Qualified plans  such as IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s and other deferred compensation are excellent ways to help reach your estate planning goals and ensure your wealth is not depleted by excessive taxes and assisted living costs. IRAs in particular help achieve both of these goals because they are not taxed and if utilized properly, will not count against you when applying for Medicaid to pay for nursing home care.

For estate planning purposes, qualified plans are considered those which individuals make contributions to while working and begin making at least the required minimum distribution (RMD) at 70-years old. IRAs and qualified plans help encourage people to save early and often for their retirements by offering these tax-free incentives and should be taken full advantage of to ensure we can live our our retirement in comfort.

If an individual is already living in a nursing home and applying for Medicaid, the principal amount of the IRA is protected when calculating one’s assets to determine whether or not he or she qualifies for Medicaid as long as that person is taking the RMD. For a Roth IRA, it is not necessary to take the RMD if distributions are being taken.

Creating a trust is one of several ways folks can pass on the fruits of their hard work to family, friends, and business partners and has the added bonus of being able to avoid the time consuming and costly process of passing those assets of the estate through probate. With a trust, the creator names a trustee, beneficiaries, and how the trustees are to manage the trust. It is important to know that there are different types of trust, which can severely limit the creator’s control over the trust while he or she is alive.

A revocable trust is just that, one that can be altered or done away with during the lifetime of the creator for whatever reason he or she sees fit. Common reasons for changing a revocable trust can be related to life changes like getting married, divorced, having children, or financial changes. Many times, grantors create revocable trusts because they are malleable but some estate planning choices require the grantor create an irrevocable trust that does not allow he or she to make alterations.

When a grantor creates an irrevocable trust, he or she transfers assets to the trust and effectively lose ownership or control over them. One of the main benefits of this type of trust is to shield assets from creditors since the assets and any income associated with them no longer belong to the debtor. Irrevocable trusts can also be useful to spend down assets to qualify for Medicaid which is granted only to those with small amounts of assets.

When planning our estate, most of us do so with the intent of making sure our family and close friends are taken care of after we pass away and for some of us, that can include our companion animals many consider to be as close as family. Fortunately, New York trust and estate laws allows taking care of our pets to be more than an afterthought and gives individuals the opportunity to proactively plan for the even that we may not be around to take care of the animals we love so much.

In New York, the legal mechanism that allows pet owners to posthumously care for their companion animals can be found in the Uniform Probate Code § 2-907. Honorary Trusts; Trusts for Pets. New York is one of over 20-states that allow these special kinds of trusts to allow for the care of pets and other domesticated animals. Depending on the type of animals to be cared for, these arrangements may be as simple as bequeathing animals in a will and leaving a small amount of money or as complex as placing an entire farm into a trust and allowing beneficiaries to name caretakers.

Honorary trusts can be created for a whole host of situations with the basic goal being to have money put away to ensure maintenance of some property. This can include keeping headstones at cemeteries in good condition, preserving artwork, and providing for food and medical care of pets. It is not necessary to have a beneficiary named but it is also important to note that these types of trust can only last for 21-years, which may complicate care for long-lived animals.

Having prescription drug coverage is extremely important to ensuring we get necessary, life-saving medications while also making sure we do not go bankrupt on impoverished it the process. However, using prescription drug insurance to buy medications does not always yield the best price for consumers and pharmacists know this but cannot always inform patients about the cost savings because they are contractually bound in one way or another to remain silent.

Congress recently passed a pair of bipartisan bills aimed at helping consumers get the best price on prescription drugs by prohibiting contractual obligations that require pharmacists to stay silent about how consumers may be able to save money. If signed into law, the the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act (S.2554) and the Know the Lowest Price Act (S. 2553) would remove barriers placed on pharmacists and allow them to volunteer information to help patients save money on vital prescriptions.

The Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act (S.2554) would bar insurers and Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) from placing limits on a pharmacy’s ability to tell consumers when there is a difference between how much a patient would pay for a prescription with insurance compared to without it. The bill would apply to insurance plans offered through exchanges on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and by those offered by private companies.

Medicare helps seniors pay for a whole host of mental health treatment services, including both inpatient and outpatient treatment services to help diagnose and treat mental health conditions. Depending on the type of care needed, beneficiaries may incur some out of pocket costs, including deductibles, and are subject to some limitations on the length of treatment you can receive at in patient centers.

Medicare Part A will cover inpatient mental health services at either a psychiatric hospital or a general hospital, depending on the type of care determined by the primary care doctor. Medicare will cover up to 190-days of treatment at a psychiatric hospital during a person’s lifetime and may cover additional inpatient care at a general hospital if necessary.

When receiving inpatient care with Medicare Part A, beneficiaries will need to pay an out of pocket deductible before they enter the facility. As of 2018, that cost is estimated to be $1,340. After paying the deductible, Medicare Part A will pay the first 60-days of inpatient treatment in full. The next 30-days require the patient pay a daily co-insurance of $355 and the remaining 90-days require a daily co-insurance of $670.

