December 15, 2019










What Is the Difference between Elder Law and Estate Planning?

Most people use the terms “estate planning” and “elder law” interchangeably. If you find yourself curious whether they are the same or not, you are not alone. Estate planning deals mostly with helping plan for disability, death, and taxes. The purpose of estate planning is to make sure loved ones receive their inheritance and are taken care of after one’s death.

Elder law, on the other hand, involves some of the same issues as estate planning but also touches on others outside of it. Elder law helps those who are aging take care of their legal and health needs. One difference between elder law and estate planning is that elder law can help with long term care. For example, you may need to plan for nursing home care later in life, and an elder law attorney can help you do so.

While elder law can overlap some of the same tasks as estate planning, estate planning does not go into long term care planning or assisting someone with Medicare. An attorney, however, may offer both estate planning and elder law services.

Digging Deeper into the Definition of Each and How to Tell Which Service You Need

Here, we will go over each type of planning process so that you can determine which one is right for your current situation.

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is a long-term, proactive planning procedure that addresses what you would like to happen after your death. Some of the items you plan for in your estate plan can still help you while living, including creating a trust or having a health directive.

Most importantly, when you are doing estate planning, you are preparing for post-death situations. Your estate plan establishes several rules and guidelines for loved ones, including who inherits what from your estate, how you would like to be buried, and any special instructions you wish to leave behind for loved ones.

When you meet with an estate planning attorney, you will let your attorney know any concerns or wishes you may have about how you would like your property distributed after death. Your attorney will then consider your estate size, current laws, and any unique factors to create an estate plan that addresses all of those concerns and wishes. Some items you may take care of during this process include:

If you do not have an estate plan, the court will decide how to distribute your assets. The court follows the current law, and your estate’s assets may go to parties that you would not have given your assets to initially. Therefore, it is important that anyone with assets creates an estate plan to make sure that the right parties receive an inheritance. An estate plan essentially tells the court where you would like your money to go, who will care for any minor children you have, what you would like to happen if you become disabled, and may help you avoid probate court if you establish a trust for your assets.

Most importantly, estate planning is ongoing. As your family changes or you acquire new assets, you will update your will accordingly. Most attorneys advise their clients to update or at least review their existing plans once a year or once every other year. You should also revise your plan immediately after any significant life change. An example of a substantial life change would be remarrying, having another child, or purchasing property.

What Is Elder Law?

While your estate plan creates a guideline for surviving family members to carry out your wishes, elder law addresses issues that will occur during your life. You may need to save assets so that you can use them for care later. You might also need assistance in creating instructions in case you become incapacitated or disabled later on.

Planning for long term care is very complicated. Most people hire attorneys because they do not understand the nuances of state aid programs and how their assets affect eligibility. Qualifying for these types of benefits can be confusing, and all it takes is a minor error on your initial application to set back the receipt of benefits. Your attorney can advise you on how to protect those assets. They will explore options for transferring your assets and advise you on which assets you can still keep so that you qualify for insurance benefits without losing all of the retirement funds you have saved up for.

Your attorney can also help you complete the necessary applications for Medicare and Medicaid. When you have an attorney complete these applications for you, you are more likely to be accepted than if you attempt to do them yourself.

Hire an Experienced Attorney for Both Estate Planning and Elder Law

It does not matter where you are in your life; you should meet with an estate planning attorney in your area to explore your options. An attorney will review your current estate and help you decide which parts of estate and elder law planning apply to you. Most importantly, you need to create an estate plan now. Even if you do not have many assets or no extended family members, having no estate plan means that the court will decide how to distribute the assets you do have.

You can protect loved ones, dictate who receives what from your estate, and provide for family – all by starting with an estate plan.

Get started by scheduling a free consultation with attorney Andrew M. Lamkin today. This is a no-obligation meeting, and we can review your existing estate plan for changes needed, create a new estate plan, and address any elder law planning needs you may have. Call my office directly to schedule a consultation appointment or request more information online.

Do Bank Accounts with Beneficiaries Have to Go through Probate?

Probate is a normal process that occurs after someone passes away, and the courts verify that their assets are distributed to the proper parties. Some assets, such as insurance policies and retirement accounts, do not have to go through probate. That is because these assets usually have a designated beneficiary who is named at the time the account is created.

Anytime you have an account with a named beneficiary, special rules apply. Now, not all assets with a named beneficiary skip probate. Therefore, if you are estate planning or you are an executor reviewing the law, it is best to speak with an estate planning attorney to see how named beneficiaries apply to your assets.

How Are Bank Accounts Distributed?

How your bank accounts pass at death will depend on the type of setup you chose when you initiated the account. It will also depend on whether you were the sole owner of the account, if you signed a payable on death document, and whether there are any applicable challenges to your named beneficiaries.

