Archive for 2020

How to Discuss Estate Planning Without Unnecessary Drama

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

Littman Krooks Retirement PlanningFamilies can usually agree on the importance of creating a New York estate plan. However, as crucial as having a comprehensive estate plan is, recent studies show that only a small percentage of couples – most of them older – have current estate planning documents in place. When those who do not have an estate plan are asked why that is the case, the most common response is that they are avoiding having a difficult conversation with their loved ones. For parents, this concern is primarily centered around not wanting to cause problems between siblings.

The first step toward drama-free estate planning is understanding what causes drama between siblings in the first place. Of course, parents cannot necessarily resolve existing sibling rivalries or long-standing disagreements between siblings, which can make the process more challenging. In addition, the estate planning process itself can cause other types of issues to arise. For example, siblings who may not communicate that often may be skeptical of the others’ motives; they may disagree on who should pay for final arrangements, or how assets should be divided. Parents can take specific steps to make the estate planning process easier and reduce the chance of starting arguments between their children.

Create a Financial Overview

littman krooks elder lawWhile a comprehensive estate plan provides a detailed explanation of where a couple wants their assets to end up after they pass on, it does little to explain to children what those assets are and where they are located. A financial overview solves this problem by providing a list of all family assets and their location. For example, parents may have bank or investment accounts that at least one child is unaware of. If a child believes assets are only made known to certain siblings, it can start to build resentment, which may grow over time. By sharing a financial overview with all children, parents can reduce the perception of favoritism.

A proper financial overview should include the following information:

  • A list of all assets, liabilities and insurance policies, as well as how they are titled and any named beneficiaries.
  • Contact information for all financial, legal and insurance professionals.
  • Usernames and passwords for all financial and insurance websites.
  • A legacy letter outlining the non-financial assets, such as family heirlooms, that parents want to pass on to their children.

By creating a financial overview, parents can not only make the estate administration process easier for the executor but can also reduce the chances of starting family conflict. However, ongoing and open communication will also be essential.

Schedule a Family Meeting

After parents create an estate plan and a financial overview, the next step is to schedule a family meeting. Both parents, as well as all children who will be inheriting assets, should attend the meeting. While ideally, family members would meet in person, if children live across the country or a family is concerned about maintaining social distance, a family meeting could be held virtually.

Topics to cover at the family meeting include:

  • Discussing the basics of the estate plan;
  • Ensuring at least one person knows the location of the estate planning documents;
  • Explaining who will be the executor of the estate, as well as any other necessary parties, such as trustees;
  • Discussing the importance of transparency and openness during the estate administration process;
  • Outlining the parents’ plan for important non-financial items, such as family heirlooms; and
  • Discussing the importance of keeping things fair and using the process to bring the family together.

For many parents, the process of discussing their estate plans with their children is a topic to be avoided. However, these are crucial conversations that must take place to increase the likelihood of a smooth and drama-free estate administration process.

Speak With a New York Estate Planning Lawyer for Immediate Assistance

Creating an estate plan to address your family’s unique needs is crucial to securing your legacy and ensuring that future generations are cared for. At the New York estate planning law firm, Littman Krooks, LLP, we have over 30 years of experience helping families effectively plan for their financial future. We pride ourselves in providing an exceptional level of service to individuals of varying net worth, helping our clients ensure that future generations are well taken care of and reducing the tax burdens on their estates. To learn more about how our dedicated team of attorneys can assist your family with its unique needs, call 914-684-1200 to schedule a no-obligation consultation today.

 

The Sandwich Generation and the Burden of Too Much Stuff

Sunday, August 2nd, 2020

Middle-aged people find themselves taking care of both their parents and their children, along with personal commitments like career and home. It seems like there is no end to the work that must be done and the roles that must be filled. Frequently, members of the sandwich generation end up as the caretaker of everyone in their family.

Maybe you feel a sentimental attachment to items that belonged to your parents or are from your childhood home. Maybe you hope that future generations will enjoy your collections. Maybe you suspect that your children will eventually need something that you have tucked away. However you justify it, being a multi-generational caregiver and the family “keeper” can come at an enormous personal cost.

Having a home filled up with things that you do not use and that do not suit your tastes clutters not only your personal space but also your head space. When you focus so much of your attention and energy on taking care of the needs of your loved ones, there is little left over for feeling constant irritation. Clearing your house and your mind can be an extremely freeing task.

