Archive for the ‘Trusts’ Category

Estate Planning & Elder Law: What You Should Be Aware of If You Live in New York and Florida

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Many New Yorkers retire in Florida, and many others choose to spend the winter months there while maintaining a residence in New York. As part-time New Yorkers and part-time Floridians, retirees have the best of both worlds. But living in two different states can present certain complications when it comes to estate planning and elder law.

One important consideration is where your legal residence will be, which can be important for purposes of estate taxes. Where you spend the most time may not be as important as where you are registered to vote, what state issued your driver’s license, and what address you list on tax documents.

Your will and any trusts should be tied to the state where you are a legal resident. However, if you own real estate in another state, you should have your estate planning attorney make sure that you do not need additional documents to transfer the property when you die or to manage it if you become incapacitated.

It is also important to make sure that documents such as a living will and health care power of attorney are valid in both states. If you happen to be traveling through another state and are hospitalized, out-of-state documents will probably not cause a problem. But if you spend a significant amount of time in another state, it is advisable to be sure that such documents comply with the laws of both states. If you spend a good deal of time in a state far away from close family members, then you may also want to consider naming a local family member or trusted friend in health documents, so that someone can get to a hospital quickly in the event of an emergency.

Littman Krooks is well-positioned to help you with these matters. Because so many of our clients live both in New York and Florida, we have partnered with Solkoff Legal, P.A. a leading Florida elder law firm, to offer superior estate planning and elder law services to residents of both states. Contact us for more information. Click here to read more about our alliance with Solkoff Legal.


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Estate Planners Find More Clients Are Raising Grandchildren

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Financial advisors and estate planning experts are reporting that they are seeing an increase in the number of grandparents who are helping to raise their grandchildren. For many, that added financial responsibility means that plans for retirement must be put on hold.

More than 2.6 million grandparents were raising grandchildren below the age of 18 as of 2011, according to the U.S. Census. Many households are disrupted due to underemployment, divorce, mental health or substance abuse issues or chronic illness. When adult children are not able to fully parent their own children, other family members often step in, and many times, custody of the children falls to the grandparents. That addition to the household means that more funds are needed for food and clothing; add in school supplies, sports and leisure activities and even basic entertainment, and a comfortable budget for two retirees can quickly be stretched to the breaking point, not to mention the emotional toll.

Merrill Lynch ran a survey of retirees in early 2013. Thirty-five percent of responding grandparents stated that they expect they will have to provide financial support for their grandchildren: 43 percent of those respondents stated that they will be providing financial support; 38 percent believe they will be paying for housing; 30 percent will be paying for education; and 25 percent are planning to pay for health care.

Even when grandparents are not shouldering the entire burden, many grandparents report that they are helping to “bridge the financial gap,” paying for some items or providing ongoing monthly funds to help make ends meet. And when some families are more financially secure than others, issues of resentment can build. That and the tax implications of gifts and estate tax is why so many estate planning attorneys strongly suggest that families look into setting up trusts with specific guidelines.

In addition to looking at financial estate plan issues, any grandparents who are parenting or co-parenting grandchildren should speak with an attorney to make sure guardianship issues are formalized. A guardianship that must be declared through the courts during an emergency is unpleasant for everyone involved.


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For End-of-Life Care, Many Must Choose Between Nursing Home and Hospice

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

According to a recent study released by the University of California, San Francisco, close to one-third of elderly people needing end-of-life care enter a nursing home. The issue? Nursing homes are not always the best environment for end-of-life care. A nursing home is equipped to oversee many basic elements of end-of-life care, including IV hydration and monitoring vital signs, but staff may not be adequately responsive to issues such as pain management, palliative care and support for bereaved family members.

The study used data from 1994 through 2007 from the National Health and Retirement Study. Researchers examined more than 5,000 cases of people who lived independently. Some 30 percent of individuals older than 85 eventually used their Medicaid skilled-nursing facility (S.N.F) benefit within the final six months of their life.

Care options are limited for those with tight budgets. While some end-of-life nursing home residents can receive hospice care in a nursing home, Medicare seldom reimburses for the room and board provided by the facility as well as hospice care. Residents must choose – and nursing home room and board can add up to hundreds of dollars per day.

An individual can choose to have home hospice care and use those Medicaid benefits, but if there are any “medically complex” issues, home hospice may not cover those expenses. Additionally, home hospice assumes there are family members and a home where care can be given. An individual who needs 24-hour care may have to choose between skilled care and hospice care. But for many, the need of 24-hour care outweighs other options. Complicating matters further is the way Medicare restricts coverage: if an individual is hospitalized for a diagnosis unrelated to the hospice diagnosis, he or she can often get nursing home and hospice coverage.

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Elder Law Attorney Bernard A. Krooks to Speak at Heckerling Institute

Monday, January 7th, 2013

White Plains, New York (January 10, 2013) – Bernard A. Krooks, Esq., a founding partner of Littman Krooks LLP, will be a guest speaker at the 47th Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning on January 14, 2013, at the Orlando World Center Marriott Resort and Convention Center, in Orlando, Florida.

