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Articles Tagged with new york estate planning elder law

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.

When planning for our later years, forward thinking individuals often wonder what is the best way to spend down their assets to qualify for Medicaid but still live a comfortable and dignified life until services like nursing care are absolutely needed. With the value of real estate skyrocketing over recent decades, homes that were just a few thousands dollars may put homeowners in a financially difficult spot now that the property is worth many times the initial investment.

Under federal Medicaid laws, individuals may only have a net worth below a certain level, including things like homes and automobiles in some cases. Often times, seniors need to “spend down” their assets to qualify for the invaluable services Medicaid provides and many individuals may attempt to give away homes or spend down savings accounts to qualify. However, Medicaid has a “look back” period that can last a few months, meaning seniors may be penalized for recently giving away assets or spending bank accounts before applying for coverage.

One solution which may be effective for some is to create a “life estate” with their home. By doing so, seniors can own, live in, and exercise full control over their home and simply pass it on to a beneficiary like a child once they pass. With the help of an estate planning attorney, individuals can create the life estate with the deed to their property and create a “remainder interest” for the person who will receive the property, known as the remainderman, upon the deceased’s passing.

Most folks never believe they or their elders could be the victim of financial exploitation by a family member or a caretaker but the truth is that every year, millions of well meaning or vulnerable individuals find themselves taken advantage of. Even independent and acute elders can find themselves fleeced by scammers over the phone or a seemingly trusted individual charged with ensuring their wellbeing.

However, with some careful planning and vigilance we can help safeguard ourselves and our loved ones from the malicious intentions of someone pretending to be someone they are not. Often times, warning signs pop up that can alert us to foul play and give us the opportunity to intervene before unscrupulous individuals unjustly enrich themselves.

Many situations of financial exploitation against elders involve family members such as adult children or another close person engaged in life care. Sometimes, these caretakers feel entitled to large portions of an individual’s wealth for rendering the care and attention needed for the elder to live a comfortable and dignified life. While there is nothing wrong with someone rewarding a child or a close individual for watching over them when needed most, some individuals may take matters into their own hands to see their inclinations through.

Individuals with disabled family members understand the many obstacles life can put in front of them and their family, especially when it comes to finances. For many, having a permanent disability can mean being unable to provide for oneself and that can mean relying on benefits from social welfare programs to get by. However, many of these programs have strict income thresholds that can exclude potential beneficiaries if they earn too much money or have too much capital.

Fortunately, New York is one of several states that allow disabled persons and their families to create special savings accounts to help maintain the person’s health, independence, and quality of life. The New York Achieving a Better Life Experience (NY ABLE) helps supplement but not supplant benefits provided through Medicaid, SSI, SSDI, private insurance and other sources and is exempt from om tax on its earnings and distributions, provided the funds are used to pay for qualified disability expenses.

The laws creating the ABLE statute was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in December 2015 and is federally authorized by the federal Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act enacted on December 19, 2014, as Section 529A of the Internal Revenue Code. The NY ABLE program is administered by Office of the State Comptroller in consultation with specific State agencies and individuals appointed by legislative leaders, as specified in the NY ABLE statute.

In New York, patients have the right to make many decisions about their end of life care and even appoint a representative to do so in their interests if circumstances leave them unable to make such decisions for themselves. Using what is known as a Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) form, patients can create a doctor’s order that informs physicians and emergency care givers whether to administer treatment like CPR or place the individual on ventilator or other life-saving equipments.

MOLST forms can be used in combination with a do not resuscitate (DNR) order to help give patients the most control over how their health care is delivered in an emergency situation or at the end of life where tough decisions must be made. In order for the MOLST form to be valid, the document must be signed by your physician and yourself, otherwise doctors may continue to deliver treatment during and emergency. The form will become a part of your medical file and will transfer over to whatever facility you may be treated at.

The main difference between a MOLST and DNR order is the former covers a broader range of care doctors may deliver, including intubation, administering antibiotics, and interesting feeding tubes, with DNR orders only cover administering CPR. Often times, patients using a MOLST face a life-threatening medical condition or lives in a long term care facility like a nursing home or hospice.

Saving for retirement just became more difficult for thousands of Americans relying on the Treasury Department’s myRa retirement savings account as the agency recently announced it would wind down the program. In a statement released on the Treasury Department’s website, the agency said the $70 million in costs since 2014 became too costly to the taxpayer and could no longer justify the program’s expense.

“The myRA program was created to help low to middle income earners start saving for retirement. Unfortunately, there has been very little demand for the program, and the cost to taxpayers cannot be justified by the assets in the program. Fortunately, ample private sector solutions exist, which resulted in less appeal for myRA. We will be phasing out the myRA program over the coming months. We will be communicating frequently with participants to help facilitate a smooth transition to other investment opportunities,” said Jovita Carranza, U.S. Treasurer.

The myRA program functioned as a Roth IRA account with no fees, minimum balance, and non-deductable to help middle and lower income Americans without access to employer sponsored retirement plans like a 401(k) plan and save for their retirement. Participants under 50-years old could contribute up to $5,000 to their account every year while those 50 years and older could contribute up to $6,500.

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.

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:

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