September 16, 2019










New ‘Power of Attorney’ Law – Frequently Asked Questions

By Andrew M. Lamkin, Esq.

On January 27, 2009, Governor Patterson signed into law revisions to the New York laws which powers of attorney. The news laws became effective on September 1, 2009. Many of the changes substantially affect the power of attorney. It is not surprising that, during the execution ceremony, my clients have had many questions regarding some of the changes. The following is a sample of some of the questions I have been posed with.

  1. Is the old Power of Attorney still valid?If the old power of attorney was signed prior to September 1, 2009, it is still valid. However, the new form should be used going forward. Therefore, if you have an unsigned power of attorney, drafted under the old law, you should not sign that form and ask your attorney to prepare a new form for execution.
  2. What is the reason for using the new Power of Attorney form?The purpose of the law is to ensure that the principle is aware of the powers he/she is granting to the agent. The new form also describes the consequences of granting such powers, particularly as it relates to the ability of the agent to make gifts or asset transfers on behalf of the principle.
  3. Is it true that the agents I appoint also need to sign the Power of Attorney? If so, why?Yes, the agent must accept the responsibility and fiduciary duties of serving as an agent. The new form contains instructions to the agent, such as to act in accordance with previous instructions from the principle or in the best interest of the principle, to avoid conflicts that would impair the agents ability to act in the best interest of the principle, keep receipts and a record of all transaction made and keep their property separate from the principles property. While the agent does not need to sign at the same time as the principle, the document is not effective until the date is signed by the agent before a notary public.
  4. Why would I also sign the Statutory Major Gifts Rider?Quite often a Power of Attorney is used to transfer assets out of the name of the principal. The transfer is considered a gift – whether it be given to the agent making the transfer to a 3rd party. In the older version of the POA, the principal could initial next in a box next to the “gifting Power” and thus their agent would have the authority to “gift” on their behalf. The form has additional rider whereby the principal can authorize the agent(s) to gift on his/her behalf. Without using this additional rider (SMGR), the agent will not be allowed to transfer assets on behalf of the principal – thus defeating the purpose of Power of Attorney.
  5. I’ve heard that banks and other financial institutions have in the past refused to accept the Power of Attorney. Are they allowed to do that?It is true that many have previously encountered difficulties with their financial institutions when attempting to use the power of attorney. The new law addresses this issue by making it unlawful to refuse to accept an original (or certified copy of the original) power of attorney. Specifically, the law provides that financial institutions may refuse a power of attorney for “reasonable cause.” The financial institution has reasonable cause if the agent refuses to provide an original or certified copy of the power of attorney, if it has actual knowledge of the death of the principle, if it has actual knowledge of the revocation of the power of attorney, if it has actual knowledge of a report or investigation by the local adult protective services concerning the principle or if it has actual knowledge of the principle incapacity if the power of attorney presented is “Non-Durable.” The new law also goes to the extent to allow a special proceeding to be brought to compel a financial institution to accept the power of attorney.
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Veteran’s Aide and Attendance Program

An additional pension for qualifying veterans

Recently I have had many clients come to my office with a similar problem. They have had to hire a home health aide for their parents or place them into an assisted living facility. The problem that my clients, typically the adult children of a disabled senior, have is that their parent’s income does not cover their living expenses with an aide or the monthly cost of the assisted living facility. When I am confronted with this problem, I have been asking my clients whether one of their parents was a veteran. If one of the parents was in fact a veteran and require the assistance of a home health aide or reside in an assisted living facility, they may be entitled to an additional pension via the Veterans Administration’s (VA) Aid and Attendance Program.

The Aid & Attendance pension provides benefits for veterans and surviving spouses who require the assistance with the activities of daily living (ADL’s). This includes regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing and undressing. Assisted care in an assisting living facility also qualifies.

The requirements to qualify are as follows. First, it must be established by your physician that you require assistance with the above mentioned activities. Importantly, you do not need to show that you require assistance with all of these activities – only that you cannot function completely on your own.

Second, you must provide the VA with proof of your net worth, net income (including social security, other pension and IRA distributions) and complete breakdown of your monthly expenses, including the cost of the aide, assisted living and other medical expenses.