Bank Accounts with You as the Sole Owner

If you own a bank account that is in your name only, you might have had the option to sign a document designating a beneficiary for your account upon death. If, however, you do not sign a designation document, then your bank account funds would go through probate. The court would use the standard estate laws to determine who would receive the funds from your account along with the designations you have made in your will.

Therefore, this is an instance where bank accounts would go through probate court before funds are distributed.

Bank Accounts with a Named Beneficiary on a Payable-on-Death Document

Most financial institutions make the payable on death document optional. It is advisable that you pick someone when you create your account, and make sure that you update that document throughout your lifetime, especially if your beneficiary has changed. When you have a signed beneficiary document, the funds will not go through probate. Instead, that money is no longer part of your estate. The funds in the account will be transferred to the beneficiary you named on the document automatically.

To claim the funds, the beneficiary would need to go to the financial institution with current identification and a death certificate. The bank will already have the beneficiary designation form on file. They will verify that the person claiming to be your beneficiary is the correct party, and then they will transfer the funds into their name.

As you can see, it is essential to review your beneficiary designations. If you do not update this form, your funds will automatically transfer to someone that you may no longer wish to inherit your funds. If you cannot recall the party you designated when you opened your bank account, you can visit your financial institution in person and request a copy of the beneficiary designation form. You can then update it to a more recent beneficiary if you wish to do so. The beneficiary designation form overrides your final will. So, even if your will designate a different party, the bank honors the form instead.

Bank Accounts That Are Jointly Owned

Joint bank accounts are complicated. If you have a joint account with someone and one of the parties dies, usually the surviving joint owner automatically becomes the sole owner of the bank account. In this case, the account would not go through probate court. However, there are instances where the funds may go through probate court, or there may be a contest against who is the rightful owner of those funds.

Right of Survivorship Issues

When a bank account has two names owning the funds of that account, it is called a right of survivorship. That means, when one party dies, the surviving owner becomes the sole owner. Usually it is clear which party is the sole owner after the other party passes away. If, however, there are more than two parties, it may complicate determining how the funds will be distributed.

When Someone Contests the Joint Ownership

In most cases, when a couple owns a joint bank account, it is unlikely anyone would argue that someone else is entitled to the funds when one party passes away. However, there are instances where other family members or beneficiaries of the estate may argue that the other joint owner is not the intended beneficiary on the account. In this case, they would need to petition the court and have a hearing to determine the rightful owner of the funds.

Bank Accounts Held by a Trust

Another type of bank account that does not go through probate court is a bank account held by a living trust. When you set up a living trust, you pass overall assets to your trust and your trust is now the owner of those assets rather than yourself. All assets in your trust bypass probate court. If you have a lot of high-value assets and you want to save your family the hassle of dealing with probate court, creating a trust is most likely the best route for you and your loved ones.

Speak with a Local Estate Planning Attorney First – before You Assume Accounts Will Not Go through Probate

As you can see, there are plenty of instances where a bank account will not go through probate and other cases in which it will go through probate. Therefore, the only true way to see which bank accounts go to probate court and which do not is to speak with a local attorney in your area. An attorney can review the law, review any beneficiary designations, and then decide which accounts are likely to go through probate and which will automatically pass to the named beneficiary.

To explore your options, especially when it comes to protecting loved ones and ensuring bank account funds are distributed as you intended, contact attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. for a free case evaluation. Call 516-605-0625 to schedule now or contact us online with your questions.

What Are the Duties of a Personal Representative of a Will?

A personal representative of your will, also known as the executor, is the party responsible for carrying out your final wishes, evaluating your estate, filing proper documents, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. It is a role that you should not fill with the first person that comes to mind. Instead, you must carefully think about who you can trust to take on possibly one of the most important decision-making roles that greatly impact your loved ones.

Your personal representative tackles numerous tasks as part of their job to administer your estate. They must meet deadlines, file the proper paperwork, be organized, and have self-accountability. Most importantly, you want someone responsible enough to take on such a large to-do list; otherwise, your loved ones will suffer.

Opening the Estate – The First Priority

As the personal representative, the first step is to file a Petition for Probate document with the court. To do so, the representative must have a death certificate and any registered will that names them as the executor. Most courts require an estimate of the value of assets at the time of death with the petition, too.

After the courts agree to open the case for probate, now the representative will request a letter of administration. The letter grants them the authority to access bank accounts and other assets tied to the estate as part of their role. They will need this letter to transfer assets in the deceased’s name, sell or acquire new assets, and eventually administer the estate.

Identify the Assets of the Estate

Once you have the letter of administration, you must identify any assets of the estate and collect them.

You may need to collect bank statements, investment account statements, and any records of tangible property. Even after you collect and identify, you must also appraise the property. Hire a licensed appraiser to value the property, because it may have changed since the will or trust was initially created. It is your duty to professionally appraise these items. By doing so, you can decide the value of the asset. Then you can also avoid any disputes over assets and use whatever assets you need to sell in order to finalize debts.

