement with them, discuss pricing over the phone. While it may seem awkward, you must know the costs associated with retrieving and transporting the body to the facility.
  3. Making all Pertinent Calls: While you do not have to call everyone right away, you must notify immediate family members. These family members can then be responsible for calling and notifying others.
  4. Figuring Out Dependents and Pets: If the deceased had pets or minor children, care and feed them while waiting for permanent arrangements. You may be responsible for arranging short-term care over the next few days until the estate plan and guardianship designations are figured out.

Handling the Burial and After

Depending on your loved one’s religious preferences, there may be specific procedures that you will follow to bury or cremate properly. Leave yourself enough time to take care of these tasks.

Once the body is buried or cremated, then you can work on the estate issues. If you are not the executor, the executor must be notified so that they can gather necessary paperwork and start the process of distribution.

Having a Well-Drafted Plan Can Help Loved Ones After Your Death

To establish the process of caring for you and your responsibilities after death, meet with an estate planning attorney to draft a well-thought-out estate plan. The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. offers free consultations. Call 516-605-0625 or request your appointment online.

How to Create a Fair Will for Your Children

Estate Planning Attorneys Assisting Long Island Families Create Wills

estate planning attorneyWhen you have more than one child, you may want your will to be fair – even if certain children are treated differently in the terms. An equal split is not always easy for children to accept, especially if you have a split family. But, there are instances when a will can be uneven and still fair to all children named as beneficiaries.

Being Thoughtful Counts

It is not always the amount that “counts,” but rather the thought behind what you are giving. If you are giving family heirlooms or items that are worth a lot of money, but also have sentimental value, it might mean more to certain children than just money. Consider which children will appreciate family heirlooms and which may value money over sentiment. Then, split the assets accordingly.

Teach Children to Prepare for Less

Sometimes, it is best to not talk to your children about the estate or how much they may inherit. Instead, focus on teaching them independence and financial responsibility. If you feel that your children will be unable to manage their inheritance, then you may want to set up an irrevocable trust. That way, heirs will be forced to terms so that they manage their inheritance appropriately.

Have a Conversation

If the estate plan seems unfair, you may want to sit down with all of your children and explain your decision. For example, if you have children from a previous marriage, your children from the current marriage may wonder why you and your new spouse have equally divided all assets.

It is best to sit down and discuss how assets will be distributed, the distribution percentages, and your decisions behind those amounts. When everyone already knows what to expect, it may resolve any conflict later.

Remember Account Designations

You may have a child named as the beneficiary of your retirement account or insurance policy, but only name one child out of many. While your estate plan may say that the estate will be divided equally, these assets would be distributed based on the designation. Therefore, you will want to adjust your designation or account for that payout by splitting other assets differently.

For example, let’s say that you have one child listed as the beneficiary of your company’s insurance policy. Under this line of reasoning, in the estate plan, you could have the other two children receive a larger portion of liquid assets. This would allow the inheritance amounts to nearly equal the same amount in the end.

Speak with a Long Island, NY Estate Planning Attorney

Making a fair will is never easy, but you can find the right designations and plan accordingly by talking to an estate planning attorney. An attorney can help you verify all appointments, list your beneficiaries, and create terms in a trust that protect your heirs. Speak with the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. to get started on your estate plan. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at 516-605-0625 or request your appointment online.

What Happens When There Are Two Wills – Which Takes Precedence?

Man Signing PaperworkThroughout a person’s life, one goes through many stages. A person may draft a will in his or her early 20’s, but as one acquires more assets, gets married, and even has children, his or her estate planning needs will change. This may result in drafting a new will. If you have executed a new will, you need to carefully assess whether any previous wills or documents out there will differ from the terms of your new will – and, you should take steps to ensure that both wills do not wind up in probate court and contradict one another.

When Two Wills Have Been Executed

Traditionally, during estate planning, if a person leaves two wills and both are offered into probate, the court will look at the circumstances to determine which will takes precedence, and which will be considered revoked. The best way to ensure that the latest will is used instead of an older will is to express that the most recent will is valid, and that all previous wills are considered invalid. By explicitly revoking one’s own past wills, the courts will then consider only the most recent will, instead of any past versions.

