December 15, 2019










What Is Digital Estate Planning?

We live in the digital era. Most of your assets are online, including your bank accounts, social media, and personal data. If you think that you do not need digital estate planning, then you may want to consider just how much of your life and assets are online and stored in computers – not in physical form.

Digital estate planning looks at all of your digital property, makes arrangements for those items, and ensures that your property is handled the way you wish upon your death.

Do I Need a Digital Estate Plan?

In the past, estate plans consisted of a will, trust, power of attorney, and your life insurance policy. These were all documents that discussed how you wanted your physical assets and financial accounts handled – and they were often documented in paper format, too. You would collect them into a folder and put one in a safe deposit box, leave one with your executor, and then give the other to your attorney.

Typically, the items not included in your traditional estate plan would be identified and assessed by the court.

Today, records are not even in paper format. Instead, they have gone digital. Another trend that has gone digital? Assets. You might be surprised at how many of your assets are no longer physical but are now digital. From your financial records and accounts to social media to files stored in the cloud, if you do not make protections for these unseen assets, they might not be cared for properly.

How Do You Start Digital Estate Planning?

The first thing you should do is create an inventory of your online digital assets, which can be done by:

  • Locating all digital assets and accounts online.
  • Writing down access information, including user name, password, email associated with the account, and other information necessary to access them.
  • Determine what financial value applies to your assets and if they will need to go into a trust or through probate court.
  • Distribute and transfer any assets to beneficiaries that you are ready to give now.

What Digital Assets Should You Include?

Basically, if it is online or stored on a computer, it is a digital asset. Now, whether you need to give it to someone or not is up to you. Some digital assets you don’t need, while others you may want to hand down to someone in your family who could benefit from them.

Some common digital assets you may want to include in your plan are:

  • Email accounts, including private or business email accounts where important information is stored and your loved ones may need access to.
  • Computers and any hardware associated with those computers are digital assets you may want to pass down. Do not forget about external hard-drives, USB flash drives, and other devices.
  • Digital cameras and digital recorders are also digital assets that may have family moments captured that you can pass down to a loved one.
  • Data you store online in the cloud, including any document storage, photo storage, and password keeper websites you have.
  • Domain names that you have registered, including blogs and websites – even if you do not actively use them.
  • Copyrighted materials, trademarks, and any codes you have written down.
  • Social media accounts, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest.
  • Shopping accounts you have online, such as eBay or Amazon.
  • Video gaming accounts you have online, including those tied to a credit card or bank account.

Deciding What to Do with Your Digital Assets

Now that you think of all the digital assets you own, you may feel overwhelmed at piecing them out among family and friends. It is best that you give digital assets to someone who is tech-savvy or have an administrator who is tech savvy and can help beneficiaries access the information on those accounts.

Then, it would help if you decide how you want the beneficiaries of your digital assets to handle them. Would you like your social media accounts set up as a legacy, which means people can use it as a memorial? Perhaps you want all social media accounts closed down – but what about any photos and memories stored on there? Will you have someone download them to keep or to share them with family members?

Take your time and go through each asset. Ask yourself not only who will receive it, but what you want them to do with that information once they have it. With a solid game plan, you can distribute digital assets into the right hands and hopefully give your loved ones something to remember you by forever.

Create an Estate Plan That Addresses Digital and Physical Assets

While you sit down with your estate planning attorney to create your wish list for your physical assets, make sure you include those digital assets discussed here. The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., can assist you with your estate planning. Whether you have just a handful of digital assets or hundreds, he can help you create a solid estate plan that protects both physical and digital assets alike. He can also help you with beneficiary designations on those accounts, ensuring that you give enough information to each party so that they can access the accounts and do what you wish them to do with it.

Even if you have an existing estate plan, now is the perfect time to go back and add in your digital assets. While doing so, make sure you update your will or trust document to include anything new you might have added at the start of the year.

When you are ready to create your first estate plan or you would like to update an existing one that includes your digital assets, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., today. You can book a free, no-obligation case evaluation at 516-605-0625 or request more information online about digital asset planning.

What Is Medicare Planning?

You plan for retirement, you plan for significant expenses, but what about Medicare planning? Most individuals under the age of 65 do not think of Medicare until it is too late. Ideally, you want to start planning for Medicare benefits long before you need them. Doing so can ensure you are not only approved but have access to the benefits you need quickly when you need them.

Medicare Planning Is Critical for Your Financial and Health Well-Being

One of the more significant decisions you will make while you near retirement is regarding your Medicare plans. You want to access all of the benefits and supplement options you can. Otherwise you will be paying out of your retirement fund for medical costs. Medicare planning means taking time to sit down with an estate planning attorney to look over your options and prepare for those unexpected costs.

What Is Medicare and Do I Need It?

Medicare is a government health insurance program managed by the federal government. When you reach age 65 or older, you are eligible for Medicare insurance benefits (some with qualifying disabilities or end-stage renal disease can receive Medicare before age 65).

Medicare has multiple parts, and when you go into a planning meeting with an attorney, they will go over each and help you understand which ones you’ll need for your healthcare in the future.

  • Part A: Part A is your hospital insurance plan, but it only covers admission into a hospital or skilled nursing care facility. You do not have a premium for this plan.
  • Part B: Part B is your actual medical insurance, which handles doctor’s office visits, laboratory tests, outpatient procedures, and more. You do have a monthly premium for this portion.
  • Part D: Part D is optional but highly recommended as it covers your prescription drug costs, and you do have a premium for this plan.