You also have to file an inventory report with the appraised values within a specified amount of time. So start the asset collection process quickly.

Opening an Account Dedicated to the Estate Only

Next, you must open a bank account for the estate. You will need to have a federal tax ID number for the estate when you open it, and that tax ID is used to open that bank account. The new bank account is where you can move funds from all other accounts in the deceased’s name, and then you will use those funds to pay any outstanding debts, taxes, and other expenses connected to the estate administration process. All remaining funds, when you are ready to distribute assets, will go to the named beneficiaries of the will.

Notice to Creditors

Another duty is to notify creditors of the death. Creditors then have time, which is dictated by state law, to file any claims against the estate for payment. Once you receive those claims, you must pay all legitimate debts first. If the creditor doesn’t file within the limitation, then you do not have to pay them. You should consult an estate attorney, however, before assuming you can forgo payment on an estate’s debt.

Accounting of All Financial Activity

As the representative, you must keep detailed records. You need to document all financial activity for the estate, including fees, your wages, debts paid, assets acquired and/or sold, etc. These reports can be given to beneficiaries upon request as well as to the court. The court might require that you file reports periodically.

Filling the Final Tax Return

Before you can distribute assets or pay debts, you must first file the estate’s tax return and pay any taxes due. You should work alongside an accountant because this is not like your ordinary tax return.

Paying All Debts to Creditors

Any outstanding debts must also be paid. You will have any creditors who made claims against the estate, along with any lists of debts you know of, that you must pay using estate funds. As the personal representative, you are able to access account funds and sell assets, as necessary, to pay off debts.

Distribute to Beneficiaries

Once all other steps are completed, debts are satisfied, and the court gives you approval, you can then distribute assets to the beneficiaries.

By now, a few months have passed, and you will still need to keep detailed records of your hours, costs, and retain receipts for payments.

Do You Need an Attorney to Assist with the Personal Representative’s Role?

Sometimes, it is best to have an attorney help with the personal representative’s duties. Whether you are the personal representative of an estate that needs help, or you are creating an estate plan and deciding who to appoint, consulting with a local estate attorney is one of the best first steps you can take.

An attorney can help you navigate through the duties of the role, offer opinions when selecting your representative, and also make sure that your estate plan clearly outlines what the personal representative will do with your assets so that loved ones are cared for.

To explore your options, contact attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. He has helped countless representatives close out estates and has helped numerous individuals create estate plans that guide their representatives and care for their loved ones, even when they are no longer there to do so themselves.

Schedule a free consultation by calling the office or request more information by completing the online contact form.

How Do I Prepare for Estate Planning?

Getting ready for estate planning requires you to not only gather the right documents, but also to create a list of what you want, to determine your expectations, and to be ready to answer important questions during the estate planning process. To ensure you are ready at your estate planning appointment with your attorney, ask for a checklist of items. Most attorneys have an initial consultation where they discuss the process and tell you what you need for your official planning appointment.

As you prepare for the first meeting, or if you are waiting for your initial consultation, we have compiled a list of things you can take care of ahead of time to save on extra appointments and to help speed along your estate planning process.

Gather Your Family Information

One step you need to complete before you plan anything out is your family information, including their names, addresses, phone numbers, ages, and relation to you (grandchild, child, sibling, etc.). These family members are those who will inherit from your estate, parties that may receive care after you pass, and you may even have a family member in mind for your executor.

Do not forget about any nicknames that family members may go by, so that when you draft your will, you can use clear indicators and there will be less room for contests later.

Financial Information

Financial information breaks down into two types: non-retirement and retirement. Both of these are important in estate planning, so you will need to gather information for each.

Non-Retirement Information to Gather

For your non-retirement information, you want assets that include things like your bank accounts, investments, stocks, and bonds.

If you have access to it, bring the titling of those assets, such as for your home. You can also bring along statements that show the account holders, account number and institution, and the exact balances. These balances are important, because they will help your estate planning attorney determine if your estate falls under the estate tax category.

Retirement Financial Information to Gather

Your retirement account is part of your estate. Therefore, you must gather information on any retirement accounts, even those you are no longer actively contributing to, but are there for distribution when you retire. This includes employer-sponsored programs, private retirement accounts, Roth IRAs, TSPs, and any retirement accounts you may have inherited from another spouse.

If it is an employer program, bring the institution name and employer information, beneficiary designations you filled out when you opened the retirement account, and the amount of the retirement plan at the time. Naturally, if you are still working, your retirement account will grow, but giving your attorney an idea of what asset amounts you have is always best.

Life Insurance Policy Information

Your attorney needs life insurance information, including the type of policy – such as whether it is a whole or term – beneficiaries named when you created the policy, the company holding it, and the payout amount.

Real Estate Financial Information

You must gather documents about any real estate property, including vacation homes or rental properties you own.