Mr. Krooks will be speaking about the “graying” of Baby Boomers and their need for elder law services. Mr. Krooks will also discuss “Later Life Law” and how elder care attorneys can assist their clients with Medicaid options as well as other areas of elder care planning including retirement accounts, long-term care insurance and tax considerations and the use of trusts in elder law and special needs planning.

The Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning is known as the premiere U.S. conference for estate planning professionals, including attorneys, accountants, trust officers, insurance advisors and wealth management professionals. The program offers lectures and special sessions with comprehensive coverage of estate planning techniques and strategies, designed to allow attendees to customize their educational experience.

Mr. Krooks has been included among The Best Lawyers in America® for each of the last six years. He has been selected as a “New York Super Lawyer” since 2006. Krooks has received his AEP accreditation from the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils. He is a member of the Real Property, Probate & Trust Law Section and Tax Section of the American Bar Association. He is a sought-after expert on estate planning and elder law matters and has been quoted in leading publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Forbes, among others.

About Littman Krooks

Littman Krooks LLP provides sophisticated legal advice and the high level of expertise ordinarily associated with large law firms along with the personal attention and responsiveness of smaller firms. These ingredients, which are the cornerstone of effective representation and are necessary to a successful lawyer/client relationship, have become the foundation of the firm’s success.

Littman Krooks LLP offers legal services in several areas of law, including elder law, estate planning, special needs planning, special education advocacy, and corporate and securities. Their offices are located at 399 Knollwood Road, White Plains, New York; 655 Third Avenue, New York, New York; and 300 Westage Business Center Drive, Fishkill, New York. Visit the firm’s website at

Impending Changes Would Make Estate and Gift Taxes Apply to Many More Americans

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

The rules governing taxes on gifts and estates are set for major changes at the end of the year unless Congress steps in.

The taxes, which currently concern mainly the very wealthy, will soon ensnare far more people if scheduled reductions in exemptions are allowed to go through. The exemption level for each tax is currently $5.12 million and is set to plunge to $1 million.

The lifetime exemption on gift taxes is also scheduled to make an identical drop.

The impending changes have prompted a frenzy of activity among wealthy Americans eager to make gifts and create trusts under current law, filling the calendars of estate planning attorneys and financial planners nationwide.

The estate tax rate is also scheduled to increase from a current top rate of 35 percent to a new top rate of 55 percent.

According to Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, the change in estate tax exemptions would make approximately 55,000 estates subject to the tax next year, compared to fewer than 4,000 estates under current law.

President Obama’s budget proposal of February 2012 called for an estate tax exemption level of $3.5 million and a top rate of 45 percent. It did not contain a recommendation for gifting exclusions.

Estate and gift taxes are not the only ones scheduled to change. The tax exemption for generation-skipping transfers and trusts would likewise drop from its current $5 million to $1 million under current law. In addition, trusts of this type currently can shelter assets from taxation for an unlimited number of generations, but President Obama has proposed limiting the effect to 90 years.

Most experts predict that Congress will not resolve the matter before the end of the calendar year, but any compromise reached in 2013 could be retroactively applied to January 1.

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Planning to Retire Soon? Create a Retirement Checklist

Monday, July 16th, 2012

If you are considering retiring within the next five years, now is the time to create a retirement plan.  Many seniors say they wish they had planned more carefully for retirement.  There are several things you can do now to make sure your legal and financial affairs are in order when you retire.

Define Your Financial Goals

Naturally, one of the most important considerations in planning for retirement is safeguarding your financial security.  That means defining what you expect your lifestyle to be during retirement, and how your financial goals will be met.  You will want to consider factors such as how you will allocate money from your savings to supplement your retirement income, the possibility of rising health care expenses, and the effect that inflation may have on your purchasing power.

Your retirement plan will need to include a budget and an asset allocation strategy, and you will need to consider how to balance different sources of income and benefits, including Social Security, Medicare, and your own assets.  If you are employed, one thing you can do to maximize your savings is to invest as much as you can in your 401(k) before you retire.  Your employer can be a valuable source of information on how best to make use of your 401(k), and what benefits you will receive in retirement.  If you are married, then you and your spouse should create a joint retirement plan.

Create an Estate Plan

If you do not already have an estate plan, now is the time to create one.  Before retirement, you will want to be sure that you have taken the necessary steps to ensure that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes, through the execution of a will, and the establishment of any trusts that would benefit you and your family.  It is also important to establish a durable power of attorney, designating a person to make decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated.  Through a living will, you can issue specific instructions for what is to be done in certain medical situations.  An estate planning attorney can help you create a holistic plan for the management of your assets.

Retirement is something to look forward to, and something to plan for carefully.

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Trusts Are Not Just for the Wealthy

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Think trust funds are only for the wealthy, for those with second homes and extravagant yachts? Think again.

There are several types of trusts available, and they can save thousands of dollars in estate and gift taxes, even if you just own a modest home. Not only that, they are a secure way to manage assets long after you have passed on.

If you have a life insurance policy, for instance, you may wish to consider an irrevocable life insurance trust. Life insurance proceeds are included in your gross estate and, therefore, are subject to federal and state estate taxes. But a life insurance policy owned by an irrevocable life insurance trust is excluded from your gross estate and can save your beneficiaries a huge chunk of money when you pass on.