Creating a living trust is one common way individuals plan their estates and keep valuable assets like homes and other real estate out of the costly and timely probate process. For individuals own their home outright, a living or revocable trust is an easy way to instantly pass on a home but if there a mortgage or another lien on the property there may be a “due on sale” clause that requires the debtor to pay the lender immediately.

Typically, a due on sale clause is understood that the debtor must pay the bank the balance of a mortgage when the home is sold or otherwise transferred. While placing a home into a living trust is technically transferring the home from one owner to another, an important piece of legislation called the Garn-St. Germain Act allows individuals to transfer a personal residence to make “a transfer into an inter vivos (also known as “living”) trust in which the borrower is and remains a beneficiary and which does not relate to a transfer of rights of occupancy in the property.”

The exemption for due on sale clauses for these transfer rules allows the property to be placed into a revocable living trust so long as the loan is on residential properties containing less than five dwelling units. For New Yorkers, this is important because it can include homes such as a duplex, triplex, fourplex or even a coop and not just single family houses. So long as there is no change in occupancy to the estate, that is the person creating the trust stays in the home, the due on sale clause can not be enforced.

Elder abuse occurs all too often and comes in many forms. While it may seem unfathomable, abusers can be the ones we rely on the most to take care of our beloved elders during the time in their adult lives in which they may be the most vulnerable. Although nothing can be done to undo the harm caused by elder abuse, family members can look out for the signs of its effects to immediately recognize and end the abuse.

According to statistics from 2011, over 260,000 older adults in New York State suffered from some type of elder abuse in just that year alone. In 2016, the state Office of Child and Family Services released a study that estimated financial exploitation of elders in New York costs a total of $1.5 billion a year. Another study looking into the issue estimated the national cost of elder abuse and exploitation at $36.5 billion per year.

For whatever reason, only an estimated one in 22 instances of elder abuse is reported. Many experts believe that one main reason may be this as many as nine in 10 times, that abuse is committed by family member and the victim may not want any legal or familial trouble for someone they otherwise love and care for. No matter the situation, family members need to convey to their elders that revealing the abuse is the way to end it.

A Kings County Surrogate’s Court judge recently removed the executor to an estate without a hearing over the individual’s failure to comply with the court’s order to properly account of the estate’s assets. The case is a prime example of how and why someone can be removed as the executor from estate if he or she fails to comply with their fiduciary duty to faithfully discharge the responsibilities of the executorship.

The petition to remove the executor was brought by a co-beneficiary to the estate, the sister of the former executor, after the executor failed to open a separate trust account and to file federal or state income tax returns for the trust. Additionally, the petition charged that the respondent’s neglect of the real property held by the limited liability company caused it to sell for a price much less than two previous offers to purchase the real estate, which the executor had rejected.

Prior to suspending the executor from his role of managing the estate, the co-beneficiary filed two-petitions with the Surrogate’s Court. The first, seeking the executor’s removal from management of the estate and the second asking the court to compel the executor into account and file the estate. The court subsequently issued a 45-day order for the executor to account for the estate and file the necessary paperwork.

A King County Surrogate’s Court judge recently handed down a significant ruling in the case of a caretaker who appeared to marry her elderly patient in his final days in an effort to claim part of the deceased’s estate. The judge hearing the case decided the woman forfeited her statutory share of the estate because she knowingly married the deceased while he was alive and mentally incapacitated.

The ruling came down after a 37-day trial and nearly 12-years of litigation surrounding the $5 million estate of a successful businessman who was 100-years old when he passed away in 2006. The now deceased married his caretaker in secret in from of the New York City Clerk’s Office, without the knowledge of his two adult sons who brought the challenges to the estate.

The judge said he found it impossible that the deceased’s wife did not know her husband was mentally incapacitated when they married just a year before the man’s death.. “The evidence presented shows consistent, insidious and duplicitous conduct that led to” the wife’s “clandestine marriage” to the deceased, the judge said.

As our parents age, it may become necessary to take on a some type of guardianship role to help them live out their golden years in comfort and dignity. Even highly functioning seniors can use a little help in certain areas to ensure their best interests are served and avoid costly mistake that can leave elders in financial and medical dire straits.

Under New York law, mentally competent seniors may willfully yield control over certain aspects of their lives to trusted friends or family to act in certain ways on their behalf. This is often referred to by the courts as the “least restrictive form of intervention” since it only gives the guardian limited power to help compensate for any limitations faced by the elder.

To achieve this type of guardianship, both parties (the elder and prospective guardian) will need to file their paperwork in the probate court where the elder lives. As long as the elder agrees and can demonstrate to the court why it is in his or her best interest to appoint a guardian, courts are generally inclined to allow this limited guardianship. Depending on the powers granted, the guardian can help their elder manage decisions related to medical care, financial management, and paying taxes.

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