December 12, 2018










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/

Primary Goals of Small Business Tax Planning

As any experienced small business owner already knows, the primary goal of small business tax planning is to make the most the money the business is already generating. How an accountant achieves that goal depends on the type of business, the source of its income, and a myriad of other factors.

Staying Out of Trouble

Generally speaking, effective tax planning aims to eliminate or considerably reduce the amount of federal, state, or local taxes your business owes by planning when and how to conduct day to day business activities. Unfortunately, while it is perfectly legal to plan business activities in an effort to avoid certain taxes, it isn’t legal to carry out business in a way that evades taxes.

The number one goal in small business tax planning, therefore, becomes staying out of trouble. That’s where tax professionals such as accountants and attorneys come in. Doing your own tax planning without the benefit of an experienced professional is like skating on thin ice; a wrong move could prove dangerous.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

While many small business owners completely disregard taxes until the time comes to file a return, even those who participate in tax planning are prone to making mistakes that cost them in the long run.

One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is missing out on available tax credits, loopholes, and deductions that could lower their tax burden and keep more money in their pocket. Another common mistake is waiting until the last minute to consult with a tax professional. Good small business tax advice can help steer an entrepreneur in the right direction before taxes come due, giving them more time to take steps that will lower their tax burden in the first place.

Putting Business Income to Better Use

Money that otherwise might have been paid in taxes could be put to better use in the form of valuable business-related deductions. For example, a small trucking company could significantly lower its taxable income by investing in a new truck or a better communications system and writing it off at the end of the quarter. In turn, that new piece of equipment could be used to generate more income, which could then be applied to more equipment. Using tax planning in this way could substantially contribute to your company’s growth.

Sources:
http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/mid-year-tax-planning-do-it-now-save-later
http://smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com/finance-accounting/2013/10/25/end-year-tax-planning-for-your-small-business/
http://www.forbes.com/sites/thesba/2012/01/10/5-tax-planning-tips-for-small-business-owners/

Preventative Measures to Defend Against Will Contests

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

Plan Your Estate When You are Young

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

No Contest Clause

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

Consider Trusts

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

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

Sources:
http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/estate-planning-when-you-re-young-healthy-childless.html
http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/pf/20061115_no-contest-clause-a1.asp

How Spousal Rights Affect Legal Property Ownership

Various laws concerning a person’s property rights during marriage are normally based on the state that the marriage took place in. Marriage and property ownership laws in different states are divided into two different categories. There are states with community property laws and states that do not have community property laws. These different laws govern how spouses can dispose of their property or use their property during marriage. They also govern how property will be divided in the event that the spouses have a divorce or in the event that one of the spouses dies. Most states give spouses the chance to change a state’s law a little regarding marital properties through the use of spousal agreements.

Community Property States and Common Law States

The property that two people own during a marriage is divided into two different categories. Property can be either non-marital property or community property. Community property is property that a married couple own together. Non-marital property is a type of property that a spouse owns alone or owned before he or she got married. However, this type of property can become marital property if it becomes mixed in with property that the couple owns together. For example, if a spouse uses money that was obtained before the marriage to pay towards a down payment for a home with his or her spouse and both people make payments with money that is earned after the marriage, the complete equity in the home becomes marital property.

Common law states pay more attention to the name that is on the title of the property when it comes to a spouse’s property ownership rights. For example, if each spouse has a car in his or her name, it will belong to only him or her. However, if the house is in both names, they each own half of the value of the house.

Postnuptial and Prenuptial Agreements

All states regardless of their laws concerning marriage and property will let married couples create reserved agreements about property and the division of property. However, there will be various specifications regarding what is allowed in these agreements. The specifications are different with each state. An agreement can never put a limit to how much child support will be paid if a divorce does happen. Depending on the state, this might also apply to spousal support as well. Most of the time prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements are geared towards the spouse’s property ownership rights. Your state’s courts are probably going to pay more attention to enforcing prenuptial agreements than postnuptial agreements. However, both types of agreements will only be enforced if each spouse has equal negotiating power. There must also be full financial disclosure between both parties.

SOURCES:
http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/marriage-property-ownership-who-owns-what-29841.html
http://www.prenuptialagreements.org/postnuptial-agreements/
http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/pf/20060322a1.asp

Common Roadblocks In Setting Up Legal Guardianship of a Minor

A guardianship is established when the court determines that a child’s biological parents are no longer able to care for a child appropriately. A case may be brought to court by child protective services if abuse has been filed against the parent. A case may also be brought to court by the person attempting to become guardian or a relative of the minor in question. Whatever the situation, there are several common problems that can arise when trying to become a guardian. While the legal process of guardianship does not strictly require the use of an attorney, having one is highly recommended.

The Custodial Parent Objects to the Guardianship

This is perhaps the most common problem with acquiring guardianship. Most situations involve a forced removal of the child from parental custody, but the law here is somewhat ambiguous because the biological parents’ rights may still intact. This gives the parent a great deal of say over the guardianship and who can become a guardian. The parent may also make certain demands, such as reasonable visitation, that may conflict with the guardian’s schedule and make the overall process much more difficult.

Missing Notice Forms

The law is very strict on the requirement that a guardian give “legal notice” to certain individuals, relatives and agencies involved with the child. Some of these individuals may be apparent, such as the child’s current parents or custodians. Others may not be apparent or may not be directly involved in the child’s care. It is your responsibility to find these individuals and “serve” them a legal notice form. If you cannot find the person, then you must appeal to court to allow the case to go forward regardless. A mistake during this process can require you to start the guardianship process all over again.

Home Study Failure

The court will appoint an investigator to interview you, the child, the parents and other applicable individuals. They will also conduct a home study to ensure that your home environment is suitable and meets certain standards. The investigator will be looking to ensure that the child will have adequate personal space, access to nearby education, access to acceptable healthcare and a space appropriate for parental visitation. Inadequacies in any of these areas will be reported to the court and may result in a delay of the guardianship process.

Return of Absent Parent

It should be noted that biological parents always have first parental right, even if they have been absent from the child for a long time or were not currently holding custody. A guardianship case may be hindered if an absent parent returns unexpectedly to claim his or her parental rights. The court will have to assess the parent’s appropriateness and may assign the child to the returned parent instead of the guardian.

A judge makes the final decision on all guardianship cases. Keep in mind that a guardianship is not an adoption, and it can be revoked by the court at any time. Many guardianship cases on Long Island result in the child being ultimately returned to their biological parents.

Sources:
http://www.courts.ca.gov/1212.htm
http://oklaw.org/issues/family/guardianship

 

5 Trust Types That Will Maximize Your Kids’ Inheritance

One of the most important parts of an effective estate plan is to ensure that a family’s children are properly provided for, whether they are minors or adults. This is often accomplished by placing some or all of the estate into a trust. The following five types of trusts have been found to be very effective in providing for the care and prosperity of a family’s children. In addition to the specific type of trust, many trusts can be written as revocable or irrecoverable trusts, depending on the specific needs of the family.

Irrevocable Trusts

An irrevocable trust is a trust where the property is placed beyond the control of the parents, subject to the terms of the trust. This has a variety of advantages, including reduced taxation and the fact that the trust’s assets are largely immune from the actions of creditors.