Getting rid of this accumulation of things can be a surprisingly difficult task. Learning about the psychology of attachment can help you say goodbye to the clutter for good.

There are three main attachment patterns that influence our feelings toward objects.

Sentimental Attachment — the item represents something else, a person or memory most often. Are you keeping something simply because your mother loved it even though you do not use or like it? Do you just feel guilty about getting rid of it?

Intrinsic Attachment—the item could be used someday and therefore has value. Are you saving things for projects that you know you will never actually get to?

Aesthetic Attachment—the item appeals to you for some reason and owning it triggers your brain’s pleasure and reward reactions. Do you have much more of something than is reasonable just because you like it?

Exploring exactly what compels you to keep an object can help you come to terms with getting rid of it. When it is time to tackle the clutter, there are options for getting rid of things. You might donate usable items and feel good knowing that they will help someone else. You could sell things and use the profit to buy yourself something you want. You can gift sentimental items to family members who will love them, just be mindful of not doing this simply to be rid of something. Generally, younger generations tend to take a more minimalistic approach to belongings and might appreciate a small token more than a large collection of something.  Recycle and discard when appropriate.

In addition to bettering your own mental health, which is essential, another very important benefit of minimizing accumulated items is that you will not end up putting your own kids and other loved ones in the same situation that you are in now. They eventually will have to figure out what to do with your belongings too, it is best not to pass the stress of too much stuff to them along with all of your things.

To learn more about how we can help, call 212-490-2020 or 914-684-2100.

Seniors and Driving: When Is It Time To Give Up The Car Keys?

Monday, July 27th, 2020

Knowing when to stop driving as a senior is rarely easy. For many, driving represents independence, mobility and socialization. Giving it up is difficult to imagine. For some, the logistics of no longer being able to drive seem impossible to manage. Data shows that older drivers do pose a real risk to themselves and others on the road so it is crucial to know how to recognize signs that it could be time to stop.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, the risk of being involved in a fatal accident begins to increase at age 70 and reaches its peak after age 85. Senior drivers are the second most likely group to be killed in an accident, only behind new teenage drivers. Although the risk of an accident clearly increases with age, it is not age alone that makes an unsafe driver. Physical health and mental clarity are essential to safely operating a vehicle and these things decrease with age for many.

Health conditions, prescription medications, hearing and vision loss, and other physical issues that affect driving are common among seniors. These could all be reasons to stop driving. If health is a concern, a physician may recommend or order that a senior surrender their license.

Some other warning signs that could indicate the time to stop driving is near:

  • Being involved in fender benders, accidents or close calls
  • Finding scrapes or dents on the car
  • Receiving traffic tickets
  • Getting lost
  • Decreasing reflexes and slower response times
  • Being more easily distracted
  • Driving too slow or too fast
  • Becoming flustered or nervous while drivingLittman Krooks Elder Law
  • Having difficulty merging into traffic, changing lanes, passing, etc.

If a loved one is beginning to exhibit any of these or other warning signs behind the wheel, it is likely time to do some serious consideration of whether or not it is safe to continue driving. You may notice that friends and family members begin to talk or joke about your loved one’s driving. If you are not able to observe their driving for yourself, it can help to enlist others who can watch for any signs.

This conversation is never an easy one to start and the suggestion to quit driving may not be well received. However, the lives of your loved one and others on the road could depend on having it. Understanding how much will change for your loved one by giving up driving and approaching the topic with sensitivity will go a long way to getting the message across.

When the situation is particularly dangerous or your loved one refuses to stop, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has resources available to help.

New York seniors have unique needs that are best served by attorneys who have extensive knowledge and experience in the area of elder law. At Littman Krooks, we have assembled an experienced team of New York elder law attorneys to help our aging clients and their families more easily deal with the legal issues they face, including estate planning, Medicaid planning, nursing home planning, guardianship, and estate administration and litigation. To learn more about how we can help, call 212-490-2020, or visit us online at https://www.littmankrooks.com/.

What Happens to the Family House?

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

As if the death of parents is not hard enough, deciding what to do with their home often adds extra layers of complication.

In most cases there are three options to consider. You can sell the house, you can live in the house yourself or you can make the house an investment property and rent it out to others. Each has its own benefits and disadvantages but the best option for you should become clear after careful consideration.

Selling the House

This is the most common option, and under the best of circumstances offers a clean and profitable way out from under the parents’ house. Unfortunately, selling an inherited house can just as easily be difficult, stressful, drawn out and complicated by emotions and disagreements between siblings.

