Archive for the ‘Wills’ Category

National Financial Literacy Month: Six Steps Toward Successful Estate Planning

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

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.

 

 

 

How Divorce and Remarriage Affect Social Security Retirement Benefits

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

People considering divorce as their 10-year wedding anniversary approaches should know that delaying the split until after the decade mark can result in higher Social Security retirement benefits for a spouse with a lower earning record.

Taking the example of a divorced couple where the ex-husband had a higher earnings record, if the couple was married for 10 years or more, then the ex-wife can receive higher benefits based on his record, provided she is age 62 or older and has not remarried.

Even if the ex-husband has not applied for retirement benefits, the ex-wife may receive benefits based on his record, provided they have been divorced for more than two years. If the woman remarries, then she would no longer be able to collect the benefits unless the later marriage ends.lawyer-or-notary-with-cl

Recent years have seen a rise in both marriages and divorces later in life, and statistics suggest that divorcing couples may take retirement benefits into account, as there is a measurable increase in divorce after the 10-year mark. As might be expected, the effect is most pronounced for couples nearing retirement age. A recent study found that for people 55 and older, there is an 11.7 percent increase in the likelihood of divorce at about the decade mark. For couples age 35 to 55, that drops to a 6 percent increase in likelihood of divorce at 10 years, and for people under age 35, there is almost no effect.

Other researchers are skeptical that many people take retirement benefits into account in their divorce decisions, pointing to studies that show that only 13 percent of people are very knowledgeable about how Social Security benefits are calculated.

Whether divorcing couples currently consider retirement benefits in timing their divorce, many advisers agree that they should. Divorcing just short of the 10-year mark could result in thousands of dollars in lost benefits, so it may be worthwhile for some to delay the process.

Financial considerations are often part of making decisions about divorce, so it is important to be aware of how Social Security benefits can be affected.

 

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Sharing Caregiving Responsibilities Among Siblings

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Caring for an elderly parent in declining health is a big responsibility, and one that can have a significant effect on the caregiver’s financial and emotional well-being. Having a sibling to share in that responsibility can make things easier, but it can also lead to conflict and resentment. It is important to understand the issues that may arise when two or more adult siblings are caring for an elderly parent, and the best ways to resolve problems.

One question that usually comes up at the outset is who will be the primary caregiver. If only one sibling lives close to the parent who needs care, that is often the deciding factor. When two or more siblings live close by, then the decision often depends on work schedules. If none of the siblings live close to the parent or have time available, then the question becomes how to divide the expense of hiring an in-home health aide or perhaps an assisted living facility, depending on the circumstances.

Good communication is probably the most important factor in making these decisions. Ideally, responsibilities will be divided in whatever way feels fair to everyone involved, and arriving at the best outcome depends on communication. Siblings should be encouraged to share exactly what they feel they should contribute and why. Factors such as an individual’s family income or work schedule are legitimate concerns that may play into decision-making. Feelings about this should be stated plainly so that later resentments can be avoided. Siblings should try their best not to let old sibling rivalries get in the way. Adult siblings caring for an elderly parent are taking on new roles, and they are best served by not replaying old ones.

In addition to family income and work schedules, siblings should consider each other’s particular skills. If one sibling is a more frugal money manager, it may make sense for him or her to hold the power of attorney for the parent. Someone with experience as a caregiver may do the best job handling day-to-day care. One fact that should not be forgotten is that caregiving is valuable and important work. Siblings who are not involved with day-to-day care may not be aware of just how much work is involved. The caregiving sibling should not be afraid to speak up and share with the others how much time goes into giving care for their parent. It can be easy for a sibling that is contributing more time or contributing more money to feel that his or her contribution is unfair or is going unrecognized. Full and frank discussion is the best solution.

Finally, as with most things, careful planning will save a lot of headaches. Just as mom or dad’s schedule of doctor’s appointments and daily medications needs to be kept track of, so should the finances be kept in careful order. An estate planning attorney or financial adviser can be invaluable in preparing a budget that accounts for the cost of different types of care that may be needed.

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.

 

For more information about our legal services, visit www.elderlawnewyork.com.

 

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.

For more information, visit www.elderlawnewyork.com.

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 http://www.elderlawnewyork.com.

It’s Time to Protect Your Family and Your Future

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Estate planning is a financial process that can protect you and your family, and is a very important component of your overall financial planning. April is National Financial Literacy Month 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.

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.

2. 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
  • Advanced Health-Care Directive or Health-Care Power of Attorney

ESTATE PLANNING ALERT : On December 17, 2010, President Obama signed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (The 2010 Tax Relief Act) into law. Estate and gift tax laws have been reinstated along with many new temporary estate and gift tax provisions that will end on December 31, 2012 unless Congress extends or makes them permanent.

