August 17, 2019










Can You Just Write a Will and Get It Notarized?

Today we are in a do-it-yourself society.

You fix your plumbing. You perform your vehicle maintenance. You might even self-diagnose on the web versus visiting a doctor when you’re feeling unwell. While there are some things you could do yourself, legal paperwork is not one of them.

You might find yourself tempted to write your will and have it notarized – and assume that you’ve covered your ground. In reality, you may leave huge gaps in your asset protection and miss critical components of a solid estate plan, which puts you and your loved ones at risk.

Are Self-Made Wills Even Recognized by the Courts?

Yes, a self-made will is legal as long as you meet all of the state requirements at the time you draft it and if you have it notarized. The state requires two witnesses who are of legal age, yourself, and a notary present at the time it is notarized.

While legal, it doesn’t mean it is adequate.

The Real Problems with Self-Made Wills to Know

Whether you draft it from scratch yourself or you plan to use a do-it-yourself online service, you must know the issues with these self-made wills and how they affect not only your life, but the lives of loved ones if you were to pass away.

Assets Are Rarely Described Accurately (If at All)

When you create your will, you might not give the correct legal description for your assets or you may accidentally leave a few out. Likewise, you may reorganize assets, but forget to update your will addressing those changes. When you have beneficiaries assigned to non-existent assets, they will not receive any inheritance other than what was gifted to them – which may be nothing if you do not update your will.

If you do not list assets clearly, your executor may be unable to locate that asset or identify what it is. Not only does this open the door to a contest in court, but the probate court will have to decide what you may have meant in your will – meaning they will guess on your behalf.

Beneficiaries Are Not Identified Correctly

Another common error in self-made wills is that beneficiaries are not described clearly or within a group along with the date, such as saying “my grandchildren” as of a specific date. If you do not date it, then all grandchildren might apply. Likewise, if you were to leave assets to a charity but you do not provide the full, correct legal name, your executor may be unable to distribute assets to that charity.

You may also forget to list backup beneficiaries. Therefore, the court would decide using the most recent estate laws to determine how your assets will be distributed when a beneficiary is no longer alive.

Leaving Items to Pets

You might want to provide for a pet, but legally you cannot name that pet in your will and expect the law to allow it. Instead, you need to name a party who would handle your pet’s care, and that trusted party would then receive any assets you leave to use for their care. Some pet parents go as far as setting up a pet trust, which specifically addresses the nuances of leaving items to family pets after they pass away.

Putting Illegal Conditions on Distributions

You can put conditions in a will on how assets will be distributed, including how much a person will receive over time. However, this only works if you are clear and spell it out so that there is no room for interpretation or contest. Likewise, if your conditions are impractical or impossible to enforce, the court may dismiss them.

For example, demanding that a child lose weight before he or she can receive their inheritance is one that the court is unlikely to approve. This is because someone would have had to monitor that beneficiary and make sure they lost their weight before assets were distributed. This means paying an executor an outrageous amount of fees for an extended period, which may even drain estate funds entirely.

Ignoring End-of-Life Care and Heroic Measures

One of the most important parts of creating a will is also naming a party who will make financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become too ill or incapacitated. Without this designation, the courts would first appoint a party to make those decisions, and the party they select may not be the one you would have chosen yourself.

Forgetting about Care Instructions for Minor Children

Legally, you cannot leave assets to a child under the age of 18. Therefore, you must appoint a guardian to care for your underage children and put them in control of those assets. Likewise, you need a backup guardian in case the guardian you select can no longer care for your young children at the time they are requested. Without a backup guardian, the court must appoint one for your minor children and it could be a party you would not have wanted to raise your children.

Forgetting Past Beneficiary Designations

Another critical error common in self-made wills is beneficiaries and failing to coordinate them with beneficiary designations. When you create retirement accounts, stocks, and even bank accounts, you often are told to designate a beneficiary. The party you name then receives anything in those accounts upon your death.

In your will, you may designate the same party, but in some cases, you could name a different party. While you intended for the person in your will to receive that asset, beneficiary designation forms trump wills; therefore, someone that you named initially when you opened the account could receive your assets.

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney Offers the Best Protection

If you want an estate plan that truly thinks of everything, and if you want to avoid the common pitfalls of a DIY estate plan, speak with an attorney. An estate planning attorney knows the latest laws and how they will impact your will, and they can make sure that these common errors do not affect you and your loved ones when you need your will the most.

To get started, schedule a free consultation with the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today. You can schedule your appointment by calling 516-605-0625 or requesting more information online.

What Happens When an Estate Goes to Probate?

Probate is a legal process where a person’s estate is administered and officially closed out. All real property owned by the deceased is assessed by the court and then distributed to interested parties. While it sounds simple, probate is much more than reviewing a person’s assets and handing them over to beneficiaries. The process can take several months – and sometimes longer when complications arise.

When Is Probate Required for New York Estates?

Every state has rules in place for when and why an estate goes to probate. Estates without a will and those with only a Last Will and Testament typically go through probate. Probate court is necessary to pay all final debts, distribute assets to beneficiaries, and make sure a loved one’s wishes are carried out.

What Are the Steps of Probate and What Happens to the Assets?

Probate is complicated, and it involves multiple stages. Also, there are strict deadlines in the probate process, and missing just one can delay a case even further.

Authentication of the Last Will and Testament

If a will was created, then state law requires that the party in possession of that will submit it to the probate court as quickly as possible following the death. Typically, the will is submitted with an application to open the probate process, and a certified copy of the death certificate must be submitted with the documents, too.

The judge will review and decide if the will is valid, which requires a single court hearing. The notice of that hearing must be given to all named beneficiaries in the will and any heirs. The hearing also allows for family members to express concerns over the will’s validity and object to anything in the will. Also, it enables family members to look for more current versions of a will and ensure that the probate court is only using the most recently drafted version.

During this hearing, if the judge decides the will is valid, they will appoint an executor. The family members can object to the appointment at the hearing, but must provide valid reasoning for their objection.

If the will does not have any self-proving affidavits attached, then the judge may require witness testimony or a sworn statement from witnesses about the will’s validity, such as two adults who witnessed the deceased signed the will.

Appointing the Executor

The judge appoints the executor named in the will. If none are named or the one named is no longer available, then the court will pick a different administrator for the role. Usually, the court will appoint next of kin if no one is named or the previously named executor cannot fulfil their role. No one is obligated to serve. Therefore, if the court selects someone but they decline, the court must choose another suitable executor.

Once appointed, the executor receives their “letters of testamentary,” which give them permission to access assets and make transactions on behalf of the estate.

Locating Assets for the Estate

The executor must then find all assets and take them into possession to protect them during the process. Sometimes it takes time, especially if the deceased does not list all assets in their will correctly.

They must research assets, policies, tax returns, and other documentation to find all associated assets.

Then, the executor must make sure property taxes are paid, insurance policies kept current, and homes paid for until probate completes.

Determining Asset Values

Once all assets are accounted for, the executor then does a date of death value. This determines the value of the assets at the time of the death and is often done through appraisals or account statements. The executor then submits their written report with all assets and their value to the court.

Identifying and Informing Creditors of the Death

Next, the executor must locate and notify all creditors of the death, and they are also required to publish a death notification in the local newspaper. Creditors only have so long to make their claims against the estate before they are cut off.

Once creditors are found, the executor must then pay all debts using assets and funds from the estate – this includes homes, medical bills, and any outstanding payments owed.

Taxes

The executor will prepare and file the final tax return for the deceased’s estate and pay any taxes due at the time they file. Some assets might require liquidation to pay for these costs.

Distributing Assets to Beneficiaries

Once all creditors are paid, the executor then distributes the remaining assets to beneficiaries by the requests in the will. Usually, the executor must have the court’s approval before they start distribution.

While distributing assets, the executor must keep a running transaction log so that all beneficiaries can review it.

Would You Prefer to Avoid Probate?

As you can see, the process of probate requires numerous steps, and each of these takes time. On average, cases take six months to a year to finish probate – which means your loved ones may wait as long as 12 months to receive their inheritance.

Likewise, your estate’s information becomes public record.

If you prefer to keep your family’s inheritances private and expedite the process, you can avoid probate with a trust. A trust allows you to move all assets under the trust’s ownership, and upon your death, your trust’s assets are distributed based on guidelines you have provided in the trust documents. With a trust, your family does not endure the costs or hassles of probate court and you still control who receives what from your assets.

To explore whether a trust is the right option for you or to get assistance with probate, contact a local attorney with years of experience in estate planning like Andrew M. Lamkin. Schedule a free consultation today with the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., at 516-605-0625 or request more information online.

What Is the Difference between a Will and Estate Planning?

A will might be part of an estate plan, but it is not estate planning. All too often these terms are used synonymously, but in reality, they are quite different from one another. A will is a single drafted legal document, while estate planning dives deeper with multiple documents to protect your estate and your loved ones.

Wills and estate planning do seem interchangeable because they start the same, but once you get into the core functions of these processes, you quickly see how different they are from one another. A will and an estate plan are meant to protect your family and give relatives instructions on how your assets get distributed – but from there the differences begin. Estate plans dive deeper, focusing on your wishes regarding your health, finances, and even protect you and your assets while you are still alive – something a will cannot do.

It is best to meet with an estate planning attorney and see if a will is enough for your estate. In most cases, a will only scratch the surface. And if you think that you are completely set with only a will, you may leave yourself, your loved ones, and even your legacy in a bad position.

What Is a Will and What Does It Do?

A will, in comparison to estate planning, is relatively simple. Your will, officially known as the Last Will, dictates guardianship for minor children, who can take over your business, and what assets go to what beneficiaries.

In your will, you appoint an executor. Executors are responsible for handling all instructions in your will, locating assets, and distributing them. The executor also finalizes your estate, including paying any remaining debts on the estate, selling assets to handle those debts, and filing the final tax return.

A will does prevent family fights over which assets belong to which loved one, and it gives clear instructions for how to handle your property. It also makes it easier for loved ones to make those more difficult legal decisions as your wishes are outlined in the will itself.

Also, having a will saves your loved ones financially. Without a will, your estate must first go to probate court where a trustee is appointed. Family disputes may arise without a valid will in place, which can take funds away from the estate as well.

While the protections are limited, it is still best to have a will as a bare minimum.

What Is an Estate Plan, and What Does It Do?