Bring the property address, ownership information (such as joint or sole ownership), the current market value, mortgage balances (if any), and indicate which properties are your primary residence, secondary, rental, or if any are part of a business.

Personal Property

Personal property are tangible items you plan to pass along to loved ones. They may hold more of a sentimental value than dollar amount, but they are still something you need to gather information for if you want to include them in your will or if you plan to transfer them into a trust.

Some property you need information on includes antiques, automobiles, art pieces, collectibles, and jewelry. If you know the value of the item, bring any valuations along. For example, you may have a piece of jewelry appraised as part of your homeowner’s insurance policy, which you can bring along.

Be Ready to Answer the Tough Questions

You have a lot of questions to answer while estate planning, and some of them are not easy. Not only are you addressing your mortality and the reality that you will eventually pass along items to loved ones, but you must pick and choose family members – which may cause tension within your family network.

Some questions you should write down and have answers to before your appointment include:

  • Who in the family will receive which tangible property items? Make sure you are specific about those items.
  • Will there be any family members excluded from the will entirely?
  • How much, if any, do you intend to leave to charity, organizations, or churches?
  • Which party will you name as your executor, and who can serve as a backup if your initial pick is unavailable at the time?
  • Do you want to serve as your trust’s trustee, or do you wish to appoint someone else?
  • Do you have minor children? If so, who will care for them? If that party cannot, who is the secondary party to care for your children?
  • How will you ensure minor children have the funds they need in order to be cared for?
  • Will you want a living will and durable power of attorney created at your appointment? If so, who will you name as your proxy for those documents?
  • Have you planned out your funeral arrangements? If so, write down the details of how you would like your funeral completed and any receipts for prepayments made toward it.
  • Do you plan to donate, if any, of your organs?

Not Sure Where to Start? Contact a Local Estate Planning Attorney First

Figuring out a good starting point, especially with estate planning, can be incredibly difficult. Not only do you have numerous documents to track down, but difficult questions to answer. It is best to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a local estate planning attorney first.

Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin can help with your estate planning needs. He has helped countless others just like you navigate the nuances of estate planning so that they can protect their assets, legacy, and loved ones without the stress of trying to do it alone.

To explore your options and to start the process, schedule a free case evaluation or request more information online.

What Is the Average Cost for Estate Planning?

A common question asked is how much estate planning will cost. Unfortunately, this is not easily answered by any attorney.

Numerous factors play into the cost. Not only do attorneys have set rates and hourly fees that vary, but then there are those factors that can increase the complexity of an estate plan and cost more. Instead of scouring the web to find a flat fee or estimated cost, you should understand each layer that goes into pricing, then consult with an attorney to find out how much your estate plan would cost you – rather than comparing the averages online.

Initial Consultation Is Usually at No Charge

Most estate planning attorneys offer free upfront consultations. That means you can meet with an attorney free of charge for 30 minutes to 1 hour (depending on how they work consultation appointments). You will go over your needs, and the attorney can then tell you how much your plan may cost. An attorney can also determine if you qualify for a flat fee or if you will need to pay by the hour due to the complexity of your estate.

By far the best way to find out how much it will cost you is to talk with an attorney in person. Once they understand what you need, your estate’s current asset value, and look over your financials, they can tell you what to expect.

From there, shop around, get a few estimates, but also consider how you feel about each attorney you meet with before you pick one.

The Flat-Fee Estate Planning Doesn’t Work for Everyone

Some attorneys offer a flat fee for an estate plan. The flat rate will include your basic preparation of estate documents, including creating a final will and having it witnessed, notarized, and filed. Some lawyers might even help with a trust under flat-fee plans, but most attorneys prefer to work hourly on trusts as they are rather complicated and hard to predict in a flat fee plan.

If you do meet with an attorney that charges a flat rate, ask for all fees that are outside of the rate. Sometimes, the flat rate only covers the draft of your will and not the notary or other steps required to complete the legal process.

Hourly Rates for Estate Planning May Apply

More complicated estates, and those that need more than a final will, often are charged by the hour. Attorneys tend to keep their hourly rates competitive with others offering estate planning in the area, so you shouldn’t pay an outrageous amount for one lawyer compared to another.

When an attorney charges by the hour, you will want to ask how they calculate hours. Some round up, so a ten-minute conversation might be billed in 15-minute or 30-minute increments. Also, you will want to ask how emails and quick phone calls play into your hourly rate so that you do not accidentally spend more of your retainer just asking a quick question over email.

Do not assume that the higher an attorney’s hourly fee, the more experience they have. While respected attorneys may charge more, there are equally qualified attorneys who charge less because they want to help the public unlock protections rather than charge enormous fees for estate planning.

Compare the hourly fees from multiple attorneys you meet during your free consultations. Also, make sure there are no flat fees on top of the hourly, such as filing fees you may have to pay in addition to your attorney’s hourly rate.