Issues can arise, however, when there is no clear statement as to which will is valid and whether or not previous versions will be revoked.

As a testator, you may have attempted to destroy a previous will or have left it behind, thinking that it wouldn’t be entered into probate upon your death. This results in an ineffective revocation. When the two wills are completely different from one another, the court may be forced to probate both – and they will usually figure out that the more recent will has revoked the first completely. If, however, differences are minor between the two wills, the courts will read the two to determine which is more effective and relevant.

How Courts Determine Which Will Takes Precedence

Courts will generally review the testator’s intent in each will to determine which should be probated and which should be revoked. To determine the meaning contained in the instrument, the courts will look at who drafted the will, contact that individual, review the circumstances under which the new will was drafted, and also review the words used to write the estate plan in the first place. The court will also review the testamentary capacity of the deceased at the time when each will was drafted – to make sure that a new will was not created when the testator was clearly incapacitated or unable to draft a will and comprehend his or her actions.

The testator must be aware of the nature of the acts that he or she is performing when creating a new will. If he or she has been deemed incapacitated, the new will may be listed as invalid and the previous will takes precedence in probate.

Protect Yourself from Past Wills – Contact an Estate Planning Attorney Immediately

If you have previous estate plans that have been drafted, having a good estate planning attorney during the creation of your new version is imperative. Your attorney can have explicit language in the new will revoking anything in past wills – and ensure that it is clear to the courts that the latest will is valid, and you are of sound mind to enter into such a decision.

To explore your options or to get started, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today. Schedule a consultation by calling 516-605-0625, or request your consultation online.

Steps to Take to Ensure That Your Will is Valid

signing a willA will is a formal legal document that allows you to dictate how you want your estate to be managed and distributed upon your death. The state of New York has clear laws as to how your will is validated and executed in the manner in which you intended it to be. Failure to follow Long Island laws could actually mean that your will is deemed invalid – and your beneficiaries are left to clean up the mess. There are precautions that you can take to ensure that you have a valid will – and they are simple, easy-to-do steps, too.

Verify Legal Requirements

This is the most critical stage of estate planning. It is why you need to hire an estate planning attorney to draft your will – because he or she can ensure that it is in accordance with all estate and probate laws. You need to also review the age requirements and make sure that you have drafted a will when you are legally allowed to do so.

Hire an Attorney

While there are DIY sites that promise you great results, these lack the complexity needed to handle things like children, guardianship, trusts, retirement accounts, multiple properties, investments, and more. An attorney in New York can help you add all necessary provisions and execute your will based on state laws. He or she can also help alleviate the stress associated with creating an estate plan in the first place.

Typewrite Your Will

Do not rely on a handwritten will. While it can sometimes to be considered valid, you are better off always having a typed will. This can prevent confusion or claims of forgery, as well. Also, oral wills should never be used – especially for complex estate matters.

Videotape

Consider videotaping your wishes to help further validate the claims and requirements in your will. Videotaping yourself reading and signing the will may show that you are of sound mental capacity – so that there can be no contest of your mental state. While you don’t need to be declared mentally incompetent by a court, the courts may allow testimony from disgruntled beneficiaries. If their claims are convincing enough, your will may be contested. Videotaping the process can help eliminate these issues.

Have Substantiated Provisions

You need to indicate your intent in making the document, and that your final word shows that you understand the consequences of your actions taken by the will. In other words, you should show that you are aware of what will happen when the will is executed. The provisions will also help further demonstrate mental capacity and the clear establishment of your intent – so that there are no ambiguous claims made later.

Get Witnesses

In order to validate your will, you will need to sign it yourself, have a notary, and even have witnesses. There are various numbers of witnesses that you can have, but it is in your best interest to have more than less – to further establish the validity of your will.

Ready to Get Started? Contact a Will Attorney in Long Island

If you need to get started on your estate planning process, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today. He can assist you with all aspects of estate planning, including healthcare directives, wills, special needs, businesses, and more. Schedule a free consultation by calling 516-605-0625, or request your appointment online.