Revocable Trusts

A revocable trust is a trust that can be changed at the option of the grantor. These types of trusts are often used where changing family and personal circumstances may require modifying the trust over the course of the grantor’s lifetime. However, revocable trusts are somewhat more vulnerable to creditors and court actions than irrevocable trusts, and they do not share the same tax benefits.

The 5 Best Trusts For Transferring Money To Your Kids

Section 2503(b) trust is an irrevocable trust that takes the assets and holds them for the child, with the provision that the child must have the income of the trust distrusted to him or her at least once a year. The creator of the trust can determine whether the trust will terminate upon the child’s 21st birthday. This trust can effectively shield the child’s inheritance from creditors, as well as provide the parents with some control over how the child will spend the trust, even after his or her 21st birthday.
Section 2503(c) trust is similar, but automatically terminates upon the child’s 21st birthday. In addition, the trustee can use the money in the trust to pay for the child’s college education. This trust is a tool commonly used to protect the estates assets until the children are adults and capable of effectively managing the funds released into their care.

spendthrift trust is a special type of trust that can be especially useful if a parent has doubts about their child’s ability to manage his or her funds effectively. This trust allows the trustee to refuse to release funds if he or she believes that they will be taken by a creditor or otherwise misused by the beneficiary. This trust can protect the child from being rendered penniless due to a lawsuit or other civic debt.

special needs trust is a type of trust designed to allow an individual to be able to make use of the trust without rendering them ineligible for government aid. This type of trust can be useful for families who have disabled children, as it allows the child to avoid having to choose between their inheritance and the continuation of their government support. A special needs trust can also be used to shield an award from a personal injury lawsuit from government aid income restriction guidelines.

grantor retained income trust is a common tool used to reduce the potential tax liability of the parent’s estate. This trust allows the property to be placed in the trust, but mandates that the grantor will retain the property’s income for a time determined by the grantor. This helps reduce the property’s federal estate tax value, which can dramatically reduce the taxes the grantor’s children will be liable for.

These five types of trusts all provide extremely useful estate planning tools to help ensure that a family’s children, whether they are adults or minors, can enjoy the property that their parents wish to bequeath them.

Sources:
http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/estates_and_trusts
http://livingtrustnetwork.com/estate-planning-center/revocable-living-trust/types-of-trusts
http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/07/10/special-needs-trust-provides-for-disabled/
http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/grantor-retained_income_trust
http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/spendthrift-trusts.html
http://www.accountingtoday.com/ato_issues/2002_15/692-1.html

5 Reasons to Draft a Will Right Now

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

1. Serve Your Family

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


2. Limit Sibling Rivalry

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

3. Child Care

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

4. Things in Your Life Have Changed

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

5. The Family Business

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

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

The Basics of Guardianship, Health Care Decisions, and Power of Attorney

Legal terms can be confusing. To help those debating over the best care options for their loved ones, below three common elder law terms are defined and explained.

Guardianship

Guardianship is a term used to define anyone who has custody of, or the sole responsibility of caring for, an aging parent or other elderly relative or friend. Guardianship of this nature is usually requested and/or obtained by a close relative or trusted friend of an elderly person when it is deemed that the person needs someone to take care of them due to such issues as a disability, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or a terminal illness that renders the person too ill or weak to take care of himself. Guardianship of a disabled or terminally ill relative or aging parent may also be granted by a judge if there is a dispute regarding who has the legal “right,” as well as the best means possible, to provide the necessary care.

Health Care Decisions

While many people think of this subject in relation to the elderly, health care decisions must also be made for children and disabled or terminally ill relatives as well as aging parents. Such health care decisions often include what is known as a living will, also referred to as an advance directive. This important document simply specifies the person’s wishes regarding medical care in the event of a terminal illness or other medical condition or emergency which would leave the person in a coma or vegetative state and unable to make decisions. This also ties in closely with power of attorney, which is addressed next.

Power of Attorney

Granting a power of attorney is an important, personal decision that involves choosing someone to make all legal and medical decisions in the event that the person doing the choosing becomes unable to make decisions for or care for himself. A power of attorney is a legal power which requires the acceptance and agreement of the chosen party to care for and carry out the other person’s wishes, within reason, as well as required legal documentation which has been prepared by the person’s attorney.

Need More Advice?

To fully understand the ramifications of different care and decision-making arrangements for your loved one, it is best to seek the advice of an elder law–focused lawyer. Long Island attorney Andrew Lamkin has long experience working exclusively on elder law and related legal questions. Contact us today for a free consultation at 516-605-0625.

5 Alternatives to Guardianship

A guardianship is a position of total authority and responsibility for a disabled adult who is for some reason incapable of making decisions to support himself or manage his affairs. Such persons are referred to as wards. Often, a person may be temporarily disabled or in need of less restrictive assistance. There are several alternatives to guardianship that may be more appropriate or preferable for such individuals.

A Health Care Proxy*

A health care proxy’s support is limited to only those decisions involving health matters, such as hospital stays, operations, and long-term care. A health care proxy is usually called upon for short-term disabilities such as periods of coma or unconsciousness. The proxy may also be called in for long-term disabilities such as dementia or terminal illness. The proxy is usually a family member, but it can be any agent agreed upon by the individual.

A Personal Caregiver

A personal caregiver is usually an employed professional trained to provide for people with serious illnesses or disabilities that prevents them from caring for themselves. Personal caregivers are usually assigned to those who do not require hospitalization, but cannot live independently. A personal caregiver may visit temporarily to provide meals or services, or they may stay at the home to provide round-the-clock care. A caregiver is often assigned by a hospital or other medical agency. They generally do not have legal permission to make decisions for the individual, but they may have access to personal information and limited access to financial resources needed for that person’s care, such as buying groceries or medical supplies.

A Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal ability to make financial or healthcare decisions for a particular person. The person provided with power of attorney is known as the attorney-in-fact. Power of attorney can vary from complete control of a person’s financial resources to limited control of only a single aspect. For example, an attorney-in-fact may be assigned to deal only with a person’s health care needs, much like a health care proxy, or they may be assigned only to deal with a person’s investments or estate. Power of attorney is often given to a family member, but it can be given to any individual at the disabled person’s discretion.

A Representative Payee

A representative payee is an individual assigned by the Social Security Administration to handle a disabled person’s Social Security and SSI payments. The SSA dictates a representative payee, with input from the disabled person if possible. The SSA will choose family members or close friends first. If none are available, they will use a qualified organization to act as a representative payee.

Trusts

A trust is a wealth management tool that allows an asset to be held by a third party on behalf of a beneficiary. Anyone can hold an asset in trust for anyone else, regardless of age or disabled status. Trusts are often used to handle inheritance and to limit the impact of inheritance or estate taxes.

Know the Facts Before Making Your Decision

Elder law attorney Andrew Lamkin focuses on providing advice on how to best fulfill the care and decision-making needs of your dependent loved one. Contact his law office today at 516-605-0625 to receive a free consultation and ensure that you make the most suitable choice for those who depend on you.