An estate plan is much more in-depth than a will. It is an intensive process that can cost a lot more than a will, but it saves more in the long run. Your estate plan does include a will as well as various other legal documents that help protect your loved ones and assets upon your death. Also, an estate plan protects you while you are still alive but unable to manage your affairs.

The Addition of a Living Will

One of the key components of an estate plan is your living will. A living will is what protects you when you are still alive, but you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions on your behalf. With a living will, you pick a party who would be responsible for making medical decisions when you are incapacitated, including options for life-saving treatments, end-of-life care, extraordinary measures, and managing payments for your medical costs.

Having a living will clearly outline what you do and do not want if you become incapacitated, severely ill, or injured. Likewise, it appoints a single party (with an authorized backup in case your primary is unavailable) to carry out your wishes outlined in the living will. This saves your family frustration, time, and money by not fighting over who should make decisions for you while you are unable to do so.

The Addition of a Financial Power of Attorney

Another component added into an estate plan that you cannot do with an ordinary will is your financial power of attorney. Like your living will, your power of attorney gives a single party legal permission to make all financial choices on your behalf. They can perform financial transactions in your name and make business and other financial decisions based on what you have outlined in your power of attorney. You can place restrictions on which accounts your party has access to and what they can do with your assets and funds. Of course, appointing someone who is financially responsible is best – as they will have control over your assets.

Picking someone for your power of attorney is crucial. It protects your assets and keeps loved ones from experiencing any disruption in their financial stability while you are incapacitated.

Creating Beneficiary Designations

Another document you can use to protect your assets is beneficiary designations. These work outside of a trust, will, and other documents. Instead, they are directly associated with a specific account type (e.g., life insurance policies, bank accounts, or retirement accounts). On these accounts, you will fill out a form that lists your designated beneficiary, and these documents hold up well in court – ensuring no one disputes who receives your account funds or life insurance.

Extra Privacy with a Trust

Estates with only a will go through probate. Probate includes public records. This means your entire estate is something anyone can look up easily. If you decide to go with a trust, you place your assets in the trust, manage that trust, and appoint someone to administer it upon your death. Trusts skip over probate, and they keep your estate information secret.

Which Is Right for You? Meet with an Estate Planning Attorney

If you are not sure whether an estate plan or just a will is right for your family and assets, meet with an estate planning attorney to go over your options in detail.

Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., can help you decide which method offers your family the security and protection they need long after you are gone. Get started with a free case evaluation by calling our office at 516-605-0625 or requesting more information online.

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.

Reasons Siblings Fight and Contest Wills – and How to Prevent It

When you draft your will, you have the best intentions for your loved ones. You want to provide for them, make sure they have a healthy financial future, and have a little extra for what they need.

Unfortunately, when wills go through probate, emotions, combined with high sums of money, take over. This can lead to fights among siblings, rivalries, and even a contest to your will. Will contests are incredibly costly for your estate and the beneficiaries of your estate.

Therefore, knowing why siblings fight over a will may help you implement a plan to prevent those fights and leave little room for an expensive day in court.

Most Common Reasons Siblings Contest Wills

First of all, realize that a simple fight among siblings is not grounds to contest a will. One sibling may disagree with another, but that does not give them legal ground to challenge the will in court. Instead, there must be a valid ground for contesting.

However, one sibling may take their disagreement and twist it to match one of those common grounds. This is why you should prepare your estate for these situations – regardless of how well the family gets along right now.

One Sibling Receives More Than the Other

If you have more than one child, you may choose to split your estate unevenly. For example, you have two children. In your will, you leave 75 percent of your estate to your eldest and 25 percent to the youngest.

Cases like these almost always lead to a dispute among siblings. One sibling may later try to claim that the will was made under undue influence or that it is forged to favor the older sibling.

If you plan to leave uneven amounts to your children, discuss it with them first so they know ahead of time the amount they are receiving and why you picked those designations. You could also consider alternatives, such as leaving higher value property to one sibling but splitting cash assets equally. Ideally, splitting all assets evenly among your children is best to avoid conflict. But if you do not wish to do so, discuss it, detail it in the will, and put a meeting on the record to avoid hiccups later.

More Than One Will Exists

If you have revised a will or created a new one, your executor must have access to the most recent will. If they attempt to carry out provisions you left in an old will, the newer discovered version will supersede the older one.

Typically, your most recent will would have a statement about how any past versions are invalid. Also, you should have all documents appropriately dated so that, if there is a disagreement about which will is the most recent, the dates will prove their chronological order.

One Child Receives Favoritism

Did you have a child that was always treated as the favorite? Upon your death, that resentment has already built up. And if favored in the will, you may see a rivalry brew in court. One argument may be that the child with favoritism used undue influence to get what they wanted in the will. For example, you resided with one child, financially cared for them while you were alive, and now you leave everything to them in the will. In return for your financial support, this child cared for you. However, the other siblings may use that as an argument for undue influence, stating the one sibling, acting as your caretaker for your day-to-day life, influenced you to leave them all of your assets.

Siblings with a History of Drug or Substance Abuse

Unfortunately, some siblings with a history of substance abuse or even a poor financial history can become the center of accusations during will execution. One sibling might try to accuse another of will fraud, stating that they fraudulently got a parent to sign the will in favor of them, while their parent thought they were signing a health care proxy.

Having proper witnesses when you sign a will is critical. Because not only does the state require a witness, but witnesses can help fight any claims of fraudulent signing or even undue influence accusations.

Co-Trustees

There is one governor of New York, one President of the U.S., and one CEO of a company for a reason: you cannot have too many people managing the same thing. You need an executor to move quickly and make decisions to hurry along the process and distribute assets.

Multiple executors or trustees slows the process. And if the siblings tend to bicker, it will only get worse when it involves money.

Pick one trustee or executor and consider not picking one of your children if they already have a rivalry going on. A neutral third-party may perform better in these situations.

Excluding a Sibling Entirely

A child or beneficiary left out of the will or trust entirely is sure to create a contest situation. After all, the one already left out has nothing to lose by challenging the validity of the will in court.

If you choose to exclude one child from your estate, update your documents and consider creating a trust. Trusts work as a modern disinheritance, and they protect your estate from will contests when one child is left out.

Work Alongside an Attorney to Avoid Sibling Rivalry

While no one can predict the future, you can better your chances of a smooth estate administration when you work with an estate planning attorney. An attorney can get to know your family dynamics. And when you present situations that typically cause a contest, your attorney can look for ways to protect your estate and beneficiaries.

A well-drafted estate plan takes time, and it must be updated annually or at least reviewed to ensure you are not opening the door for contests later.

To create an estate plan that protects your loved ones, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., today. Let us help you with your potential contest situation and find solutions that will lessen the financial burden on your estate and your family.

Schedule a free case evaluation by calling 516-605-0625 or request information online

Can I Leave Property in a Trust for My Grandchildren?

As a grandparent, you want to secure a healthy financial future for your grandchildren.

One of the better ways to do that is through a trust. Trusts, in general, are excellent ways to pass assets to beneficiaries, and they can also help your grandchildren achieve their goals later in life.

If you are considering leaving property or some of your assets to your grandchildren, but you do not want to gift them outright, discuss your options for setting up a trust with attorney, Andrew M. Lamkin, today.

Why Plainview Residents Use a Trust for Grandchildren 

Putting money, property, and assets into a trust for your grandchildren allows you to:

  • Create Rules for Their Inheritance: You are in control of their inheritance. That means you can put guidelines on how they can use their inheritance and even when they will receive it.
  • Use Milestones for Releases: You can set up milestones over your grandchild’s lifespan so that they do not receive all of their inheritance at once.
  • Protect Property from Dangers: You have no way to tell what your grandchildren’s life will be like as they get older. But by adding protections through a trust, you can ensure that their inheritance is not harmed from things like debt collectors, divorce, or even substance abuse issues.
  • Help Them Meet Their Goals: You can help your grandchildren go to school, get a master’s degree, or even buy their first home. If you have a grandchild that plans to open his or her own business someday, the property you leave them may help them reach that goal.

What about Estate Taxes?

Trusts may be subjected to Generation Skipping Tax (GST) when established for grandchildren. Under the 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, however, the GST exemption was added as a second layer exemption. Right now, the GST exemption is the same as the regular estate tax. Therefore, as of 2018, you can leave up to $11.2 million in property to each grandchild without them paying an estate tax. After $11.2 million, they would have to pay.

Establishing a Trust for Your Grandchildren – Where Do You Start?

Trusts are relatively quick and straightforward to set up. But if you have multiple grandchildren or you plan to leave inheritances to your grown children, too, the process becomes more complicated. Also, you want to ensure you set up your trust correctly, especially if your grandchildren are still considered legal minors.

In most cases, you will establish an irrevocable trust. This means, once the trust is established, you cannot change it or reclaim property within it.

Select a Trustee with Care

Be cautious about whom you pick as a trustee. Your trustee approves any distributions from the trust and manages trust funds. You can choose a family member for this position, or you have the option of a neutral third-party. If you are worried that family emotions may affect how the trust is managed, a third party with no ties to your trust could be the better option for ensuring your wishes are met and assets are distributed in accordance to your instructions.

Choose the Right Type of Trust

Once you decide that you want to establish a trust for your grandchildren, the next step is to choose between the two primary types:

  1. Family Pot Trust: A family pot trust is ideal if you have a large family and a trustworthy trustee that you can ensure will distribute assets properly. With this option, you have one trust and the trustee decides how much or when to distribute property to grandchildren and other beneficiaries. Pot trusts allow you to leave a financial legacy that will provide for future generations, too.
  2. Individual Trust for Each Grandchild: If you do not like the idea of a pot trust, or you worry that your grandchildren may not receive the distributions you intended, then an individual trust in their name for the handful of grandchildren may be better. You can put equal amounts of money or property into each grandchild’s trust as well.

Be Specific and Leave Stipulations

Trusts are meant to ensure your loved ones are provided for and that they received assets when you want them to receive them. You can work alongside your trust attorney to make sure the language is specific and suits your needs. Stipulations will influence not only when and how much grandchildren receive of their trust funds, but also how they can use the funds.

Often, grandparents will set up key life milestones, such as distributions at 20, 25, 30, and 35. You can also leave instructions to a trustee regarding early distributions for purchasing a house or paying for college tuition.