Likewise, when an attorney charges by the hour, they typically require a retainer, which is an upfront down payment on your legal services. Then, you will receive hourly statements and billing, and the attorney’s office will deduct those from your retainer.

Items That Complicate Your Estate Plan – and May Cost You More

Some factors can increase the cost of your estate plan, and some of these will force an attorney to deviate from a flat rate and move to hourly.

Some items that complicate an estate planning process include:

  • Multiple Children: If you have multiple children and you want to provide assets to them upon your death, you may need a trust to protect those assets and dictate how they are distributed.
  • Assets in Multiple States: Do you own property in more than one state? Now your attorney will need to address that property, the laws of that state, and consider all variables when drafting your estate plan.
  • High Value Estate: If you have a high value estate, you do not want your loved ones to pay estate taxes upon your death. So, your attorney will need to work creatively to distribute assets, donate to charities when applicable, and find ways to save your family money.

Remember the Benefits of Hiring an Attorney to do an Estate Plan for You – Don’t Just Look at the Price Tag

Before considering just the price tag, think about the benefit to hiring an attorney. When you hire an estate planning lawyer, you are unlocking years of experience and knowledge and you can enjoy peace of mind knowing your estate plan was done correctly and follows the law – saving loved one’s time and hassle later.

Most importantly, never pick an attorney solely by price. Instead, assess how you feel after your consultation, whether you could talk with them freely and create a good rapport, and if you feel they can handle your estate properly.

Ready to Hire an Estate Planning Attorney? Contact a Local NYC Lawyer Today

If you are ready to protect your assets and loved ones, contact a local estate planning attorney. Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., can help you with your estate plan, trusts, and even setting aside assets for minor children to ensure they are taken care of if something were to happen to you.

Schedule a free consultation to discuss your estate’s needs and get an estimate on how much your plan would cost by calling 516-605-0625 or requesting more information online.

Do You Need a Lawyer to Apply for Medicaid?

Most seniors and their loved ones apply for Medicaid themselves rather than use an attorney. While you don’t need an attorney to file your application, doing so provides you and your loved ones with numerous benefits. One of the biggest reasons seniors do not use attorneys is not because they don’t need one, but because they are afraid of how much it would cost them.

In reality, an attorney can help you and your family save money and ensure that you get the care you need.

What Is Medicaid and When Do You Apply for It?

Medicaid is a government health coverage that is offered to individuals to cover healthcare expenses, including those not covered by Medicare. To apply for Medicaid, you must either be a low-income family, qualified pregnant woman, or a party receiving their Social Security Income. Every state has requirements that they use to determine eligibility, especially if you are outside of the normal edibility requirements created by federal laws.

In addition to being the right status and age, you must meet financial requirements. Your income, including any retirement, pension, and SSI income that you receive is considered when you apply for Medicaid. Your assets also play a crucial role in eligibility.

What Happens to Your Asset When You Apply for Medicaid?

You can qualify for Medicaid with some assets, but you must have limited income and assets available to you – otherwise, the government expects you to use those assets to pay for your medical care. Typically, you can keep about $2,000 in assets and married couples can retain up to $3,000. Most applicants do not have to sell their home to qualify for nursing home assistance, but the state might request the house after the applicant’s death to pay back benefits.

Other non-exempt assets can be forfeited when you apply for Medicaid benefits, which is why you need to take steps to protect those assets long before you apply.

The Benefits of Hiring an Attorney When Filing for Medicaid

If you are applying for Medicaid, it could prove beneficial to use an attorney. Elder law attorneys understand how the application process works, what factors the government considers, and they make the process easier. All it takes is a missed document or error on your application to receive a denial, and the longer you delay unlocking the benefits, the harder it is on your family financially.

Some benefits to using an attorney versus doing it yourself or having a family member apply for you are:

Attorney’s Do Not Have a Conflict of Interest

Sometimes nursing homes will refer family members and residents over to a service that helps their potential clients apply for Medicaid benefits. These services are non-attorneys, but the preparer of that Medicaid application has a serious conflict of interest. After all, they are loyal to the facility referring patients to them and to the patient. Medicaid applications, to be successful, do not need conflicts of interest further complicating matters.

It is in the nursing home’s best interest that your Medicaid application gets approved, which is why they refer you to these services. But it is also in your best interest to take steps to protect your assets and make sure you get the care you need. An attorney cares about both of these, while preparation services are more concerned with pushing the application through as quickly as possible – regardless of what happens to assets in the midst.

An attorney has one loyalty owed: to the client. That means your attorney will work to first protect your assets and then help you with the Medicaid process so that the legacy you spent years building is not consumed just by filing an application.

You Could Save More Using an Attorney

A nursing home is an extensive cost. Some nursing homes cost thousands each month, but the fee from an attorney is often less than one month’s stay at a nursing home. When you consider the costs of paying for a nursing home or in-home care out-of-pocket while waiting for Medicaid benefits versus the cost of paying an attorney to help you apply, you will quickly see the savings add up.

