Articles Tagged with manhattan elder law

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.

Planning your estate and having a last will and testament is important to ensuring your final wishes are carried out and your heirs receive everything you intend to pass on to them. Whether you are the testator or executor, there are many duties you will need to perform to make sure an estate passes as quickly as possible through probate court, including calculating the costs associated.

 

First and foremost, New York probate courts handling estates have a variable schedule of filing fees which depend on the size of the estate. Section 2402(7) of New York’s Surrogate’s Courts Procedure Act (SCPA) are as follows:

 

Value of Estate or Subject Matter Fee Fee Rate
Less than $ 10,000 $45.00
$10,000 but under $20,000 $75.00
$20,000 but under $50,000 $215.00
$50,000 but under $100,000 $280.00
$100,000 but under $250,000 $420.00
$250,000 but under $500,000 $625.00
$500,000 and over $1,250.00

 

Section 2402(8)(a) of the SCPA also proscribes a fixed fee for filing a petition to commence certain proceedings. These types of fees can range anywhere from $10 to $75, depending on the type of motion filed. Such petitions can include common probate proceedings such as filing wills and suspending a fiduciary.

 

What are the fees for executors in New York?

 

Under section 2307 of the SCPA, executor fees are based on the value of the estate. These fees can be between 2 and 5% of the total amount of estate money the executor receives and pays out. Executor’s fees in New York are as follows:

 

  • All sums of money not exceeding $100,000 at the rate of 5 percent
  • Any additional sums not exceeding $200,000 at the rate of 4 percent
  • Any additional sums not exceeding $700,000 at the rate of 3 percent
  • Any additional sums not exceeding $4,000,000 at the rate of 2.5 percent
  • All sums above $5,000,000 at the rate of 2 percent

 

These amounts come out of the value of the estate and in cases where multiple executors handle an estate, the split is commiserate on the amount of work performed by each individual.

 

Attorney costs for probate of a will

 

When going through probate, it is strongly suggested the executor seek help from an experienced and dedicated New York probate and estate lawyer. The fees associated with a probate attorney depend on size of the estate, work put in by the executor, and the complexity of the case.

When planning their estate, many individuals consider setting up some form of trust to avoid family squabbles over assets, particularly the home. To achieve the goal of a smooth transition of assets and maintaining family harmony, most folks choose to set up some form of trust to avoid probate and reduce the amount of time and money executors need to spend in court.

Although many may not realize the significant wealth they have accumulated over the course of their life, the reality can quickly set it when it comes time to pay estate or gift taxes when passing on a home to heirs. After decades of skyrocketing real estate prices, home that were once purchased for several thousand dollars may now be worth millions, depending on the condition of the home and location.

One way for highly wealthy people to pass on their home with as little tax liability to heirs as possible is the creation of a qualified personal residence trust. Just like any type of estate plan, there are benefits and drawbacks to consider and it is strongly advised individuals consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to draw up trusts and wills.

One of the most common estate planning goals for high net worth married couples is to reduce their estate’s tax liability by taking full advantage of state and federal estate tax exemptions. The 2012 Tax Relief, Unemployment Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act (TRA) gave couples much more leeway to plan for their state through the portability of a deceased spouse’s unused estate tax exemption.

In 2017, the estate and gift tax exemption will be $5.49 million dollars for an individual, and just under $11 million for married couples, thanks to the 2012 Act. While there are a number of ways to properly implement the portability of estate and gift tax exemptions, one of the more common ways is to create a family trust where the assets of the first spouse to pass away will be placed in under the individual’s own gift and estate exemptions.

Without portability, couples can end up leaving millions of dollars in assets subject to taxation because of improper planning. Two of the most common reasons couples fail to properly use take advantage of gift and estate tax exemptions are unbalanced asset ownership or an inefficient estate plan.