Recommended Resources
http://www.health.ny.gov/professionals/patients/health_care_proxy/
http://www.ssa.gov/payee/
https://www.fidelity.com/estate-planning-inheritance/estate-planning/trusts

What to Look Out for to Make Sure Your Will Won’t Lead to Family Disputes

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

Mental State

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

Age

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

Manipulation and Fraud

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

Understanding What Will Make Your Will Valid

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

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

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

The Best Protection Against Disputes Is Good Legal Advice

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

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

The Advantages and Disadvantages of an Adult Guardianship

Adult guardianships are sometimes necessary when an adult becomes incapacitated and the adult can no longer handle his or her financial or medical business. If there is no durable power of attorney in place, the guardianship becomes necessary. The court is the institution that is in charge of appointing a representative to handle the matters of the adult. Generally, an interested family member or friend is considered to be a suitable representative. The court will take several things in consideration before naming the person as guardian.

Initiating a Guardianship Petition

The process is initiated by an interested party filing a petition for guardianship. The petition is required to be accompanied by a physician’s report that indicates the need for guardianship. According to law, the “disabled adult” is entitled to due process under law, so he or she must be served with the petition at least 14 days prior to the court proceedings.

Legal and Social Advantages of a Guardianship

A guardianship offers legal advantages for the representative and the disabled adult. The disabled adult can have his or her important financial and health decisions made by someone that has the person’s best interests in mind. An appointed guardian has a responsibility to report the ward’s activity to the court, so there is a checks-and-balances mechanism in place. Court oversight provides some protection for the representative, especially when others might make accusations that the representative is abusing his or her power. A guardian is required to have a bond issued to offer some protection of the disabled person’s assets.

Legal and Social Disadvantages of a Guardianship

A guardianship has several disadvantages as well. The costs of a guardianship can be fairly prohibitive. These costs include fees for court proceedings, legal representation, and posting a bond. The representative is required to pay a premium for the bond that protects the assets of the disabled adult. The annual reporting that is required by the guardian can be tedious. In addition, privacy is reduced considerably with this type of proceeding. A guardianship hearing is considered a public proceeding, and the public can sit in on the hearing, although not all of the information is public. For instance, the court will seal all medical and physician reports, and these reports can only be retrieved in circumstances where the judge deems it appropriate for the release of these records.

Is a Guardianship the Right Choice for Your Loved One?

There are several alternatives to guardianship, so it would be wise to discuss each of them with an elder law lawyer before deciding on the best option for your loved one. Attorney Andrew Lamkin focuses exclusively on elder law and related legal issues and offers free consultations. Call the Law Office of Andrew Lamkin, P.C., at 516-605-0625 to discuss your situation and your options.

Living Trust Basics

When most people plan to distribute their property at death, they think of a simple last will and testament. At death, the will goes through a legal process known as probate. The probate process is public, with the executor’s actions reviewed by the probate court. In most cases, the process takes several months; problems can turn the timeline into years of expensive legal battles among heirs. Probate can incur significant legal fees for “administrative costs.” And the only end-of-life issue addressed by the will is “distribution of property.”

A Living Trust Is Private

A living trust is drafted and administered privately, usually within the family. At first, the settlor often serves as his own trustee, retaining full control of the property. At the settlor’s death, disability, or resignation, the appointed successor trustee takes over as trustee.

Assets and Administration Stay “In the Family”

While most probates require immediate liquidation of assets and distribution of the proceeds, living trust assets can be retained by the trust if it is financially prudent to do so. Potential problems such as spendthrift heirs and anticipated bickering among siblings can be addressed by provisions of the trust.

Distribution Takes Minutes, Not Months

A successor trustee can assume control immediately in an emergency. While the probate process requires banks to put an immediate hold on an individual’s bank accounts at death, bank accounts in the name of the trust require only proper documentation of the successor trustee’s appointment and the signing of a signature card. Thus funds will be immediately available for funeral and other expenses.

Save Thousands of Dollars in Administrative Fees

Living trusts aren’t just for the very rich. For example, a modest $100,000 estate in Indiana going through traditional probate incurred $35,000 in “administrative fees,” leaving $65,000 for distribution to heirs eight months later. Another $100,000 estate (same state, same extended family) titled in a living trust passed in its entirety to the single heir the same day.

Most Living Trusts are a Package Deal

The living trust package usually includes several documents: the living trust, a “pour-over” will leaving non-titled assets to the trust, a durable power of attorney, healthcare directive and appointment of healthcare representative, as well as a Living Will with end-of-life instructions. The living trust package allows you to prepare for disability as well as death.

Because living trusts include more extensive documentation and bring no future probate administrative revenue potential, they are more expensive up-front than a simple will. However, most people feel that the ultimate savings in time and money make living trusts a worthwhile investment.

Want to Learn More about the Benefits of a Living Trust?

Long Island–based elder law attorney Andrew Lamkin can help you consider every option to best provide for your family when planning your estate. You can receive a free consultation by calling the Law Office of Andrew Lamkin, P.C., at 516-605-0625, or by completing our Contact Form.

How To Successfully Plan For Old Age

We are all going to get old. By planning accordingly, we can assure that our golden years are worry-free, at least in some aspects, and that our children will know exactly what our wishes are.

Finances

Ideally, your retirement plan for your old age should begin well before you’re considered old. The best-case scenario would involve being able to start saving money for your retirement before you reach your thirties. However, the majority of twenty-somethings don’t tend to think of such things, and starting your retirement fund a bit later won’t necessarily be disastrous. Taking advantage of your employer’s 401(k) plan, opening an IRA, and having a separate savings account can go a long way when it comes to ensuring financial stability for your golden years.

Housing

The years slip by fast, so it’s wise to take a look at your current housing situation and determine where and how you want to live once you reach old age. If you decide to downsize in order to save on expenses, there’s nothing and no one stopping you. However, if the thought of leaving your beloved home is agonizing, you can stay where you are and reap the rewards of being a homeowner. Once you do start nearing retirement age, though, if you find that your finances are not up to par, you may consider one of those popular reverse mortgages to supplement your income and/or savings. Be aware, though, that like anything else, reverse mortgages have their benefits as well as their downside. Only you can decide if such a move is right for you.

Medical Care

If you haven’t done so already, clarifying what types of medical care you want as you enter old age and draw close to the end of your years is a wise move. By having a living will, also known as an advance directive, you make it clear to your loved ones and health care providers whether you want any drastic measures taken to extend your life in the case of a severe terminal illness, or if you lapse into a coma or other vegetative state. By specifying your wishes, you relieve your loved ones of the anguish of having to make such a decision at time when they are already under extreme stress.

Funeral Planning

While no one likes to think about it, drawing up a will and pre-planning your funeral can be a wise decision for those entering their golden years. Death is inevitable; by specifying your wishes to your loved ones when it comes to your death, you relieve them of at least one burden during this trying time. They will definitely thank you for it.

Planning for Later Life but Worried You Haven’t Thought of Something Important?

An elder-law focused attorney can bring you knowledge in experience in planning your estate, creating your will or trust, and arranging for long-term care in later life. Call the Long Island offices of Andrew Lamkin today at 516-605-0625 so you can rest assured that you’ve considered all aspects to make sure that you and your loved ones are taken care of the way you desire.

Read More at :
http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/the-best-life/2012/11/26/dont-ignore-these-old-age-needs
http://www.cmpcc.org/planning-age/

How to Help Beneficiaries Avoid Squandering Their Inheritance

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

Testators Should Issue the Money in Payments

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

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

Testators Can Disinherit a Child

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

Testators Can Put Stipulations on the Money

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

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

Need More Advice on Protecting the Inheritance of Your Beneficiaries?