Discuss the Trust with Family First

If you plan to leave funds to grandchildren, have a family meeting and make sure everyone understands where they stand and how you plan to distribute your wealth. If your grandchildren are minors, explain how the trust works to their parents. Also, make sure the trustee is present at your family meeting to answer questions and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Find a Trust Attorney in Your Area Today

If you are ready to leave a financial legacy to your grandchildren, speak with the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., to establish your individual or generation-skipping trust for your family today.

We will go over your options, discuss what is beneficial considering your grandchildren’s ages and needs, then get the process started so that you can transfer property into the trust and officially fund it.

We work hard to ensure all trust documents follow state laws, and we help our clients provide for their loved ones years after they have passed.

Your legacy is important to you, and you want to see it live on through your grandchildren. Let our law firm help make that possible.

Schedule a free consultation with our firm today regarding a trust for your grandchildren. We offer free consultations at 516-605-0625, or you can request more information online.

Common Mistakes Made by Executors and How to Avoid Them

The job of being an estate’s executor is not an easy one. This is why, when you designate someone, you do so with extra care. You pick someone organized, efficient, and mentally ready for the job ahead.

Whether you are working to pick an executor or you were named the executor of an estate, there is much to still be done. One of the most critical tasks is finalizing the will and distributing the assets. While this sounds relatively simple, it is a highly complicated process where numerous opportunities for mistakes occur.

With the honor and privilege of being named comes great responsibility, family disputes, deadlines, and the risk of finding yourself named in a lawsuit.

Many of these hassles of the job can be avoided just by understanding your role and the common mistakes others made before you. Knowing the issues to avoid can prevent hiccups in the estate’s administration and let you get back to your life and work as quickly as possible.

What Mistakes Do Executors of Plainview Estates Make the Most?

To err is human.

Only, in the case of an estate, you are dealing with high emotions, family members who may not have good relationships, and money. Those three issues combined create a cesspool of contention. To not stir the pot, be sure you avoid these common executor mistakes:

Paying Estate Expenses Immediately

You are practicing your due diligence and assuming you are doing the job right by paying every outstanding bill immediately. However, not all bills are due, and in some cases, these expenses do not come from estate funds. Before you start writing checks and making payments, consult with an attorney.

Furthermore, if the deceased had an illness, more medical costs are likely to come through. And if you spend too much on expenses early on, it may offset the liquid assets.

Not Identifying All Assets of the Estate Correctly

One of the first tasks an executor does is locate and catalog all assets of the estate. When filing for probate, the executor will explain the assets found, their estimated value, and then identify which party receives them based on the will.

Some executors rush this process because the courts only allow so much time to issue a report to them. Doing so quickly means they overlook assets, and those assets then later must be disclosed to the court again. Missing assets the first time costs the estate and increases the wait time for beneficiaries. Furthermore, it may create liability issues with creditors, especially those who are affected by the oversight.

Distributing Assets Too Early

As an executor, you must distribute assets quickly and resolve the estate. But doing so before knowing the true scope of expenses only hurts you and the estate more.

You must administer timely, but also aim to pay all debts and liabilities first before distributing assets. Typically, an estate is administered within one year of the date of death. However, taxes, expenses, and other liabilities come first. If you were to distribute too early, and you did not hold onto sufficient estate funds to cover those liabilities, you would have to recoup funds from beneficiaries – which is almost impossible, in some instances. Often beneficiaries move, spend their inheritance, or become uncooperative.

Therefore, wait for all bills to apply. And if there are any outstanding medical costs still pending with insurers, wait for those to process so that you understand the full scope of expenses and know how much funds you need to reserve for them. You may be able to distribute certain assets while holding on to a reserve for any pending costs, but speak with an estate administration attorney first before doing so.

Waiting Too Long to Distribute

While you must be diligent and ensure you have the funds to pay for estate taxes and other debts, waiting too long is an issue as well. Not only will creditors and beneficiaries become anxious and possibly threaten lawsuits, but it can cost the estate unnecessary expense as you battle these claims in court.

Also, not administering an estate promptly could constitute a breach of your fiduciary duty, because you would not be acting in the best interest of the estate anymore. Beneficiaries can file a lawsuit against you, and you may pay from personal finances for any unnecessary costs inflicted on the estate due to your refusal to administer the estate.

Misinterpreting Terms of the Will

Unfortunately, a poorly written will leaves too much room for interpretation. It is the executor’s role to interpret the wishes of the deceased and carry out those wishes as they distribute the estate’s assets. If you misinterpret terms or blatantly ignore terms you disagree with, you may find a petition to remove you from your role and you could be personally liable for any costs associated with doing so.

Not Seeking Legal Counsel

One of the biggest mistakes executors make is not hiring an attorney at a reasonable time.

An attorney can help with the administration of the estate and with any tax filings or disputes, and ensure that the will is executed properly. Furthermore, an attorney helps protect the executor from the frivolous creditor and bitter beneficiary claims and can help protect them from being held personally liable for estate matters.

Need Assistance with Your Role as an Executor? Contact an Attorney in New York

New York probate courts are complicated, and your role as an executor can be overwhelming – especially if you have a life of your own.

Do not let the task of administering an estate affect your life. Instead, get the assistance you need and the guidance for navigating estate laws for New York. Speak with attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., today to explore your options.

You can schedule your free case evaluation now at 516-605-0625 or request more information online.

If you are currently writing a will and you would like assistance with your estate plan and designating an executor, the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., can assist you as well. We are a full-service estate planning law firm that can help with everything from wills to trusts to Medicaid planning and estate litigation.

How to Qualify for Medicare and Medicaid: A Planning Guide for Seniors

Retirement is around the corner. And while you have most of your retirement planning complete, the one area you put off is now knocking at the door.

Medicare and Medicaid become staples for retirees in New York. Without them, you do not have coverage for prescriptions, medical costs, and even nursing care. Therefore, it is time to pull out your paperwork and get ready to apply.

Being prepared, understanding how the process works, and ensuring you qualify are all critical when it comes to government insurance programs. These programs have strict requirements and deadlines. And when one misstep occurs, you experience lengthy delays.

It is best to consult with an attorney that has Medicare and Medicaid planning experience. Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., can assist you with these steps, help allocate assets appropriately to qualify financially, and advise you on the process for both programs and which program you may be eligible for.

Medicare Planning for Plainview Residents

Medicare coverage in New York comes in various options; therefore, explore each and see which might work for you and your healthcare needs. New York uses the federal options of original Medicare (Part A and Part B), and the Medicare-approved insurance plans like Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage.

Here is how each of these work:

  • Medicare Part A and B: This is primary insurance coverage. Part A focuses on hospitalization insurance, while Part B is general health insurance.
  • Medicare Advantage Part C: Plans for Part C come through private health insurance companies but must be approved as part of the Medicare program. These cover the same as Part A and B, but also give dental, vision, and prescription drug coverage benefits.
  • Medicare Supplements: Supplemental insurance plans help fulfill gaps between Advantage Part C, and original coverage. These come with up to ten various plans.
  • Medicare Part D: Prescription coverage under Advantage Part C may not be enough, depending on the number of prescriptions you take each year. Part D provides a stand-alone prescription coverage that works with Part A and Part B, saving you the hassle and cost of adding on Part C when you do not need the additional coverages it has.

When Do You Qualify for Medicare?

Applications for Medicare are accepted once you can show your legal residency in New York for a consistent five-year period and if you are 65 years or older. In some rare instances, you may qualify if you are under 65 if you have a qualifying disability or condition. Luckily, you automatically enroll in Medicare if a spouse or you already receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board Benefits or are diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS).

Medicaid Planning for Plainview Residents

Medicaid is more complicated than Medicare. Medicaid covers medical costs and insurance for residents of the state who cannot afford to do so themselves. You may qualify when you have high medical costs, receive Supplemental Security Income, and you meet the strict financial requirements.

Applications for Medicaid differ from Medicare. You do not automatically enroll. Instead, you must meet the Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) rules then apply through the NY State of Health or by using a Managed Care Organization (MCO).

Groups that qualify for Medicaid include:

  • Pregnant women;
  • Infants and children under the age of 19 years;
  • Childless adults between the ages of 19 and 64 whom certify as disabled and do not receive Medicare;
  • Parents and caretakers of sick relatives;
  • Family planning benefit recipients; and
  • Children in registered foster care programs.

What the Government Considers When Reviewing Applications for Medicaid

Medicaid is no cost to the recipient. Therefore, the government is strict about who can receive this medical benefit.

Medicaid is a joint insurance program through New York and the federal government. It pays for nursing homes and health aides for those who qualify. Unfortunately, too many qualified applicants assume they will not be accepted; so they do not try to receive benefits.

While the requirements are strict and hundreds of applications are denied each year, often, it is because the applicant did not go through the proper planning stages ahead of time. Working alongside an estate attorney with Medicaid planning experience is crucial here. An attorney establishes a plan that helps move assets and allows you to qualify under the financial requirements.

The Department of Social Services looks at three primary factors when considering qualification:

  1. The needs of the applicant and the care they seek in their application
  2. The income of the applicant and spouse, including pensions, retirement benefits, rental or investment dividends, and Social Security benefits received monthly
  3. Assets and resources of the applicant and their spouse, including home value, investments, cash, and insurance policies

Depending on the Medicaid program you apply for, one or more of these three will be heavily weighed in the decision-making process.

The Various Medicaid Programs and Options

You should only apply for the type of program you need and would likely qualify for. For example, the Community Based Medicaid program is for those who need a home health aide to assist with daily living. This plan has income requirements. And assets, including homes, are considered as part of the income cut-off.

The Benefit of Hiring a Medicaid and Medicare Planning Attorney

While you could plan yourself, an attorney is valuable in Medicaid and Medicare planning. Obtaining these state and federal insurance programs is complicated, and the process can be drawn out unnecessarily when things are not done right.

At the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., you receive an advocate with years of experience in estate planning and Medicaid qualification requirements. He understands the complexities of these government programs, and he can ensure that you not only apply for the programs you qualify for, but prepare your estate so that you can receive your much needed benefits without unnecessary delays.

To get started, speak with attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., during a free case evaluation. Schedule your appointment now by calling 516-605-0625 or request more information online.

The Dangers of Using Downloaded Estate Planning Templates

Today, you can do almost anything online.

