Archive for the ‘Estate Planning’ Category

National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

By Lou Giampa, President, Right at Home Westchester

If you were a European warrior or religious pilgrim on the way to Jerusalem during the Middle Ages, chances are you lodged at a “hospes house” on the arduous journey. The holy orders of knights such as the Hospitallers and Templars ran these travel lodges named after the Latin word that means both “guest” and “host.” Over time, hospes houses expanded to offer care for the sick and dying. Derived from “hospes,” our modern-day word “hospice” is known as a place for the dying or the practice of end-of-life care. Littman Krooks Elder Law

Part of hospice services may include palliative care, the medical specialty of alleviating pain and improving the quality of life of the seriously ill. Hospice care begins after health treatment for an illness has stopped and the patient is considered terminal. Palliative care can begin as soon as a patient is diagnosed with a serious illness and can continue while the individual pursues a cure. November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month to help raise awareness of the skilled, compassionate care that both disciplines offer. The campaign’s 2017 theme is “It’s About How You Live.”

How Does Hospice and Palliative Care Work?

Hospice providers alone care for more than 1.6 million Americans and their families annually. While hospice does involve caring for the terminally ill, hospice care is more than seeing someone through their final days. An integrated team of healthcare professionals and trained volunteers work together to manage pain, control symptoms, and bolster emotional and spiritual needs. Hospice teams ensure patients and their loved ones find support, respect and dignity along the difficult path of a life-limiting illness.

Interdisciplinary palliative care teams are typically comprised of doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and physical and occupational therapists who assist with the pain of cancer, kidney failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure and other chronic diseases or disorders.

“Hospice and palliative care are a vital means of comfort and support but are not synonymous,” said Lou Giampa, President of Right at Home Westchester. “Palliative care offers a holistic approach to helping reduce the suffering of anyone with a serious, chronic or life-threatening illness, not just those who are dying. As death draws near, palliative care often segues into hospice.”

Hospice serves those with a terminal diagnosis in their homes or at freestanding hospice centers, nursing homes, in-patient care facilities and hospitals. Hospice teams primarily serve in a patient’s home because most end-of-life individuals prefer to pass in their own home surroundings. Hospice care is available to any patient of any age, race, religion or illness. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization notes that hospice services “focus on caring, not curing” and “hospice is not ‘giving up,’ nor is it a form of euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.” Instead, hospice care helps patients and their families embrace life as fully as possible. In some cases, hospice patients rally to make a full recovery.

Who Qualifies for Hospice and Palliative Care?

Most Medicaid, Medicare and private health insurance plans cover palliative and hospice services. Hospice care covered by Medicare requires that a person receive a prognosis of living six months or less, but there is not a six-month limit on hospice care services. A patient with a doctor’s certification of terminal illness may receive hospice support for as long as necessary.

Any person with a serious illness can benefit from palliative support, which emphasizes the quality of life for the whole person including one’s relationships. Palliative care may include educating family members and caregivers on the patient’s illness, treatment plans and medications. Palliative services ease the symptoms or side effects of an illness including:

  • Pain
  • Sleep difficulty
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Depression and hopelessness

“The majority of U.S. medical schools now offer hospice and palliative care programs and are instructing medical students in these specialized branches of pain management and end-of-life care,” explained Giampa. “It is important to work alongside a care client to develop and tailor a care plan and strategy that meets their own goals, values and needs. Our Right at Home caregivers support a range of hospice and palliative services for everyday needs, such as personal care, meal preparation and light housekeeping. Hospice and palliative medicine means skilled, compassionate teams working together for the good of the care client and the family.”

For more information about person-centered care or cognitive support, visit the local Right at Home office at www.westchesterseniorcare.com.

 

Learn more about elder lawestate planning and special needs planning at littmankrooks.com,  elderlawnewyork.com  & specialneedsnewyork.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.

 

 

 

National Financial Literacy Month: Six Steps Toward Successful Estate Planning

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

In support of National Financial Literacy Month (April) and National Estate Planning Awareness Week (3rd week in October), the following estate planning article contains a very important message:

Estate planning is a financial process that can protect you and your family and is a very important component of your overall financial planning. Now is the perfect time to put your estate planning house in order. If you don’t have an up-to-date estate plan and you happen to get hurt or sick and cannot manage your financial affairs, the courts will have to appoint someone to manage them for you. The person they appoint might not be the one you would want to perform those tasks.

Without an estate plan, when you pass away, your affairs will be settled by default through a complex legal system called “probate.” The handling of your financial affairs can turn into a costly and frustrating ordeal for your family and heirs.

