Articles Tagged with albany elder law

When people learn they are going to be the beneficiaries of someone’s estate and will inherit property, many of them often wonder whether it will actually cost them money to do so. We often hear about raising or lowering the federal and state estate tax, sometimes referred to as “the death tax” and all this talk can be quite confusing. While every situation is different and the tax code itself is quite complicated, there are a few basic principles beneficiaries should be able to rely on.

To start, New York is one of only a handful of states with a state inheritance tax but there are exceptions to the rule and that amount has increased substantially over the past few years. As of April 2017, the exemption on inheritance tax in New York is $5.25 million, meaning beneficiaries will only be taxed for assets worth more than this amount. The tax rate for inherited assets above $5.25 million is five to 16 percent, much lower than the federal inheritance tax rate of 40 percent.

Unlike other states with inheritance taxes, New York has a “tax cliff,” meaning if your inherited assets are greater than the tax exemption then the entire value of the asset is taxed. By contrast, other states with inheritance taxes only tax at the value above the exemption threshold. New York is one of the only states to institute its inheritance tax rate this way and although this may seem steep, the current tax rates are much more fair than they used to be.

A last will and testament spells out the final wish of the deceased, including how he or she wishes to allocate assets amongst friends and family. However, there are certain limitations to the extent deceased spouses may effectively cut out their surviving spouse from a will. Under New York estate laws, like so many other states, surviving spouses have certain claims to assets that cannot be undone by a will.

If an individual attempts to leave his or her spouse completely out of a will or only leave the surviving spouse a small amount, New York probate courts, known as Surrogate Courts, will step in and apportion a large part of the estate regardless of the text of the will. This is because just like in divorce, spouses have certain rights to community property like homes, cars, and bank accounts.

When someone passes away, with or without a will, all heirs with legal claims to the estate like spouses and children must be notified by the court. Next, the executor of the estate will need to find these persons and ask each of them to sign a waiver giving up their right to challenge the estate. Typically, this is no problem since close family members with estate claims are usually already mentioned in the will and the estate is apportioned fairly.

Estate planning is something everyone, regardless of age or wealth, should take care of in order disperse assets and have final instructions carried out. Whether that plan be a last will and testament or a trust, folks need to create a plan early on in life and update their estate planning as life events like marriage, buying a home, or acquiring wealth. One of the most common ways for folks to settle their affairs is to create a last will and testament and name an executor to oversee the will in probate.

Often times, executors to estates are close family or friends to the testator, the person crafting the will. The executor will bring the will through probate court, taking stock of all the deceased’s assets and debts and ensuring creditors are paid and the assets are dispersed to the proper beneficiaries, which may also include the executor.

However, New York does place certain very limited restrictions on who may serve as an executor to an estate. Under N.Y. Surr. Ct. Proc. Act § § 103, 707, the basic rules for serving as an executor of an estate are:

Medicaid is an important needs-based program to help pay for the vital healthcare of millions of at risk people in this country. In fact, many older Americans plan on using some part of Medicaid to pay for nursing home or in-home nursing care later on in life only to find out they do not qualify for the program because they own too many assets.

Fortunately, with a little forward thinking and estate planning, these individuals can spend down their assets to qualify for Medicaid and avoid possible look back penalties, if applicable. In fact, you may already be working on some of these types of thing already and never knew they would help you qualify for Medicaid.

Paying off debt

Medicaid provides valuable health care coverage to millions of low-income adults, children, women carrying children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly. The program is jointly funded by states and the federal government and is administered by the states. For many seniors, Medicaid provides them with the life-saving nursing home and in-home nursing care they need to live comfortable, dignified lives.

However, not all services provided by Medicaid are completely free and recipients sometimes need to pay back the state and federal governments for certain types of services rendered, particularly nursing home or home care aid. In fact, the state may go so far as to try and recover assets from a deceased’s estate if he or she received nursing home or home health care after the age of 55.

Under 18 NYCRR Section 360 -7.11, the state of New York can attempt to recover up to 10-years worth of Medicaid services provided before the deceased’s passing if the individual received nursing home care, had been deemed a “permanently institutionalized individual, and owned a home. However, it is important to know if the deceased left behind a surviving spouse, child under 21-years old, or an adult child deemed permanently blind or disabled then Medicaid cannot place a lien on the home.

As we all know, aging presents a new and unique set of challenges each of us will face as we grow older. Despite that, most of us expect to remain in our homes and continue living with the independence we enjoyed for our adult lives. While it is certainly possible to maintain a high level of independence in our older years at home, there certain considerations we should always take into account to ensure we live in a safe and healthy environment.

First, before considering anything about your home, you should have your estate in order. No matter how young you may be, we all need a last will and testament and instructions in case of an unforeseen event. Once you have taken care of your estate, either through a will or a trust, you are ready to start thinking about ways to ensure your home is accommodating to your changing lifestyle.

If you are one of the many people with mobility issues, you will want to consider installing aids around your home to make getting around the house easier. Even once simple tasks like showering and going up and down stairs can become a challenge in old age. Some home mobility modifications you will want to think about are grab bars, bath chairs, and life chairs.

As people age, many count on Social Security and Medicare to help them live happy, healthy, and comfortably in their golden years. However, some older Americans are unable to fully provide for themselves and must seek assistance before they become eligible for the landmark elder social services we have become accustomed to. Hard economic times, disability, and other unforeseen events are just some of the reasons elders may be eligible for Medicare.

One of the most important parts of the Medicare program is the nursing home care services members are eligible to receive, particularly seniors. However, not everyone may qualify for Medicare after applying, leaving many families to wonder how they will take care of their beloved elders. Fortunately, denied applicants are eligible to receive a Fair Hearing at their local Medicare office.

What is a Fair Hearing?

In New York, there is no set time deadline to contest an estate. Rather, heirs, beneficiaries, and other interested parties will receive notice from the court the executor of the estate intends to enter the last will and testament into probate. However, there are certain deadlines for challenging other aspects of the will, including the accounts of the estate and allegations of theft by the executor.

Before the estate can be divided amongst the beneficiaries, a New York Surrogate Court must accept the last will and testament and enter the estate into probate. After the testator passes away, the surviving spouse and children are informed of the individuals passing, regardless of whether the will mentions these persons.

Next, the executor of the estate will need to ask each of the deceased’s heirs to sign a waiver allowing the estate to enter into probate. Often times, this is not an issue since heirs are often named as beneficiaries to the estate and were hopefully in good standing with the testator before his or her passing.

The law generally gives benefactors great leeway to set conditions for beneficiaries to inherit assets from an estate or trust. This is because the benefactor has every right to disperse his or her assets while beneficiaries have no such right. Often called “dead hand control,” these conditions are often meant to promote a certain type of lifestyle or at the very least prevent beneficiaries from harming themselves with the wealth passed on.

When conditional bequests and devisements are attached to a last will and testament, probate courts rarely concern themselves with whether the conditions are fair to heirs or even wise to try and implement. Rather, probate courts function to ensure proper transfer of assets and that the deceased’s wishes are carried out.

Some situations where benefactors may attempt to impose certain conditions for inheritance can include requiring an alcoholic seeking treatment, children and grandchildren holding down steady jobs, or even finishing school before collecting inheritance. Unfortunately, theses of demands rarely work out beneficiaries sometimes would rather choose to follow their free will than comply with demands of morality or industriousness.

When someone creates a last will and testament, he or she will need to name an executor to the estate to oversee dispersal of the assets and settling of debts. Once the last will and testament is created and the testator passes away, the will cannot be amended and probate laws require this individual to act responsibly and comply with the deceased’s wishes.

However, it is not uncommon for executors to mismanage estates, either through negligence or malice and beneficiaries. Executors owe a fiduciary duty to the estate’s beneficiaries by carrying out several functions including:

  • Obtain a copy of the last will and testament
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