The Dangers of Generic Healthcare Proxy Forms

healthcare formsYou may have an estate plan, but what thought have you put into what you would do if you became sick and unable to make decisions on your own? While there are plenty of medical miracles out there, none of them will protect you when you become incapacitated. The only way to ensure that your estate and your loved ones are cared for – and your best interests are considered – is through a healthcare proxy form. While these are offered in surplus online, these DIY generic healthcare forms can do more harm than good – especially when they are not drawn up with the assistance of a New York estate planning attorney.

What is a Healthcare Proxy?

When you become incapacitated, it is important that you give someone legal authority to communicate with healthcare professionals and discuss your wishes regarding your care. For example, you may not want to be left on a life-sustaining machine, or you may want to donate your organs. Perhaps you do not want to accept a blood transfusion. These are all decisions that your healthcare proxy can make on your behalf through working closely with healthcare professionals to convey your wishes. Similar to a power of attorney, your healthcare proxy acts as your agent – and it does not have to be a spouse or family member. You can choose anyone whom you would like who is of the legal age to make decisions on your behalf. But, you will want that person to be someone who you trust and will honor your wishes – regardless of how difficult that may be to do.

A healthcare proxy will only take effect if you become incapacitated and can no longer make decisions on your own. If you are later able to make decisions, then the healthcare proxy will no longer make decisions for you – such as in the case of being temporarily unconscious.

Choosing Your Agent

Because this individual has authority over your care, the agent should be someone who is familiar with you and your wishes. This can be your spouse, parent, child (as long as he or she is over the age of 18), or even a friend. Before executing the proxy, you will want to speak with the person who you are appointing to make sure that he or she is willing to accept the task. Once the healthcare proxy is drawn up, your agent will be given a copy of the document, or the original copy for safe-keeping.

The Dangers of Generic Healthcare Proxies

Online, you will find a slew of generic healthcare proxy forms. They promise that you can fill them out at a discounted rate and appoint your agent, and that they are valid. But, most of these healthcare forms fail to look at the specific laws of your state; they may even ignore laws regarding who can be appointed as an agent. Also, they lack the complexity to protect your wishes – such as whether or not you want to donate your organs, or if you want to be left on life support. Because these generic forms have glaring holes in their content, you may find that when the time comes to use it, it is invalid. Instead of family members being by your bedside, they are in court attempting to fight for their right to make decisions on your behalf.
You can avoid this hassle by having an attorney draft your living will or healthcare directives. The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. can assist you with your healthcare proxy and other estate planning forms. Schedule a free consultation today at 516-605-0625, or fill out our online contact form with your questions.

Top 4 Reasons to Rewrite Your Will

New York State Wills and Trusts Lawyer - Lamkin Elder LawWhile you may be aware of the importance of estate planning, preparing a last will and testament, establishing trust, and having other advanced directives, when did you last update your will? Do you review your will and your trusts regularly? Have you had any major life changes since your will was originally prepared or last updated?

Keeping your will up-to-date is extremely important not only to help you reach your estate planning objectives, but for the future well-being of your family and other beneficiaries. If you have not reviewed your will recently, these are four of the main reasons you should consider doing so right now:

1. You Are Getting Married

Getting married is one of the biggest decisions a person will make during his or her life. Your will should include your new spouse and his or her future needs, as well as your own. Getting married is an ideal time to rewrite your will.

2. You Bought a New House

Making the decision to buy a new house is an important decision. That being said, a new home can add a substantial asset to your estate. A new home purchase is a long-term investment you will want to protect both now and for your beneficiaries. Don’t delay on adjusting your estate planning following a new home purchase. This way your property will be protected and covered under the conditions of your will.

3. You Are Having Your First Child

Becoming a parent for the first time is a joyful occasion; however, with the joy comes many legal and financial responsibilities. While it will be your job to provide and care for your child as he or she grows, you also need to ensure that your child will be taken care of in case of an untimely death. If tragedy struck, you would want to have your child’s financial future secured. You would also want to ensure that guardianship is assigned so that your child is cared for by the person you feel best suited to the task.