Why Medicare Planning Is an Important Step in Retirement

Healthcare is one of the most overlooked expenses when people plan for retirement. They think of their health situation right now rather than the likelihood that it will decline during their retirement. Medicare costs and the benefits you plan to use are critical parts of your retirement plan. In fact, they should be part of your estate plan.

When you start thinking about your future, your estate plan is one of those steps you are already taking to protect yourself and your loved ones. While estate plans are often thought of as a component for after death, they do protect you while you are still alive.

In fact, you can set up a trust today that will help you now and into the future when you hit retirement. Likewise, that trust is there to provide for your loved ones if you were to pass away.

Does My Income Affect Medicare?

Medicare is not the same as Medicaid. While Medicaid is asset and income-based, your Medicare benefits only require that you have a qualifying disability or that you are over the age of 65.

Creating Durable Powers of Attorney

While you are doing Medicare and retirement planning, one critical step to take is your durable powers of attorney. You could designate a friend or family member to make all legal and medical decisions on your behalf if you were to become incapacitated. They can also access your Medicare benefits so that you can use them while you receive medical treatment, and they can pay for your premiums to keep your Medicare coverage alive as well.

Make sure you pick a person that you can trust to handle all financial and healthcare-related decisions on your behalf. You will want someone who can think through critically, honor any wishes you might have about life-saving care, and who is responsible enough to handle your finances while you are unable to do so yourself.

Setting Up a Trust

You can create a trust to protect your assets while you perform retirement and Medicare planning with an attorney. A trust puts your assets into a single account and can include everything from bank accounts to property and even your life insurance policy. You are in charge of your trust’s assets while you are alive, including the ability to move them in and out of the trust, and use the assets in your trust for your living expenses. Once you pass away, the beneficiaries you name in the trust will receive their distributions per your allotment request. One benefit to setting up a trust is that, if you do pass away, your loved ones can skip the hassle, cost, and time consumption of going through probate court as well.

Do You Need an Attorney for Medicare Planning?

While you do not need a lawyer to plan for Medicare, you do need one who can help establish your estate plan, make your durable powers of attorney, and create a trust. Even if you do not plan to create a trust, you need a will drafted that will tell loved ones who inherits what and your wishes for burial.

Regardless, meeting with an attorney is beneficial if you need to plan for retirement and determine how you will care for your loved ones. One of the biggest advantages is that you can make sure you set aside funds in a trust to pay for medical costs not covered by Medicare, such as nursing home care. While you are covered for skilled nursing facilities and hospitalizations, your Medicare benefits will not cover long-term nursing home or in-home nursing home care.

By planning ahead, you can work your assets so that you will qualify for Medicaid, which helps pay for additional care as you get older.

To explore your options and make sure you and your family are protected, schedule a free case evaluation with the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin today. You can schedule your appointment at 516-605-0625 or request more information online about our estate planning and retirement planning options.

What Assets Disqualify You for Medicaid?

Medicaid’s application process is extensive, and it includes a detailed review of your assets. Certain assets can disqualify you from this federal and state program. But with the right planning, you might still qualify if you know which assets are countable and which are not.

Medicaid and Medicare of often used synonymously, but these are different programs entirely.

While both pay for medical and health care-related costs, Medicare is age-based; not income or asset-based. The only time income plays a role in Medicare is determining your premiums for certain coverage options. Instead, you can receive Medicare benefits if you are over 65 years, or if you have a qualifying disability. Medicaid, on the other hand, works more like public assistance; therefore, the program scrutinizes everything from income to assets to financial resources to determine if you qualify.

You are required to provide documentation when you apply for Medicaid, and omitting assets not only will guarantee that you are excluded, but it could also constitute fraud.

The Medicaid income assessment is straightforward, and it includes any income like Social Security, retirement, or actual wages from a job. However, the asset portion of qualifying is more complicated, and sometimes you might think that an asset doesn’t count when it does – affecting your chances of approval.

What Assets Count for Medicaid?

Assets eligible for Medicaid consideration include:

  • Checking and Savings Accounts – Any checking or savings account with your name or your spouse’s name count as an asset. Therefore, having a high amount of funds in those accounts could disqualify you. This includes long-term savings accounts or investments like CDs.
  • Stocks and Bonds – Any investment accounts you have, including bonds, stocks, or funds, count toward your eligibility. These are considered assets that you can withdraw and pay for medical expenses and long-term care. Therefore, the state will assume you have enough funds to pay for your care.
  • Real Estate Other Than Your Primary Residence – Your primary residence does not count. But if you own secondary property such as a rental home, vacation property, or even a co-owned property like a timeshare, these count.
  • Extra Cars – Your primary vehicle will not count, but any additional cars and recreational vehicles do count as assets.
  • Life Insurance – The cash value of a life insurance policy also counts. If the amount exceeds $1,500, then any excess is considered an asset to your estate and will be considered in your application.
  • Cash – While you can possess some cash, too much may disqualify you. For example, if you have $50,000 in a checking account, it would most likely disqualify you unless you could prove those funds were dedicated to something specific.

What Assets Do Not Count for Medicaid?

Medicaid doesn’t count certain assets that go toward your living, and those not considered liquid.

