A recent report by CNN revealed the lengths to which one California drug maker may be going to push sales of Nuedexta, a little red pill developed to treat certain behavioral problems but has been increasingly used in nursing homes to control residents. The story by CNN was so compelling that the City Attorney for Los Angeles even opened an investigation into the drug maker’s targeting of nursing home residents.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Nuedexta to treat a disorder marked by sudden and uncontrollable laughing or crying, known as pseudobulbar affect (PBA). According to maker Avanir Pharmaceuticals’ own data, less than 1 percent of American’s suffer from the condition and is most commonly associated with patients suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Unfortunately, Avanir appears to paying doctors to push the medication onto nursing home workers as a way to control the behavior of unruly residents, something the drug is not approved for nor studied enough to warrant such applications. CNN reports suggest some doctors even took in tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for speaking engagements and other talks on the benefits of using the drug for “off label” applications.

After taking the time to plan and execute a will, many people wonder what to do with the actual document to ensure it stays safe and can be found by the executor when the time comes. Without the original, executed copy of the last will and testament, the executor may be unable to pass the estate through probate and the court will consider the estate to be in intestacy.

Some of the most common places people keep their wills can include the office of the attorney who may have helped draft the will and advise the client, a safe deposit box in a bank, or in a fireproof safe at the individual’s home. Each of these scenarios have strengths and weaknesses and what may be the right fit for one person may not be the best for another. In any case, the executor’s access to the original copy of the last will and testament is crucial to the estate passing through probate.

Another less well known option is the register the original copy of the will with the appropriate Surrogate’s Court while the testator is still alive. Filing the will with your local probate court is a good plan in case the executor to your estate cannot find the original copy of the will or if you believe the document may be subject to tampering.

Medicaid is a safety net for millions of senior citizens across the country, providing funding to pay for home care, adult day care, or prescription drugs. However, the program is designed for low income individuals and can leave many on the fence financially over whether to choose to spend down assets or pay for these necessary services themselves.

Currently, the threshold to receive Medicaid services is only a few hundred dollars for individuals and just over $1,000 for married couples, which leaves these individuals with little income to pay rent, utilities, or buy groceries. Even financially secure seniors can find themselves needing vital Medicaid services like in-home or nursing home care in the event of a catastrophic health event, making planning for the future and keeping options open all the more vital.

One option that may be viable for certain individuals is joining a Pooled Supplemental Needs Trusts, also known as a Pooled Income Trust. Pooled income trusts work by the individual sending his or her income from Social Security, pensions, or annuities to non-profit organizations to pay bills and other expenses to stay below the Medicaid threshold. Any income left over after the individual passes away goes to the non-profit.

Many of the assets we own are held in joint ownership with another person, typically a spouse or other family members. Types of assets commonly held in joint ownership with others include homes, real estate, bank accounts, and other investments. When it comes time to writing a will and engaging in estate planning, asset holder need to understand the different types of joint ownership under New York law and how it can affect the outcome of passing an estate through probate.

One of the most familiar forms of joint ownership in New York is known as joint tenancy with rights of survivorship and is very common between married couples for joint checking accounts, homes, and other property. Under this type of arrangement, assets do not need to pass through probate since the surviving spouse or person automatically receives the deceased’s property rights.

Under joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, each person has an equal and undivided share of the assets and is entitled to sell his or her share to another party. If a sale occurs, the joint ownership agreement becomes a tenancy in common and the assets lose some of the protections they otherwise would have enjoyed under a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship.

It is often difficult for parents to determine whether to share details about an estate plan with their adult children. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer or easy solution to determining when to share this information with adult children. Fortunately, there is some advice to help parents decide when to disclose these details with adult children. This article will list some critical advice that parents should follow when discussing information about their estate plan with adult children.

Tip #1 – Be Certain to Make Personal Property Plans

It is very important that parents have a conversation with adult children about any personal property that multiple individual might want because personal property is one of the estate planning areas most likely to result in arguments between beneficiaries. To fully anticipate any arguments that might arise, parents should make sure to afford each adult child the opportunity to talk about their favorite items so that an agreement regarding how the personal property will be divided can be made.