The crafting of a good estate plan starts with planning, followed by the proper drafting and signing of appropriate legal documents such as wills, trusts, buy-sell agreements, durable powers of attorney for asset management, and an advanced health-care directive or health-care power of attorney. Having these documents in place saves you and your family a lot of money and time at a very difficult and emotional time.

Your estate planning should also address the coordination of the way you hold title to your various assets, your beneficiary selections, and the possible transfer of certain assets while you are alive.

Regardless of the extent of your net worth, estate planning is important for everyone. Complex strategies may be used by wealthy people to reduce death taxes and costs. Others may only require a simple will and/or trust to pass on property to their heirs and provide for minor children.

Even if a simple will is all you require, an estate plan is an essential part of your financial planning. Everybody will need it someday. The time to address or update your estate plan is now. See the checklist provided below to help update your estate plan:

CHECKLIST — SIX STEPS TOWARD SUCCESSFUL ESTATE PLANNING

1. DEFINE YOUR GOALS: What do you want to happen to your assets in the event of your death or disability? If your beneficiaries predecease you, who are your alternate selections? How will your assets be distributed, and when will these distributions take place?

  • Decisions on distribution of your estate assets should take into account the size of the estate, the ages and abilities of your children, and your personal desires. For example, a distribution to children over time might consist of 10 percent of the estate at age 18, 25 percent at age 21, 50 percent at age 24 or upon completion of college, and the balance at age 30.
  • Choose your appointees for important roles: Who will be your executor and, if applicable, trustee and/or guardians? It is advisable to list at least a first and second alternate for each appointment in case your first choice is unwilling or unable to serve.
  • If you have children who are minors, the appointment of a guardian is probably the most important decision you’ll make. With the court’s approval, this person, or persons, will raise your children. Consider appointing a family member and spouse, or another close couple who’ll care for your children the way you would want.
  • You may want to consider listing multiple executors, trustees and guardians to serve together in handling the details of your estate. This can provide a check-and-balance system for the appointees and help them avoid oversights or misappropriations. Consider appointing family members, friends, professionals, advisers and/or trust companies for this position.
  • There is some risk here: If these people disagree and have problems, they can each be represented in court by counsel paid for by your estate, so be very careful in making your selections.
  • Living trusts have become popular because less administration is required in comparison with a will. Be aware that having a living trust does not eliminate the need for a will and administration at either the first or second spouse’s death.
  • To get the benefits of the trust, certain details must be attended to, and this is the job of your appointees. For example, leaving a trust for the surviving spouse requires that the trust be funded properly and in a timely manner at the first death, or major tax benefits can be lost.
  • Is estate privacy an issue for you? Do you want your estate to be public record upon your death? Do you have any special gifts you want made to charity? Do you want an elderly parent or friend to be financially cared for? All of these circumstances should be noted in your plan.
  • GATHER & ORGANIZE YOUR DATA: There are three basic tasks to be accomplished:
  • Review and update your financial position.
  • Review how you hold title to your assets. Is it consistent with your estate plan?
  • Review your beneficiary selections. Are they aligned with your estate plans?
  • Did you know that how you hold title to assets has a higher legal priority than your will? For example, if you and your best friend held title to an investment club account as joint tenants and you died, the property would revert to your friend even though you had willed your interest to your spouse.

3. ANALYZE YOUR SITUATION: Start by determining your current net worth, assuming your death occurred today. This can be done by totaling your current assets and liabilities, and adding the value of any life insurance.

  • Try sketching a picture or flow chart of your existing estate plan. Review your appointees:
  • Executor
  • Guardian of the Person/of the Property
  • Trustee
  • Power of Attorney – Property Management
  • Advance Health-Care Directive or Health-Care Power of Attorney

4. DEVELOP YOUR STRATEGIES: With the assistance of your estate planning advisor(s), identify the legal documents that need drafting or make any necessary adjustments to existing documents. Determine any other actions that must be taken for your wishes to be carried out.

5. IMPLEMENT YOUR PLAN: Do what needs to be done — i.e., create new wills, trusts and powers of attorney, adjust title to your properties, change alternate beneficiaries of retirement plans and life insurance policies to trusts.

6. TRACK & MONITOR YOUR PROGRESS: Check your estate plan annually or any time there are changes in your family situation or net worth. Use your financial planning calendar to schedule your next review.

 

Learn more about National Financial Literacy Month by clicking here. For more information on estate and financial planning content contact v.sabuco@TheFinancialAwarenessFoundation.org.

 

 

 

Millennials and Estate Planning: You are Not Too Young for That!