Furthermore, an attorney will consult with you for little to no fees upfront. They will help you understand your rights and they can even explain how their service will benefit you and your family when applying for Medicaid.

Attorney’s Have Deeper Knowledge of the Medicaid Process and Experience Applying

You will apply for Medicaid once in your lifetime – maybe twice if you help a family member apply. Attorneys help individuals apply for Medicaid weekly. They go over the regulations and rules almost daily, advise clients on how to protect assets, and they can help family members preserve funds for loved ones while accessing Medicaid benefits.

Added Peace of Mind

When you use an elder law attorney, your attorney will advise you on your rights and your options for protecting your assets. Sometimes, there might be nothing you can do to protect your assets, but you still get peace of mind knowing you did everything you could ahead of time before filing your application.

Consult with an Estate Planning Attorney Regarding Your Medicaid Plan and Application

Before you file your application, sit down with a Medicaid attorney who can help review your assets, income, and see where you might be vulnerable. You may be able to protect some assets before you apply, and it is critical you know what rights you have and legal options to protect those assets. Failing to follow legal transfer rules could violate government regulations – something you do not want to toy around with when trying to get healthcare coverage from the government.

Talk with attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., today about your Medicaid application. He has helped countless seniors and their families apply for Medicaid, protect assets, and follow all laws so that they can unlock coverage for nursing home care. Schedule a free case evaluation now by calling 516-605-0625 or requesting an appointment online.

Is Probate Necessary If There Is a Trust?

Probate requires that property you own goes through the court before it can be distributed. When you create a trust, you no longer own the property because you transfer ownership into your trust. Therefore, probate is not necessary. If, however, you leave a piece of property out of the trust, your loved ones may have to continue through probate even if you created a trust for your other assets.

One of the primary reasons to create a trust is to avoid probate court. Trusts are surprisingly easy to create, especially if you work alongside a skilled estate planning attorney. While they do take a little setup time and some work on your end to move over your assets, once you are done, your family will no longer have to worry about going to probate court or worrying about spending countless fees on attorney and court costs to finalize the estate.

How Does a Trust Help Avoid Probate?

When you own property in your name, that property must go through probate court. The court verifies the validity of your will, the property amount, and makes sure that it goes to the proper party (per your will). The process can take anywhere from six weeks to six months, making loved ones wait to receive inheritances.

With a trust, you no longer own the property. While it is technically yours, the property is now owned by your trust and you are named the primary trustee. Now that you no longer personally own that property, probate court does not apply. From there, your trust automatically would transfer ownership to your beneficiaries, per your designation, upon your death. Also, a trust does not end when you pass away. Instead, it serves as a legacy, and it can continue on long after you pass away.

With your attorney’s help, you will name an administrative trustee. This party has the legal authority to step in on your behalf after death. They will administer your trust per any instructions you have left behind, and they will take control of the trust, assets, and any business interests you might have. They may also collect from retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and pay any outstanding debts using assets (including those from the trust) before distributing the rest to your beneficiaries.

When a Trust Does Not Help You Avoid Probate

The purpose of a trust is to make the process of resolving your estate easy and relatively cost-free for loved ones. However, it does not always prevent loved ones from enduring probate court, especially if your trust is not created correctly or you are missing assets.

When you form the revocable living trust, you must transfer ownership of the property into the name of the trust. Often, this is the biggest reason a family with a trust still goes through probate – because no one transferred the ownership. Also, any property you purchase after your trust is created must be moved into the trust or it will go through probate even if the remainder of your estate does not.

Just because you have a trust does not mean all new asset acquisitions go through it. Instead, you still must update the trust and physically transfer ownership over to it. Therefore, you should make it a habit to automatically transfer over any assets you purchase into your revocable trust as soon as you can. This may mean transferring assets on a monthly basis, depending on how often you acquire new assets.

Do You Really Need to Avoid Probate?

Probate is an in-depth process that can take weeks or months to complete. While it is in process, loved ones cannot receive their inheritance and they may have to spend estate funds to cover attorney’s fees, court costs, and more.

Just some of the stages your estate goes through if it does pass through probate include:

  • Your will is first filed with the local probate court and now becomes a matter of public record.
  • Your named executor will then inventory property and assets associated with the estate.
  • Your property is appraised by a third party to determine current value.
  • Your estate’s debts, including your final taxes due, are paid by the executor. Some assets may be sold in order to satisfy those debts.
  • The court finally validates the will.
  • All fees to the court, attorney, and the executor are paid.
  • Any remaining assets are distributed to the designated beneficiaries in the amounts (or close to) that were listed in the will itself.

A living trust bypasses these steps. Your assets are passed from one party to another from the trust, and the court does not require an appraisal or have to approve the passing of those assets.