An important consideration in anyone’s estate plan is to consider appointing a trusted individual to make important health and financial decisions in any case where the testator may be incapacitated and unable to act in their best interest. One way to do this is to create a durable power of attorney in a living will which names another person as an agent or an “attorney in fact” to decide whether or not to continue with life support treatment and other important medical decisions.

In New York, Pub. Health Law §2980, et seq. Health Care Agent and Proxies details the powers of the attorney in fact, the legal requirements to create such an arrangement, when the agreement may be revoked, and the state to state applicability of the durable power of attorney. Specifically, the law allows the attorney in fact to make “Any decision to consent or refuse consent of any treatment, service, or procedure to diagnose or treat an individual’s physical or mental condition.”

Health Law §2980 requires individuals to fill out Standard Form §2981 and name a competent adult to the position. Additionally, the form must be signed in front of two witnesses and indicate the principal wishes his or her agent be able to make healthcare decisions and that this authority begin when an attending physician decides to a medical degree of certainty the principle cannot act on behalf of himself or herself.

If you are in sole proprietorship of your business, you have a number of options to hand over your company when it comes time to retirement or pass away unexpectedly. If you do not have partners in your business, you are generally within your right to hand over the entire company to any person you may see fit to do and avoid estate taxes up to a point if you plan ahead of time.

One option to hand over a business to another and avoid some state and federal gift taxes is to gradually gift over percentages to the benefactor overtime before you pass away. If you do die before the entire transfer is complete, the heir may be on the hook for exorbitant estate/gift taxes. Currently, the estate tax exemption is $5.49 million over the life of one individual and up to $11.98 million for couples.

If you do have partners and you would like to retire or sell you your stake in the company, you may consider writing a  buy-sell agreement into the language of your partnership agreement. These buy-sell agreements may be mandatory with the full understanding you intend to sell of your stake in the company to another or they may allow only the right of first refusal for the partner to buy the stake or pass and allow an other interested party to buy in.

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.

While many believe estate taxes only hamper the financial activity of very wealthy people, the truth is even middle class individuals can be subject to the burdens of state and federal estate taxes. For example, if you spent your whole life building a small business, the value of that asset can exceed the estate tax threshold easily by virtue of the real estate’s value alone.

For many years, New York’s estate tax lagged behind the federal threshold. Currently, the federal estate tax threshold is $5.49 million while New York’s state exemption is $5.25 million. New York’s inheritance tax exemption will continue to climb until 2019, at which point the amount will match whatever the federal threshold becomes. The change came about thanks to legislation signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in March 2014.

One key difference between New York and federal tax laws relates to what is commonly called the “tax cliff.” Under federal and many other state taxation laws, only the amount of the estate exceeding the tax threshold would be subject to tax. For example, if an individual left behind an estate worth $6 million, only the $501,000 exceeding the threshold would be subject to federal income tax.

For New Yorkers over 60-years old, state and federal programs provide numerous benefits and community services to help cope with some of the hardships associated with aging. Every county in New York, with the exception of New York City, has a an Office for Aging aimed at helping seniors get vital information on these and other programs. Some of these programs, like Social Security and Medicare, are already well known to most people but others involving tax credits and rent subsidies may be less known and therefore less likely to be applied for.

Elders applying for various benefits should know each program has its own requirements and qualifications applicants will need to refer too. Furthermore, some federal programs may require seniors to “spend down” some of their assets to meet wealth qualifications. Because some federal programs have “look back” periods that can end up imposing penalties on the applicant, seniors are strongly encouraged to consult with an experienced elder law attorney about their situation.

Social Security

As we age, we begin to think more and more about what we can pass on to the next generation and their families. One of the best ways to pass on wealth is to transfer ownership of a home or other real estate. Under the law, individuals utilize one of many different way to accomplish this goal, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

In order to avoid placing your loved ones in an unwanted tax situation, carefully examine your situation and tailor a plan that is right for you and your family. With a little time and effort, you can ensure the transfer of your home and other assets goes as smoothly as possible.

Naming your family as beneficiaries in your will

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