Friday, August 25th, 2017

By Alexis Gruttadauria, Esq., Littman Krooks LLP

For many millennials, estate planning is not a topic that has even crossed their mind, let alone been made a priority. With more immediate concerns such as graduation from school, the start of a career, perhaps looking forward to buying a home and starting a family, the thought of planning for death or incapacity is a non-starter for many. Although people often think of estate planning as a task for later in life, there are aspects of estate planning that prove beneficial regardless of age or perceived net worth. Estate planning can include both planning for during life (“Advance Directives”) and for after death (“Testamentary Planning”), both of which are important for any person.

Advance directives, such as a Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney will benefit any adult, as accidents and emergencies cannot be predicted, and do not discriminate by age. By having a Health Care Proxy in place, a person can dictate who will make decisions on their behalf in the event they can no longer make them on their own. In addition, a thoughtfully drafted living will can assist the appointed agent in making the choices that a person would want made, including what kind of end-of-life care they would want to be given or withheld. Another document that becomes tremendously important in the event of incapacity is a durable power of attorney, which allows the appointed agent to manage the principal’s finances.

As for Testamentary Planning documents, although many people believe that they do not have sufficient assets to warrant the creation of a Last Will and Testament of Trust, there are many aspects of such documents that are important for people of all socioeconomic situations. For young adults who are not yet married, consideration should be made for aging parents who may be on government benefits like Medicaid now or in the future. Without proper planning any amount of money received as the beneficiary of an estate can jeopardize an aging parent’s government benefits. Additionally, as greater numbers of millennials begin starting their own families, a Will or Trust is essential, not only to ensure that assets are distributed according to their wishes at death, but also to nominate a guardian for your minor children in case of your death.

Even at the exciting a fast pace beginning of life, it is never too early to make plan for the unimaginable and for the benefit of your loved ones.

 

Learn more about elder lawestate planning and special needs planning at http://www.elderlawnewyork.com and  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.

Advocates Say Proposed Cuts to Medicaid Will Harm Seniors and People with Disabilities

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

Health care legislation currently being considered by Congress includes steep cuts to the Medicaid program, which advocates for seniors and people with disabilities say will cause tremendous harm.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the legislation, the American Health Care Act, on May 4, 2017. The U.S. Senate is now considering its amended version, which is called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). The bill is a move by Republican lawmakers to repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act, passed under President Obama.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that under the BCRA, the number of uninsured people would increase by 15 million next year, and by 22 million by 2026.

Critics have numerous objections to the bill, but advocates for seniors and people with disabilities have focused on the harm they say will be caused by cuts to Medicaid, the joint federal and state program that insures nearly one in five Americans.

The Affordable Care Act expanded eligibility for Medicaid, though states could opt out. The BCRA would phase out that expansion by 2024, and would make further cuts as well, by permanently restructuring the program. Medicaid is a partnership between the federal government and the states, and the new legislation would cap the amount contributed by the federal budget, leaving states to make up the difference or cut benefits.

Medicaid is the nation’s largest government health care program, covering more people than Medicare. Medicaid covers 64 percent of all nursing home residents, 60 percent of all children with disabilities, 30 percent of all adults with disabilities, 76 percent of poor children and 49 percent of all births.

Some nursing home residents could be forced out by the cuts. Under federal law, state Medicaid programs must cover nursing home care, but the Center for Medicare Advocacy predicted that under the budgetary pressures that would be imposed under the BCRA, states would have to limit how much they pay, or restrict eligibility. The AARP said that under the new legislation, older adults could also be charged up to five times more for health insurance than younger people. Under the Affordable Care Act, rates are capped at three times more.

People with disabilities say that cuts to Medicaid would be devastating, likely resulting in reduced access to home and community-based services that allow many to live independently rather than in institutions.

The BCRA is opposed by the Arc, the AARP, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society’s action network.

Concerned citizens can contact their representatives in Congress by calling the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.

 

Learn more about elder lawestate planning and special needs planning at http://www.elderlawnewyork.com and  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.

 

 

Is Your Estate Plan Up To Date?

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

By: Amy C. O’Hara, Esq., Littman Krooks LLP

In order to ensure your existing estate plan meets your objectives, it is imperative that it be reviewed at least every 3-5 years and updated when needed.  Here are some issues that might necessitate updating your estate plan:

  • You want to avoid probate;
  • You or a beneficiary become disabled or have a long-term illness;
  • Death of a beneficiary;
  • Marriage, divorce or remarriage;
  • Birth or adoption of a child;
  • Death or change of executor, trustee, and/o guardian;
  • A change in the distribution of your estate;
  • A significant increase or decrease in your net worth;
  • Retirement;
  • Expecting to change state of domicile; and
  • Finally, any time you feel uneasy about any of your documents, making changes and/or speaking with your estate planning lawyer to make you feel comfortable with them.