It is important for individuals to properly plan the end of their lives. There are many critical estate planning tools that should potentially be used during this planning process. While an estate planning attorney can help individuals navigate each of these issues, it is important for people to understand what each of these documents are and why they are very important. This article will review four of the most important end of life documents that individuals should consider creating with the assistance of a strong estate planning attorney.

Document # 1 – Advance Care Directives

These documents place in writing the desires that a person has about their health care to make sure that their wishes are followed in the event that they become incapacitated or in any way are unable to communicate them. These documents are very important because they make sure that patients who are permanently unconscious or terminally ill receive the care they deserve.

The co-founder of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship recently organized a town hall meeting about guardianship.  The topic of the meeting is the increasing number of guardianship cases occur in which guardians take money from a loved one’s estate. This concern comes at a time when other states like Nevada have made multiple arrests of guardians who were accused of abusing their relationship with an incapacitated individual.  In addition to a lack of enforcement by the law of elder abuse, the meeting discussed the other inequalities that are occurring in the system.

The Types of Elder Abuse

Financial abuse is just one type of elder abuse. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention consider elder abuse to include any intentional act that has the potential to harm a person who is 60 years of age or older. 1 in 10 senior citizens are reported by the Center for Disease Control to be subject to elder abuse. Some of the common types of elder abuse are:

In the last decade, digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter have exploded in popularity to the point where millions of people, both young and old, have accounts and regularly post and share information with one another. Other media like Google Drive and Dropbox allow allow anyone with an email address to set up an account and store and share information across the cloud with anyone the individual gives access to.

Just like with any other material assets, we need to plan for someone to take charge of managing these digital accounts for when we pass on. Fortunately for New York Residents, state law allows individuals to grant executors of their estate legal and practical powers to digital assets upon death. New York is one of several states which passed the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) in the New York Consolidated Laws §13-A-1 through §13-A-5.2.

The RUFADDA defines “electronic communications” as a type of digital assets that requires stronger privacy protections as these are often private communications between one person and another. The law requires individuals give explicit consent for the executor of the estate to access these sensitive electronic communications, no matter how benign they may be. Whether these digital assets are simply an email or social media account, certain procedures must be followed to ensure quick and expedient access.

While none of us expect to become so ill we cannot manage our own affairs, we should nonetheless prepare contingencies in case these types of situations arise out of an injury, old age, or another unexpected event. One of the most important types of planning we can do is to create a financial power of attorney to allow a trusted person to manage money for health care and and lifestyle to ensure we continue to live comfortably with dignity.

 
With a financial power of attorney, an individual can perform many duties on your behalf such as making bank deposits and withdrawals, paying bills, manage government benefits, and watch over any financial investments. Income and finances are an incredibly important part of our lives and need continuous oversight to ensure there are no interruptions that could negatively impact our ability to provide for ourselves.

 
In New York, any competent person may serve as your agent to manage your finances. While legal and financial management experience are always a plus, the individual creating the financial power of attorney need only choose a capable and trusted person, depending on the situation he or she may find themselves in. When and for how long the financial power of attorney lasts depends entirely on the wording of the document.

New York’s Surrogate’s Courts handle a wide variety of civil issues, mostly related to trusts and estates, guardianship, and adoption. The Surrogate’s Court is established in every county in New York, helping to provide residents with timely and effective due process for legal issues under the court’s jurisdiction. The following is a brief overview of the types of cases the Surrogate’s Court handle and what individuals can expect from the proceedings.

Probate – Probate proceedings deal with the process validating the last will and testament of a deceased person, if the individual created such a document. A last will and testament are the final directions given by the deceased to allocate his or her to estate to heirs and other beneficiaries.

It will be the responsibility of the person named as the executor of the estate to file the will with the probate office of the Surrogate’s Court, collect all the necessary documents, pay off creditors, and finally divide assets of the estate among beneficiaries per the wishes of the deceased.

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