Qualifying applicants may be entitled to receive up to $1,632 per month to a veteran, $1,055 per month to a surviving spouse, or $1,949 per month to a couple. It should be noted that not every applicant will receive the same pension. The VA will compute the actual needs of the applicant in determining the pension amount. The pension is not contingent on a “service related” injury or condition.

The VA has made it illegal to hire someone to file the application on your behalf, but you can hire an Aid and Attendant Consultant to offer you advice on how to file the claim. You can also contact this office for questions about the program and advice on how to file a claim.

Planning for Families with Disabled Children: Supplemental Needs Trusts

By Andrew M. Lamkin, Esq.

Clients came to my office for advice on how to make arrangements for their 5-year-old son. Their son is autistic and their situation is common to parents who have children with disabilities. Two major problems exist. First, when a disabled child turns 18, the parent loses the ability to make medical and financial decisions for the disabled child. Second, parents, such as my clients, are never sure of the proper way to leave assets to their disabled child and plan for their disabled child’s care when they pass away. Do they leave money to a family member to take care of the disabled child? Do they leave money to the disabled child directly? What happens to government benefits such as Medicaid and SSI? This article will address the second issue.

Autistic children, like most children with any developmental or emotional disability, are entitled to receive government benefits such as Medicaid or SSI. To be eligible for these benefits, the recipient must have less than $13,050 in assets ($2,000 for SSI). Therefore, if a disabled child inherits or received money from a lawsuit, the child will lose his benefits because he will be over the asset threshold.

One option for a parent is to leave money to another person, with instructions to support the disabled child. A common example would be to leave money to another child, with instructions to support their disabled sibling. However, there are problems with this strategy. First, while the disabled child would still receive Medicaid and SSI, there is no legal obligation for the sibling to support the disabled child. The money becomes the property of the sibling and he can do with it what he chooses. Second, the sibling may go through a divorce or be sued for something unrelated to the disabled sibling, such as a car accident where the siblings assets become part of a personal injury suit. Unfortunately, even the assets the sibling is holding for his disabled sibling would be vulnerable to a personal injury lawsuit. If either occurs, the money left for the benefit of the disabled child could be lost.

While the first option of leaving money outright to the disabled child will result in a loss of benefits, the second option carries with it the risk that the assets are not truly protected for the disabled child. The goal is to find a way to protect your child’s benefits, while at the same time, leaving money for his support.

Fortunately, a parent can create a Supplemental Needs Trust (SNT), to solve both issues. An SNT enables a person with a disability to maintain eligibility for government benefits. A parent can establish an SNT during the life of the disabled child (Third Party Intervivos SNT) or pursuant to a Last Will and Testament, which is not funded until the death of the parent (Testamentary SNT).

The logistics are as follows. A parent can leave assets to the SNT, whether through the Will or as a beneficiary of a bank account or insurance policy. A Trustee, presumably the person caring for the disabled child when the parent passes away, is appointed by the parent to manage the money for the disabled child. The Trustee is authorized to use the funds in the Trust for the benefit of the disabled child. The funds can be used by the Trustee to pay rent, credit cards, or other expenditures, such as medical costs (which may not be covered by Medicaid) for the disabled child.

The benefit of creating an SNT is simple. It is the only way to ensure both, that funds will be available to provide for the disabled child and that he will continue to receive SSI and/or Medicaid. Supplemental Needs Trusts should be a consideration for every parent, grandparent and sibling of an individual who receives SSI and/or Medicaid. Everyone has varying circumstances and therefore the proper way to set up an SNT should only be determined after consultation with an attorney experienced with the rules regarding Supplemental Needs Trusts.

Call 516-605-0625 or contact me online to schedule an appointment. I am available to meet with you at your home or my office.

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Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 – Impact on Medicaid

By Andrew M. Lamkin, Esq.

On February 8, 2006, President Bush signed into law the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA). The Act reduces federal entitlement spending for Medicaid, among other federal programs. The Medicaid program pays for services for disabled seniors who meet the eligibility requirements. Most commonly, Medicaid pays for the cost of home health aides and nursing home care.