Never make any changes on your current estate planning documents.  Mark-outs, interlineations and other informal changes are of no effect and will not be honored during an illness or after your death.  It is important to meet with an experienced estate planning lawyer to ensure you estate plan is updated properly to protect you and your loved ones.

 

Learn more about our elder law  estate planning or Medicaid Planning services. Contact us with additional questions.  


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

 

NYC Program Helps Seniors with Home Repairs

Friday, May 5th, 2017

Seniors who own their own home in New York City and need help paying for repairs may qualify for the Senior Citizen Home Assistance Program (SCHAP).

The SCHAP program is administered by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), in partnership with the Parodneck Foundation. Qualifying low- and moderate-income seniors can receive low-interest repayment loans or deferred no-interest loans to prevent physical deterioration of their home or to improve living conditions. The maximum loan amount is $40,000 for single-family homes or $30,000 per dwelling unit for two- to four-family homes.

Seniors may qualify if they have owned their home within the five boroughs of New York City for at least two years, and are 60 years old or older. Income guidelines apply, and the home must have liability and property insurance.

In the case of deferred, interest-free loans, there are no monthly payments, and fees plus ten percent of the loan are forgiven after the first year. The loan is payable in full if the house is sold, but if the borrower still resides in the home after 30 years, the balance of the loan is forgiven. In the case of low-interest repayment loans, the borrower is charged with 0-3 percent interest and repays the loan over 30 years.

The SCHAP program has been in operation since 1986, and has assisted more than 1,000 senior homeowners. In addition to affordable loans, the program also offers extensive technical assistance to qualifying seniors.

To learn more about the SCHAP program, including application requirements and the loan process, contact the Parodneck Foundation at 212-431-9700, extension 313, or visit: parodneckfoundation.org/schap.

 

Learn more about our elder law or Medicaid Planning services. Contact us with additional questions. 


Was this article of interest to you? If so, please LIKE our Facebook Page by clicking here or sign up for our newsletter.Littman Krooks Elder Law

 

 

Things for Seniors to Consider Before Remarrying

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

To a young couple starting a family, marriage may seem like an obvious step. For those in their golden years, however, remarrying can involve some potential complications that they should be aware of.

Marriage later in life can complicate the estate plans of each spouse, especially if either or both of them have children from a previous marriage. Even if everything is left to the children, in the will, under the laws of New York and most other states, the spouse will be entitled to a portion of the estate. Consult with an estate planning attorney to be sure that the estate will be distributed accordingly.

Littman Krooks elder lawLong-term care plans are another possible complication. The potential cost of care in a skilled nursing facility can be difficult to plan for, since it cannot be predicted, and if it is necessary, the cost can be enormous. While some seniors may have long-term care insurance or have the means to pay for the care themselves, others will rely on Medicaid. People contemplating marriage late in life should know that the Medicaid agency will examine the finances of both spouses to determine eligibility. The non-institutionalized or “community” spouse may sign a spousal refusal, but this does not completely relieve them of liability for the cost of care.

Social Security benefits are an important part of many people’s retirement plans, and divorced or widowed spouses often receive benefits based on their ex-spouse’s record. However, remarrying will terminate the divorced spouse’s benefits, and remarrying before age 60 – or age 50 if one is disabled – will terminate survivor’s benefits. In addition, widows or widowers who receive a pension based on their late spouse’s work record may lose their pension if they remarry under certain circumstances.

 

Join us for a free workshop on estate planning, “Plan for Your Future and Avoid Guardianship” on December 7, 2016 at the Greenburgh Library from 10:00 AM-12:00 PM. Registration is required because seating is limited. For more information or to register, click here.


Learn more about our elder law, guardianship and estate planning services.

 

Nursing Home Residents Will Soon Have Greater Rights

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

Update (12/1/2016): “The rule was supposed to take effect Nov. 28, but the American Health Care Association, an industry group that represents most nursing homes in the U.S., filed a lawsuit in October to block the rule, which it called “arbitrary and capricious.” To read more, click here.

 

A rule change by a federal agency will provide nursing home residents with major new legal protections by preventing facilities from forcing disputes into arbitration.

littman krooks long-term-careThe Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), part of the Health and Human Services Department, issued a rule preventing nursing homes from requiring that residents resolve disputes in arbitration rather than through a lawsuit. The rule applies to all facilities that receive federal funding, protecting the rights of 1.5 million residents. The arbitration ban is one of several new nursing home regulations promulgated by CMS, including new standards for nutrition and infection control.