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

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

Guidelines to Inheritance Laws: Who Gets What and Who Gets Nothing

Inheritance can be a tricky subject. Dealing with inheritance issues is often unexpected, and surviving family members may not have a solid grasp of how the process works or who gets what. Some family members may be expecting a huge windfall upon a relative’s death, while others may be worried that they will get nothing. The following guidelines are a base point to help understand how this legal scenario might play out, but there are many factors.

Common Property or Common Law

One major factor surrounding inheritance is the state where the deceased lived. The states of Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Alaska follow “common property” law. This simply means that, regardless of will, a current spouse is automatically entitled to half the value of all assets earned during the marriage, since that person is already considered to be the owner of half of all assets. It is important to note that this law supersedes anything written in the will unless the spouse has signed a legal document to the contrary. Also important is that the law applies only to the current spouse. Ex-spouses are not in any way included nor are they entitled to any inheritance unless the will states otherwise. Finally, in order for the common property law to apply, the spouse must argue the case in court. If no case is brought forward in a timely manner, then the will takes automatic precedence.

This is best portrayed with an example. Ben has recently passed. He is survived by his current wife, Jane. Ben had two children with Jane and another son with his previous wife, Kelly. Ben’s estate is valued at $600,000. His will states that his two children from Jane each get $200,000. His other son gets $100,000 and his wife Jane gets $50,000 and his previous wife Kelly gets $50,000. If Jane does nothing, then the estate will be divided as written. However, if Jane lives in one of the common property states, then she can automatically argue that she is entitled to at least $300,000 of the estate. The court would be obligated to provide her with that $300,000, and then decide how the remaining amount would be divided, following as closely to the will as possible.

In all other states, common law applies. This can vary, although most common law states provide an obligatory one-third of assets to the surviving spouse regardless of will. Again, the spouse must argue this in court if the will provides less than this amount.

Children and Inheritance

Children have no automatic right to inherit. They must be named in the will. However, there are some legal protections to prevent children from being automatically excluded or disinherited. One common protection involves a child born after a will was written and not revised to include that child. The law assumes the parent intended to include the child, but simply overlooked revising the will. The court then attempts to adjust the inheritance to include the new child by the same proportion as other children. Similar extensions exist to include children of deceased children under the idea that the inheritance of the deceased child would have naturally passed to them.

Want to Know More about Inheritance Law?

If you are a surviving relative involved in an inheritance dispute, or are writing your will and want to learn how to avoid them, it is best to consult a qualified attorney. Andrew Lamkin focuses his practice on elder law, estate planning, and probate. For a free consultation, call 516-605-0625 today.

Read More:
http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/inheritance-rights-29607.html
http://estate.findlaw.com/wills/inheritance-law-and-your-rights.html

What is Elderly Guardianship and When is it Necessary

The number of people with elderly parents has exploded in recent years, and taking care of an elderly parent, or even two, may be difficult. Sometimes, the health of an elderly person will depend on his or her caretakers. Often, assigning a guardian is required to keep a person safe in old age.

The guardian is often a child or close family friend of the elderly person. The guardian must be over the age of 18 and must not have a criminal record. In cases where an elderly person does not have a close family member for care, the court may assign a different individual, such as a lawyer or a private company to serve as Guardian.

A guardian is assigned when the court decides a person cannot look after himself and may be in danger if someone is not assigned to ensure proper care. Each state has a different set of rules guiding the guardianship process, and an elderly person must be labeled “legally incompetent” or “incapacitated” by the court. This means that person cannot make important decisions on his or her own due to age.

In most cases, a person will bring a case to the court through a document called a “petition,” which is an official request that an elderly person has a guardian assigned for legal rights and care. The process may take some time, and the court may require an evaluation that takes a few months to figure out if someone is competent or not.

It may be necessary for the child or relative of an elderly person to seek guardianship to keep that person safe and to make sure that a person with reduced mental health has proper care so that they do not make bad decisions about important financial or legal items. It would be unfortunate if an elderly person lost the family home because they were scammed out of property or savings.

In addition, a person who is unable to make good financial decisions might also have problems remembering to take medication or attend doctor’s appointments. It is essential that family members remain aware of a parent or relative’s mental state so that elderly guardianship options may be considered. It may be difficult for an elderly person to accept that he or she can no longer make decisions on his or her own, but it is important for guardianship to happen if it will keep that person and his or her personal assets safe.

Resources:
http://www.caring.com/articles/adult-guardianship
http://www.guardianship.org/reports/Guardianship_of_the_Elderly.pdf
http://www.agingcare.com/Articles/how-to-get-guardianship-of-elderly-parents-140693.htm

What is a Guardian Responsible For?

Most of the time, a guardian is someone who is appointed to take care of a minor child. In some instances, a guardian may also be responsible for taking care of an adult-aged person who is incapable of taking care of himself or herself. Additionally, the guardian is also responsible for handling the person’s assets. Sometimes, the guardian may be referred to as a conservator.

Most times, a guardian will be appointed to look after someone at the discretion of the court; however, in traditional circumstances, a guardian is someone who is the parent of a child. On the other hand, it is possible for the court to take away the rights of a parent if the parent is believed to be taking improper care of a child(ren). In addition, it is possible for someone to be appointed as the guardian of someone if the appointing was left in a will. A person can also choose for himself or herself, if of legal age, as to who his or her guardian will be in the event that he or she suffers from some type of severe disability.

The main responsibility that a guardian has over his or her ward(s) is that the latter is taken proper care of, including providing shelter, clothing and food. The guardian is there to ensure that the ward has access to education, health insurance and other types of benefits. If the ward has some type of property, banking account and/or assets, the guardian will manage those as well.

Sometimes, the guardian may or may not have access to the banking account of the ward. For example, if a child has a savings account set aside for him or her in the amount of $1,000,000, the guardian may be granted access to only 10 percent of the funds, leaving the remaining 90 percent to the child once he or she turns 18.

When a guardian is given the responsibility to take care of a minor child or one who suffers from no disability, the guardian’s responsibilities end when the child reaches 18 years of age. On the other hand, there are instances when a guardian is responsible for a ward for his or her entire life.

Sources:
http://wills.about.com/od/planningfordisability/tp/responsibilities.htm
http://www.courts.ca.gov/1211.htm

What a Will Can and Can’t Do

No one likes to think about their own death, but it is important to make sure loved ones are provided for in case it happens. Anyone without a will should give it serious thought. Anyone with a will that needs changes, should do it now.

A legal will is one that the probate or Surrogates court will accept and put into effect. Probate is the process by which an estate is administered. In order for a Court to grant probate, it must be satisfied that the document sets out clearly how any assets are to be divided and that the Will was executed properly. When the court grants probate, an Executor is appointed to properly administer the estate.

A will is still critical to those who do not have much, as there might be personal items such as jewelry, books, or mementos that are to go to specific people. Having a will lays this all out and saves arguments later on. The will also states who you want to serve as executor. This should be the person who you trust will carry out your wishes.

Dying without a will mean a person has died intestate, meaning that State Law will decides who the beneficiaries are.