The effects of the Deficit Reduction Act on Medicaid are significant, especially when applying for nursing home benefits. First, the look back period on asset transfers has been increased from three to five years. When an uncompensated transfer, or gift, is made during this look back period, Medicaid will impose a “penalty period.” The “penalty period” is the length of time during which Medicaid will not pay for the cost of nursing care, during which time the family of the applicant is responsible. At the end of the penalty period, Medicaid will pick up the cost of care. Due to this change in the law, the goal when establishing an estate plan is to protect assets five years before having to apply for Medicaid. Unfortunately, it is difficult to anticipate when a family member may be forced to enter a nursing home. To ensure you are eligible for Medicaid should the need arise; it is advisable to plan well ahead of time.

The second major change as a result of the DRA, is in regard to the start of the penalty period. Under the old law, the penalty period began on the date when the assets were transferred. Depending on the fair market value of the transfer, the penalty period may have expired by the time the application was filed. Therefore, an applicant who transferred assets within the three year look back may have qualified for Medicaid before the time they apply.

Under DRA, however, the penalty period begins when the applicant applies for nursing home benefits. Therefore, any transfer made within the 5 year look-back period will certainly result in a penalty period. This is a drastic change and many applicants will be ineligible for a longer period of time. This will require applicants to pay for the cost of the nursing home with their savings, and perhaps require the sale of the family home.

A common misconception is that if proper planning has not occurred by the time a person enters a nursing home; there is no option other than to exhaust his savings. In reality, this is not the case. The opportunity to protect all of the assets may be lost, but by utilizing a strategy known as “Reverse Rule of Halves,” it is possible to protect up to one-half of the applicant’s assets. In order for this strategy to work, it is vital to transfer assets as soon as the person enters the nursing home.

It is also important to note that there are a few exceptions to transfers made during the look-back period. Transfers made within the look back period to a spouse or disabled child do not result in a penalty period. Furthermore, an applicant can transfer his home to a “caretaker” child. This exception applies only in a situation where a child of the applicant has been residing with the applicant in the applicant’s home for at least two years. In this situation, the applicant can transfer the home to the “caretaker” child while, retaining a life estate.

Fortunately, the eligibility requirements for Community-based Medicaid, where a home health aide is provided, are more lenient than nursing home based applications. Most importantly, there is not a look-back period on assets transfers. Hence, an applicant for Community Medicaid may transfer assets for the purposes of qualifying without the imposition of a penalty period. Therefore, an applicant can transfer assets to anyone in March and be eligible for Community Medicaid in April.

A big concern with community based applications is the “spenddown” requirement imposed on income over $767.00 per month. Any income over this amount must be “spent down” on the cost of care and Medicaid will pay for the remaining cost. For example, if an applicant receives Social Security benefits and a pension totaling $2,500 per month, he is allowed to keep only $767.00 per month. He is required to contribute the difference of $1,733 per month to the cost of the home care aide. If the aide costs more than $1,733 per month, Medicaid will pick up the difference. However, with proper planning and the use of a Pooled Income Trust, it is possible to protect 100% of the applicant’s income and he will not have to contribute to the cost of the home care aide. Therefore, by utilizing a Pooled Income Trust, Medicaid will pay for the entire cost of the home care aide.

Overall, the Deficit Reduction Act makes it more difficult for those in need to qualify for Medicaid benefits. The new provisions are complex and can be difficult to navigate. With these changes, it is even more important for the protection of your family to have a plan in place.

Taking time to speak with an Elder Law attorney can help to devise a plan that will insure that your loved ones receive the necessary care they need, while at the same time protecting their income and assets for their use.

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World Elder Abuse Day

The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) has announced that World Elder Abuse Day 2010 is June 15. According to INPEA somewhere between 4% and 6% of the elder population suffer some form of abuse in the home and even more at risk of abuse in institutions such hospitals and nursing home.

Risk factors for elder abuse include the following: Conflict arising from financial dependence of seniors, frailty and weakness of older people, erosion of bonds between the generations, tensions arising from possible inheritance issues, the growing trend of adult children not living near their aging parents thus creating the need for others to help care for the elderly.