Some assets that are not counted include:

  • Your Primary Residence – Luckily, your primary residence doesn’t count against you for Medicaid. Even if you own your home in full, it is your home and primary residence where you live 90% of the time. Therefore, you do not have to worry about it disqualifying you. There are limits to your home equity, however.
  • Personal Property – Any personal property you own, especially that inside your primary residence, does not count.
  • Life Insurance – Any life insurance with a face value under $1,500 does not count.
  • Burial Expense Funds – You can still set aside funds for burial and funeral expenses, up to $1,500, without it counting against you when you apply.

Home Equity

When Medicaid looks at your home, regardless of the value, it is exempt. However, it will affect whether you get payments for long-term care and nursing homes from Medicaid, especially if the equity of your home exceeds a specific threshold. The equity of your home, which is the fair market value minus what you owe, does affect Medicaid qualifications.

What about Income?

Any income you receive from pensions, retirement accounts, and Social Security will count in your application. You can, however, keep up to $800 per month of your income, along with any costs associated with healthcare premiums, if you qualify for Community Based Medicaid. Any extra income, referred to as spenddown, must be used on your healthcare before Medicaid pays for the excess.

Your Options for Managing Assets When Applying for Medicaid Programs

Because your assets do play a heavy role in determining eligibility for Medicaid programs, you may want to look for other ways to protect family assets rather than selling or disposing of them to qualify for the healthcare coverage you need.

One of the best options is a Pooled Income Trust. A Pooled Income Trust is a unique trust that allows you to become eligible for Medicaid programs while still preserving your assets. Not everyone requires this type of trust, but when your assets exceed the qualifications for Medicaid, you may want to use a Pooled Income Trust.

How It Works

Pooled Income Trusts are allowed by federal law. You protect your public benefits, but you also receive pooled funds for expenses. You can then use your Pooled Income Trust for multiple expenses, such as:

  • Living costs, including food, clothing, and shelter
  • Housing costs, including rent or utilities
  • Private nursing care
  • Assisted living care
  • Medical procedures not covered by your government insurance plan
  • Entertainment
  • Travel
  • Attorney fees

Under the current laws in New York, your monthly income excess must be spent down to qualify for Medicaid, which is where your trust comes in. When you deposit into the Pooled Income Trust, you are no longer subjected to the ordinary rules for extra income and now you can protect the income benefit without selling your assets.

Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney to See How You Can Plan for Long-Term Care and More

If you are worried about how you will afford long-term care or how you will preserve assets while using government insurance, then you need to meet with an estate planning attorney.

Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., has helped countless clients just like you figure out how to manage their assets, create estate plans, and ensure they can still qualify for Medicaid without throwing away everything they have earned.

Schedule your free consultation to discuss your Medicaid planning by calling us, or you can request more information about estate planning online.

Do I Really Need to Include Social Media in an Estate Plan?

Consider how much information you keep on your social media profile before dismissing the idea of including it as part of your estate. Adding it to your estate plan could ensure that the right family member controls those photos, fond memories, and even videos that would be lost forever if no one inherits them.

If you are active on social media, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or another social media website, what will happen to all of your digital assets on those sites if you were to pass away? Can anyone access your profiles to shut them down? What about download videos, photographs, or even status updates?

You might assume family members can email customer support, letting them know that you have passed and request they shut down your profile. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Not only will the company not shut down the profile, but your loved ones will have no access and no way to access your profiles. Likewise, the companies that do provide access to family members put a clock on it. In some cases, they give you only so many days or weeks to remove all the information before they automatically shut it down and everything is erased from their servers permanently.

Adding Social Media to Your Estate Plan Is Like Most Assets

You would be surprised to find out how easy it is to add digital assets, especially social media, into your estate plan. It works like other assets, which means you need to inventory them, name a beneficiary for those assets, make sure they have access, and then let them know how you wish for them to handle their inherited digital asset.

Start By Making a List of All Social Media Accounts

First, list all of your social media accounts, including those you are barely active on. If you do not wish to include one because of limited activity, consider shutting it down permanently now rather than leaving it out of your estate plan.

For those that are active and that you want a family member to inherit, write down the website address or social media name. Then, write down the username, password, and email associated with your account.

Social media accounts include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Twitch
  • Instagram
  • Flickr

Name Your Beneficiary

You want to name someone who is internet savvy. Giving your digital assets to someone who has no familiarity with social media or how to use it just puts more work on their shoulders. Also, they may not know how to close out a profile or download the items on that profile. Therefore, having a family member inherit your profiles, who at least is social media savvy, is best.

Decide whom you want as the primary beneficiary of those accounts. Facebook recently added its legacy option, which allows you to name a successor – including another Facebook user. Make sure the legacy user is also the person you name in your estate plan.

Provide Your Instructions

Now you need to tell your beneficiary what they will do with the newly inherited social media profiles. Some options include:

  • Downloading and storing all images, videos, and memories. You may not wish for your profile to remain active, but before it is taken down, you want all memories removed from that site and saved elsewhere. Tell your beneficiary what you want them to do with the photos, videos, and other memories on your profile.
  • Create a legacy or “in memory of” page. Some family members ask that their page remain active, but change to an “in memory of” or legacy page. This allows friends and family members to go back, look at times they spent with you, and remain active with others who were part of your social media network.
  • Closing them down entirely. You may not want your profile to stay online. After all, leaving a profile up as a legacy page can increase the risk for fraud and identity theft (individuals are searching the internet for legacy social media profiles). Therefore, you can request that your beneficiary remove the pages entirely.

Do Not Forget Other Digital Assets

While you are adding your social media, do not forget the other digital assets you may have out there. These are treasures to family members, and sometimes they provide insight into your daily life that loved ones never even knew about.

Some other digital assets you should include in your estate plan are:

  • Online Photo Storage Sites
  • Online Document Storage Sites (like Box or Dropbox)
  • Your Email Accounts
  • Your Personal or Professional Blog
  • Ancestry Accounts and Website Profiles
  • Online Dating Profiles
  • Online Calendars and Booking Services
  • Memberships and Accounts Online

Speak with an Attorney about Adding Digital Assets to Your Estate Plan

If you already have an estate plan, creating an addition for your digital assets is simple. Meet with your estate planning attorney and let them know that you would like to include your digital assets. They may have a unique way for you to track passwords and information about those sites so that they can give them to your beneficiaries later on.

If you do not have an estate plan, now is the perfect time to start. In that estate plan, you can include your regular and digital assets. Digital assets, especially in today’s highly digitized world, are treasures to family members. They allow them to interact, see you, and even remember you years later.

Whether you have an existing plan or you would like to create a new estate plan, it is never too late or early to start. Meet with a local estate planning attorney that understands the value of digital assets just as much as physical ones. Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., can help you with your estate planning needs.

Get started with a free consultation about your estate planning needs by calling us, or you can request more information by filling out our online contact form.

How Do You Obtain a Letter of Testamentary?

Getting a letter of testamentary is what you need to proceed in probate court. You will need to file a death certificate and a will with the county, then your official form requesting your letter.

As the executor of an estate, you must take care of all financial tasks before you can officially close out an estate and fulfill your duties. Just some of the major tasks you must tackle include paying off all debts from the estate, gathering assets, distributing assets as the will outlines, and notifying beneficiaries.

Before you can do any of these tasks, you need a letter of testamentary, which is a document you get from the probate court. It provides you with the proof that you are the executor for the estate, and it provides you with the authority you need to do your tasks as the executor.

What Is a Letter of Administration – Do I Need That, Too?

Some probate courts will refer to these letters as the letter of administration. This is a letter that is issued by probate court when an official executor is not named in the will, or there is no will and the estate is intestacy. In this case, the court decides who is qualified to handle the executor duties and will issue a letter of administration to that party.

Both documents give the executor the power to handle all estate matters, but the administration letter only allows the executor to distribute assets that abide by the laws of intestacy, which are different in New York than in other states.

How Do You Get a Letter of Testamentary?

If you are named as the executor and there is a will, then you will obtain the testamentary version of the letter. To do so, you will go to the county probate court.

You need a copy of the will that names you as the executor, a copy of the death certificate, and the court required letters of testamentary forms along with your application for the letter. You may also need to bring along identifying information to prove you are, in fact, the person named in that will.

After you have completed the application, you will file it with the court and wait for your hearing date. The hearing is usually brief, and the probate court judge will review the documents, verify that you are the executor, and also make sure you can carry out your executor duties. Usually, you must be mentally competent, which is the only requirement.

The court then issues you the letter of testamentary, and you will want to obtain certified copies. Most financial institutions will require a certified copy of the letter to keep for their records. Therefore, get one for each financial institution where you will need to remove or access assets.

Letters of Testamentary: Can They Expire?

These letters give you the legal authority to manage a person’s financial assets. Therefore, the court will require that you do so promptly and in accordance with the will. You must administer all financial tasks promptly, but the letters themselves do not expire. However, if you purposely fail to perform your fiduciary duty or the courts feel that you are taking longer than necessary to handle the deceased’s estate, you may have your letter revoked.

Once You Have the Letter, What Should You Do Next?

Now that you have the letter, you must follow through with your duties. Just some of those include:

Locating All Assets

The estate plan should have a list of assets, but it is your job to go to each financial institution, using your letter of testamentary, so that you can access those assets. You may need to have assets valuated if it has been too long.

Finding All Debts Due

Before you can distribute assets, you will need to use any funds from bank accounts to pay any outstanding debts first. You may also have to sell any assets or sell stocks so that you can satisfy those debts as well.

File Taxes

You are required to file the final tax return for the estate as well. And if you are working with an estate attorney, they can help you with this task.

Distribute Assets

The will should discuss how the assets will be distributed and which beneficiaries will receive what physical assets or amount of funds. You are required to follow the will, but there may be instances where you have to use your own judgment if the will is not specific. Other times, someone may leave requests such as leaving 25% of their estate to one child. After you have satisfied debts, then you would determine what is 25% of that remaining estate value.

It Is Best to Hire an Attorney When Administering an Estate

Trying to work your way through the intricacies of probate court, let alone your duties administering an estate, can be daunting. If you are unsure of where to start, consider hiring an estate attorney to assist you.

An attorney can help you with your executor duties, including filing the correct forms, working on estate taxes, and ensuring all assets are distributed correctly.

If you are creating an estate plan, consider setting aside funds so that you can pay for an attorney to help assist with the administration portion of your estate. Having an attorney is incredibly valuable. They will help you with each step and ensure you are following all state laws regarding how you probate an estate.