When selling, it is best to consult with an experienced local real estate agent as soon as possible. They will be able to advise on how the property would best be improved to sell quickly (such as which repairs to make before listing and when to leave something as it) and will give a realistic listing price based on comparable properties. There are also quick-sale companies that buy properties for less than market value but require no improvements or cleaning.

Renting the House

Making your inherited house an income property can be a smart move. You can keep your parents’ home and cover the costs associated with it and hopefully then some. The downside to renting your properties, however, is that you have to rent properties. Being a landlord can be a major hassle and potential problems are endless.

Moving In

This is a good choice for those who like the idea of living in the family home. If the property is not under mortgage it can be financially beneficial too, as long as other costs are taken into consideration, like monthly utilities and property taxes. If there are siblings who also have a stake in the house, you will likely need to buy out their shares. An attorney can advise on how this should be done.

Depending on the state of the home and your parents’ taste in decor, you could need to do some significant repairing and updating. This gets expensive, especially when added to the other costs that will inevitably come up, but the end result can be a home that is your own perfect mix of sentimental and updated.

Planning Is Key

Littman Krooks Elder LawHopefully, your parents already consulted an estate planning attorney, had a will and everyone involved in the estate was aware of the intended plan. The importance of planning ahead cannot be overstated; it can be the difference between a bitter, stressful ordeal and a relatively painless transition.

If you have not already and the option is still available, start a conversation with your parents as soon as you can. Disagreements between siblings, heavy emotions and a lifetime of accumulated stuff to contend with are extremely common when managing parents’ estate and can be traumatic. A little preparation goes a long way toward reducing at least some of the stress involved with inheriting a house.

The New York estate planning law firm of Littman Krooks, LLP combines extensive legal knowledge and experience with individual attention suited to each clients’ needs. For over 25 years, Littman Krooks attorneys have brought astute, honest counsel and strong, thorough representation to every client they have served. Reach Littman Krooks at https://www.littmankrooks.com/.

Three Tips for Caregiving From Afar

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

When distance comes between you and an aging parent or another loved one who needs extra help, it can be especially tough to become their caregiver. A caregiver who lives an hour or more away from their parent or loved one is considered a long-distance caregiver. Although this arrangement presents many difficulties, it can also be effective and beneficial for everyone involved with a few special considerations.

New rules enacted to stop the spread of COVID-19 have made some local caregivers into, effectively, long-distance caregivers too. Social distancing and quarantine efforts kept some caregivers away for safety’s sake and shut nursing homes, hospitals and other care facilities down to outside visitors. In these cases, tips for long-distance caregivers might be useful too.

Stay Informed

Staying organized and informed is really important when you are not there in person. This cuts down on unnecessary stress and confusion and makes talking to multiple medical professionals or other caregivers easier. Keep a list of all of your loved one’s medical conditions, medications, doctors, appointments and anything else that is relevant to their care. Be sure to update this list often and to research anything with which you are unfamiliar. Take detailed notes during appointments and phone calls with other care providers.

You will need to prepare a few legal documents in order for medical staff to share information about your loved one with you. A HIPPAA Authorization form provides written consent for this. You may also want to have a medical power of attorney document prepared so you would be able to make decisions for your loved one in the event that they are unable to do so for themselves.

Collaborate With Others

Especially when there are multiple people involved in caregiving, complicated medical needs and other family members who are concerned about how your loved one is doing, sharing information and communicating often is key. Make copies of your lists and notes about your loved one’s health for other family members and caregivers or start a shared online document that can be edited as needed. Becoming the sole recorder and keeper of this information creates unnecessary stress and even resentment so, if possible, share the effort.

It is important to stay in touch with your loved one’s doctors and other professionals. Conference calls or meetings involving members of the care team, caregivers and family members streamlines the information sharing process.

Connect With Your Loved One

Being a long-distance caregiver usually means that visits cannot occur as often as you would like. Planning can keep visits productive and enjoyable, so you and your loved one can make the best of your time together.

Whether physical distance or new social distancing guidelines are keeping you apart, technology creates new ways to keep in touch and have fun with your loved one. Getting them a phone or tablet — and providing the lessons on how to use it — give a direct line of communication. You can use it to video chat, text, play games together and send pictures, all of which can keep feelings of loneliness away.