Symptoms of elder abuse include frequent injuries or illnesses that require medical attention, implausible explanations for injuries from caregivers and inconsistent stories from patient and caregiver.

The purpose of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is to raise awareness of the growing problem of elder abuse. If you think that an elderly person is being abused you should contact the Police, the Local Department of Health or an attorney.

Trusts and Taxes

Grantor Trusts

Any Trust which is created by an individual and where the individual transfers assets to the trust and the assets remain in the trust for the lifetime enjoyment of that individual. The Individual is referred to as the Grantor.

Examples of Grantor Trusts and the various Tax implications of each

Revocable Trust – Trust whereby the Grantor reserves the right to revoke any term of the trust during their lifetime. The grantor transfers assets such as property, investments and savings to the trust. The grantor typically names himself and his spouse as Trustee.

  1. Income Taxes– The grantor typically reserves the right to the income that the Trust generates. This includes rental income from property and dividends and interest from investments. As a result any income generated from the Trust is attributed to the grantor. The Tax ID for the Trust can be the social security number of the grantor or they can obtain an EIN from the IRS.It is possible to create a Revocable were the grantor assigns the income of the trust to another individual, such as a child. In this instance, the income is taxed to that beneficiary.
  2. Gift Taxes – Because a revocable trust can be revoked by the Grantor, it is considered an incomplete gift. As such there is no gift tax implications.
  3. Estate Taxes– Assets transferred to a revocable trust are considered to be part of the Grantors estate. Therefore, the value is added to the Grantor’s total estate and used in any estate tax calculation.A revocable trust can include a Credit Shelter provision or QTIP language. In either scenario, the grantor’s assets will pass to a testamentary trust (Credit Shelter Trusts are also disclaimer trusts – meaning that the surviving spouse has to disclaim the assets for them to pass to the trust). The purpose of establishing these trusts is to limit the estate tax liability.

    An example of how it works: Married individuals are worth $5,000,000. If they did not do anything, and one spouse passed away, the surviving spouse would be worth the entire $5,000,000. Upon their passing, the heirs would be responsible for a potentially large estate tax bill.

    By placing assets into a Credit Shelter or QTIP Trust, the assets of the spouse who passes first remain in their estate for tax purpose. The surviving spouse has limited access to those assets, however, the assets do not pass to children until the passing of the second spouse. Because the “disclaimed” assets remain in the estate of the first spouse, the children benefit from the exemptions of each parent. As a result, in the example above, each estate would be values at $2,500,000. Assuming the Federal Estate Tax exemption is $2,500,000, the children would not be responsible for a federal estate tax (there would still be a NY State Estate Tax). However, if they did not plan, assuming the same numbers, the children would be responsible for approximately $1,000,000 in federal estate taxes upon the death of the second parent.

Irrevocable Income Only Trust (IIOT)– Trust whereby the Grantor does not reserve the right to revoke any term of the trust during their lifetime. It is typically done to protect assets against the cost of long term care (home health aide or nursing home)

  1. Income Taxes – The grantor typically reserves the right to the income that the Trust generates. This includes rental income from property and dividends and interest from investments. Often spouses who create a Irrevocable Income Only Trust would create a joint trust. Therefore, an EIN should be requested from the IRS. However, if it is a sole individual, their SSN can be used.
  2. Gift Taxes – An IIOT is also an incomplete gift when the grantor retains an interest income and a limited power of appointment to change the beneficiaries in their Will. No Gift taxes owed.
  3. Estate Taxes – Cannot include Credit Shelter or QTIP language. All assets included in Taxable estate.

Supplemental Needs Trust – Trust whereby the Grantor places assets into a trust for the benefit of a disabled individual.

  1. Income Taxes – New EIN for the Trust is recommended. A tax return will be done for the Trust because the income does not go to the grantor or beneficiary but remains in the trust.
  2. Gift Taxes – When an individual transfers assets to an SNT for the benefit of another individual, they should file a gift tax return if the yearly transfer exceeds $13,000.
  3. Estate Taxes – Included in the estate of the disabled individual.
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Client Case Study: Be Organized, or else

A few months ago, I met with a client who wished to update his Last Will and Testament and learn how to protect his assets against the cost of Long Term Care. He was widowed, had a partner of 10 years and two children from his previous marriage. He was 85 years old. His assets included his primary residence and modest savings, mostly in the form of CD’s.