You can open a bank account, start a retirement, open a business, and more. With the plethora of do-it-yourself websites out there and articles showing you the steps, you might assume that you can create your estate plan using one of these sites and save yourself thousands.

Unfortunately, estate planning is not something you should use a premade template for. Doing so could risk your estate and cause more hassle for your loved ones later.

State laws vary, and do-it-yourself templates are generalized: meaning, they do not specify by state. Therefore, you could use a general template that violates state estate laws, and the court will find it invalid, which means the court will not recognize the plan anyway.

The Reasons Plainview Residents Should Never Use a DIY Estate Plan

You have worked hard to build your estate, so why risk giving your family much less than you anticipated just to save some money creating an estate plan?

If you are convinced a DIY estate plan is just fine, here are a few reasons to reconsider:

You Are Not Receiving an Expert’s Review

DIY estate plans are missing one key element: a legal professional. There is nothing wrong with wanting to save money, but when you do so, you skip out on being able to consult with an attorney. These documents often do not create the results you intend for them to. And if you do not understand the legal or technical aspects of estate planning, you are putting your entire estate at risk.

For example, you sign the deed of your house over to your trust. However, you didn’t create the trust in accordance with state laws; therefore, it was never active. Now, your home is not part of the trust as you intended.

You Do Not Have a Personalized Estate Plan

Every estate is unique, and that is the point of meeting with an estate planning attorney. You want to draft a plan that addresses the unique aspects of your beneficiaries, estate, and assets.

Estate templates are strictly generic. They do not look for those unique factors that make you stand out from the crowd. Using these means you could miss out on a chance to avoid probate, avoid heavy estate tax, and your property might not transfer to the right party.

You Are Unlikely to Follow State Laws

These DIY tools are not specific to the state where you live – even if they advertise as such. Instead, they are a generic one-size-fits-all template. For example, New York has different laws than California, especially when it comes to estate tax and probate. Therefore, your generic DIY template is unlikely to address these laws.

Furthermore, when you create an estate plan, do you follow up on the latest changes to the law? The law regarding assets and estates changes more often than you think, which means your template might be obsolete in as little as a year.

You Might Miss the Hidden Disclaimers

Online programs typically have disclaimers, but they do not make these readily seen.

Commonly, these sites or books will have statements that the information is not a substitute for legal advice nor is it legal. These statements are published because they are legally required, but that doesn’t mean the company makes them easy to spot. The print could be fine, hidden at the bottom of the page under other content, or in areas where these websites often assume you will not read.

You Could Grant Too Much Power to Another Person

While you have the right intention with your estate plan, you might inadvertently grant too much power to another person, especially when that power of attorney document is not clearly written. Ambiguous statements are left to interpretation, which means they might not be interpreted in the way you intended them to be.

The best way to avoid this is to work with an attorney. You can tell them your wishes and the amount of power you want the individual to have. Your attorney can then clearly articulate that in your power of attorney to avoid any confusion.

You Might Not Include Your Business

DIY kits rarely have the capacity to address issues like business succession. Therefore, your estate plan is unlikely to dictate what you want done with your business after death – including whether you want the company sold, who will take over leadership, and so forth.

You Do Not Receive the Complexity Required for Unique Cases

Do you have children? Are they minors? Do you need to set up a special needs trust for an adult child who is disabled? Online programs rarely address complex estate planning issues such as these. Furthermore, they might not adequately address guardianship for minor children. This means the courts would have to decide who gets custody of your children and how the funds are managed for them.

You Are Less Likely to Update Your Will

Estate plans are not a one-time-only situation. You create them, but you can never forget them. You should review them annually and update them when you have significant changes. For example, you might have divorced, but did you create a new estate plan addressing that fact? If not, you may have some issues when it comes time to use your health care directive or when assets are distributed.

Avoid the Hassles: Speak with an Attorney about Your Estate Plan Today

Estate planning is more cost-effective than you might think. Most attorneys charge a single fee for your plan. And when you consider what goes into a well-drafted plan, it is worth every penny.

To save your loved ones from having to deal with an estate plan deemed invalid by the courts, skip the unknowns; get an estate plan that follows New York probate and asset laws, and one that can adjust to future legislative changes as well.

Get started by scheduling a consultation with an attorney today at the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C.

Call 516-605-0625 to schedule your free consultation or contact us online with your questions about estate planning services.

5 Trending Topics in Elder Law to Know Today

More baby boomers are hitting 65 each day and will continue to do so into 2030. Therefore, the issues surrounding elder law are becoming more mainstream, especially as more enter or head toward retirement and start looking at the facts.

From Medicare to long-term care coverage to Social Security, there is a lot to know about elder law. Naturally, it is best to speak with an attorney any time you have a question or concern in these areas. This is because an elder law lawyer focuses specifically in this area, is apprised of the latest legislature changes, and can help prepare you for the road ahead.

5 Important, Trending Topics That Plainview Elder Law Attorneys Want You to Know

The more prepared you are for the later years, the easier it will be when it comes to securing benefits, finding long-term care, and protecting your loved ones. Here are a few trending topics attorneys are seeing – and that you should be aware of, too.

Topic 1: Alzheimer’s Disease and Estate Planning

Dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease, is not just a loss of memory. As it progresses, most patients with dementia lose their ability to function from day-to-day. They can forget to take medications, not remember their name, or confuse the current time with one year ago.

In 2018, an estimated 5.7 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Every 65 seconds in the US, someone develops the disease whether it is diagnosed or not. While it typically affects people later in life, there is a type known as early on-set that can strike much earlier without warning.

Once the disease is diagnosed, estate planning becomes incredibly complicated. No longer is the individual considered legally capacitated, which means they do not have the authority to make decisions themselves.

Elder law attorneys understand the complications that arise when a person is diagnosed or suffering from severe dementia but needs to create a plan to protect themselves and their loved ones – including assigning a guardian to oversee their best interests.

Topic 2: Medicaid and Nursing Home Costs

If you have limited assets and no or minimal income but you need nursing home care, you may wonder how you can pay for it. Medicaid might help in this situation, but you need to plan it properly and apply correctly to avoid unnecessary delays.

Nursing homes fall under long-term care, and Medicare rules are different regarding long-term care over short-term care needs.

It is not just qualifying for Medicare that poses an issue. Other issues come into play like state regulations and whether the nursing home you have selected even accepts Medicare or Medicaid benefits.

An attorney helps with Medicaid planning, but can also assist with long-term care planning long before you need nursing home services so that you do not scramble last minute to cover for your nursing home needs.

Topic 3: Veteran’s Benefits

Those who served in the military are eligible for benefits through Veterans’ Affairs. Veterans receive monthly compensation checks, but may also receive VA health care and nursing care through the Veteran’s pension.

Furthermore, the veteran’s pension may pass to the spouse in eligible situations after the death of the person who qualified for the benefits initially.

However, there are asset limitations to these benefits. And if you are a veteran or spouse of a veteran, it is important you understand the rules for VA benefits, including health services. Furthermore, having a long-term care plan in place ensures that you allocate assets appropriately to avoid disqualifying for veterans and other federal benefits available.

Topic 4: Social Security

Social security is available between the age of 62 and full retirement, but most people will not start taking the benefit until they have retired. Some might even delay until they reach 70 – depending on their financial situation.

While you might qualify for social security, you cannot rely on it solely to support you in retirement. Regardless of your plans with social security, you need to plan for Medicare and plan at age 65 to avoid an increased premium later.

Furthermore, if you work closely with an elder law attorney, you can create a long-term plan that focuses on your social security options, prepares your assets for Medicare, and still provides for your family.

Topic 5: Estate Plans

One of the most important services offered by an elder law attorney is estate plans. These plans dictate where your assets go upon your death, and they provide for your loved ones. If you are nearing retirement but have not yet created an estate plan, now is the time to start.

Estate plans are complex and more than just a binder of paperwork. A comprehensive, well-drafted estate plan focuses on:

  • Last Will and Testament
  • Power of Attorney
  • Living Trust
  • Medical Directives
  • Designations for Beneficiaries

Together, these components not only identify beneficiaries and what they will receive from your estate, but it also outlines what medical care you want to receive if you become incapacitated. Additionally, it appoints a person to manage the estate and your financial affairs when you cannot and looks out for your best interests.

With a trust, you might save your family the hassles of probate court as well.

Meet with an Estate Planning Attorney Today

Whether you are worried about qualifying for Medicare or you want to get started on your estate plan, speak with an attorney that has experience in elder law.

The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., has extensive knowledge of the trending topics in elder law and hot issues on the horizon. We can create an estate plan that is futureproof and considers the long-term care you need, including when you cannot make decisions yourself.

Meet with attorney Lamkin today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling 516-605-0625. You can also request more information about elder law online.

Can You Stop Probate Once It Starts?

The probate process typically starts after your loved one passes away.

The purpose is to administer the estate of that deceased person, and it gives an opportunity for heirs to challenge the will if they feel there was tampering. Most probates go through without issue.

However, there could come a time when legal heirs want to challenge a will or stop the process of probate entirely.

Stopping probate requires an attorney to file a probate caveat.

Caveats cannot be filed haphazardly. And once probate starts, there is no guarantee your case would qualify for caveats. Understanding how this legal process works, when it applies, and who can file it is your first step toward seeing if it is an option for you.

Naturally, you should consult with an estate attorney before assuming a caveat is viable.

The Basics of Caveat: When Can You Stop Probate in Plainview, NY?

Probate caveats are legal maneuvers that give notice to the probate court to suspend the process. Caveats must file before probate begins as a pre-probate legal action. Caveats prevent the estate’s executor from administering the estate or moving forward with the process.

Also, a caveat tells the court about discrepancies found in the estate plan and allows for any contests to move forward. Once the caveat files, the probate process is suspended until the reason for the caveat is resolved.

Who Can File a Caveat?

Anyone with interest in the estate, not just the executor, can file the notice. However, it is best to hire an attorney to file on your behalf.

Also, creditors may file caveats.

Anyone affected by probate can file a caveat to stop the process. The party that files a probate caveat is named the caveator. Caveats are used for specific situations, including:

  • The caveator suspects the will was forged and not approved or signed by the deceased.
  • The caveator suspects that the deceased made the will under duress.
  • The caveator alleges there was no will and wants to prevent the executor from administering the property of that will intestate.
  • The caveator suspects the deceased was mentally incapacitated; therefore, they could not legally sign their will.
  • The caveator is in the middle of a dispute about including an heir in the will or excluding an heir from the will.