To get started, speak with an estate planning attorney here in New York by contacting the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. You can schedule a free, no obligation case evaluation now by calling the office. You can also request more information about assistance with your executor duties by completing an online contact form.

How Do I Protect My Assets in a Second Marriage?

Whether you are getting married now or you are considering it, you must set up protections for your assets in your second marriage. Otherwise, you could have assets go to the wrong family members, which only creates more issues for the loved ones you leave behind.

First of all, even if you have not officially tied the knot, you need to speak with an estate planning attorney. Also, you do not need a previous estate plan in place. And if you do not have one, now is the perfect time to start one – especially as you enter into a second marriage.

As you plan out your nuptials, here are a few things you need to do as part of your due diligence:

Review Past Estate Plans with Previous Spouses (If Any)

If you do have a past estate plan with a previous spouse, then you must review your wills, trusts, and any beneficiary designations (such as those tied to your insurance or retirement accounts).  

Now, you must also review any divorce and child custody agreements you have and how they play a role in your past estate plan. Some divorce plans may have obligations where you must keep an ex-spouse as a beneficiary or give them a certain percentage of your estate (even if you were to remarry). If that is the case, you must consider it when creating a new plan involving your new spouse.

Also, you may not be able to update all beneficiary designations if you already have a previous spouse locked in from a divorce agreement.

Start Getting the Right Documents in Order

Next, you need to assess your long-term plans. Then, you will want to get a few documents in order to protect your assets in your second marriage and provide for your new spouse (and any children you may have) if you were to pass away.

Create a Prenuptial Agreement

You may want to consider having a prenuptial agreement in place. Not only will this protect your interests, but any assets that your spouse brings into the marriage can also have protections, too. You will want to discuss these financial issues ahead of time and create a plan with your spouse that you both can agree on.

Keep Your Assets before Marriage Separate

You both are likely to have some assets, and you will bring those into your marriage. Make sure there is a division between your assets and their assets before marriage. You can do so by keeping accounts separate for those pre-marital assets. Also, keep records of any assets that you had before the new marriage and any that may apply to a past marriage.

Set Up a Trust for Your Assets

You can also create a trust so that you can protect premarital assets from the second marriage. This also can allow you to protect any assets for children from a prior marriage who would benefit fully from those assets you had in your first marriage.

Asset protection trusts should be done with an estate planning attorney’s help, and you will want to make sure creditor and spousal protections are in place. You can also set up the trust in your child’s name and have them be the beneficiary of those assets.

Revise Your Will

Now is when you will need to look at your existing will and make changes. If your will currently lists your first spouse, you need to change it over to your new spouse’s name. You will also want to include any other beneficiaries, including children that you may have as part of your second marriage. Likewise, you will want to rename those who can make financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are to become incapacitated.

Make sure you revisit your will every year after the new wedding, as you will want to make sure any new assets, children, or changes are reflected in your updated will.

Do Not Forget about Retirement Accounts

You will want to make sure that you change any beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts to either a child whom you want to inherit the funds or your new spouse. Most likely, your old spouse is named as the beneficiary and these designations outrank any will or estate plan you have in place. Therefore, you must go and update all retirement, investment, and even bank accounts where you have a beneficiary designation named specifically. Otherwise, the courts will honor the name that is on the document rather than the party in your estate plan.

Review Your Social Security Benefits

You may have social security benefits from an ex-spouse’s work record, which will change upon remarriage. Therefore, you need an attorney to review these and see how your new marriage may impact the benefits.

Think of the Tax Consequences

Estate planning with a second or even third marriage will require you to balance your assets and the tax consequences of having those assets. You may want to look to see if you have any gift or estate tax exclusions that you can use, and you will need to consult with an attorney if you have a high-value estate subject to estate taxes.

Every state is different; therefore, you want an estate attorney who understands how estate taxes will apply here in New York, including any assets you may have out of the state.

Do You Need an Attorney?

Yes, you should always consider hiring an attorney when it comes to a second marriage and protecting your assets. Second marriages make estate planning complicated, and if you have a divorce agreement from a previous marriage, it could complicate things further. Having an experienced, trained eye review your past agreements and make sure that everything is up to par with the latest legal requirements is critical.

Speak with an estate planning attorney to help protect your assets for your second marriage by contacting the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., today. You can call our office or contact us online for more information.

When Will My Case Finish Probate?

Probate’s length depends on the complexity of the case and whether you have anyone contesting. However, you can expect anywhere from six months to up to two years.

Likewise, you could have such a straightforward case that you are done, and the case is completed in two months – however, that is rare.

One of the first questions our clients ask us is how long they should expect probate to take. While you want it quick, and preferably painless, it is all based on the executor, size of the estate, creditors, and a few other factors.

Factors That Can Affect Your Probate Case Timeline

To help you better estimate and understand why some cases take longer than others, we need to discuss the three primary items: executor naming, settling, and closing.

First, the Executor Must Take over the Estate

The first step of probate is for an executor to take over and get started on their administrative duties. This takes anywhere from two to six months, although, we usually see this only last three months.

The letters of testamentary take time for an executor to receive, and then they must receive their court appointment. Time extends in this phase of probate when the information is not available, or court documents were not completed and submitted to the court on time for processing. Processing is a four to eight-week process alone. Therefore, when an executor is ill-prepared, it does take longer.

Once these letters are approved, then the executor is named official and can start taking over other tasks.