Many families must make the decision about a nursing home under time pressure and in emotional turmoil, and they often are not able to consider the implications of all the contract terms. Nursing home contracts often contain fine print requiring that disputes be resolved through arbitration, taking away the right to sue for elder abuse, neglect and even wrongful death.

The nursing home industry said that the rule change, “clearly exceeds the agency’s authority.” Arbitration has reduced legal costs for nursing homes, but advocates for seniors say that it has prevented residents and their families from getting justice. Officials in 16 states and the District of Columbia had urged government action, arguing that private arbitration kept patterns of abuse hidden.

The new rule goes into effect on Nov. 28. It does not apply to contracts signed prior to that date, but current nursing home residents or their families can review their contracts and attempt to renegotiate or choose to move to another facility. After Nov. 28, nursing homes may still ask for a dispute to be settled through arbitration, but residents and their families have the right to file a lawsuit instead.

 

Join us for a free workshop on estate planning, “Plan for Your Future and Avoid Guardianship” on December 7, 2016 at the Greenburgh Library from 10:00 AM-12:00 PM. Registration is required because seating is limited. For more information or to register, click here.


Learn more about our elder law, guardianship and estate planning services.

When Not to Claim an Inheritance

Friday, August 26th, 2016

Although it may seem counter-intuitive to turn down an inheritance, there are situations in which it may actually be beneficial to do so. When a person refuses to accept an inheritance, that person is said to disclaim it, and the effect is the same as if the heir had predeceased the person who died. The gift will pass on to the next person in line to receive it.

Littman Krooks elder lawOne reason to disclaim a gift is when the asset is actually undesirable, for instance a piece of real estate with a low potential sale value but high property taxes. Other gifts may come with strings attached, such as a requirement to get married or to take care of the deceased’s pet.

Another reason for disclaiming an inheritance is for the heir to avoid estate taxes while passing wealth on to his or her own heirs, who may be in a lower tax bracket.  Individuals who are already wealthy and potentially facing a significant estate tax may want to disclaim an inheritance, allowing it to pass directly to their children without it ever becoming part of their estate. This may be useful for many types of assets, but disclaiming an inherited IRA may have the additional benefit of passing the asset along to an heir who can stretch out distributions over a longer period.

Disclaiming an asset is not something to take lightly or decided upon spontaneously. Instead, disclaimers can be part of your estate planning process, undertaken only with the advice of a qualified estate planning attorney.

 

Learn more about our services by visiting www.littmankrooks.com or www.elderlawnewyork.com.


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

Medicaid Asset Transfers: What Are The Rules?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

For many families, paying for a loved one’s extended stay in a nursing home would be difficult without the help of Medicaid. However, in order to qualify for the program, a person’s income and assets must fall within certain limits.

Federal rules state that to qualify for Medicaid nursing home coverage, a person must have no more than $2,000 in “countable” assets. However, New York State has more generous rules, so for New York residents in 2016 the limit is $14,850 for a single person. If a married person needs nursing home care, there are protections for a spouse who remains outside. In this situation, the community spouse has a maximum threshold of &74,820 to $119,220 ($14,850 for the institutionalized person and $119,220 for that person’s spouse). Certain types of resources are exempt, such as up to $828,000 of equity in a home and one motor vehicle.

Littman Krooks Elder LawIf you have countable resources above the limits, you may be told that you need to “spend down” your assets, paying for nursing home care yourself, until you reach the resource limits, at which point Medicaid begins covering the cost. This is what happens in many cases. In other cases, a family may anticipate the need for long-term care and wish to transfer assets to the next generation ahead of time, in order to preserve the family’s resources while still qualifying for Medicaid. This is an excellent strategy, as long as the Medicaid rules are followed.

Medicaid has a five-year “look-back” period for transfers of assets. A person applying for Medicaid must disclose all financial transactions for the previous five years. During this time, any transfers of assets for less than fair market value may prevent the person from being eligible for Medicaid. (However, in New York State, the asset transfer rules do not apply for recipients of Medicaid for home care services.) In addition, invalid transfers may result in a costly penalty period during which ineligibility may continue even after assets are spent down.

To avoid ineligibility and penalties, it is important to plan ahead. Transfers made more than five years in advance are not affected by the rules. There are also important exceptions to the asset transfer rules as well as legal strategies including certain trusts that can help preserve assets while ensuring eligibility. As you can see, Medicaid planning is very complex and it is essential to have help from a qualified elder law attorney.

 

Learn more about our services by visiting www.littmankrooks.com or www.elderlawnewyork.com.


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