He wished to leave his assets to his partner and one of his daughters – disinheriting the other daughter. Because of this – and because he wanted to protect his assets – I suggested that he create an Irrevocable Trust. This would help protect his assets in case he had to be placed in a nursing home or require the assistance of a home health aide. More importantly, perhaps, it would allow his estate to avoid the probate process – especially important when disinheriting a child.

Probate is the process of proving the validity of the will and administering the estate. During this process, all children are asked to be involved by consenting to the appointment of the named Executor – including those who are disinherited. Because he wanted to disinherit a child, I thought that the probate process could be difficult for his partner and other daughter.

He decided to take my advise and create a Trust and then transfer his assets to the trust, including the deed to the house. We began the process by drafting and executing the Trust agreement. Unfortunately, he could not find the deed to his house. He took more time to try and locate the deed, but to no avail could not locate it. We eventually found the deed with the assistance of a Title company.

Unfortunately, before we had time to draft and sign the deed, my client passed away. The house, therefore, was not owned by the Trust. Accordingly, the house would pass through the Will, forcing probate. Because the Will states that one of his daughter is not to inherit, we expect there to be a contested proceeding.

It is all too common for individuals not to know exactly where their important documents are located. Whether they be Wills and Trusts, Powers of Attorney and Health Care Proxies, Deeds and Health Insurance information, or a list of bank accounts, it is important that you be organized and know where everything is located so that when the time, comes there are not unnecessary delays that cause unnecessary problems.

Estate Sale Tips

by Rosemarie Davidson

One of the challenges people face when moving to a smaller space is trying to figure out the best way to downsize their homes. Today, there are more options than ever, including online auction sites, charitable donations, traditional garage sales and estate sales.

“The way individuals choose to get rid of their possessions can be a very personal choice,” said Rosemarie Davidson, Owner/Partner of Long Island. “It usually depends on how attached you are to your things, how much time you have to invest, and how much your items are worth.”

Traditional garage sales often require a lot of work and result in very low return, while online auctions and estate sales are typically more profitable and efficient. Online auctions will garner your items both local and national exposure, while estate sales will draw loyal followers.

“These days, most of our clients opt for an estate sale,” Davidson said. “In the long run, an estate sale has all the benefits of the other methods and usually produces a better return on the effort.”

Enlist the Services of a Specialist

For people who do not have a lot of time to invest, an estate sale can be a very positive experience. Estate Sales are managed by professionals, such as Caring Transitions, that coordinate everything for an administrative fee and/or a percent of total sales. This includes doing a home inventory, pricing, advertising and marketing, set up and clean up, donations, heavy lifting, transportation and shipping of items.

The estate sale specialist advertises to a target audience of regular shoppers in addition to broad marketing. The audience that comes to your sale understands the process and is usually ready to buy.

Estate sale specialists know the market and will review your property and determine the approximate value of the sale. Their goal is to ensure you can sustain a profit after the sale is complete. No matter what you have to sell, it is always worth calling a specialist; however, a low-volume sale may not be in your best interest. The specialist will assess the situation and make recommendations based on your unique situation.

Choose Your Service Providers Wisely

It is rare that you will have a “bad” sale experience, but as with any residential service, it is always best to know how to evaluate your providers in order to avoid pitfalls.

Ask for references from any company you employ. You may even want to attend another sale they are managing to see how smoothly it runs. Always use a professional company that specializes in estate sales.