4. You Just Received a Life-Threatening Diagnosis

Even though we all know we’re going to die one day, people don’t like to dwell on their own mortality. That all changes though when you receive a life-threatening diagnosis. Finding out from your doctor that you have an illness or medical condition which will lead to death far sooner than you may have hoped is extremely sobering. At a time like this a person should review and update his or her will. Take the time to make sure your affairs are in order for the benefit of those you love.

In truth, rewriting your will should be done any time major changes in your life occur. Whether you experience one of the above, you are going through a divorce, you are about to welcome your first grandchild, your financial situation has significantly improved, you recently sold or purchased new assets, or you simply changed your mind about beneficiaries, talk to a lawyer about rewriting your will. When the time comes, you and your loved ones will be glad you did.

Experienced Wills and Trusts Lawyer in New York State

If you have made any major life changes in recent months, or your outlook on life and what the future may hold has changed, now is the time to rewrite your will. With the help of an experienced lawyer from the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., changes and adjustments to wills and trusts can be accomplished with ease. Our firm has years of estate law experience and we are committed to doing all we can to help our clients achieve their estate planning goals.

To get started with rewriting your will, call our firm and schedule a free consultation with a New York State estate planning lawyer today. Protecting your future begins now!

When Should You Review Your Will?

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

Changes to Your Family

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

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

Changes to Your Assets

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

Changes to the Laws

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

Contact Estate Planning Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin

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

Why You Need an Attorney to Create a Will

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

Expert advice

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

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

There will not be any errors

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

An attorney understands the legal issues of writing a will

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

Executor of your will

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

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

Tips for Naming an Executor in Long Island, NY

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

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

Honest, Vigilant, and Detail Oriented

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

A Younger, Responsible Family Member or Friend

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

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

Someone With Experience

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

Other Considerations

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

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

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

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

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

Five Retirement Mistakes You Should Avoid

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

Waiting to Start Saving

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

Not Saving Enough

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

Overly Conservative Investments

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

Retiring too Early

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

Falling for Rip-offs and Scams

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

Legal Help

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

Estate Planning 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

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

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

Select Your Lawyer and Executor

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

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

Name Your Beneficiaries

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

Devise a Plan to Pass Money to the Beneficiaries

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

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

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

Charitable Giving

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

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

Contact Us

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

Estate Planning in Awkward Situations

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

Estate Planning for Two Families

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

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

What Factors Should Be Considered?

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

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

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

How to Discuss Estate Planning with Your Family

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

What Is Estate Planning?

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

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

When to Talk About Estate Planning

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

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

What Should Be Discussed?

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

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

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

Is It Time for You to Review Your Will?

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

Life Changes that Require a Review of Your Will

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

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

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

Make Certain Your Goals Will Be Met

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

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

Why You Should Talk to Your Aging Parents about Money

Elderly coupleWhile 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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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!

Guide to Contesting a Will

Contesting a will can be extremely difficult and time-consuming. The person who is contesting the will must have a valid reason to contest. The will cannot be contested because the interested party believes the will to be unfair. There are laws that guide proving whether a will is invalid.

There are four basic legal reasons for contesting a will. The applicable laws can vary slightly from state to state, but the basic principles hold true for each.

Fraud

The person who signed the will was tricked into signing. This can often happen when the elderly or sick don’t understand the documents put in front of them. The person receiving the bulk of the estate is often thought to be the party involved with the fraud.

The interested party who contests the will has to prove there was fraud. The burden of proof lies with the interested party. In a case involving fraud, it must be proven that the signer didn’t know what was being signed. It will involve calling witnesses who can testify to fraud.

Undue Influence

At the end of a person’s life, they may be influenced to change their will through coercion or force. A caretaker may threaten or cajole the person to sign a new will where they are given the bulk of the inheritance.

The interested party would have to prove a claim of undue influence based on previous wills and witness testimony. Unfortunately, the person is deceased and can’t answer questions about the influence to sign a new will.

Mental Incompetence

A will can be contested if the person had a mental deficiency at the end of their life when they drafted a new will. The mentally incompetent person might not have understood what he or she was doing when creating a new will.

