Archive for the ‘Estate Planning’ Category

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:

The Sandwich Generation: Caring for Both Kids and Parents

Tuesday, January 28th, 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.

 

 

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October Is National Estate Planning Awareness Month

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

Estate planning is a crucial life management and wealth preservation activity for adults of all ages and all income levels.

Across the United States, October is National Estate Planning Awareness Month, an educational campaign intended to focus attention on the importance of having a plan to care for family members and manage accumulated wealth in old age and following death.

Just 4 in 10 adults in the United States have a will or trust. Estate planning is crucial for people of any age or income status. Parents with young children need to have a plan in place — at a minimum, a designated guardian and instructions conveyed in a trust — in the event of an unexpected death or disability.

senior couple planningFor everyone else, estate plans should be created to address tax avoidance issues, property management, asset protection, wealth distribution and health care decisions in the event of cognitive decline or disability prior to death.

Without a will or trust in place, important decisions about the care of young children and distribution of property at death will be made by a judge, often following a contested and expensive legal proceeding.

Estate Planning Awareness Month is a great time for everyone to take stock of their estate plans and financial health. If there is already an estate plan in place, now might be a good time to review it. If there is none in place now is the time get started:

  1. Define goals. Decide how any family responsibilities and property will be managed in the event of disability or death.
  2. Gather and organize data. Take inventory of all assets and title held to them. Identify any beneficiaries.
  3. Implement an estate plan. Develop a strategy — ideally with the assistance of a financial or estate planning professional — for managing and distributing the estate. Consider drafting the following documents: designation of guardian, will, trust, power of attorney and health care directives.
  4. Monitor and make changes if necessary. Life circumstances change, so do tax and probate laws. Mark the calendar to review estate plans annually.

For a detailed explanation of the measures necessary to create a sound estate plan, consult the comprehensive estate planning resources available at the Littman Krooks website.

National Estate Planning Awareness Month is a nationwide public education campaign first launched in 2008. With sound estate planning, individuals and their families can maintain financial security during their lifetimes and ensure the efficient, intended transfer of assets following death.

 

Learn more about elder lawestate planning and special needs planning at littmankrooks.com,  elderlawnewyork.com  & specialneedsnewyork.com. Have questions about this article? Contact us.


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Caregivers Need Care Too—How to Help, Effectively

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Littman Krooks Elder LawCaring for a loved one is a labor of love, very often with an emphasis on the work. Caregivers bear an incredible weight in making sure that their loved one is getting what they need while their own life is put on hold. Burnout is common. 

 

With good intentions and a little forethought though, a small amount of kindness to a caregiver can go a long way. The key to being an effective helper is to act with the caregiver in mind, to give them what they want, not what you think they need.

 

Get Personal

 

If you know the caregiver and have an idea of their situation and what they enjoy, you can focus on something from which you know they would benefit. For example, if they have always taken pride in their yard but have not been able to find time to take care of it as well as they usually do, ask if you can weed the garden or cut the grass (or hire someone who can). If they have a hobby, help them be able to do that activity by caring for their loved one or by performing other tasks. If you do not know the person well, you can ask someone who does what they would enjoy or offer something that is generally enjoyable or helpful. 

 

Be prepared for them to decline your offer caregivers may not want to burden anyone or feel awkward about accepting help. You may need to offer again later and remind them that you want to help.

 

You may need to be creative in how you facilitate giving them a hand. If they are anxious or unable, to leave the person they care for, then try to figure out how to accommodate that. Otherwise, your offer to help may cause more stress than good.

 

Show Up

 

Forget about asking the caregiver to let you know when/if they need anything. Chances are good that they will either never ask or have no clue how to respond to an open-ended request. Instead, make a specific offer and follow through. 

 

A small break from the endless responsibility of being a caregiver can be very refreshing. Take something off the caregiver’s plate. Pick up some groceries or an indulgent treat and drop it off to them. Sit and listen to them talk. Help with chores. Watch a movie together. There is no need to spend money or obsess over what to do. Simple, thoughtful gestures are often enough and very much appreciated.

 

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Is Your Estate Plan Up To Date?

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

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/or 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.

 

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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.

 

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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

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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