To File the Caveat or Not: When Is a Caveat Necessary?

Caveats do not always work as an advantage to the party filing them. Therefore, you should only submit a caveat after consulting with an attorney and deciding it is the best solution for your situation.

The benefit of a caveat is that a temporary, neutral party is then named by the court to serve as an administrator during this challenge. This means, if you wanted the original executor removed, you do not have to worry about them continuing to manage the estate while the caveat finalizes.

The neutral party named prevents the current executor from accessing assets, but that neutral party comes at an expense to the estate. Therefore, the process of completing a caveat can be expensive.

Also, caveat results are appealable, which means that the result you get might go for further hearings and eventually cost your estate more.

How Can an Executor Fight a Caveat?

Sometimes, the executor must remove the caveat to execute the will effectively. If you are an administrator of a will and a caveat has been filed, you should consult with an attorney.

Caveats are the first step to a will contest, which means that a contest hearing is likely to come next. Furthermore, a caveat prevents you from doing what is necessary to complete the estate and fulfill your obligations as an executor.

Do You Need an Attorney for a Caveat?

Whether you are filing the caveat or you wish to remove a caveat, an estate attorney is almost always necessary. Rarely is an administrator or the party filing a caveat familiar with estate laws, including the grounds for a caveat and how to file the petition itself.

Not only do you need to review the will and object to the caveat, but you need to understand the law so that you can regain control of the estate and continue your obligations as the executor. An experienced attorney knows the caveat process and can stop unnecessary will contests from affecting the estate for months.

Will Contests Can Still Happen after Probate

Even if you successfully remove the caveat and complete probate, an heir can contest a will after probate. Note that there are time limits on how long one has to challenge after probate starts. And once the estate is administered, the chances of succeeding at a will contest are quite low.

Finding the Right Lawyer for the Job

If you are an administrator of an estate dealing with a caveat or you are an heir that wishes to stop probate, you must consult with an estate attorney.

You want an attorney that has experience in estate litigation and one that can quickly focus on the matter at hand to prevent any unnecessary delays. The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., can help with your case. We look for the fastest, most cost-efficient way to resolve your estate issues – including caveats and contests.

To explore your options or to discuss your issues with a caveat, contact our law firm for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

Call to schedule your consultation appointment now at 516-605-0625 or request more information online.

3 Big Issues an Elder Law Attorney Can Help Resolve

An elder law attorney serves as your advocate and also your family’s guide.

This area of the law specializes in the unique range of financial and legal matters older adults face, including everything from health care planning to long-term care to guardianship and estate planning.

An elder law attorney is a specialist because they focus specifically on the issues afflicting those in retirement or venturing close to it.

When you go to an elder law attorney, they have a vast array of services they provide you. But there are three critical legal issues they can resolve.

Most importantly, elder law attorneys are better equipped to handle issues like Medicare or Medicaid planning and the sensitive needs of elderly individuals and their families. They are well versed in the latest laws and legislature. They can help you, not only today, but they can also anticipate your future needs as well.

What 3 Important Legal Issues a Plainview, NY, Elder Law Attorney Can Help You With

The services an elder law attorney can provide are extensive, but there are three critical issues that they can help resolve before they turn into more significant problems.

Whether you have an elder attorney already or you are considering hiring one, here are three critical issues that you want to make sure you get resolved now rather than later.

Long-Term Care Planning

Long-term care planning involves considering your care requirements at a later date. This includes healthcare teams, nursing homes, and assisted living options. You might also want to prepare for in-home nursing care.

Most families are ill-prepared to pay for such services. And even with insurance coverage, you might find that you do not have the benefits available to cover care for several years.

You have options to pay for your long-term care, and an attorney will help you unlock those options. Elder law attorneys counsel their clients regarding eligibility and look for programs like Veterans’ Affairs that might help pay for these services. Even if you do not qualify for VA benefits, you may have Medicaid or Medicare, which pays for long-term care.

Your attorney not only helps you prepare for applying for these benefits, but they help with asset management so that you will qualify financially.

Creating an Advance Directive (Living Will)

Elder law attorneys create estate plans, but they also can create vital documents like a living will. A living will, also known as an advanced directive, is your advocate designation if you become ill or incapacitated and cannot make medical decisions yourself.

Your living will discusses all your medical wishes. It is a legal, written document that outlines how you wish to receive emergency care. You can discuss topics like resuscitation, life-saving measures, surgeries, and any end-of-life treatments you want to receive or do not want to receive.

You should discuss these options with your primary care physician and your family. When you select a party as your healthcare advocate, it is their job to carry out all wishes listed in your living will.

One common use of an advanced directive is to determine the use of life-saving measures like being placed on a ventilator.

The Importance of Thinking Ahead – and Using Specifics

One error made with an advanced directive is that most people cannot address their mortality. They do not want to think ahead about what might happen or what the future holds. Furthermore, they may forget situations where medical decisions might be required.

It is vital that you work with your attorney to be as specific as you can in your document. While you cannot account for every possible situation, the more information you have in that document, the easier it will be for your healthcare advocate to comply with your wishes.

Durable Financial Power of Attorney

Another common issue that your attorney helps with is the durable financial power of attorney. This document provides access to one individual to manage your financial needs in the event you are incapacitated and cannot do so yourself.

The document grants power to one person, which might be a family member. They have the legal authority to access your accounts, pay bills on your behalf, sell or acquire assets, and even pay taxes.

You are in complete control of the authority they have over your financial decisions. In your durable power of attorney, you can decide the following tasks they may or may not do:

  • Pay bills
  • Pay and file taxes
  • Pay for medical costs
  • Manage real estate
  • Access your bank accounts
  • Invest
  • Collect retirement benefits for your use
  • Transfer or sell assets
  • Hire an attorney for your estate
  • Operate your business
  • Buy insurance

Realize that an agent does not have unlimited power. Instead, you dictate the power they have in your document.

Other Problems an Elder Law Attorney Can Resolve

While these three are the primary problems elder law attorneys are hired to handle, they have much more to their services than that. An attorney can also help you with:

  • Counseling you on insurance and avoiding gaps in coverage
  • Assessing your needs for legal capacity counseling
  • Protecting you or representing you in elder abuse
  • Advising you on housing options after retirement
  • Discussing the best route for your retirement
  • Helping with guardians, conservators, and trustees to handle your estate
  • Creating an estate plan
  • Helping plan for disabilities

Explore the Options Available – Meet with an Elder Law Attorney in Your Area Today

If you are ready to explore your options and see what an attorney can do for you, schedule a consultation with an elder law attorney.

Get started today by scheduling a free case evaluation with the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., by calling 516-605-0625 or request more information online.

Making an Estate Plan? Do Not Forget Your Business Succession Plan, Too

If you have a family business or started a company that you would like to keep in the family after you pass away, you need to create a succession plan. Even if you wish to sell that business, speaking with an estate planning attorney about your business’s future is critical – and you can incorporate your business succession plan into your estate plan.

Why Plainview Business Owners Need an Estate Plan and a Succession Plan

You might assume that you have an estate plan; therefore, you do not need a succession plan. What you may not realize is that all assets, including private businesses, do go through probate – unless you have named beneficiaries through a trust. Certain trusts can allow your assets to pass outside of the taxable estate, including your business.

To take advantage of those trusts, you need an attorney to help set up a business succession plan alongside your traditional estate plan. This way you protect your business, investment, and your loved ones at the same time.

The Consequences of Not Planning – and Not Including Both Options

Without considering a complete plan that incorporates personal and professional assets, your family may suffer from severe financial and emotional consequences.

The Consequences of No Business Succession Plan

  • No Clear Direction – Who will lead the business? Who takes over and manages? Without a succession plan in place, there is no clear direction for how the company will continue to operate (or if it should operate) after your death.
  • Creates a Fear of Uncertainty – A business relies on its employees. But when leadership is mismanaged, power struggles occur over who should run the business, and the company is left picking up the pieces. Employees may leave for a more transparent future than stay with a company that is full of uncertainty. After all, employees want personal job security.
  • Family Disagreements – Family members left to make decisions for the business may go through disagreements, and decisions like these can tear families apart.
  • Loss of Value – When the key person running the company dies, surviving shareholders may go to sell the business and realize that there is a loss in value because of that person’s death.

The Consequences of No Estate Plan

  • Tax Liability – Without an estate plan drawing a line between professional and personal income and assets, a family may experience estate tax liability that they had not planned on encountering.
  • Probate Court – Family members will have to endure probate court fees and time lost for private assets as well as the business.
  • Delayed Distribution – Without an estate plan, the estate waits in line for its turn in probate, which means there is a delay in the distribution of assets. It may take months to years for the estate to resolve, depending on the complexity of that estate.
  • Litigation Costs – Family members may have unexpected legal costs for disagreements amongst each other.

The Tax Considerations for a Budding Business

Between the time you make an estate plan and the time you pass away, your business may see significant growth. That means the amount of money your business generates can increase the value of your estate – and with that value comes the issue of estate taxes.

How Does the Business Succession Plan Differ from an Estate Plan?

Your business succession plan focuses strictly on the business and assets associated with that business.

At a bare minimum, your succession plan needs to focus on the transfer of management of the business or the ownership of the business entirely.

The procession of management succession typically involves:

  • Developing, training, and supporting successors
  • Delegating responsibility and authorities to successors
  • Bringing in outside advisors to help in the process
  • Maximizing employee retention by creating a smooth transition and proper planning

The process of ownership succession might involve:

  • A plan that coordinates the person who will own the business after death and who will manage the business (if they are two separate people).
  • A plan that considers the best interest of both sides.
  • A plan that involves moving the business over before the current owner’s death – giving that past owner a chance to meet with, cultivate, and guide successors.

Can You Make a Business Succession Plan without an Attorney?

A business succession plan protects your business, loved ones, and any employees you might have. While you know this, you should also know the importance of hiring a professional to draft that protection.

Templates online rarely address the complexity of each business, and every company is unique in what they need for succession to work. Succession plans account for various circumstances, including how partners will handle the business, what happens if legal agreements are violated, and how the business moves forward if you were to pass away unexpectedly.

These legal hurdles are serious. Without the right plan in place, your business could fail.

An attorney addresses any unique legal concerns your business might have, and an attorney will address all state and federal issues that could arise.

Business planning requires attention to detail and a vast knowledge of employment, business, and estate laws. For this reason alone, a business owner should enlist the help of an attorney in their succession plan. An attorney will consult with tax experts to assist them in drafting a plan. Also, if a legal dispute does arise about your business later, your estate attorney will be able to defend your plan and your estate in court after your passing.

Consult with a Local Attorney that Helps Your Business Pass Safely

Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., can help with not only your estate plan but your succession plan too. By going over your business’s unique needs along with your personal concerns for your loved ones, I will help you create a succession plan combined with a substantial estate plan that protects your family for years after your death.

To get started, schedule a consultation with my office at 516-605-0625. You can also schedule your free case evaluation appointment online.

What Is a Certified Elder Law Attorney – and What Can They Do for Me?

Description: An elder law attorney can help you long before retirement with everything from long-term care to Medicare and even the creation of an estate plan.

You know that you need an elder law attorney. But as you ponder over your options, you might have noticed some attorneys have called themselves “certified,” while others do not. The certification they have received may come from organizations like AARP’s Legal Services Network while others are members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). Some attorneys go further and receive an official certification through an ABA-approved program.

While certification means they are proficient, that does not mean they are the right attorney for you. Instead, you should consider the pros and cons of certification, memberships or affiliations the attorney has, and their overall experience before solely choosing based on certification status.

Does an Attorney Require Certification in Plainview?

No, an attorney offering estate planning or elder law services in Plainview, NY, does not have to be certified in elder law. They do, however, require registration with the state bar association.

You can verify that your attorney is a member of the New York State Bar Association, and you can contact the Bar to see if there are any complaints or pending actions against an attorney you are considering.

What Does a Certification Mean?

Some attorneys will receive a certification in their legal specialty. This may require continuing education, testing, peer reviews, and passing exams to obtain that certification. Certification is an additional peace of mind. And while it does prove an attorney is capable in the area of elder law, you still want to consider the other items that go into an attorney’s qualifications.

Memberships Matter Too

Most attorneys will be members of organizations specific to their specialty. If an attorney practices elder law, they should be a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).

NAELA is a professional organization that provides continuing education to its members, peer networking, and helps local clients more easily find qualified attorneys.

To be part of the Academy, attorneys must be practicing members of the bar and offer legal services that address the needs of the elderly. They must represent a high code of ethics, exhibit knowledge in their field, and show commitment to their clients as well as remain active in the Academy.

These memberships are paid, but that payment helps fund continuing education and advocacy programs offered by the organization. Attorneys who are members of NAELA also have access to comprehensive libraries, knowledge databases, and other resources.

Another membership you should look for from an attorney is in the AARP Legal Services Network. This means that the attorney you are considering offers you a free consultation if you are an AARP member. Because elder law attorneys deal with local seniors, you would expect one to be part of this network and honor the discounted consultation fee. If an attorney is not a member of the local legal services network, you lose out on the free consultation opportunity.

Do Not Forget about Local Advocacy Groups

You are working with a local attorney, so you should expect to see a local advocacy group or organization affiliation. In Nassau County, an attorney practicing in elder law should be a member of SUN (Senior Umbrella Network), Nassau Chapter.

This group offers local professionals networking and continuing education opportunities specific to elder law and planning.

Looking at Core Services

Once you have looked over certifications, memberships, and affiliations, the next step is the services offered by the prospective attorney.

Remember, certifications are only a minor piece of the puzzle. If your prospective attorney is a full-service firm, how much time can they dedicate to elder law continuing education? How often do they address elder law plans, Medicare planning, and other long-term care planning needs?

An attorney may offer elder law services, but your goal should be to find one that specifically works in the estate and elder law field. This attorney will be up-to-date on the latest changes, including proposed changes in legislature. They work consistently in the area of elder law; therefore, they are well-versed in their field, know what local probate court judges expect, and how Medicare representatives review applications.

An attorney working exclusively in this field will also help plan for the unexpected – like the need for guardianship, creating advanced directives, or taking care of loved ones later in life.

Here are just some of the services an elder law attorney can help you with:

  • Living Will
  • Healthcare Proxy and Advanced Directives
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Medicaid Planning
  • Estate Planning and Estate Tax Planning
  • Asset Protection
  • Estate Administration and Probate Litigation

Do You Need an Attorney for Long-Term Planning?

If you are ready to create your estate plan, need to adjust one you already have, or you need the services of an elder law attorney in your area, contact attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. He is a member of the AARP Legal Services Network through Allstate and part of the NAELA group of professionals.

You can schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., now at 516-605-0625 or request more information online.

What Is Ancillary Probate?

If you are like most who are starting out with estate planning, you have heard of probate court – and you know that you want to do what you can to avoid it. What you might not have heard about is an ancillary probate. Ancillary probate is a secondary probate for your estate when you own property in another state.

Loved ones must endure the costs and hassles of a formal probate court. But adding on the hassles of ancillary probate can be even more taxing.

Two probates happen when you have out-of-state real estate because real estate is governed in the state where it is located – regardless of where you reside.

When Would a Plainview Resident Have Ancillary Probate?

Second probate court proceedings happen when you own real estate or tangible property outside of New York. For example, you have a New York primary residence but also a Florida condo you use in the winter.

Realize that ancillary probate is not just a vacation home or secondary residence. It can also involve tangible property. For example, you own a plot of land without any buildings on it in Montana. Another reason for ancillary will be if you own mineral rights out of state.

Your New York probate court would handle all property in New York, but any property outside of New York would require ancillary probate. When you own multiple properties or tangible properties out of state, each state would have probate proceedings for those pieces of real estate.

The Process for Ancillary Probate

First, the domiciliary probate process initiates. This occurs when the decedent’s state recognizes the will, and the executor starts the probate proceeding.

In some cases, the executor may also initiate the ancillary probate.

Any challenges to the estate plan are done in the domiciliary state’s probate court. Once the court admits the will, the ancillary states follow.

The process varies by state, but the process of ancillary probate is shorter than formal probate. Some states even offer streamlined ancillary probate processes, including allowances for foreign executors (an executor residing in another state). By doing so, the foreign executor can take control of the property and transfer, sell, or manage it by the instructions of the will.

The Negative Impact of Ancillary Probate

It is better to avoid ancillary probate because, like formal probate processes, there are consequences to going through the process.

One of the most significant consequences is the cost. It is costly enough to administer an estate in one state, but two states with two probates is expensive. Beneficiaries will not only endure the time of both courts, but also endure multiple court fees, attorney’s fees, and accounting costs.

If the deceased passes intestate (meaning they have no valid will), the intestacy laws of that state determine how the property will be handled. Every state is different with how they handle property if there is no will. Rightful heirs of the intestate estate may find that the property is dealt with differently in the other state – and not always favorable to them.

How to Avoid Ancillary Probate Entirely

Probate is not necessary for real estate in your domicile state let alone property out of state. With a trust, you can avoid probate entirely. With a living trust, your property is passed directly to your beneficiaries.

To do this, you would put the title of your out-of-state property and any in-state property into the trust. By doing so, the trust now owns the property (not you). Upon your death, the trustee would then distribute assets from the trust by the trust rules.

Using a living trust is the most common method for avoiding probate in both states. If you don’t want to use a living trust, you may also be able to:

  • Own the property with another person: Owning the property with another person opens the door to joint tenancy, which means the property would pass to the other owner upon death.
  • Transfer-on-Death deed: A transfer on death deed (TOD) transfers real estate upon death. You must record it and file it with the local records office for it to be valid. Note that not all states allow a TOD. New York, for example, does not allow TODs. Therefore, if your ancillary property is in New York, you would not be able to use this method for avoiding ancillary probate.

All of these options might work for your estate, but it is best that you consult with an attorney. Depending on your estate’s size, assets, and beneficiaries, some options for avoiding ancillary probate may not work for you.

Consult with an Attorney Regarding Your Ancillary Property and Possible Probate

If you have an out-of-state property you use as a vacation home, rental property, or you own mineral rights in another state, protect these assets by meeting with an attorney and drafting an estate plan that addresses the unique issues these properties create.

You can still protect your loved ones and avoid ancillary probate. To explore your options, speak with an attorney by calling the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C.

During your free consultation, we can go over each option, discuss the pros and cons of your estate going through ancillary probate, and draft an estate plan that protects your long-term care needs and provides for your loved ones when the time comes.

Schedule your meeting today by calling 516-605-0625 or request more information online.

Estate Planning with an Out-of-State Vacation Home

It is not uncommon to find a client that has property in multiple states. Usually, it involves an individual or couple that has their primary home here in New York but a vacation home elsewhere else in the country.

Whether you have a vacation home in Florida for the warm summers or a snow-ready cottage in the mountains of Utah, it is essential that you do not forget about it when you make your estate plan.

Also, you must realize that the laws for your out-of-state vacation home might differ from where your primary residence is located. Therefore, it is important you speak with an attorney to ensure that you have both jurisdictions covered and your estate plan does not violate any laws.

Your Plainview, NY, Domicile in Estate Planning

In estate planning, you hear various terms. And one that you will hear often is your domicile. The law allows for you to have one main place of residence, the domicile, which is where you return when you leave.

A person could technically spend three-quarters of the year out-of-state and still have a domicile in another. In most cases, identifying the domicile is easy. But other times, it might become complicated when you split your times equally between two residences.

You might ask why it matters where your domicile is, and what the difference is between a vacation home and main residence. The main issue you are addressing by labeling your domicile is the state estate tax or income taxes that must be paid upon death. Also, your domicile location determines which probate court has jurisdiction over your estate and your beneficiaries inheritance.

Where you are domiciled has a significant impact on your estate, especially for taxes. Even if your estate is exempt from the federal tax, some states impose estate tax at a lower threshold than the federal level. When you do not specify clearly in your estate plan, two states may claim that you have domiciles in their territory and both apply a tax.

Declaring a Domicile Might Help

You can declare your domicile within your estate documents. Doing so is helpful for determining which state can impose taxes and which probate court has jurisdiction.

Simply stating your domicile state is not enough. Instead, you must use evidence to support your declaration to avoid the state contesting your domicile designation. One way to prove which residence is your domicile is by providing:

  • Physician information – People see physicians in their home state. Therefore, your primary physician should be located in the state where you declare your domicile – and you would have insurance billings and records to prove it.
  • Employment – Your employer is typically located in your domicile state. Therefore, employer information helps support your declaration.
  • Voter registration – You are not required to register as a voter, but doing so helps establish your domicile state.
  • Bank accounts – Showing where your bank accounts were opened and managed help prove your domicile, too – especially if you use a financial institution that is not located in the state of your vacation home.

Ancillary Probate and Your Vacation Home

You want to avoid probate. But if you did not plan properly, your real estate in another state could be subject to that state’s probate. Known as ancillary probate, your beneficiaries may have to deal with the hassles and costs of waiting for probate to complete.

Avoiding ancillary probate is easy if you use the tools similar to those available for your home state – such as transferring the deed of your second home into a trust or creating a limited liability company to hold the property.

Selling or Gifting Your Vacation Home

Now that you have declared your domicile, you need to help loved ones avoid taxes on your secondary real estate. Property is often the highest value asset in an estate, and there are tax implications – especially for out-of-state properties.

An attorney can help you avoid being subject to estate or income tax where the vacation property is located. One of the better ways to avoid taxes is to transfer or sell the property to a family member through a trust. This keeps the real estate in the family.

One issue with doing so is your long-term care planning. When you do not transfer ownership correctly, that vacation home could be seen as a personal asset, which may disqualify you for Medicare or Medicaid benefits.

Questions to Ask before You Plan for Your Vacation Home

Before going through the hassles of selling, transferring, or planning for your vacation home, address the following questions:

  1. Does anyone in the family want the home? You may have sentimental ties to your family vacation home, and you might want to leave it to a child. But before doing so, ask if they want it. For some heirs, inheriting a vacation home is more of a hassle than benefit. Some may prefer to receive the liquid assets rather than the home itself.
  2. Who will pay to upkeep the vacation home? Vacation homes are expensive and still require maintenance even if they sit empty for weeks or months at a time. Some heirs may not be willing to cover the upkeep of that home. If you truly want the home to be a benefit, you may want to set up a trust that includes secondary funds for maintaining the vacation property.

Own a Vacation Home or Secondary Real Estate? Hire an Attorney First

Planning for a secondary home or vacation property can be complicated, especially when you are dealing with two different states. If you have a vacation property and you want to explore your options, schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney.

The Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., can help go over your options, discuss the pros and cons for both, and find a solution that works long-term for you and your beneficiaries.

Schedule your free consultation today at 516-605-0625 or contact us online to get started.

Are Probate Records Public Records?

Probate court is a legal process that follows a person’s death. It goes through various stages to help settle the estate, handle any outstanding debts, and distribute assets to named beneficiaries.

Probate records are public records. These include everything from a will to estate inventories, letters of administration, and any document related to the estate’s administration and settlement. These records also contain information on the deceased, identities of the heirs, and any legal actions associated with the estate. They are available via public databases through each state, and the courts are typically held by the state’s court archives.

What Types of Probate Records are Kept in Plainview, New York

Each state has a system for what records they keep and what can be accessed. In New York, the following probate records are part of the public search:

  • Surrogate Court Records: After May 1787, all county surrogate courts have their probate records on file. There is a complicated index for these records, and if you need to search, the surrogate’s court is usually the first place you will be directed to.
  • Probate Packets: Probate packets are the entire estate file. These have copies of the documents related to the estate’s settlement, including administration, inventories, and bonds.

How Do People Access Probate Records?

Receiving a copy of the deceased’s last will or other probate records is relatively easy because these are private documents available to the public. Probate files are part of the court record, and copies are available for a small fee. Sometimes you can access an entire person’s estate online – without a fee at all.

While you do not have access to the exact details of the will, you can review other documents including the name of the executor, heirs, attorneys of record, and the judge that oversaw the case. Some court records will also provide access to all names and contact information for creditors, beneficiaries, and allow copies of those documents.

What if I Do Not Want My Court Records Publicized

Unfortunately, the only way to avoid having your entire estate a matter of public record is to plan early on. Probate court is an open process, and anyone could review these records to determine how much your estate was worth – and some documents tell what beneficiaries inherited and how much. Because most people would rather keep their probate records private – and protect beneficiaries – the first step to avoiding this is to not go through probate.

Any time an asset is passed through a will, it is subject to probate. Probate is not only a hassle because your information is now public, but it is expensive and time-consuming – and entirely unnecessary for a modern estate.

Why Work to Avoid Probate?

Probate is expensive and lengthy. Therefore, your beneficiaries will not receive their inheritances right away, and probate courts typically cost five to 10 percent of the value of the estate assets. Some estates take up to one year to process through – and if there are any will contest they can take much longer.

You have designed an estate plan to protect loved ones and ensure they are taken care of; therefore, your last step is to help them avoid probate entirely.

If you think it is not an issue to have your estate a matter of public record, consider this: after probate is filed, any creditor can look up the estate and start petitioning the court for money. Therefore, the amount your beneficiaries receive can decrease even further. The process of fighting these claims will drain the estate and put an unnecessary burden on your loved ones as well.

You do not have to go through probate – so why bother?

Instead, you can speak with an attorney and work to avoid the entire hassle and cost of the probate process – and protect your loved ones.

Creative Tools that Are Effective in Avoiding Probate

No estate is required to go through probate, but to do that you must implement a variety of tools. Some of the more preferred ways to do this include:

  • Revocable Living Trust: This is the more popular method for avoiding probate. You establish a trust, control assets while alive, and then the assets are distributed probate-free upon your death.
  • Creating Beneficiary Deeds: A beneficiary deed is a real estate document that allows you to transfer property, like your family home, upon your death. The transfer takes place, and there is no reason for probate. You can send it to any jointly owned property, such as a home you share with your spouse.
  • Transfer Upon Death (TOD) Designations: You can also use the transfer-on-death designation through your personal property like vehicles, trailers, motorcycles, and other personal items. There are limitations on what property you can legally TOD; therefore, speak with an attorney.
  • Payable Upon Death: These designations are tied to financial accounts, such as life insurance, retirement accounts, and bank accounts. You can pick a beneficiary, and the institution that oversees the asset would automatically transfer upon your dearth.

Hiring an Attorney is the Best Option

If you truly want to avoid probate, you have a few options, but not all will apply to your situation. Therefore, the best place to start is by contacting an attorney in the area and exploring your options. An attorney, like the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., will go over the options you have, your estate, and find the best way to transfer assets to loved ones all without becoming a public record in surrogate’s court.

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

How Aging Affects Memory – and What to Take Care of Now

Most people assume that it is natural to lose the ability to remember things as they get older. While memory loss does happen as part of the aging process, the intensity and how it affects you depends on the person and type of memory affected.

Also, not all memory loss is part of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. However, a vast majority of the more severe cases are. Therefore, it is essential that individuals and family members act early – including preparing an estate plan – before memory becomes a legal issue.

One Critical Flaw in Estate Plans Made in Plainview, NY

When a couple makes an estate plan, they often list a spouse as their beneficiary and sometimes the executor of their estate. They do this because at the time they draft their estate plan, both parties are of sound mind and have a legal capacity to do so. Unfortunately, years later one party could fall ill or suffer from a form of dementia, rendering them unable to fill their role. Without an alternate designated, the estate could find itself in court with parties battling to take over.

It is essential to plan, especially before memory loss or diseases like dementia take over. The sooner the estate planning starts, the more likely the person with the memory loss can participate and make decisions – and more likely the court is to honor those decisions.

Why Plan Now?

Making legal decisions, including an estate plan now, is essential for a few reasons:

  • Planning early allows for the individual to express their wishes and be involved in the planning – including designating future care.
  • Early planning will eliminate the stress of family members having to guess or make decisions on their loved one’s behalf.
  • Starting early ensures the estate has time to sift through the problematic legal procedures and financial issues that come with long-term care planning, end-of-life management, and estate distribution.

When older individuals start the planning process, they need to ensure that their estate plan includes the core components, such as:

  • Long-term care
  • Financial and property plans
  • Naming an agent and alternate agent

The Role of Capacity in Estate Planning

A person’s capacity plays a substantial role in estate planning. Once a person is legally incapacitated or cannot make decisions for themselves, they rely on documents pre-made in their estate plan to protect them. However, a loss of mental capacity can be quite subjective.

In situations where a person suffers an unexpected loss of capacity or has slowly diminished their capacity over time, the courts would consider the following factors:

  • Can the individual remember details?
  • Does the individual act out of character compared to the typical demeanor?
  • Can that party recognize family members?
  • Does the individual suffer from constant confusion and decreased attention?
  • How difficult is it for the person to speak or follow through in a conversation?
  • Is there a decreased appreciation for risks?

If a person fails the capacity test, then the courts may deem them incapacitated.

If a person is considered incapacity before they finished an estate plan, the documents and decisions they made will be subject to court scrutiny, and the final will could be disregarded entirely.

Therefore, attorneys urge their clients to start the process early. Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other memory-affecting conditions can strike without notice, and by the time the symptoms are recognized, it could be too late to create an estate plan.

How an Attorney Can Help

While certain documents could be completed without an attorney, it is best to consult one if you suspect that your mental capacity is declining, or you were recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Getting legal advice and services from a local estate planning attorney can be helpful, especially in complicated cases just like this.

Your attorney will discuss the key issues that come with a diagnosis just like this, such as:

  • Your options for health care decisions and which party will make health care decision on your behalf.
  • Your options for managing the property and personal care – and if you will have a separate party designated for that role.
  • Your potential options for long-term care coverage, including veteran benefits, Medicare, or Medicaid qualifications.

5 Essential Tips for Better Planning with Memory Loss

It does not matter how severe the memory loss is now, or whether you suffer from forms of memory loss at all. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be for family members to help you, but also protect you from the endless scams out there that target aging individuals specifically.

Some key things to keep in mind while you work on a plan include:

  • Hand Out Copies: Anyone you give a power of attorney designation to should have a copy of the document as well as access to the original – whether that means access to a safe deposit box or a code to an in-home safe.
  • Name a Successor: No matter what the situation is, you need to provide a backup agent or successor to the original power of attorney. That way, if the original party cannot fulfill his or her duty, you have an alternative that was selected by you.
  • Brain Autopsy: Some individuals may want a brain autopsy to identify what caused their dementia or to donate for research. If this is something you want to do, you will need to ensure the power of attorney with health care decision-making power does this.
  • Health Care Providers: Give a copy of your living will to your health care providers so that they know which parties are authorized to make decisions.
  • Attorney: Consider hiring an attorney to manage your estate if you do not have someone that you trust to handle the assets and personal finances.

Speak with an Attorney Regarding Your Care

Avoid the hassles of waiting until the last minute and speak with an attorney about your long-term care planning, wishes, and more today. Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. now for a free estate planning consultation at 516-605-0625 or request more information online.

How Does Nursing Home Medicaid Work?

Medicaid is a government-funded program that takes many forms. Many New York residents are surprised to find out how many options they have for Medicaid coverage, including Nursing Home Medicaid.

Nursing Home Medicaid is one of the more comprehensive Medicaid programs, and it comes equipped with all Medicaid services from Community Medicaid and Community Medicaid with Long-Term Care. Also, you receive nursing home coverage as well as home care, adult day care, and assisted living care coverage.

Nursing home care in New York is costly – averaging more than $100,000 per year. Very few people have adequate resources, income, or even insurance to pay the costs of nursing homes. However, they need those long-term care services. Medicaid is the most common source for funding nursing homes and long-term care needs, but you need to apply for the proper coverage first.

How to Pay for Nursing Homes with Medicaid in Plainview, NY

A nursing home is a residential facility where you receive 24-hour nursing care and supportive services. Anyone who is 65 years or older, disabled, or legally blind qualifies for Medicaid, which handles nursing home fees. But you are only eligible based on income, resources, and if you require skilled nursing care.

Nursing Home Medicaid has stringent requirements. And unlike Community Medicare, Nursing Home Medicare does have a lookback period. Therefore, it is vital that you understand what these requirements are, and speak with an attorney to begin Medicaid planning sooner than later.

How to Qualify for Nursing Home Medicaid in New York

When you apply for Nursing Home Medicaid in New York, you are subject to substantial scrutiny. There are two primary areas that the state reviews when considering your eligibility: income and resources. Like other forms of Medicaid, you have strict monthly limits and maximum asset value amounts.

Your income is any money you receive per month or on a time-based schedule such as Social Security distributions, checks from a pension, or payouts from a retirement account. Your resources are assets. These assets include everything from investment accounts, stocks, bonds, savings accounts, or retirement accounts that you are not receiving a distribution from yet.

New York gives you a $50 per month income allowance if you are a nursing home resident. You cannot shelter income in a pooled income trust for Nursing Home Medicaid either.

Resource Limits for Nursing Home Medicaid

If you apply for Medicaid, you are subject to a nursing home resource maximum of $14,850. Any resources above this maximum must be spent down before you will qualify. If you exceed the resource value, speak with an elder law attorney to see how you can salvage your hard-earned assets while still qualifying for Medicaid.

The Five Year Lookback

Community Medicaid has no look-back period, but Nursing Home Medicaid does. If you want to gift or transfer assets to qualify for Medicaid without the hassles of spending down, you are subject to a look-back period of five years. Therefore, after you have completed all transfers, you must wait five years to apply or pay the penalty if the transfer was within the five year look-back.

The penalty rate is based on regional rates. For example, in 2017 the regional rate per month was $12,157 for New York City. Therefore, if you transferred assets, the value of those assets in the five year period would be divided by the regional rate to determine your penalty.

New York bases regional rates by the district. For example, New York City has a different rate than Northeastern New York (i.e., Albany, Greene, Hamilton, or Washington). You can see a full list of Medicaid Regional Rates online.

During your penalty months, you will not receive Medicaid payment. Instead, you pay privately for nursing home care until the penalty period is up. Then, Medicaid will take over payments.

For example, you transferred $100,000 in assets within the five year look-back. You live in Manhattan; therefore, as of 2017, the regional rate is $12,157. You would be subject to a penalty of 8.22 months for the transfer. If you lived in the Central New York District, the regional rate is $9,511, which means your penalty would be 10.5 months.

Intent to Return Home

Your home’s equity is exempt from resource considerations if you can prove that you intend to return home. Intent is subjective, but if there is a possibility that you will leave the nursing home and return home, you can request an exemption. The state could place a lien on your property if you are not reasonably expected to return home. Therefore, you must be cautious about claiming this exemption.

Other Exempt Income and Resources

You can also spend down your excess income to qualify for Nursing Home Medicaid. For example, if you are spending money on health insurance premiums, that money is not counted when the state reviews your income. Also, if you receive payments from specific resources, the state may allow for exemptions such as Holocaust restitution payments.

Contributing Your Income

If you are considering staying in a nursing home, the Nursing Home Medicaid program does require that you contribute your monthly income to the cost of your care. You are only allowed to retain $50 per month for yourself. You can pay your excess income to the Department of Social Services to keep eligibility, but it may be in your best interest to find a more useful way to spend the excess and reduce resources.

Speak with an Elder Law Attorney

Limiting your income and resources for Medicaid planning is a highly complicated process. The sooner you start it, the better the outcome might be and the less likely you are to face long-term Medicaid penalties.

If you plan to or suspect that you will need nursing home care at some point later in life, start the process of Medicaid planning now. Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. Attorney Lamkin can help you cover your bases when it comes to reducing resource value, limiting income, and qualifying for Medicaid.

Explore your options for long-term care planning by scheduling a free consultation at 516-605-0625 or request more information about elder care services online

What Is Community Medicaid and Who Qualifies for It?

New York offers various homecare and nursing home care solutions for aging residents. To determine which type of services you qualify for, you need to assess your budget. Depending on your income, age group, and disability status, you may be eligible for individual types of Medicaid coverage offered by the state.

Community Medicaid is one of those options. You may qualify for Community Medicaid or Community Medicaid with Long-Term Care if you are over the age of 65, blind, or certified disabled by the Social Security Administration or NY State.

What Does Community Medicaid Cover in Plainview, NY?

Community Medicaid is a health insurance program that handles most healthcare-related expenses such as doctor’s office visits, hospitalization, laboratory testing, and prescription medication.

If you are disabled, aged, or blind, you most likely have Medicare coverage and Medicare is your primary health insurance. However, Medicaid is a health insurance supplement. Community Medicaid helps bridge the gap between what Medicare covers and what you would otherwise pay for out-of-pocket. If you already have a supplement policy, such as Medigap, then Community Medicaid would cover anything after both policies are exhausted.

Another key coverage you receive with Community Medicaid is prescription drugs. Medicare does not cover prescriptions directly. Instead, Medicaid pays to Medicare under free Medicare Part D to cover your prescription drug costs.

What Is Community Medicaid with Long-Term Care

Community Medicaid with Long-Term Care works like Community Medicaid regarding prescription and health insurance coverage. However, it also offers additional coverage for long-term care services such as adult day care, assisted living, or in-home nursing care.

Do You Qualify for Community Medicaid?

Medicaid eligibility is based on income and resource limits. Therefore, you must pass a means-tested system. If you have low income and limited resources, then you may qualify for Community Medicaid.

The means-based system considers two financial categories:

  • Income – This is any money that you receive on a scheduled basis including pension payments, IRA distributions, and Social Security payments.
  • Resources – Resources involve your assets that could be used to pay for health expenses and in-home nursing care. These are assets such as your savings accounts, stocks and bonds, real estate, and an IRA that you are not currently receiving a distribution from.

Income and Resource Limitations for Community Medicaid to Know

Medicaid has income limits, which include:

  • $825 per month for an individual
  • $1,290 per month for a couple

Anyone that is aged, disabled, or blind qualifies for a $20 per month disregard. Therefore, if you are in one of those categories, you would have an income limit of $845 per month as an individual, and $1,310 per month for couples. Couples only receive a one person $20 disregard.

The resource limits are in addition to income limits, and they include:

  • $14,850 per individual
  • $21,750 per couple

If you are not looking for long-term care coverage, you can declare your assets and you are not required to document them for the application. If you do want long-term care coverage, you must record your resources. Resources are the primary determination of whether you qualify for Community Medicaid or Community Medicaid with Long-Term Care. Therefore, if you do not need long-term care, you will not have a heavy emphasis on your resources.

What If You Exceed the Limits?

Even if you exceed these limits, you could still qualify for Community Medicaid programs. There are  ways to help you qualify even when your income or resources go over the threshold. However, you should consult with a Medicaid planning attorney to explore these options. An attorney can review your expected income and current resource value, then help with a Medicaid or Medicare plan that legally assists you with qualifying for these forms of assistance.

Most options involve doing a spend down. This means that you spend to a specific threshold to help qualify for Medicare.

These are some options when you exceed the limits.

  • Paying Medical Bills – If you have monthly medical expenses that are more or equal to the amount of income over the threshold, Medicaid will ignore the excess income and allow you to qualify for Community Medicaid benefits.
  • Income Trust – New York is a state that realizes that $845 per month is not enough to cover someone’s cost of living let alone medical care. That is why they allow residents with excess income to establish a Pooled Income Trust. With an attorney’s help, you can set up the trust and then deposit the surplus income into the trust. Then, you submit your living expenses to the trust for reimbursement and the trust pays your bills. A Pooled Income Trust must meet specific state requirements, and you must provide monthly contribution records to show that it is active.
  • Paying Medicare Provider – If you do not want to use a Pooled Income Trust, you can spend down your excess income by paying your Home Care Medicaid Provider directly and contributing to the cost of care.

Earned Income

Some individuals that exceed the income amount may be able to claim for earned income.

For example, an applicant works part-time and earns $1,065 per month. All earned income qualifies for a $65 disregard, and the remaining income is divided by two. For Medicaid budgeting, that applicant can deduct $65 from earned income totals, leaving them with $1,000 per month. Once that amount is divided by two, they have a budgeted earned income of just $500 – qualifying them for Medicaid.

Considering the Look-Back Period

When your resources and income disqualify you from Medicaid, you may want to spend down so that you qualify. Spending down might include transferring assets to other family members so that you have fewer resources holding you back.

When applying for Community Medicaid, you can do this. Community Medicaid does not have the look-back period that other Medicaid programs do, which gives you more options for spending down before applying.

Need Assistance with Medicaid Planning?

If you need help with Medicaid or Medicare planning, speak with attorney Andrew M. Lamkin at the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. Spending down resources and moving assets is complicated, and you want to ensure you follow the proper procedures so that you do not disqualify yourself from much-needed Medicaid coverage.

Schedule a free case evaluation at 516-605-0625 or request more information online.

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/