A few ways to speed this up would be to ensure all family members sign and have documents notarized quickly. Unfortunately, not all loved ones are inclined to help or even do so promptly. Therefore, most of the delays during this stage come from finding family members and getting them to sign necessary documents.

Likewise, court delays can happen – especially if the court is overrun with cases that month. The clerk may also go on vacation, or they have a docket too full to get to your paperwork right away. If your paperwork is not processed, you should follow up with it and see if you can expedite it or if there is a hold that you need to address.

Third Party Hearings

Some times, a third party hearing is required, such as a public administrator, to look over the estate. When a third party gets involved and the court appoints them, it can dramatically delay your probate case.

Second, the Estate Must Settle

Now, you are onto the second phase. This portion can take anywhere from seven months to as much as three years.

The settlement is by far the most complicated process of an estate. The executor is now administrating, and that means that they will collect all estate assets listed in the will, organize outstanding debts, pay any debts, file final tax returns, and possibly value any assets of the estate to ensure they are accurate.

Potential Hold-Ups at This Phase

You have a few reasons that this phase can take longer than you would expect, including:

  • Institutions being Slow to Respond: Financial institutions are not quick to respond to requests for estate documents, including banks, lenders, and insurance companies. Therefore, the paperwork and lead times do vary.
  • Asset Locations and Issues: Some assets are difficult to share or place a value on them, including shares for private companies or real estate that currently has a tenant refusing to move out so that you can sell the home for liquidation.
  • Taxes: Estate taxes are complicated, and when a return is required, the process takes longer for the executor to compile the information and work with an accountant and attorney to get it all done.

Closing the Estate – the Final Phase

Now you are ready to close out the estate. But this is multiple steps in a single phase, and not something that goes quickly. In fact, it can take just 30 days or 12 months.

More documents are required in the closing phase, including all court forms that are distributed to beneficiaries to ensure they are given all necessary information.

The heirs must review any financial reports, and then they have a chance to contest the information. If a contest occurs, this process will take longer because it will require a court hearing just to address anything the heir contested.

Also, if anyone contests the validity of the will itself, you will notice a considerable delay. Not only do these take time, but they also can quickly drain resources tied to the estate – which may affect what beneficiaries receive in the end.

Speed Up the Process or Skip It Entirely

If you are creating a will but you want to save your family the hassles of probate, then you may consider a trust instead. Trusts allow you and your loved ones to bypass the probate phase, and you can distribute assets through the trust without having to wait years to complete the process.

Likewise, if you want to ensure your loved ones have a smooth probate process (without using a trust), then work with a qualified estate attorney who knows the New York probate lead times, common issues, and can draft a will that reduces the likelihood of errors/contests and other hold-ups.

If you are an executor and you find yourself facing multiple contests, beneficiaries unwilling to provide the information you need, and other stalls, you may want an attorney to assist you.

Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., has helped countless families create their estate plan, including setting up trusts, drafting wills that follow all laws and leave out any vague statements (a common cause for contests), and helping executors successfully close out an estate.

To explore your options, speak with him today for a free case evaluation or request more information online about his estate planning, wills, trusts, and probate services.

When Does Medicare Cover Nursing Home Costs?

When and how long Medicare covers nursing home costs will vary, but understanding how your benefits work and when they kick in is critical when you require nursing home care.

Most seniors will reach a point where they need nursing home or long-term care. Sometimes, it is only after an illness or accident, while other times the situation is permanent. If you are receiving Medicare or you are eligible to apply, you may assume that your costs are 100 percent covered with Medicare benefits.

This assumption, unfortunately, is incorrect.

Medicare does not cover a lot of traditional healthcare costs, and nursing homes are one of the costs.

However, when your nursing home or skilled nursing facility care is medically necessary, then you may receive some coverage.

When Does Medicare Cover Nursing Home Stays for Plainview Residents?

Medicare’s coverage of a long-term nursing facility is incredibly limited. Under the traditional Medicare plan, you will only receive limited care coverage for skilled nursing home facilities. The care only applies while it is a medical necessity. And to prove it is medically necessary, your physician would need to fill out the appropriate forms indicating such.

Up to 100 Days of Skilled Nursing Care with Medicare

Medicare Part A provides up to 100 days of skilled nursing care after an illness or injury. However, the requirements for utilizing this coverage are incredibly strict, including:

  1. Enter a Nursing Home within 30 Days of a Hospital Admission – For Medicare coverage, you must have recently been in the hospital and your admission into the nursing home cannot be more than 30 days after the admission. Likewise, your hospitalization must last a minimum of three days.
  2. Similar Care as the Hospital – The care you receive at the nursing home must be identical to the care you would have received if you were staying in the hospital; therefore, it must be required to treat a medical condition.
  3. Skilled Nursing Care Is Required – You must need an experienced level of nursing care, and the facility must have skilled registered nurses that treat you in-house. A physician must have placed orders, and a physician must supervise you during your treatment period. Likewise, a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse must carry out those orders and do so daily to qualify. Not many nursing homes have this level of skilled nursing care.

Once the nursing home reports to Medicare that you no longer need the skilled nursing home level of care, Medicare will stop payments.

What Other Options Do You Have to Pay for Nursing Home Coverage?

Nursing home costs are on the rise, and while you might not have Medicare to pay for your nursing home stay, you are not without options either.

Long-term care insurance is another option, but it does have a hefty premium. That being said, it will make up for the costs of nursing home stays, which will exceed the premium for 24-7 nursing home care.

Medicaid Is Another Option

One option that you might not have thought about is Medicaid. Medicaid works as long as you do not have many assets, and your income is relatively low (to none, if you are retired). Your Social Security income and pension income does fall under consideration when applying for Medicaid coverage.

Under a Medicaid plan, you can receive coverage for a long-term nursing home care or assisted living, but the rules depend on multiple factors. Federal law requires that all states carry a Medicaid program, but each state has rules that they use to govern who qualifies and what they pay for using these Medicaid benefits.

Medicaid in New York will pay for nursing homes and assisted living care, which is a relief for those facing the outrageous costs of nursing homes today. However, you must meet the income limits and be either 65 years and older, disabled, or blind to receive Medicaid coverage for your nursing home.

Also, your income cannot exceed the state threshold, which was $842 or less for singles and $1,233 per month for couples as of 2018.

How an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

Medicaid is a joint run program by the federal government and the state of New York. To qualify for nursing home care, you first must qualify for Medicaid coverage.

Certain items that the Department of Social Services considers when qualifying applicants for Medicaid coverage in New York include:

  • Need of Care: Do you have a financial need and medical necessity that qualifies you for the level of care you are seeking?
  • Your Income: Naturally, your income, as well as your spouse’s income (when applicable) is considered. You cannot exceed the state’s maximum threshold. All income sources are considered in New York, including your distributions from retirement funds, pension payments, investments, rental properties, and Social Security benefits.
  • Your Resources: You might not have a large amount of money as income, but you may have considerable assets. When your assets are high enough, the state will deny your Medicaid application. Assets include everything from the value of your home to investments to insurance plans.

While the process of qualifying for Medicaid is complicated, an estate planning attorney in the state can help you by going over your options, assessing your eligibility, and working to determine how to protect your assets so that you can qualify for the care you need without having to liquidate your family’s estate in the process.

Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney Today

If you are worried about paying for nursing home expenses in the future, or if you would like to have a professional help you draft an estate plan that protects you when the time for nursing home care comes around, speak with Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., today.

He can assist you with protecting your assets, looking over your long-term care options, and ensuring you qualify for Medicaid later.

Schedule a free case consultation now by calling us or requesting more information online.

A Guide to Picking Nursing Homes and How to Pay for Them

Whether you are looking for nursing homes for yourself, a spouse, or an aging loved one, it is imperative that you do your research first.

Nursing homes are plentiful, but not all of them offer the same care that you would expect. By understanding the basics to include in your search, you can narrow down the list of choices and walk away with the peace of mind knowing you picked the right nursing home for your loved one.

How to Pick a Nursing Home in Plainview, NY

For starters, you should always tour a nursing home. After your initial tour, go back and do a second one to see if anything has changed. During both visits, bring along this checklist and consider the following:

Smells

A nursing home should not have any unusual smells present, especially stale smells or that of urine. You want a nursing home that is clean, sanitary, and takes their resident’s comforts and health seriously.

However, nursing homes will have different smells. There are patients on medications and diet restrictions that can lead to gas. Also, as people age, they do lose control of their bladder and bowels. Therefore, it is important to realize that you might have a faint odor on one visit, but not on another. If the room you are considering for your loved one is overbearing with a smell, then you should be concerned.

Listen for Sounds

You should walk the halls during your tour and just listen. Do you hear anyone moaning or crying? Do you hear residents calling for help? Also, see how staff members address residents, their tone used when they speak to them, and how residents react to staff members.

How Is the Staff

The staff at the nursing home is integral in a nursing home resident’s care; therefore, you should give them the most scrutiny. A few things to watch with the staff during your visit:

  • How helpful they are with other residents. Do staff members seem attentive to residents? Are they assisting them with food, requests, and making them comfortable?
  • The attitude of the staff toward residents and you as a visitor. See how the staff react to your questions, how they talk to residents and other team members, and get an impression of their personality. Are they warm, friendly, and willing to help you? Do they seem overworked, tired, and unprofessional? When staff members are annoyed at answering your questions, that should be a red flag. If they are annoyed at answering questions about their job and the care they provide, how will they be when a client needs assistance?
  • How many staff members do you see on duty? While you are there, both times, count how many staff members you see and then ask about how many residents are in the nursing home currently. You want a good ratio of staff to residents because, otherwise, residents will not get the care and attention that they deserve.

Ask About Activities, Day-to-Day Routines, and Social Gatherings

One of the most important aspects of a nursing home is to provide a resident with social activities, exercise to keep them healthy, and a routine that ensures they receive the care they need. Ask about how nursing home residents will spend their days, if there are daily activities or social hours, and any special activities that happen throughout the month to encourage socialization. You should see a daily calendar where a resident has something to participate in, and it should be published where it is easily viewed.

Ask How the Home Handles Falls and Other Injuries

Falls can happen in nursing homes because, as residents age, they may lose their ability to hold their balance, they can trip and fall more easily, and these can lead to severe injuries. You want to know the nursing home’s policy and procedure for resident accidents and what they do to ensure that the resident receives proper care and that the accident is prevented in the future.

Paying for Nursing Home Care

Paying for a nursing home is one of the biggest concerns on residents’ minds. You know that you need the nursing home care, but what if your savings are too low? Perhaps you do not have a trust, or you have no income stream. Luckily, there are ways to pay for a nursing home.

One of the most popular methods is Medicare. Medicare is a federal insurance benefit that pays for a number of days in a nursing home. You also have Medicare Advantage Plans that do not require hospitalization before entering a skilled nursing home facility. Also, you may be able to choose a nursing home that is close by, as long as it is within the network.

Medicaid is another option for nursing home care. When you do not have the assets or income to pay for the nursing home care you need, you can use this federal benefit. Medicaid is a federal government assistance program that is run by each state.

Planning for Long-Term Care? Meet with an Estate Planning Attorney

One of the best ways to plan for long-term care in the future is to do so with a well-drafted estate plan. You can work out a plan to cover the costs of a potential nursing home stay or in-home nursing home care. Also, you can explore your options for Medicaid and go through a Medicaid plan, which ensures that your assets are adequately distributed so that you qualify for federal assistance.

In New York, you would need Institutional Medicaid. To plan for this, you must ensure your assets are protected and that you reduce any penalty periods that would prevent you from getting Medicaid benefits.

To get started on your long-term care plan or to learn more about Medicaid planning, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. We can meet with you for a free consultation and discuss your long-term care concerns along with helping devise an estate plan.

Call 516-605-0625 to schedule an appointment or contact us online with your questions.

Getting Married This Month? Now Is the Time to Start Your Estate Plan

One of the first things you and your soon-to-be spouse think of after getting engaged is planning the wedding and how your future will be with one another. Most likely, the last thing on your mind is your estate plan.

However, an estate plan is critical when a significant life change happens – such as getting married. Whether you have one already or you have none, there is no better time to start planning your future by creating an estate plan.

Should a Plainview Couple Draft a Will Before or after They Get Married?

The most prominent question couples ask is when they should start creating their estate plan. If you plan to get married, you need to review the process. You will also want to update areas of your will or start thinking about these areas for your new will, including your power of attorney, advance directive for healthcare, and beneficiaries.

You can create an estate plan before or after the wedding. Some couples prefer to handle estate plans after nuptials, while others want to finish theirs before the big day so that it is one less thing to work on.

If you do create the estate plan before officially saying “I do,” you should have a provision that states your intent that the marriage does not revoke the will.

What Should You Update on a Will after You Are Married?

One of the biggest things you must do is update your beneficiaries. Not only should you do this on your estate plan, but also any death benefit designations you made on your retirement account, bank accounts, and investment accounts. These override any beneficiaries in your will. Therefore, if you have a parent or sibling listed as your beneficiary, your spouse would not receive the benefit.

Have a Detailed Conversation

You also need an in-depth conversation about what you want with each other, how you want to split assets among your beneficiaries, and who should make the big decisions if one were to become incapacitated. After all, you are now blending families, and your list of potential beneficiaries (until you have children) will differ from what you would have considered when you were single.

You both should also consider what would happen if you both were to pass away and if you want to select secondary beneficiaries to your estate.

Update Your Will or Create a New One

If neither of you has an estate plan, now is the time to create one. If you or your future spouse has an estate plan, you will need to update it to reflect the marriage and any changes. Talk about how you want assets split if something were to happen to one or both of you.

While the subject might bring a negative light to your happiest day, it is something you still need to discuss. Think of the positive aspect of having a well-drafted estate plan rather than the negatives. You should consider it a piece of reassurance that your loved ones will be taken care of if something were to happen.

Do Not Forget Your Power of Attorney

You must make sure your power of attorney and advance medical directive is updated; otherwise, your spouse may not have the input or power that you intended for them to have.

Without a durable power of attorney, your spouse cannot handle financial affairs, including managing accounts that are in your name or accessing funds.

Likewise, you will want to have an advance directive that names a party responsible for your healthcare decisions when you become incapacitated and cannot make those decisions on your own. A spouse is typically the party named on these documents. However, you may want to name a backup in the event you and your spouse are incapacitated or injured at the same time.

Consider a Trust

You and your spouse might enter the marriage with a sizeable estate. If so, you may want to start the process of creating a trust for your assets. This can include any property you own separately or that you will have during your marriage, accounts you combine, and investments.

Furthermore, trusts offer more protection for you and your spouse. They provide you with privacy, too, and save your loved ones from the hassles of going through probate court.

Title Your Assets Correctly

Make sure you title your assets so that your spouse is reflected in those documents. While joint tenancy will give the rights of survivorship to your spouse, it does not provide a power of attorney.

Select an Estate Planning Attorney

Whether you want to take care of your estate plan before, or you would like to wait until after the big day, at least start thinking about your estate plan and what you need to add or change, and your goals with this very critical document.

Then, start looking for an estate planning attorney in your area. You want someone who will help you create an estate plan for you and your spouse that protects your assets before your marriage as well as those assets you gain throughout your relationship.

Likewise, you want to make sure that you can provide for one another if the unspeakable were to occur.

The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., can assist you with your estate planning needs. Whether you each have an estate plan that now must be re-drafted into one or you are starting from scratch together, we can help you.

Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., will meet with you during an initial consultation to go over your expectations, gather documents, and help create a plan. Then, you will work closely with him and his team to devise an estate plan that not only helps today, but protects you and your family as it grows and moves into the future.

To get started, schedule a free case evaluation by calling or requesting more information online.