Articles Tagged with ny elder law attorney

In the last decade, digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter have exploded in popularity to the point where millions of people, both young and old, have accounts and regularly post and share information with one another. Other media like Google Drive and Dropbox allow allow anyone with an email address to set up an account and store and share information across the cloud with anyone the individual gives access to.

Just like with any other material assets, we need to plan for someone to take charge of managing these digital accounts for when we pass on. Fortunately for New York Residents, state law allows individuals to grant executors of their estate legal and practical powers to digital assets upon death. New York is one of several states which passed the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) in the New York Consolidated Laws §13-A-1 through §13-A-5.2.

The RUFADDA defines “electronic communications” as a type of digital assets that requires stronger privacy protections as these are often private communications between one person and another. The law requires individuals give explicit consent for the executor of the estate to access these sensitive electronic communications, no matter how benign they may be. Whether these digital assets are simply an email or social media account, certain procedures must be followed to ensure quick and expedient access.

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.

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:

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.

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