Articles Posted in Caregiving

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.

In New York state, individuals can place their estate into a trust to distribute to beneficiaries and thereby avoid lengthy and costly probate proceedings in a Surrogate’s Court. While a traditional last will and testament may be better for some individuals, for many it may be best to create some form of a trust, particularly a living trust, to ensure loved ones receive their portions as quickly as possible and with as little tax liability.

It is also worth noting that even after creating living or inter vivos trusts, you will still need a last will and testament to ensure any of your final wishes are carried out and assets left out of the trust are dealt with as you see fit. Without a will to cover newly acquired assets or those not named in the trust, the remainder of your estate could considered in intestacy and pass on to your heirs in succession under New York law.

While creating a trust is a fairly straightforward affair, it may still be necessary to consult with financial advisors or an estate planning attorney to ensure proper transfer of your assets. The first step will be to create the trust and there are many resources from the New York State Bar and Surrogate’s Court system online you can go to for forms and information how to file.

Your last will and testament is an incredibly important legal document needed to ensure New York probate courts carry out your final wishes and ensure your heirs receive the portion of your estate so delegated. After going through all of the careful considerations of consulting with family, speaking to an estate attorney, and drafting a will, testators need to take care in storing the original copy of the document to ensure the estate passes as swiftly as possible through probate courts and make the process easy on the executor.

Testators have numerous options to keep the original executed copy of their will safe. Often times, the last will and testament remains in the office of the probate attorney who helped craft the document. Other times, testators may choose to keep the document in a safety deposit box at a bank or another custodian of records. In any case, the executor of the estate needs to know the will’s location to pass the estate through probate.

Under New York probate laws, if the original copy of the last will and testament cannot be found, the court presumes the testator intended to destroy and revoke the document. Proving anything to the contrary can be extremely difficult and time consuming and the court may order an executor take custody of the will in keeping the chain of succession in New York state law. Furthermore, the Surrogate Court hearing the case will most likely not enter a copy of the will.

Advance directives for health care are legal documents that ensure an individual’s wishes are carried out if he or she cannot make decision. New York State recognizes three types of advance directives including a health care proxy, living wills, and do not resuscitate orders (DNR). Even younger and more healthy individuals should consider putting these types of directives into place in case of a serious accident or medical event.

Health Care Proxy in New York

A health care proxy allows individuals to name a health care agent who will make decisions if that person cannot make those decisions for himself or herself. Under state law, these types of decisions can take effect after two doctors examine the individual and determine that person cannot make decisions for his or her health. New York state offers standard forms for a health care proxy.

In New York, estates with real property valued at less than $30,000 are considered “small estates” and may be able to pass through probate court much more quickly than larger estates, if the executor handles the process correctly. Although small estates can pass through a simplified probate process, executors will still need to perform some of the duties as if he or she were overseeing a much larger estate and will even need to file certain paperwork with the court.

Ordinarily, probate proceedings in New York Surrogate Courts can be lengthy and time consuming processes but with a simplified estate, moving the last will and testament through court can be much more expedient. Although the asset threshold may appear very small, as even a modest mode and possessions will easily be valued at well over $30,000, there are scenarios where even seemingly large estates could pass through.

Only property solely owned by the deceased counts towards the small estate threshold. This means assets like homes, vehicles, and family businesses in two people’s names will not count towards the $30,000 limit. This can be especially helpful when there is a surviving spouse named to the title of homes and real estate.

Creating a living trust is an excellent way to avoid having assets pass through probate courts and create showdowns for potentially messy challenges brought by individuals claiming to be “interested parties” to the estate. However, even living trusts must still settle up on certain types of debts incurred against the estate by the deceased. If you or a close friend or family member are named as a trustee, you should take some time to understand the estate laws governing these and other estate concerns.

First, it is important to know that not all debts expire upon the passing of the trust’s creator. For example, federal student loans are discharged upon the debtor’s passing but private student loans may not be vacated. Furthermore, debts held by two or more persons may not be discharged and the surviving debtor may carry the remainder of the responsibility.

Second, unlike estates handled by a last will and testament, public notices to creditors are not posted in the media. Again, this is because the estate does not pass through probate court. Instead, the trustee will need to contact known creditors and inform these entities of the trust maker’s passing. By informing known creditors right away, these entities only have a limited time to recover debts from the estate and the debt may be discharged should these creditors fail to act in a timely manner.

According to the Council on Elder Abuse, as few as one in 24-cases of elder abuse go reported to the proper authorities, an unfortunate reality that many across the state and country are actively trying to change. To fulfil the goal of eliminating elder abuse, June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month to help bring to light many of the issues facing our beloved elders enjoying their golden years with family and friends.

Unfortunately, elder abuse can take place in many different settings including at home by a caretaker or family member, a hospital or rehabilitation setting, or a nursing home by malicious or neglectful staff. According to mental and emotional health website HelpGuide.org, as many as half a million cases of senior abuse are reported every year, a number that pales in comparison to the estimated numbers of unreported cases.

Often times, elder abuse and neglect manifests itself in deep emotional suffering like depression or becoming withdrawn, making it difficult to report and stop elder abuse from the onset. No matter how secure you believe your elder loved one may be, you should always remain vigilant for the signs and symptoms of abuse or neglect. Armed with knowledge, you can be the advocate your loved one needs should he or she become a victim of abuse or neglect.

When deciding how to disburse assets in an estate, many individuals decide to create a trust over a last will and testament in order avoid probate court and create a public record of the events. The pros and cons of establishing a trust over a will depend on many circumstances, including what type of trust the grantor chooses to create and what types of assets fall into that particular trust.

Living trusts

One category of trusts is the inter vivos trust, created while the individual is still alive. Two main types of inter vivos trusts exist, revocable and irrevocable trusts. Revocable trusts allow the grantor modify, amend, or otherwise change any aspect of the trust as he or she sees fit.

The Erie County Department of Senior Services recently announced the date for its 17th annual Elder Law Day event. The program will take place from 2pm to 8pm on Thursday, June 22, at the Adam’s Mark Hotel, 120 Church St., Buffalo, New York. The event helps educates seniors and the greater public about many health, safety, and legal issues many of our beloved elders face in these modern times.

The free event will touch on such topics as Medicare, Medicare Supplemental and Managed Care plans, HMO’s, PPO’s, Part D coverage and long term care insurance to help seniors and their families make informed decisions about elder health care needs. Event Goers can also sit down with sponsors to discuss topics like Medicaid planning, estates, trusts, wills, housing, consumer, health insurance and much more.

“Elder Law Day is full of valuable information and is a great opportunity for seniors and caregivers to learn about their rights, get answers to their questions, and build a plan for the future. These events have been tremendously popular in the past and have proven to be a good way to get information into the hands of people who need it,” said Tim Hogues, Erie County Commissioner of Senior Services. “Elder Law Day brings together professionals from all around the aging spectrum to share their knowledge and actually help seniors right on the spot. I encourage seniors, caregivers, and anyone who needs the latest information on any aspect of senior life to attend.”

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