Examples of what could happen if a person dies without a will are:

  • If a person dies without a spouse or children, but is survived by parents, the parents inherit any assets of the estate.
  • If a person dies and is survived by a spouse, the whole estate goes to the spouse.
  • If a person dies and has a spouse and children, the estate usually gets divided evenly between them.
  • If a person dies and doesn’t have spouse, children or parents, but has brothers and sisters, the estate is divided equally among them.

There are a number of reasons why having a will is a good idea, including:

  • It is one of the only ways to be sure that a person’s belongings, collected over the years, are given to the people the person wants them to. It helps provides security for the person’s family.
  • Having a will transfers a person’s property to their heirs more easily.
  • If a person has minor aged children, a guardian can be named and planning made for their living expenses and education.
  • If a person remarries, a will protects members of both families. A second marriage usually cancels out a will made before the marriage.
  • A former spouse can still inherit because a divorce does not automatically cancel a will. Updating a will regularly can prevent this.

Top 5 Ways to Avoid Disputes in Your Family over Your Will

Planning an estate can be stressful. What is often worse, though, is the state that the living family is left in after you pass. If your estate is not carefully divided, a family can quickly turn on itself. These five tips can help to save you from family turmoil:

1. Meet with an Attorney

A few wrong words can ruin a will, and a will constructed without an attorney can have trouble standing up to probate. If you want to make sure that you minimize family squabbles, have an experienced estate planning attorney help you put together your will. This will lend it a greater air of legitimacy and give you a chance to put together something that can withstand your death.

2. Discuss It

It is always important to discuss your estate before your death. If it is important to you that a specific person receives an item, let the person know. Likewise, explain to any family member left out of the will or who will receive minimal inheritance why this is being done; this will allow those family members to know your reasoning and might stop them from taking it out on the rest of the family.

3. Grouping

It might be wise to set up your will to leave gifts to a class of people rather than to individuals. You might want to leave your estate in a certain percentage to a spouse and then your monetary assets in equal percentages to your children or grandchildren. Equality has a wonderful way of ending arguments among survivors, even if the resulting inheritance is not exactly what was expected.

4. Consistent Updates

It is also wise to update your will consistently. New grandchildren might be born or a marriage might dissolve in life, but you might have clauses in your will that have not reflected these changes. If you want to stop fights before they start, try to update your will around the time of any major life event. That will, at the least, keep things current.

5. In Terrorem

Finally, there is the “nuclear option” of estate planning – the in terrorem or “no contest” clause. In some states, an in terrorem clause can be used in a will to punish those who would challenge the will and are not successful. These clauses will cause an individual to be removed from the will completely or to only receive a smaller share of his or her inheritance. Given that the vast majority of will challenges are failures, this is often a potent warning. Many people want to include an in terrorem clause when they are disinheriting a family member. When using an in terrorem clause in this instance, it a good idea to leave a small amount (i.e. $10,000) to that beneficiary so that they have something to loose by contesting the will.

SOURCES:
Bove, A. 2005. The Complete Book of Wills, Trust and Estates, 3rd Edition.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Special Needs Trusts

By creating a special needs trust, you can establish a firm financial future for someone with disability. If you currently provide financial support for a child, grandchild or other individual who needs special assistance, you have the option of transferring assets, such as real property and funds into a special needs trust. It will secure long-term support for your loved one. In addition to receiving the financial benefits of the trust, the beneficiary may also continue to be eligible for governmental health care benefits as well as other governmental financial benefits for individuals with disabilities. Hence, the value of the trust assets will not affect the beneficiary’s eligibility for government assistance.

The beneficiary of the special needs trust is the individual who will receive the trust property. There is no age requirement for the beneficiary. Thus, you can establish a trust for an infant, child, elderly individual, spouse and the like.

When you set up a special needs trust, as the creator of the trust, you are the grantor or settler. The trust assets are transferred in the trust, and a trustee is required to manage the property in the trust. With a special needs trust, you can designate yourself as trustee in addition to naming a successor trustee. Upon your death or if you resign as trustee, the successor trustee will occupy the role as the trustee and manage the trust property.

The trustee is required to ensure that the trust property is distributed to the beneficiary in accordance with the terms of the trust document. The person who creates the trust must create a trust document, which determines how the property will be distributed to the beneficiary. Many people create special needs trust to provide for shelter and income for individuals with disabilities. The beneficiary does not have the power to terminate or revoke the trust. Also, the beneficiary cannot directly withdraw the funds from the trust. The trustee is the only person who has the power to use the trust property, but only to the extent that is allowable by the trust document.

When you initially create a trust, you can begin transferring property into the trust. You can also allow other people to transfer assets into the trust. When you create an estate plan, you can also transfer additional property into the special needs trust to provide support for the beneficiary upon your death.

More here:
http://www.nsnn.com/frequently.htm
http://www.disabilityrightswa.org/special-needs-trusts

5 Things You Might Not Know about a Will

Most people know that a will is a written document providing the last wishes of a person. It will detail how the person’s property will be given to his or her heirs. However, there are things many do not know about how a will is created or how it is used.

1. If a Person Dies Without a Will, Property Does Not Go to the State

Every state has laws detailing where property goes if a person dies without a will. These are called laws of intestate succession. Normally, property will first go to the spouse or children. If none exists, it will go to grandchildren, then parents, brothers and sisters, aunts or uncles and cousins.

If none of these relatives are alive, it is only then that property will go to the state. However, a will is still important because a person can identify exactly to whom he or she wants personal property to be transferred. It is also important if the person has minor children because the will names who the person wishes to be guardians.

2. Persons should not write Their Own Wills

some People think they can write their own Will. This may or may not be a good idea because if the language is wrong, their wishes may not be carried out. Anyone signing a will normally needs two witnesses to declare that they have witnessed the person signing the will and that the person was mentally sound when it was signed. This is referred to as attestation of a will. A person writing their own will may not be versed in the legal terms necessary to properly carry out their wishes or the procedural formalities needed to ensure proper execution.

3. Handwritten Changes to a Will are not Allowed

Many people who have a will will experience changes in their lives or change their minds over whom to give their property. Simply crossing out one name in a will and writing in another is generally not valid. Usually, an amendment to the will, called a codicil, is needed. Like the original will, a codicil requires the signature of two witnesses, as well as an attestation of witnesses.

4. A Will does not Automatically Transfer Property

When a person dies leaving a will, it must be presented to a special court for approval. This process is called probate. A probate court judge will review the will to ensure it is valid and will appoint a person to carry out the instructions in it.

The probate process can take months or sometimes years to complete. Only when the court approves of the will can the property itself be transferred.

5. Not all Property is Transferred by a Will

Some property, such as life insurance proceeds or some real estate may be transferred differently than is stated in the will. If a person has a life insurance policy that directs the proceeds to go to A, but the will states that “all of my property goes to B”, the life insurance will go to A.

In fact, if life insurance names a specific person to pay the proceeds, it does not matter if a will exists. Likewise, if real estate is owned with another person, the real estate may automatically transfer to the other person.

The laws for creating and carrying out the wishes of a will can be complex. If there are questions or confusion of how to do so, a person should meet with a qualified estate planning attorney.

Read more here:
http://www.goodwillsmidlands.co.uk/our_services/some_interesting_facts_about_wills
http://burke.patch.com/blog_posts/top-5-myths-and-facts-about-wills-trusts-5e99b4f8
http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/2012/05/ten-fun-facts-about-estate-planning.html
http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/attestation_clause
http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/probate.asp
http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Codicils

Medicaid Redesign team Proposes Changes to Medicaid Eligibility in New York

Governor Cuomo recently accepted proposals from New York’s newly created Medicaid Redesign Team (“MRT”). While it is early in the process, and the proposals may not be implemented in their present form or at all, budgeting pressures at all levels of government make it likely that some changes in the Medicaid program will occur. Here are a few of the particularly troubling features of the MRT’s proposals:

Elimination of Spousal/Parental Refusal

Currently, a spouse may refuse to support their spouse who is an applicant for Community Medicaid or Medicaid Home Care. When this occurs, Medicaid is obligated to provide care or services to the applicant, assuming he is eligible (under $13,800 in resources), even if the spouse can afford to pay. The MRT is proposing that the resources and income of the spouse should be considered in determining whether the applicant is eligible for Medicaid. This means that spouses, and parents of disabled children, will be required to spend down virtually all of the household’s assets, and contribute a share of their income, before their ill spouse or disabled child will be eligible to receive care.

5-year “Look Back” for Community Medicaid and Home Care

Currently, the 5-year look back and transfer penalties apply only to applicants for Institutional Medicaid (for Nursing Home Care). Currently, applicants for Community Medicaid or Home Care are able to transfer their assets to family members, friends, or trusts, and thereby become eligible for Community Medicaid benefits. The MRT’s proposal would extend the 5-year look back to Community Medicaid and Home Care, which means that many potential applicants will find that they are ineligible for Medicaid, or subject to a lengthy penalty period before benefits can be obtained.

Estate Recovery

Currently, it is difficult for Medicaid to recover from the estates of medicaid recipients where the recipient has effectively transferred their assets during life to a family member or trust. The proposed law would allow medicaid the ability to seek recovery in these cases.

Impact of these proposals

If these proposals become law, many Medicaid applicants and their families will be severely affected. Some will find their financial situation and lifestyle significantly diminished, and others may find it difficult to pay for even basic living expenses. Many may to apply for food stamps, another program funded by the government.

What to do? Now, more than ever, people who need, or may need (even if they think they will never need it), long-term care should make it a top priority to consult a Long Island Elder Law attorney. Planning may need to be taken earlier than previously seemed necessary. As always, with proper planning, t will still be possible to improve your situation, even if these new measures find their way into law.

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Community Medicaid in New York State

How to Stay at home and protect your assets and income

In New York, the Community Based Medicaid program will pay for the cost of a home health aide. When applying, the local department of social services considered the applicant’s income and assets and whether the Medicaid applicant requires the assistance with the activities of daily living. The following is a breakdown of how DSS evaluates each for a New York Community Medicaid application.

Activities of Daily Living

An individual over the age of 65 is considered “disabled” and therefore entitled to Community Medicaid benefits if they need assistance with the activities of daily living, These include bathing, dressing, toileting and feeding. For most that are interested in Community Medicaid, this is not a difficult a difficult threshold to reach. Any applicant with the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s or with physical disabilities that limit their ability to live on their own, is sufficiently “disabled” enough to receive Community Medicaid benefits.

Income

Income is calculated by adding the following: Social Security, Pensions, income from rental properties or other investments, and require minimum distributions from retirement accounts. Under Community Medicaid rules in New York, the Medicaid recipient is entitled to keep $787 per month of their income. The remainder of the recipients income is called a “spenddown”. The Medicaid recipient is required spend the remainder on the cost of the aide. Medicaid will pay the difference.

Most of those who can stay at home will have expenses far exceeding the $787 limit. Medicaid understands this and allows for an exception. The often used exception is called a “Pooled Income Trust”.

Clearly, for many recipients of Community Based Medicaid, loss of income would prevent them from remaining in their homes. Enter the Pooled Income Trust. A Pooled Income Trust is similar to a bank account, however it administered by a Non-profit Trust Company, such as NYSARC Trust Services or AHRC.

If Mr. Smith has a monthly income of $2,787 in Social Security and pension income, and he is receiving Medicaid benefits for home care in her Long Island home, he has $2,000 in “excess income” under the current Medicaid rules. As a result, Mr. Smith is required to send a check each month in the amount of $2,000 to his home care agency as a contribution to the cost of his care.

However, when Mr. Smith joins a qualified pooled income trust, his $2,000 check will be sent to the trust instead of his home care agency. The trust will then be able to pay any of Mr. Smith’s expenses, such as his utilities, his food, or his clothing, from his own funds or even the taxes on his Long Island home. Mr. Smith will continue to receive his Medicaid home care, as well.

The pooled income trust contains the funds of many disabled persons and is managed by a non-profit organization that maintains separate accounts for each individual. In order to participate in the trust, the disabled person (or his representative acting under durable power of attorney) signs an agreement with the trust. Under this agreement, upon the beneficiary’s death, if there are any remaining funds they are kept by the trust.

Those who wish to participate in a pooled income trust will have to establish that they are disabled, but findings of disability by the Social Security Administration or by Medicaid are valid for this purpose.

Assets

For Medicaid purposes in New York, assets include any real property owned by the applicant or savings in the form of money markets, CD’s, stocks, bonds, cash values in insurance policies, and other non-retirement investments. When applying for Community Medicaid in New York, the applicant’s total assets must be under $13,800. Clearly, most individuals in New York City, Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island, are worth more than $13,800.

Many have heard of a five-year look-back period on asset transfers when applying for Medicaid. It is true that a five-year look back period exists – but only for Institutional Medicaid application where the applicant is residing in a nursing home. When applying for Community Based Medicaid applications in New York, there is no five-year look back. Therefore, an applicant can transfer their assets in month and apply for benefits the following month. The best way to transfer assets can only be determined on a case by case scenario. While in some cases it may be appropriate to transfer assets to other family members, including adult children, in other cases it would more advisable to transfer the assets to an Irrevocable Trust.

Most people are not aware of the eligibility requirements for Community Based Medicaid in New York. This is unfortunate because many individuals who could be eligible are spending down their savings on the cost of a home health aide. Whether an individual requires an aide for the first time (perhaps they are leaving a rehab facility) or have had an aide with them and are paying privately, many can eligible for Community Medicaid benefits with the proper planning.

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How to Pay for Nursing Home Care on Long Island

The cost of a Nursing Home in Long Island is generally $12,000 – $15,000 per month. This cost can deplete savings very quickly. As a result, proper planning is extremely important.

There are three ways to pay for a Nursing Home. First, one can use their savings. Clearly not a great plan – especially if your spouse must rely on that money to live. Second, one can purchase Long Term Care Insurance. Unfortunately, not many people can afford the premiums and the policies do not always cover the entire cost of care.

The third way to pay for Nursing Home Care on Long Island is Medicaid. Medicaid is a federal program which is administered by the States. In 2006, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA) was passed, making it more difficult – NOT IMPOSSIBLE – to qualify for Medicaid benefits. There are two ways in which the DRA made qualifying for Medicaid more difficult.

First, it extended a look back period on assets transfers from 3 years to five years. This means that when applying for Institutional Medicaid to pay for the Nursing Home, the local Department of Social Services will review your bank statements for the previous five years. If you have transferred any assets to a non spouse, they will impose a penalty period, during which the resident of the Nursing Home is responsible for payment. At the conclusion of the penalty period, Medicaid will “pick up” the cost of care.

The second way that the DRA affected eligibility is that he penalty period now begins when who enter the nursing home and apply for medicaid. Under the old law, the penalty period began when the asset was transferred. Therefore, under the old law, even if you made a large transfer within the 3 year look back, there is a possibility that the penalty period is over when you enter the nursing home. Under the DRA, the penalty period does not begin until one applies for Medicaid. Therefore, if there was a transfer of assets within the 5 years, there will always be a penalty period.

This does not mean that you cannot apply for Medicaid when you enter a Nursing Home. To the contrary it means that YOU MUST APPLY IMMEDIATELY because you want the penalty period to begin as soon as possible. Additionally there is a planning strategy that can cut the penalty period almost in half.

The above only applies to those who do not have spouses. If a Medicaid Applicant has a spouse, they can transfer their assets to the spouse and that transfer is not considered in the look back period – hence there would be no penalty period. The spouse simply signs a form called a “Spousal Refusal” and Medicaid will not impoverish the well spouse. There are certain limits to this, however. if the Community spouse has over $100,000 in assets, Medicaid can seek a contribution from them. Fortunately, the contribution is often minimal.

Proper planning can alleviate many concerns and protect assets against the high cost of care at Nursing Homes on Long Island. However, even if planning has not occurred, it it possible to protect some assets should you require Nursing Home Care. It is advisable to seek the advice of an Elder Law Attorney in Long Island as soon as your spouse or family member enters a nursing home. Getting a jump on the application process can save you a month or two of nursing home costs.

With questions about how to apply for Nursing Home Medicaid benefits, please call this office for a free consultation at 516-605-0625.

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The Irrevocable Income Only Trust

A Case Study in protecting your assets against the cost of long term care

Mr. and Mrs. Watson are in their mid-seventies. Mr. Watson recently fell and injured his hip. He is home from re-hab and is doing better, but may require assistance in the coming years. Additionally, Mrs. Watson has just been diagnosed with the onset on Alzheimers. They own their house (valued at $550,000) on Long Island and have a nice nest egg of about $400,000 in investments and savings. They also receive a combined $3,700 per month in income from social security, Mr. Watson’s pension and income from their investments. They can comfortably live off of their income and do not need to touch the principal of their savings. Their children are concerned with how they can protect their assets while receiving the care they will require in the future.

Their situation is common to many seniors on Long Island. The solution – The Irrevocable Income Only Trust (IIOT). In simplest terms, a Trust is private agreement used to achieve various estate planning goals. There are many kinds of Trusts – the most common being Revocable and Irrevocable. The Irrevocable Trust, as it’s name implies, cannot be altered, modified, amended or revoked. Then why do it?

Simple – if your situation is similar to the Watson’s, the Irrevocable Trust is most often the best way to protect assets against the cost of long term care (cost of home health aide or nursing home).

Here’s how the IIOT would work for the Watson’s. Mr. and Mrs. Watson would create the Trust (they are called the Settlor’s) and appoint one of their two children as Trustees. The Trust would have a name, just as any company has a name. It may be called the “Watson Family 2010 Irrevocable Trust”. Then they would transfer the deed to their house to the Trust. Although they technically do not own the house, the Watson’s would still receive all tax breaks associated with property ownership, such as a property tax deduction or veteran’s deduction. The Trust terms would also stipulate that the Watson’s can live in the house for the remainder of their lives.

The Watsons are considering selling their house in 1 year to buy a condo. The good news is that the Trustee can sell the house for them and buy the condo with the proceeds. The remaining proceeds as well as any of their other investments can also be owned by the trust. The principal remains in the Trust and the income generated (dividends from stock, interest from CD’s, etc..) will continue to go to the Watsons. This is important because they need currently rely on that income. By creating the Irrevocable Trust and transferring assets to the Trust, the assets are protected from Medicaid because the Trust is Irrevocable. By giving control of the assets to one of your children, you are protecting the assets.

If you require the assistance of a home health aide in New York, the assets are protected immediately. This means that, assuming you have protected all of your assets, you would qualify for Medicaid benefits. To be eligible for Institutional Medicaid (Nursing home), you have to do this planning 5 years before applying for Medicaid (The Deficit Reduction Act of 2006 (DRA) imposed a five year look back period on asset transfers).

Typically, I would not advise my clients to transfer all of their assets to the Trust. That would be a big step for most. Fortunately, you can continue to transfer assets down the road.

Protecting assets against the cost of care is important. Most of my clients are like the Watson’s. They want to ensure that their assets are protected and would rather their children inherit than the money go to a nursing home. Though important, this planning must also be done with the counsel of trusted advisors.

With questions about how the Irrevocable Trust can be used to protect your assets, please call this office for a free consultation at 516-605-0625, or contact us online.

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Probate: What it is and why to avoid it

Probate is the process by which a Last Will & Testament is declared valid. When an individual passes away the named executor of the Will must file a Petition, along with the original Will, with Surrogates Court in the county where the decedent resided. Included with the Petition, the Executor must satisfy certain requirements. One such requirement is to serve notice upon all lawful heirs of the decedent.

The heirs are asked to sign a Waiver of Process and Consent to Probate. By signing this form, the heir is consenting to the appointment of the Petitioning Executor – but is not forfeiting any rights to their inheritance. The lawful heirs are the closest relatives – starting with the spouse, children and grandchildren and if there are not any surviving then parents, siblings and nieces and nephews.

At the conclusion of the proceeding – after the Petition has been filed with the necessary Waiver and Consent forms – the Judge will appoint the Petitioning Executor as Executor. At this time, the Executor can collect the assets of the estate and distribute them according to the terms of the Will. Typically the process is not too difficult. However, there are situations where it may be important.

Disinheriting a child:

During the probate process in New York, a disinherited child will still be asked to sign a waiver and consent form. Because the child is disinherited, it is unlikely they would sign the form. The attorney for the estate will be required to ask the Judge to serve that individual with a Citation. The citation would put the individual on notice that he has the right to appear in Court at a predetermined time. If the individual does not show up, they forfeit their rights to contest the estate. Because of these requirements, the entire process is extended and can last for over 6-12 months. Avoiding probate for New York residents is important if they are disinheriting a child. It will reduce the likelihood that the disinherited child will contest the Will. It will also make life much easier for the other heirs, saving them months of aggravation and thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Property in Multiple States:

Sometimes probate only occurs when the decedent owned property in New York and in another state. In fact, many of my clients own their home in Long Island and a winter home on Florida. When this occurs, the heirs are required to probate the estate in New York and Florida. The entire process will easily last for over 1 year. Further, because two probate proceedings are required, two attorneys would have to be hired, one on New York and the other in Florida. The time and costs associated with two probate proceedings are great reasons to speak with an Estate Planning Attorney in New York to discuss ways to avoid probate.

Second Marriages:

Previously, I mentioned that New York probate proceedings require the inclusion of all lawful heirs. When passing away with a spouse and children, they are all considered lawful heirs. If you are in a second marriage and your will distributes your assets in a way that may upset either your spouse or children from a previous marriage, there is a very good chance that the probate process can be turned into a battleground between the survivors. With proper planning it is possible to avoid probate in these circumstances and make sure that your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes.

New York probate proceedings are not always difficult. However, in certain situations, it is advisable to seek the advice of counsel and learn how you can make life easier for your heirs. Though it is not a great commentary on our society, unfortunately, money changes people. Most family feuds occur when one family member has passed away and their estate needs to be administered. The probate process in New York is important because it requires all family members to be involved. However, this very requirement also makes the process difficult and expensive. If one of your estate planning goals is to ensure a smooth and inexpensive transition of assets upon your demise, it is advisable to avoid probate – especially in the situations described above.

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Estate Planning for New Parents

New parents have many things to think about. Is it a boy or a girl? How do we decorate the nursery? Day care or a nanny? Some of the most important questions, however, are put on the back burner because most new parents either choose not to discuss them or can’t come to any conclusions with their spouse.

Guardian

Perhaps the most important decision for a new parent is that of choosing a guardian for their children. His brother or her sister? My parents or yours? For some, choosing a guardian simple. Perhaps they only have 1 sibling (and they get along) or a close cousin or best friend. For others, however, the choose of a guardian can be agonizing. Whether it is because they do not know who to ask, don’t have anyone they trust or can’t agree with their spouse, often times, the inability to make a decision on a guardian is the #1 reason why new parents do not do wills.

This is a mistake. The reason it is a mistake is because of what will happen if they do nothing. In the absence of Last Will & Testament appointing a guardian for minor children, family members can fight for custody and/or visitation rights. They can fight for control of the child’s inheritance. If you thought that Thanksgiving with the entire family was awkward, wait to see what happens when everyone thinks they are the best choice to raise your children.

The best tip I can give to new parents is to make a decision. You need to sit down with your spouse and talk about what is best for your children. Many young parents will want to choose their parents as guardians. This may be your only choice, but consider the age of your parents and the physical demands of raising young children. Are your parents able to do it? If you must appoint your parents, be sure to also name a back up guardian – just in case something happens to your parents or they are unable to do it.

Minors Trust

A minors Trust is a provision in a will that allows parents to determine how their children will inherit. In the absence of a Minors Trust, a minor child will assume control of their inheritance at the age of 18. A minors trust allows a parent to set age milestones for when their children will have control.

Lets say that parents have two young children. The Wills can state that each child’s portion will be placed into a trust until the child reaches the age of 21. At that point 1/3 of the child’s inheritance will be given to him. The next third at 25 and the final 3rd at 30. These are only examples. A parent is free to choose the ages and percentages that they deem appropriate.

The money in the Trust, though not in the control of the child, can be used for their Health, Maintenance, Education and Support prior to the stipulated ages. Additionally, the parents name the Trustees of the money. The Trustee can be the same as the guardian, but there is no such requirement.

When choosing to include a Minors trust in your Will, be sure to organize your beneficiary designations properly. Keep in mind that if your children are named as a beneficiary of an investment account or life insurance policy, the proceeds of such will pass to them directly, outside the terms of the will and thus outside the terms of the Minors Trust.

Insurance

Life Insurance is a very important aspect the estate plan of new parents. Most young parents will buy Term Life Insurance. A term policy is a policy in effect for a term of years (15, 20, 30). The premiums are affordable because no cash value accumulates in the policy. The only purpose is to provide protection against the loss of income that would occur when a parent passes.

Policies should be purchased on the life of each parent, but perhaps not in equal amounts. If one spouse stays at home with the kids, a small policy is advisable because there is no income to replace. The only cost that would arise would be that of childcare. A larger policy should be purchased on the life of the income earner. When thinking of amounts, consider how much your spouse and children would need if they lost your income. Such factors include college, weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, mortgage on the house, cost of living and security.

If you are a soon to be new parent seek the advice of an Estate Attorney and/or financial advisor to discuss these important issues. Inaction can only harm your surviving spouse and children.

Estate Planning for those in 2nd Marriages in New York

For those in second marriages, Estate Planning can pose many different issues. This is because spouses may have to provide for their new spouse, their new spouse’s children, and their own children from the previous marriage. If you are marrying later in life and already have substantial assets, this can make the situation even more difficult and complex. One of the challenges will be to use those assets to ensure that a surviving spouse is financially secure during his or her lifetime, while preserving a sizable sum for the children from your first marriage.

With a second marriage, spouses may need to consider how long the second marriage has lasted and the financial situation of each spouse. In addition, a great deal of thought should go into what the children from the first marriage will receive if their parent is the first spouse from the new marriage to pass away. If there is no prenuptial agreement in the second marriage, it is likely that the surviving spouse will get half of the deceased spouse’s assets, and this may not be what the deceased spouse would have wanted for his or her children from a previous marriage.

While second marriages can present challenges for estate planning, these issues can be resolved if clients are thoughtful and seek the advice of an experienced estate planning attorney.

A couple of Tips:

  1. New Spouses should discuss their planning together. Avoiding the discussion will only lead to heartache later.
  2. Prior to Marriage, discuss a Prenuptial agreement. If you have not done so, their are other options, such as a QTIP Trust that can achieve the desired outcome.
  3. Be fair and reasonable. Often, children and new spouses do not get along. Remember the everyone of feelings.
  4. Consider discussing your planning with your children. Depending on the family, doing so can make things that much easier. However, on the flip side, there are some situations where discussing these issues with your children will cause more problems.
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Pooled Income Trusts

How to protect your excess income when receiving community Medicaid

A Pooled Income Trust is an option for a disabled individual who has excess income while receiving Community Medicaid Benefits.

Here is how it works:

Recipients of Community Medicaid – those who receive the assistance of a home health aide – are allowed to keep $787 per month of their income. Any additional income, called a “Spendown”, is supposed to be spent down on the individuals care. Therefore, if a Medicaid recipient has income of $1,500 per month, they would be allowed to keep $787 and the remainder would go to the home health aide – with Medicaid paying for any additional costs of the care.

However, for many recipients of Community Based Medicaid, loss of income would prevent them from remaining in their homes. Enter the Pooled Income Trust. A Pooled Income Trust is similar to a bank account, however it administered by a Non-profit Trust Company, such as NYSARC Trust Services or AHRC.

If Mr. Smith has a monthly income of $2,787 in Social Security and pension income, and he is receiving Medicaid benefits for home care in his Long Island home, he has $2,000 in “excess income” under the current Medicaid rules. As a result, Mr. Smith is required to send a check each month in the amount of $2,000 to his home care agency as a contribution to the cost of his care.

However, when Mr. Smith joins a qualified pooled income trust, his $2,000 check will be sent to the trust instead of his home care agency. The trust will then be able to pay any of Mr. Smith’s expenses, such as his utilities, his food, or his clothing, from his own funds or even the taxes on his Long Island home. Mr. Smith will continue to receive his Medicaid home care, as well.

The pooled income trust contains the funds of many disabled persons and is managed by a non-profit organization that maintains separate accounts for each individual. In order to participate in the trust, the disabled person (or his representative acting under durable power of attorney) signs an agreement with the trust. Under this agreement, upon the beneficiary’s death, if there are any remaining funds they are kept by the trust.

Those who wish to participate in a pooled income trust will have to establish that they are disabled, but findings of disability by the Social Security Administration or by Medicaid are valid for this purpose.

New ‘Power of Attorney’ Law – Frequently Asked Questions

By Andrew M. Lamkin, Esq.

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

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