DO follow these guidelines:

  • Hire the specialist you feel you can trust and discuss payment methods before the contract is signed. Some specialists charge an administrative fee or “minimum” to prepare the sale and others include the fees in their commissions.
  • Discuss the specialist’s process for turning over hidden valuables or personal items found in the sorting process.
  • Understand it can take days or even a couple weeks to prepare for a sale. Preparation includes sorting, cleaning, tagging, merchandising the sale, advertising and selling.
  • Be sure you receive an itemized list of the items prior to the sale, as well as a list of the items sold.
  • Allow the specialist to clean the items. Some items are delicate and cleaning may result in damage to valuables.
  • Understand that age does not always equal value in an item. Authenticity is the true guide to value and the item also has to hold its value in today’s market. Your specialist has many resources to help them determine the value of special items.
  • Be sure to reserve the items your family wishes to keep and make sure everyone has a list of those items so they are not included in the sale or sales contract.

DO NOT allow inexperienced friends or family to run your sale. Despite good intentions and best efforts, this rarely produces optimal results and may cost more in the long run as they will have to purchase materials and displays, buy extra advertising, purchase signing and research items. The result is usually something like a failed garage sale, leaving you with a lot of unsold items and very little to show for the items that did sell.

DO NOT throw things away as you get ready for the specialist’s visit. As the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The specialist will sort though all the proposed sale items and help you decide what should be included in the sale. Does that include the oversized pea green vase? Yes! You never know who is going to love that green vase, even if you never have.

A skilled specialist understands the local buyer’s market and knows how to merchandise each and every item in the sale to optimize the return. They have display tables, blankets and quilts, jewelry trees, cases, dish displays and more to help create appeal for the buyer.

“Our sales are about honoring a lifetime of possessions and the history behind the home,” said Davidson. “Many of our shoppers find just as much joy sharing in the story of someone else’s life as they do finding the perfect bargain.”

After the sale, your specialists will remove the unsold items, arrange for donation, clean up the area and prepare the home for sale. Companies such as Caring Transitions will manage other facets of the process as well, including arranging for painting and repairs. Each service is slightly different, but true estate sale professionals work to serve you and help determine what is necessary to help you move ahead.

Rosemarie Davidson is Owner/Partner of Caring Transitions, 16 Park Drive Old Bethpage, NY
Phone 516-586-6567 www.caringtransitions.net/plainviewny

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

For many of us, every day is a chance to promote Down syndrome awareness—advocating for our children to be included in school and community activities, highlighting their talents, giving them opportunities to show just how much they have to share. The calendar, however, provides us with one month during the year when we can really step up those efforts. Here are some suggestions for how you might promote Down syndrome awareness in your community:

  • Distribute NADS posters and bookmarks to area schools, libraries, or businesses (you can order them through the NADS office or the website: www.nads.org)
  • Provide your obstetrician or your family doctor with updates about how your child is doing and, if they are receptive, with family photos or information about Down syndrome
  • Donate books about Down syndrome to your local school or library
  • Talk to your child’s class
  • Arrange for a NADS speaker to give a presentation at your child’s school or at an organization in your community
  • Contact local media about doing a human interest story about your family or about activities involving people with Down syndrome in your area
  • Write a letter to your local paper
  • Organize a special event during October to highlight the gifts of people with Down syndrome—a performance, or an art exhibit or a screening of a movie or video featuring characters with Down syndrome (you could also show the NADS video, Talents that Inspire)
  • Organize a “Down Syndrome Awareness Day” at a local restaurant or community event

October 2010 Public Awareness Activities:

Book Donation:
NADS board members are distributing books on Down syndrome in their local communities.

Artist Showcased:
Michael Johnson, a local artist with Down syndrome, will have his work showcased at Soothe Your Senses Salon, 6260 N. Broadway in Chicago. NADS posters and bookmarks will be available at the Salon as well.

Reverse Trick or Treating:
One family is promoting awareness by reverse trick or treating. This year as they go door to door asking for candy treats throughout the neighborhood on Halloween night, they also will give a treat. A lifesaver stapled to a NADS bookmark with a small label that reads “Thanks for all the support that this community has shown our family. It is their attempt at wider public awareness and it rests on the belief that the simple act of one person saying thank you for kindness can be very powerful. And if a child (especially a child with Down syndrome) gives this to an adult—it’s doubly powerful. What better public awareness can you have?

Suggestions?

If you have any successful public awareness strategies, we would love to hear about them. Please send your stories/suggestions to info@nads.org, and we will share them with others on our website.

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