The interested party would need medical records to prove mental incompetence. Witnesses can be called to speak to the person’s mental capacity and behavior.

Execution

In almost every state, the witnesses and signer have to be in the same room at the same time. The witnesses have to see the will being signed and understand what they are witnessing.

An unfair will isn’t necessarily a will that can be contested unless there is legal reason to claim the will is invalid. These four listed criteria are the only reasons for which the will can be contested. An interested party must make a claim against the will as soon as possible to start an investigation.

Sources:
http://money.cnn.com/2000/05/01/senior_living/q_retire_wills/
http://wills.about.com/od/fiveessentialdocuments/tp/howtocontestawill.htm

Protect Your Legacy With Three Essential Estate Planning Tools

An estate consists of the personal or real property, possessions, and financial holdings that a person has accumulated during his or her lifetime. Estates do not apply only to the wealthy. One’s estate simply consists of the personal property owned by that individual, regardless of the amount of property. An estate can consist of a modest home and vehicle, bank accounts, business assets, land or any type of property that has monetary value. Most people want to ensure that property remaining after death passes to the heirs of their choosing, and that as little as possible becomes absorbed by estate taxes, fees, and mismanagement. The following are three essential tools for making that happen.

The Last Will and Testament

When a Last Will and Testament (will) is prepared, it contains instructions pertaining to the disbursement of assets by the executor. The will should name who will administer the estate (executor) and should include an alternate. Wills properly prepared by an estate planner will be legal in the state in which they were written and legally binding in a court of law. For families with young children, young people establishing careers, and people with moderate incomes, a will provides sufficient protection. For people with larger holdings and multiple heirs a trust may be more appropriate.

Trusts

A trust does not replace a Last Will and Testament. The difference in a will and a trust is that the guidelines set out in the trust can take immediate effect while the person is still living. The trustee of the trust has the authority to handle the assets as outlined and this authority remains until all of the assets are distributed. A successor trustee serves in the event of the death of the original trustee so that the directives under the trust are still enforced. Because trusts are private, they are not public record. The trustee has full discretionary control. A properly executed trust can save families significant fees expense and provide peace of mind, as the assets are not open to public consumption. It is important to remember to title all assets possible into the name of the trust so that the disbursements go through it as opposed to an estate when the executor dies. Any assets left outside of the trust may be subject to probate.

Insurance

Insurance is one of the most simple and cost effective ways to protect assets. Life insurance names certain beneficiaries that will have direct disbursement at the time of the loved one’s death. These funds do not pass through the probate estate unless the estate is a beneficiary. Life insurance proceeds protect assets by giving the remaining family members a means to pay for burial expenses, unexpected costs, and current living expenses.

The previous estate planning tools will protect assets gained by diligence and achievement, making sure that hard-earned legacies remain protected for generations to come.

Sources:
http://money.cnn.com/retirement/guide/estateplanning_trusts.moneymag/index.htm
http://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/9-key-estate-planning-tools-1.aspx
http://www.fpanet.org/LifeGoals/PlanningMyEstate/AdditionalEstatePlanningTools/

Preventative Measures to Defend Against Will Contests

The purpose of a will is to be sure that your affairs are handled after your death and that your loved ones are taken care of properly. A will also protects your estate from various forms of litigation, including suits filed by family members who do not agree with the will’s contents. For this reason, it is important to take steps to protect your last will and testament from potential contests after you have died.

Plan Your Estate When You are Young

The best advice regarding estate planning is to begin taking steps when you are young and of sound mind. Even if you don’t have a lot of assets, are single or don’t feel as if there is much to protect, a will makes things much easier for your heirs. In addition, creating your will when you are of sound mind makes it more difficult for someone to claim you were not able to make an informed decision regarding the disposition of your assets.

No Contest Clause

In some states, it is possible to include an in terrorem clause, also known as a “no contest” clause. The in terrorem clause states that if anyone named in your will or irrevocable trust files a lawsuit to challenge the provisions of the document, they receive nothing from the estate. Some states prohibit such a clause, while other states name exceptions to the rule that could make the clause unenforceable. An estate attorney can advise whether this clause is applicable in your state.

Consider Trusts

A revocable living trust is another means of avoiding will contests after your death. Trusts are personal documents that remain private, while a will is a matter of public record. In addition, a revocable trust covers all phases of your life, regardless of health, and can continue even after you pass away. A will only takes effect at the time of your death. If there are family members that you feel may squander their inheritance or create trouble after your death, consider creating a lifetime trust to encourage more responsibility and reduce the chance of litigation.

Discuss your estate plan with family members as well so that there are no surprises after your death. Every few years, review the terms of your will to be sure it still suits your current goals. A pattern of repeatedly reviewing your estate plan will make it much more difficult for a will contest to be successful, as your record will demonstrate that the will is indeed representative of your final wishes.

Sources:
http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/estate-planning-when-you-re-young-healthy-childless.html

5 Reasons to Draft a Will Right Now

Many mistakenly believe that drafting a will is something that only needs to be done by old, retired people who have families and are facing their end of life decisions. There are, however, many reasons to draft a will no matter what age you are. It is really never too early to make your will.

1. Serve Your Family

Unfortunately, death is a sure future for everyone. There is no way to predict exactly when you will be leaving the Earth. If you are a young person, with no children, then a will can help ensure your current possessions go exactly where you want them. It will also ensure that your funeral and burial arrangements are done according to your wishes. Having a will is a great way to help your surviving relatives. Forcing them to guess at what your wishes might be and worry about getting it wrong is simply unnecessary. Making a will serves your family just as much as, if not more than, it serves you.


2. Limit Sibling Rivalry

Inheritance is one of the key reasons to make a will. Remember that the government has already put in place laws controlling the disbursement of assets upon a person’s death. The only way to supersede these laws is with a written will. It is unlikely that the government will be allocating your estate the way you intend. There is also little to keep siblings from suing and arguing in court over matters of inheritance. By clearly stating how things will go in a will, you can eliminate many legal hassles and infighting.

3. Child Care

If you have a minor child, then you probably have a specific person in mind to care for that child if something should happen to you and your spouse. Most states will automatically turn a child over to the next of kin relative or, if none can be found, place them into the foster care system. No non-family member is legally entitled to take the child unless you specifically name that person in your will. Also, if you would prefer a specific family member to be the caretaker, then they must be named.

4. Things in Your Life Have Changed

Change is a part of life. Even if you have drafted a will in the past or didn’t think you needed one, several life changing events can have a huge impact on the handling of your estate after death. These events include marriage, having children, having grandchildren or developing a serious illness. If any of these events have occurred it is very important to make a will or to update your last will.

5. The Family Business

A will also ensures the continued operation of a family business by appointing chief operators and properly handing over the business ownership to another person. Without this, the business may simply cease to exist unless someone takes ownership of their own volition. The law may also default ownership to someone you would rather not have it.

Sources:
http://www.businessinsider.com/why-you-should-make-a-will-2011-12#its-one-of-the-three-most-important-documents-every-adult-should-have-1

How to Make Sure Your Will Won’t Lead to Family Disputes

It is very unusual for a will to be contested. However, if potential beneficiaries and heirs believe that the maker of the will was not of sound mind at the time that the will was constructed, the contents of a will can be challenged. A majority of wills will go through probate court without being contested, but if the will does not meet legal requirements and would-be heirs point this out in probate court, there can be delays that can benefit the person who is contesting. If you want to create a will that meets requirements and will not lead to family disputes, you should be aware of the grounds on which family can contest your will. Here is a basic guide on making a fully legal will, so that your deserving heirs receive what you left them.

Mental State

If a family member wants to contest your will because he or she is not an heir or beneficiary, one of the most common grounds for contesting the contents of the will is that you did not meet the “sound mind” requirement when the will was written. Will makers (testators) must be of sound mind, know what a will does, know that they are making a will, and know how they want their belongings and assets to be distributed. If a person contests the contents of your will, they may say you lacked the mental capacity to distribute your belongings to the appropriate parties. Having a video will may prevent these considerations from being grounds for a challenge to your living testament.