The New York estate planning law firm of Littman Krooks, LLP combines extensive legal knowledge and experience with individual attention suited to each clients’ needs. For over 30 years, Littman Krooks attorneys have brought astute, honest counsel and strong, thorough representation to every client they have served. Reach Littman Krooks at https://www.littmankrooks.com/.

 

The Sandwich Generation: Caring for Both Kids and Parents

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Littman Krooks elder lawAs the demographics of American society change the needs of each generation evolve along with them, one unique group of people is growing especially quickly — the sandwich generation, or those who are responsible for the care of both their minor children and their aging parents. Typically, this is a person in their late thirties to fifties with the average unpaid family caregiver being a 49-year-old woman.

Although this situation presents many challenges, there are ways to reduce some of the stress when caregivers are stretched thin between different care obligations in addition to their careers, money and life in general.

Planning is one of the best ways to protect both the finances and sanity of caregivers and parents alike. Although it may be uncomfortable, it is important to have a conversation about the future care of aging parents, their finances and future medical care before they are unable to fully participate. With a clear idea of what they have and want, no one will have figure it out while in the midst of an unexpected health crisis or major expense.

Another aspect of planning is organization. Keep important documents together and an inventory of assets for parents. If certain legal documents do not exist yet, consult an experienced estate planning attorney to make them for everyone involved. An attorney can help everyone understand that estate planning is more than just making a will and should be done for the old and the young. Also, having a designated executor, medical and durable power of attorney, and healthcare directive can save everyone significant stress.

Money is likely one of the biggest issues for the sandwich generation, as they feel obligated to contribute to both the cost of care for parents and for college and other costs for their children while also saving for their own retirement. With costs always on the rise, this can be overwhelming. Remember that prioritizing personal savings for retirement is important, not doing so will increase the risk of someday having to rely on children who likely will have their own families and expenses.

Coping with retirement planning, estate planning and childcare is not an easy task. Contact one of the experienced attorneys at Littman Krooks today if you need assistance with any estate planning needs.

 

 

Learn more about elder lawestate planning and special needs planning at http://www.elderlawnewyork.com  & www.littmankrooks.com. Have questions about this article? Contact us.


Was this article of interest to you? If so, please LIKE our Facebook Page by clicking here.

A Message to Our Clients and Our Littman Krooks Family

Friday, March 13th, 2020
Dear Client and Friends, 
At Littman Krooks, the health and safety of our clients and staff is our highest priority. We pride ourselves on exemplary and individualized services to our clients. We are writing to provide you with the steps that we are taking to protect you and our staff against the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID19). We understand the paramount importance of these tasks, as we serve many elderly clients and families with children with health concerns.
Steps We are Taking To Protect You and Our Staff:
  • We are maintaining social distancing, which means that we will not be shaking hands, hugging or touching anyone.
  • Hand sanitizer is available in our reception area and we are asking you to apply a generous amount to both of your hands upon entry to our office.
  • Staff know to wash their hands each time they enter our building before touching anything and frequently throughout the day.
  • We have remote access for employees who are ill or need to work from home.
  • If you or someone you have been in contact with is experiencing symptoms of coughing, high fever and/or shortness of breath, we ask that you not come to our office.
  • If you do not feel comfortable visiting our office in person, because you may be sick or for any other reason, please consider meeting with us virtually either via conference call or through FaceTime or similar service. Call our office at (914) 684-2100 to let us know that you would like to change your meeting to a virtual one. Our staff will be happy to assist.
Protect Yourself and Those Around You: We encourage all to follow basic hygiene measures that protect us from respiratory viruses. As the Center For Disease Control recommends, these actions include:
  • Washing your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  • Staying at home if you are feeling sick, especially if you have a fever, are coughing and/or have shortness of breath. If you have those symptoms, please seek medical care early.
  • Covering your mouth and nose with the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze and, if using a tissue, dispose of it immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands with alcohol-based sanitizer or soap and water.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces by using disinfectant spray or wipes.
Extra Protections for Those at Higher Risk: If you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, meaning if you are older or have a health condition, you should:
  • Stock up on supplies.
  • Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.
  • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.
  • Avoid crowds as much as possible.
  • Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.
  • During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed.
We thank you for your understanding and cooperation as we navigate this challenging time. We understand that the situation is evolving and we will continue to actively monitor it and take the necessary precautions. Our firm remains dedicated to providing our clients with the highest level of client service in every way possible
For additional information regarding the Coronavirus, here are resources from the CDC and the New York State Department of Health: