Articles Tagged with manhattan elder law

When titling property pertaining to estate planning, there are many considerations to make in order to properly distribute assets and property to your loved ones upon your death. Depending upon your estate planning measures, you make seek to title property in order to pass automatically to a lineal descendant, in order to avoid probate, or in order to allow your executor to sell, gift, or transfer your interest in property.

Ownership

Sole ownership, the title position in which you are the sole owner of the property, is the most common form of ownership for single individuals. They have full rights to property while alive and also to pass at death. This type of title will pass subject to probate, by the decedent’s will or if they fail to execute a will, by intestate, also known as the process by which a court will determine your estate execution.

There are a variety of different types of trusts that an individual can use to their benefit while they are alive or in order to preserve their wealth for their family after they pass. Depending on it’s purpose, the grantor of a trust will make either a irrevocable or revocable trust. Irrevocable trusts cannot be modified without permission of the beneficiary since the grantor is giving up rights to their assets to the trust, versus a revocable trust where the grantor can modify the trust terms as they desire during their lifetime and upon their death, the assets transfer to the trust.

One unique type of trust that a grantor can establish for their benefit and for the benefit of a charity is a charitable remainder trust unitrust. Charitable remainder unitrusts are a type of irrevocable trust with specific characteristics setting it aside from other trusts. This type of trust distributes a certain percentage of the value of the assets in the trust to a beneficiary that is not a charity, usually a grantor of the trust or whomever the grantor has named to receive the named distribution. The grantor sets a specific timeline for the distributions to the beneficiary, and upon the termination of that timeline, the remaining assets are distributed out to the charity named.

In order to determine how much the non-charitable beneficiary will receive, the trustee must use a formula that requires minimum distributions from the trust annually. The trustee will first determine the fair market value of the trust at the end of the given year by obtaining a valuation of the assets in the trust and then will distribute out the percentage of that asset value named in the document.

The legal rights of illegitimate children and their ability to take under the terms of a trust have for years been the subject of many litigation proceedings. Illegitimate children are traditionally known as children who are born out of wedlock or to unmarried parents, however, the most widely known cases are those children who were born as the result of an affair by either or both parents. When one parent is the beneficiary of the grantor of a trust, the other spouse of the child, when old enough, may try to assert claims that they are also entitled to access the trust due to blood relation.

How Does an Illegitimate Child Take?

While traditionally under common law, an illegitimate child was not seen as a legal child of either parent, with no right of parental support or right of inheritance, today the laws have changed to better reflect the rights of an illegitimate child. Although states differ regarding their laws on wills and trusts, many now favor giving children rights, under statutes such as The Status of the Children Act as well as the Equal Protection Act. Under the Status of the Children Act, there is a presumption that any reference to children not further defined in a will includes both legitimate and illegitimate children, regardless of their relationship to the father.  

Aging comes with a wide variety of issues and relying on the care of your family is not a resource available to all. Whether it is due to lack of accessibility, estranged familial relationships, or advanced care requirements, many elderly find themselves alone in their older age.

This is not a phenomenon specific to America, it is an issue experienced by countries across the world. Certain cultures are more focused on caring for their elders, much like those elders helped raise them, while others have a less integrated idea of family including care for their elders.

In fact, the issue of elderly abandonment was such a large problem in Japan it was deemed “granny dumping”. While this practice, where senile senior citizens were taken up to the top of mountains and left there by loved ones due to the inability to care for them, is a very old practice, the modern version of abandonment is once against becoming a problem. Today, elderly individuals are being taken to local hospitals, churches and charities, and being left like they used to in the mountains.

The cost of living continues to grow every year, making it difficult for those who have saved for the future, but did not anticipate how dramatically their expenses would increase. Several of our previous posts have noted the concern that have been raised regarding our nation’s ability to cover the costs of our aging adults through Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, however a recently released study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University further confirms those notions. The study found that there the current generation that has retired or is coming upon retirement is facing greater financial trouble, leading to a lack of accessible and adequate housing, a problem for a population that will double in size.

There are specific elements of housing that need to be considered for the aging population, including accessibility to entrances either by ramp or walk up, single floor housing, whether that is in an apartment or a home, as well as wider entrances and doorways and walk in bathroom units, that are compatible with the size of wheelchairs and healthcare devices. However, according to the Center, only 3.5% of homes right now currently adhere to these elements of architectural design that are critical to elders staying in their homes. While a simple fix that many may propose would be to renovate the home in order to make it accessible, these types of renovations cost thousands of dollars that many elderly individuals cannot allocate out of their budget.