Hire an Attorney to Help Your Estate Pass over Probate Court Entirely

The best way to avoid probate is to hire an attorney and have them create a trust for your loved ones. Trusts are not just for today; they serve as a living legacy. You can use the trust to support your loved ones for years after your death, and you are in more control of your assets and how they are handled.

Another benefit to using a trust is that your estate is not a matter of public record. Instead, the assets and beneficiaries who receive the assets from the estate are kept private.

To explore your options for setting up a trust, meet with an estate planning attorney like the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. Attorney Lamkin has helped countless families just like yours create trusts that provide for them while they are alive and long after they pass. He can help you not only create your trust, but also make sure you have a well-balanced estate plan where no asset is overlooked – to ensure your family doesn’t go to probate court for missed assets.

To get started, schedule a free case evaluation by calling 516-605-0625 or request more information online.

Can You Just Write a Will and Get It Notarized?

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

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

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

Are Self-Made Wills Even Recognized by the Courts?

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

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

The Real Problems with Self-Made Wills to Know

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

Assets Are Rarely Described Accurately (If at All)

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

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

Beneficiaries Are Not Identified Correctly

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

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

Leaving Items to Pets

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

Putting Illegal Conditions on Distributions

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

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

Ignoring End-of-Life Care and Heroic Measures

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

Forgetting about Care Instructions for Minor Children

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

Forgetting Past Beneficiary Designations

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

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

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney Offers the Best Protection

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

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

What Happens When an Estate Goes to Probate?

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

When Is Probate Required for New York Estates?

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

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

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

Authentication of the Last Will and Testament

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

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

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

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

Appointing the Executor

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

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

Locating Assets for the Estate

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

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

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

Determining Asset Values

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

Identifying and Informing Creditors of the Death

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

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

Taxes

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

Distributing Assets to Beneficiaries

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

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

Would You Prefer to Avoid Probate?

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

Likewise, your estate’s information becomes public record.

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

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

What Is the Difference between a Will and Estate Planning?

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

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

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

What Is a Will and What Does It Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Addition of a Living Will

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

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

The Addition of a Financial Power of Attorney

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

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

Creating Beneficiary Designations

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

Extra Privacy with a Trust

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

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

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

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

What Is Digital Estate Planning?

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

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

Do I Need a Digital Estate Plan?

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

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

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

How Do You Start Digital Estate Planning?

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

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

What Digital Assets Should You Include?

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

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

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

Deciding What to Do with Your Digital Assets

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

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

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

Create an Estate Plan That Addresses Digital and Physical Assets

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

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

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

What Is Medicare Planning?

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

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

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

What Is Medicare and Do I Need It?

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

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

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

Why Medicare Planning Is an Important Step in Retirement

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

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

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

Does My Income Affect Medicare?

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

Creating Durable Powers of Attorney

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

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

Setting Up a Trust

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

Do You Need an Attorney for Medicare Planning?

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

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

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

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

What Assets Disqualify You for Medicaid?

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

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

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

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

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

What Assets Count for Medicaid?

Assets eligible for Medicaid consideration include:

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

What Assets Do Not Count for Medicaid?

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

Some assets that are not counted include:

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

Home Equity

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

What about Income?

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

Your Options for Managing Assets When Applying for Medicaid Programs

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

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

How It Works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adding Social Media to Your Estate Plan Is Like Most Assets

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

Start By Making a List of All Social Media Accounts

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

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

Social media accounts include:

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

Name Your Beneficiary

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

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

Provide Your Instructions

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

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

Do Not Forget Other Digital Assets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Do You Obtain a Letter of Testamentary?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Do You Get a Letter of Testamentary?

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

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

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

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

Letters of Testamentary: Can They Expire?

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

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

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

Locating All Assets

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

Finding All Debts Due

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

File Taxes

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

Distribute Assets

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

It Is Best to Hire an Attorney When Administering an Estate

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

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

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

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

How Do I Protect My Assets in a Second Marriage?

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

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

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

Review Past Estate Plans with Previous Spouses (If Any)

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

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

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

Start Getting the Right Documents in Order

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

Create a Prenuptial Agreement

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

Keep Your Assets before Marriage Separate

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

Set Up a Trust for Your Assets

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

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

Revise Your Will

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

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

Do Not Forget about Retirement Accounts

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

Review Your Social Security Benefits

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

Think of the Tax Consequences

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

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

Do You Need an Attorney?

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

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

When Will My Case Finish Probate?

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

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

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

Factors That Can Affect Your Probate Case Timeline

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

First, the Executor Must Take over the Estate

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

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

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

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

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

Third Party Hearings

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

Second, the Estate Must Settle

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

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

Potential Hold-Ups at This Phase

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

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

Closing the Estate – the Final Phase

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

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

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

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

Speed Up the Process or Skip It Entirely

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

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

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

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

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

When Does Medicare Cover Nursing Home Costs?

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

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

This assumption, unfortunately, is incorrect.

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

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

When Does Medicare Cover Nursing Home Stays for Plainview Residents?