Estate Tax Exclusion & Top Rates:  Establishes an estate exclusion amount at $5 million and the top estate tax rate at 35%; indexes the $5 million exemption for inflation for decedents dying after 2011.

Portability:  Beginning for taxpayers dying after Dec. 31, 2010 the estate tax exclusion becomes “portable” between spouses. This means that the surviving spouse’s exemption is increased by any exemption not used at the first spouse’s death.

Check with your financial advisors for updated information.

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.

These materials are provided as a public service by The NAEPC Education Foundation for “free-use” on websites, newspapers, newsletters, magazines, and other media broadcasts during the months of April and October as it relates to National Financial Literacy Month and National Estate Planning Awareness Week. For additional information or materials contact us at The NAEPC Education Foundation.

To assist with your estate planning, follow this link  at www.estateplanninganswers.org/protect-your-family-and-your-future/ to get a complimentary copy of the Your financial PARTNER “Estate Planning Location Sheet,” in Excel worksheet format. For more information on estate and financial planning visit www.estateplanninganswers.org/category/financial-planning/personal-financial-management-system/ or visit our website at www.elderlawnewyork.com.

Estate Plans Should Include Provisions for Pets

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Many seniors fail to consider their pets when building an estate plan, an oversight that often finds them homeless or in animal shelters, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

People often incorrectly assume they will outlive their pet, or that a friend or family will take care of their pet when they are gone, according to Anne Culver, director of Disaster Services for the Humane Society. Formal provisions can ensure a pet will receive proper care in a loving home after its owner has passed away.

It is important to outline a temporary plan for a pet before even drafting a long-term plan. Estate plans can take time to carry out, especially if they are contested, but pets need daily care and immediate attention. A designated friend, family member or neighbor can ensure a pet’s needs are met while an estate plan is being carried out.

Formal, long-term arrangements for a pet can be created with the help of a lawyer in the form of a special will, trust, or other document. When selecting a caregiver, seniors should consider close family or friends who have met the pet and who have successfully cared for a pet of their own. If an estate plan includes more than one pet, they should be kept together, especially if they have bonded. Seniors should keep in contact with potential caregivers over time to ensure that their circumstances have not changed, and they are still willing to care for the pet.

In the event that a caregiver cannot be found, the executor of a will can be authorized to find a satisfactory new home for a pet. This may take time, so careful instructions and proper funding are paramount. An estate plan can include funding for a pet’s temporary and permanent expenses.

A trust for a pet may also be set up as an alternative to a will. Unlike a will, which only takes effect upon death, a trust goes into effect as soon as a senior becomes incapacitated. This means that a pet can be cared for immediately.

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To learn more about New York elder law, New York estate planning, visit http://www.elderlawnewyork.com or http://www.littmankrooks.com

Make Sure Your Will Is Airtight

Monday, November 15th, 2010

People often think that because they have executed a Will, their wishes will be 100 percent honored when they pass on. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

A Will that is not properly drafted and is not sufficiently specific can result in lengthy court battles. This can lead to disgruntled family members and grudges that last for generations.

A Will that is drafted from an Internet sample may be inadequate for your specific needs. It is best to hire an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you craft a document that is tailored to your situation, meets the statutory requirements for a valid Will, and protects beneficiaries and fiduciaries.

Here are some suggestions for making sure your wishes are honored:

-Keep copies of all correspondence and conversations with the drafting attorney.

-Be sure to update your Will on a regular basis.

-If you have previously executed a Will, destroy it, along with any drafts.

To learn more about New York elder law, New York estate planning, visit http://www.elderlawnewyork.com

When a Will and Testament Becomes Contested

Monday, January 18th, 2010

A Last Will and Testament is a legal declaration by which an individual provides for the transfer of property upon death and names one or more people to manage the estate.

Death is inevitable. But a careful choice in selecting an executor is seldom a given, especially where property and money are involved. During life, families may seem to get along fine, but the death of a loved one, considerable property to be disbursed, and an executor who seems unfair or biased — can be a recipe for conflict. The living, prior to their passing, don’t always write out their wishes in clear and concise ways. If there is uncertainty in a family about what might occur upon the death of a patriarch or matriarch, for instance, the atmosphere following death can resemble an emotional war zone.

An executor can help resolve such conflicts. The best executors execute their duties professionally, with tact, with due regard for family dynamics, and with professional guidance from a knowledgeable attorney. If a will contest nevertheless does occur, at least it should then be grounded in law and fair play.

To learn more about New York Elder Law, NY Elder Law, New York Elder Care, NY Elder Care, or New York Estate Planning visit http://www.elderlawnewyork.com.