In an effort to maintain their housing situation, some elderly individuals have decided to cut back on transportation, refilling medicine that may be critical to maintain their health, as well as cutting back on buying food. All of these consequences lead elders to seclude themselves, which can further exacerbate health problems. Up to 95% of informal care for elders being taken on by family members, thus, it is important for elders to continue to maintain those relationships and for family members to be able to access their elderly family member and provide assistance in a safe environment.

Recently, in Ocean County, New Jersey, a well known elder law attorney was arrested and charged with stealing money from his clients. The attorney, considered an older adult himself, is charged with stealing over 1.2 million dollars over the course of five years from a number of elderly clients he served. A court order allowed officials to freeze the firm’s numerous bank accounts, seize billings records, and a number of other records implicating his crimes.

This attorney had a particular target on the elder population, however, he did not discriminate who he took money from when it came to clients. Notably, the attorney stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients suffering from dementia, clients who had elected him power of attorney (or so he had claimed) which allowed him to write checks from their accounts, depositing annuities proceeds into his account instead of the client, and misfiling legal fees. His behavior did not go unnoticed by some family members of clients, and when confronted, he claimed there were administrators errors and would issue repayments.

Important Questions to Ask Your Elder Law Attorney

2017 Projected Increases

Those individuals receiving social security benefits can expect another disappointing increase in their benefits in 2017. While this increase is another record low over the past five years, some view it as a win since social security beneficiaries failed to see any increase in their benefits in 2016, although costs of living continued to rise. The projected increase, coming at .3%, or $4 a month, was assessed by the federal government in response to adjusted costs of living.

How this Affects Elders

Special needs trust are a type of trust by which the beneficiary is provided for through the trust income, but has no control over the distributions of the trust. Generally, special needs, or supplemental needs trusts, have been used to provide for those loved ones with disabilities or who are unable to care for themselves any longer.

Once a special needs trust is established, family or a loved one can put the assets in the trust for the benefit of the beneficiary in order to provide them with any number of resources they feel the beneficiary deserves. The trust funds can be used to compensate for additional medical bills not fully covered by insurance, for personal leisure, travel, or anything the grantor feels the beneficiary may want or benefit from.

Eligibility for Benefits & Being a Beneficiary

There are many factors that go into maintaining a budget in a family while also trying to save for the future. For Americans, the cost of maintaining a household has gotten continuously more expensive; the average cost of raising a child born in 2013 now costs roughly $245,000 for a middle income family in the United States, with housing for the child accounting for about 30% of those costs. This is compared to a study done in 1960 by the United States Department of Agriculture that stated middle income families could expect the average cost of raising a child to be a little more than $25,000 until age 18. Interestingly in both studies, housing accounted for the largest expense for the families surveyed. The children once focused on in these 1960s studies have now become the focus of our article, and one thing remains the same, housing is still the biggest expense they must account for.

As the aging population refocuses their priorities for housing, they must consider factors such as accessibility to stores, services, transportation, medical care if they experience chronic conditions, as well as access to social settings and connections. The worry of many aging people is that they will be forced to leave their home and instead reside in an assisted living or nursing home in order to retain government assistance with healthcare. There will also need to be a refocus on the ability to provide for a more diverse population of elderly people; with the thousands of individuals turning 65 years old daily over the next two decades will come a much more diverse population that has had drastically different housing situations.

Possible Solutions

While most of us know that the baby boomer population is vast, many do not realize the impact this population will have as they start to retire over the next few decades. In fact, over the next 20 years, 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 everyday. Between 65-70 years old has been the age of retirement for many, with some retiring early and some pushing through another decade of work. However, as this generation gets older, their need for care will continue to grow.

Federal Level

In late June, the Supreme Court decided not to hear Home Care Association of America v. Weil, a case that was attempting to deprive home care workers of their ability to qualify for minimum wage and additionally, for overtime pay for those hours worked over 40 per week. These home care workers have been part of the ‘Fight for 15’ movement to get equal pay and higher pay for minimum wage. Home care workers have previously been labeled by the Labor Department as ‘companions,’ which does not allow them to qualify as employees who are subject to minimum wage and overtime pay. The rules governing home care workers were not fixed until this past year, when the Labor Department determined that home care employers needed to follow the same rules as any other employer and pay their employees according to minimum wage standards.

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