Age

For a will to meet legal requirements set by a probate court, the testator must be 18 years of age or older. The only exception to this rule is when you are emancipated, married, or in the military.

Manipulation and Fraud

In some cases, family members may claim that one or more trustees committed fraud by manipulating the testator when the latter was in a vulnerable position. This is more commonly referred to “undue influence” in probate court.

Understanding What Will Make Your Will Valid

A will does not have to be full of complex legal terms and statements to be valid. The document must fulfill specific state requirements. In most cases, a state will require that the document do the following:

  • State that the document is the will and state the person’s name
  • Include a statement that identifies who will receive property or who will become the guardian of a minor
  • Appoint an executor to carry out the terms of the will

A will can be done in your own handwriting and still be valid as long as it meets each of these requirements. If the will is handwritten, you must sign and date the paper. Having at least two witnesses who were adults at the time the will was written and signed is a good way to prevent a family member from challenging the contents. If the will is notarized, none of the witnesses on the will must appear in court to swear a will is valid when challenged.

The Best Protection Against Disputes Is Good Legal Advice

To prevent family disputes and leave a legacy to deserving heirs, it is best to know your state’s requirements when it comes to settling probate before you construct a will. The firm of elder law attorney Andrew Lamkin serves not just Long Island but all of New York state and can help you understand how New York law applies to your situation. Call Andrew Lamkin’s office today at 516-605-0625 for a free consultation.

Recommended Resources:
http://wills.about.com/od/fiveessentialdocuments/tp/howtocontestawill.htm
http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/grounds-challenging-will-30288.html
http://www.aarp.org/money/estate-planning/info-08-2011/contesting-wills.html

How to Help Beneficiaries Avoid Squandering Their Inheritance

Beneficiaries of estates may not be prepared to manage what their parents or others may leave for them after they are deceased. There could be mismanagement of the estate or fights over who receives what after their loved one has died. It is important for will-makers (testators) to help their beneficiaries prepare for their inheritance by placing stipulations on how they can spend the money in their wills. Here is what you need to know about protecting your beneficiaries from themselves.

Testators Should Issue the Money in Payments

To control the flow of money a child receives, parents are advised to set up a trust and determine how the money will flow to the child at each stage of the child’s life. For instance, a parent may decide that one-third may be distributed at the age of 25 and one-third at the age of 30. The rest of the money will be distributed at the age of 35. Parents can even distribute the money on an annual basis if it works for them.

Some parents may opt for an annuity rather than a trust. This contract with the insurance company will obligate the company to make payments to a beneficiary. Annuities pay out on a regular basis for a period of time depending on the how the annuity is arranged.

Testators Can Disinherit a Child

Parents are not obligated to leave anything to an adult child. Children have no right to their parent’s estate if they were intentionally excluded, but there are times when younger children may be awarded a part of the estate if the oversight was not intentional. There should be a clause in your will indicating every child that should receive a portion of the inheritance.

Testators Can Put Stipulations on the Money

If you are not confident about your child’s money management skills, you can put stipulations on the money and how it is distributed and used. You can appoint someone as a trustee that will help your child manage the inheritance. Some parents may ask a friend or relative to be the child’s trustee or even hire a professional trustee. This service requires payment, but it is worth the investment if there is no one trustworthy in your family to take on the responsibility.

A trust can be terminated if the stipulations are violated. For instance, if the child has battled an addiction, the trustee could terminate the trust, and the trust can end at a certain age. Any stipulations you want to set can be determined in the will.

Need More Advice on Protecting the Inheritance of Your Beneficiaries?

You can protect your beneficiaries by planning ahead and making provisions that will prevent them from squandering their inheritance. But it always helps to have legal advice from a lawyer experienced in estate planning, and Andrew Lamkin is just that. His Plainview, New York, law office serves Long Islanders and other New York state residents who are concerned with both providing for and protecting their heirs. Call Andrew Lamkin today at 516-605-0625 for a free consultation.

Related: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/putting-strings-what-you-leave-your-children.html



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