Another type of trust is the revocable trust, which transfers ownership of one’s assets to a trust during one’s lifetime but also offers details on the distribution of property and assets upon death. The advantage over a standard will is that revocable trusts bypass the probate process. While you can be your own trustee for a revocable trust, you may prefer to name a professional trustee to manage the trust assets, keep good records, pay you a regular income and—should you become incapacitated—pay your household and medical bills.

There are many more options for trusts. To discuss your particular needs, speak to an experienced attorney.

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When to Hire a Trust Protector

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

A trust protector is an individual who is responsible for overseeing a trust and its trustees. The concept of the trust protector originated among settlors (individuals who create or establish trusts) who had trusts in offshore jurisdictions. However, trust protectors are becoming more popular as a means of safeguarding trusts established in the United States.

Trust protectors are appointed and granted powers in the trust document. There is no “one-size-fits-all” list of powers a trust protector should be given. A settlor must determine an appropriate level of authority given the settlor’s unique needs. Some examples of duties that a trust protector may perform include:

• removing or replacing a trustee,
• handling disputes between trustees and/or beneficiaries,
• amending the trust,
• adjusting disbursements according to changes in beneficiaries’ circumstances, and
• oversight of investment of the trust’s assets.

There are a variety of reasons for appointing a trust protector. A settlor may have concerns about a trustee’s ability to execute the settlor’s wishes. Or a settlor may want to split administration duties between a trustee and a trust protector. Appointing a trust protector also makes a long-term trust more flexible and able to adjust to unexpected events.

Although anyone may serve as a trust protector, it is generally a good idea to hire an independent third party or professional as your trust protector. An experienced elder law and estate planning attorney can help ensure that a trust protector is given the right balance of power to oversee your trust effectively.

A Closer Look at Charitable Trusts

Friday, June 4th, 2010

A charitable trust is a financial account that allows you to donate money to a charity while receiving a tax benefit for you and your heirs. There are two major types of charitable trusts: charitable remainder trusts (CRTs) and charitable lead trusts (CLTs). Of these two types of trusts, CRTs are the most common. These types of trusts are usually funded with a minimum of $100,000. CRTs are attractive, because in addition to the income tax and estate tax deductions that are available, the donor of the trust also receives income from the trust for a specified period.

A CRT is a trust which allows for a specified distribution, which must occur at least annually, to one or more beneficiaries. At the very least, one of these beneficiaries must not be a charity. The trust is set up for life or for a term of years, with an irrevocable remainder interest to be held for the benefit of, or paid over to, charity.

CRTs are further broken down into two types: charitable remainder unitrusts (CRUTs) and charitable remainder annuity trusts (CRATs). Both are irrevocable trusts that pay out a portion of the value of the trust assets each year to a beneficiary chosen by the trust donor. The beneficiary can be the donor or his or her spouse. The difference in these trusts lies in the fact that the CRUT pays a fixed percentage of the value of its holdings, and the CRAT pays a fixed dollar amount.

Charitable lead trusts (CLTs) are different from CRTs in that they pay income to a qualified charity for a set number of years or for the lifetime of the individuals who establish the trust. At the end of the trust, the assets are returned to the donor, the spouse, children, or other specified individuals. A great benefit of a CLT is that if the trust earns more than it pays to the designated charitable beneficiary, those extra earnings will then pass on to the non-charitable beneficiaries without racking up additional estate or gift taxes.

If you or your spouse wishes to establish a charitable trust, you should contact an estate planning attorney, who can offer you guidance about which type of trust will be right for you and your family.

Bernard Krooks is a New York Elder Law and New York Estate Planning lawyer with offices in White Plains, Fishkill, and New York, New York. To learn more, visit

QTIP Trusts

Monday, May 24th, 2010

A qualified terminable interest property trust (QTIP) limits a surviving spouse’s access to, and control of, the trust property. Its main objective is to enable your spouse to use your assets at the same time that you determine the distribution of those assets. Under a QTIP trust, the spouse has direct access to any income from the trust assets for the remainder of his/her life, but the trust’s principal is actually left to someone else, usually one’s children.

A QTIP trust can offer many benefits to your family, especially if you are in a second marriage and you want to protect your assets for your children. You should consider the following provisions before making a decision:

• Giving your spouse the ability to change trustees. It may be difficult for your spouse to deal with the trustee you have chosen, so you may want to give him/her the opportunity to appoint another individual.

• Deciding how much discretion your spouse will have to make withdrawals from the trust principal. Placing too many restrictions on your spouse’s ability to make withdrawals may cause conflicts with the trustee. It may be a good idea to discuss these provisions with your spouse before making any decisions regarding withdrawals.

• Reviewing the trust’s beneficiaries with your spouse. Your spouse needs to know that regardless of what happens to his/her financial or personal situation, the trust cannot be altered.

A QTIP trust offers you the opportunity to make sure that your wishes are carried out and that your spouse’s future is protected. An estate planning attorney can help guide you through the process.

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