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

Up to 100 Days of Skilled Nursing Care with Medicare

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medicaid Is Another Option

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

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

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

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

How an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

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

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

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

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

Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Pick a Nursing Home in Plainview, NY

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

Smells

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

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

Listen for Sounds

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

How Is the Staff

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

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

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

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

Ask How the Home Handles Falls and Other Injuries

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

Paying for Nursing Home Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a Detailed Conversation

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

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

Update Your Will or Create a New One

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

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

Do Not Forget Your Power of Attorney

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

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

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

Consider a Trust

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

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

Title Your Assets Correctly

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

Select an Estate Planning Attorney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most Common Reasons Siblings Contest Wills

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

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

One Sibling Receives More Than the Other

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

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

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

More Than One Will Exists

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

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

One Child Receives Favoritism

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

Siblings with a History of Drug or Substance Abuse

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

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

Co-Trustees

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

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

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

Excluding a Sibling Entirely

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

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

Work Alongside an Attorney to Avoid Sibling Rivalry

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

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

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

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

Can I Leave Property in a Trust for My Grandchildren?

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

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

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

Why Plainview Residents Use a Trust for Grandchildren 

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

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

What about Estate Taxes?

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

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

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

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

Select a Trustee with Care

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

Choose the Right Type of Trust

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

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

Be Specific and Leave Stipulations

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

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

Discuss the Trust with Family First

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

Find a Trust Attorney in Your Area Today

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

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

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

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

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

Common Mistakes Made by Executors and How to Avoid Them

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

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

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

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

What Mistakes Do Executors of Plainview Estates Make the Most?

To err is human.

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

Paying Estate Expenses Immediately

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

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

Not Identifying All Assets of the Estate Correctly

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

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

Distributing Assets Too Early

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

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

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

Waiting Too Long to Distribute

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

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

Misinterpreting Terms of the Will

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

Not Seeking Legal Counsel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medicare Planning for Plainview Residents

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

Here is how each of these work:

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

When Do You Qualify for Medicare?

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

Medicaid Planning for Plainview Residents

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

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

Groups that qualify for Medicaid include:

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

What the Government Considers When Reviewing Applications for Medicaid

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Various Medicaid Programs and Options

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

The Benefit of Hiring a Medicaid and Medicare Planning Attorney

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

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

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

The Dangers of Using Downloaded Estate Planning Templates

Today, you can do almost anything online.

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

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

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

The Reasons Plainview Residents Should Never Use a DIY Estate Plan

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

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

You Are Not Receiving an Expert’s Review

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

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

You Do Not Have a Personalized Estate Plan

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

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

You Are Unlikely to Follow State Laws

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

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

You Might Miss the Hidden Disclaimers

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

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

You Could Grant Too Much Power to Another Person

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

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

You Might Not Include Your Business

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

You Do Not Receive the Complexity Required for Unique Cases

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

You Are Less Likely to Update Your Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Trending Topics in Elder Law to Know Today

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

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

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

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

Topic 1: Alzheimer’s Disease and Estate Planning

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

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

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

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

Topic 2: Medicaid and Nursing Home Costs

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

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

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

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

Topic 3: Veteran’s Benefits

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

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

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

Topic 4: Social Security

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

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

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

Topic 5: Estate Plans

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

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

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

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

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

Meet with an Estate Planning Attorney Today

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

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

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

Can You Stop Probate Once It Starts?

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

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

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

Stopping probate requires an attorney to file a probate caveat.

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

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

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

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

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

Who Can File a Caveat?

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

Also, creditors may file caveats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Can an Executor Fight a Caveat?

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

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

Do You Need an Attorney for a Caveat?

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

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

Will Contests Can Still Happen after Probate

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

Finding the Right Lawyer for the Job

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

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

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

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

3 Big Issues an Elder Law Attorney Can Help Resolve

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

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

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

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

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

What 3 Important Legal Issues an Elder Law Attorney Can Help You With

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

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

Long-Term Care Planning

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

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

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

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

Creating an Advance Directive (Living Will)

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Thinking Ahead – and Using Specifics

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

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

Durable Financial Power of Attorney

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

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

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

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

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

Other Problems an Elder Law Attorney Can Resolve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Consequences of Not Planning – and Not Including Both Options

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

The Consequences of No Business Succession Plan

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

The Consequences of No Estate Plan

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

The Tax Considerations for a Budding Business

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

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

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

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

The procession of management succession typically involves:

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

The process of ownership succession might involve:

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

Can You Make a Business Succession Plan without an Attorney?

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

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

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

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

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

Consult with a Local Attorney that Helps Your Business Pass Safely

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does an Attorney Require Certification in Plainview?

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

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

What Does a Certification Mean?

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

Memberships Matter Too

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

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

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

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

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

Do Not Forget about Local Advocacy Groups

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

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

Looking at Core Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do You Need an Attorney for Long-Term Planning?

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

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