Estate Liquidity: What You Need to Know

Jun 11, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: estate liquidity

If you die or become incapacitated your loved ones may need immediate access to funds. Without pre-planning, your estate assets will be tied up in probate and unavailable for loved ones.

 
Learn more about Estate Liquidity and what you need to know in this presentation.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Free Report: New York Advance Care Planning and End of Life Considerations

Jun 05, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Elder Law, Incapacity Planning, Long Term Care

There have been a number of new studies in recent years regarding end of life choices and advance care planning by Americans. In fact, The Conversation Project recently reported some surprising figures. A full 90 percent of Americans are very much aware of the importance of having these discussions with our loved ones; however, the surprising truth is that less than one third of Americans have actually acted on having those talks. Now, there are new reasons why each of us should rethink our procrastination.

Click here to read the whole article or download the PDF.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

HEMS Standards

May 19, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Elder Law, Incapacity Planning

HEMS is the acronym for “health, education, maintenance and support” distributions. Using the HEMS Standard, the trustees discern what’s best in terms of property distribution

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Guardianship Process in New York

May 19, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Elder Law, Retirement Planning

Americans are living longer; however, the longer an elderly family member or loved one lives, the greater the chance that he or she will suffer from some form of age-related dementia.

Learn more about guardianship process in New York in this presentation.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Do You Need a Living Trust?

Jan 27, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Estate Planning, Trust Administration, Uncategorized

Many clients are confused about the role a living trust can play in their estate planning efforts. A trust is created so that assets or property can be moved to the trustee who’s named in the living trust. Many don’t like the idea of relinquishing ownership of their assets, but the benefits are worth consideration for many of those people. It’s not that you’re losing control of your property or assets, it’s still yours. You’re just covering the legal bases in case you become incapacitated or die unexpectedly.

So why would anyone put those dynamics in place? The reasons are many.

Bypassing Probate

We know that a living will covers the bases so that our survivors can avoid probate. If your assets aren’t owned by you, there’s no reason for probate. When you die, only the property that remains in your name must go through that process. It can be an extremely long process and will likely require a lot of paperwork to be filed with the local probate court. When that happens, it becomes public record, which isn’t attractive to most people – who wants their financial records to become public record? An inventory by the executor of that property must be taken and then that’s followed up with an appraisal, a settlement of debts with the proceeds of the property, a validation by the court and then the costs associated with the attorneys, executors and any court costs. Whatever remains is what’s distributed to your heirs.

Anyone who’s been through that process knows that it’s exhausting and in some cases, can take up to two years or longer. An overwhelmed court system keeps the variables firmly rooted. Perhaps the most traumatic is the absence of any privacy during an already difficult time. No doubt, a living trust is often preferred over the alternative.

Yes, You Do Need a Trust

Even if you believe your estate has little monetary value, you might be surprised that it’s required anyway. For instance, if you own property in another state or if you own artwork, an estate plan ensures it’s handed down per your requests. Each state has its own laws, so teaming with an experienced trust attorney can make all the difference, especially in New York.

Wills are also subject to probate but living trusts can be used to avoid estate taxes in some instances. They must be properly prepared and funded, which is why a qualified estate planning attorney is crucial. Not only that, but a lawyer can help ensure your named person is actually the one who oversees your assets should be come unable to do so.

Don’t assume, though, that your will won’t play a role in your estate planning efforts; in fact, it’s quite important and can help protect your assets that are traditionally covered in a trust. Consider it an extra layer of protection.

You will first want to schedule a consultation with a New York estate planning lawyer if you’ve not already done so. Once he knows the details, he can assist you as you maneuver through the legalities and then, once it’s behind you, you can rest easy knowing you’ve taken all of the necessary precautions to protect your loved ones.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

What is Probate in New York and is it Necessary?

Jan 24, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Probate

It’s not uncommon for there to be a bit of confusion when it comes to the legalities associated with probates, wills and estate planning. It can be overwhelming, especially when you’re either trying to deal with overload due to the massive amounts of information coming at you from a number of sources or if you can’t find a straight answer to the simplest questions.

You know it’s problematic when efforts are being made to simplify the probate process to a more uniform national standard. A perfect example: the Uniform Probate Code was established in 1969, but it was only adopted by 18 states. For those states, the rights of a surviving spouse are clearly outlined should there be a death without a will. Not only are there states that don’t have those specific characteristics, but these codes have been “substantially” updated at least ten times. There have been several calls for Congress to take action, though to date those calls have been largely ignored.

For most of our clients, the big question is whether probate is required. The second question we hear is if having a will eliminates the need for probate.

Defining Probate in New York

The goal of probate is to provide a uniform method of determining potential heirs, paying off any debts associated with the estate and then distributing any assets per the will, or absent of that, the New York laws. The inclusion of a will is important, but it doesn’t eliminate probate.

What gets the process moving is the filing of a petition with the New York Probate Court, or “Surrogate’s Court”. The petition is accompanied by a death certificate and a will if one exists. There’s a filing fee, which is determined based on the value of the estate.

Contested Wills

But what happens if the will is contested? That presents a host of added documentation,  investigation and processes. Speaking of wills, the absence of one can significantly affect the timeframe of concluding probate. The property and assets can’t be distributed until the courts are satisfied all of the proverbial bases are covered.

For instance, if a man dies while he’s away from home and let’s say he’s accompanied by a girlfriend. As the process begins, the girlfriend insists the deceased had no children – and certainly not a wife. But what happens if another woman comes forward a year later and citing that she was indeed his wife, but they’d been separated? Worse – what if two adult children come forward and say no one told them that their father had died? It’s not so far-fetched for a couple that’s no longer together, but still married, to not know one has died. Even if it’s not likely, it’s certainly possible. These are the scenarios the courts try to avoid. It can take months to satisfy the courts that every possible avenue has been considered.

Small Estates

For those whose estates in New York are less than $30,000, there exists the Small Estates Affidavit Program. Many find it easy to file online, however, that might not be the best route. An estate planning attorney can help with the details while navigating the endless requirements. While it’s generally an easier process, even it has its own logistics. One example has to do with real estate. This process is only made available to those who  did not own real estatet. It’s not designed to handle the distribution of these types of assets.

Finally, and before the will’s status is accepted, it goes to the county’s Surrogate Court where the person died. Once the court’s satisfied of its validity, it issues letters testamentary to the executor named in the will.

It makes sense, then, that most prefer the legal guidance a qualified estate planning lawyer can provide. We encourage anyone who’s concerned about the probate process in New York to give us a call.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

The Intimacy of Estate Planning

Jan 22, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Estate Planning

The last thing many people would equate to intimacy is estate planning. Just ask anyone who’s ever had to face reality after a terminal illness or devastating accident, they will tell you that things become very personal faster than you can say power of attorney. This week, we shed the logistics and focus on the ties that bind and the intimacy of estate planning.

Facing Mortality

Most of us realized long before we began preparing our will that we wouldn’t live forever. Whether that brutal fact (or sometimes not so brutal) hits us right smack dab in the middle of a proper midlife crisis or if it occurred to us as we watched our youngest child walk up to accept her college degree, forever isn’t an option when it comes to living.

Ideally, those realities are enough to prod us into our estate planning lawyer’s office to cover the legal bases. Specifically, that means our will, any necessary powers of attorney and trusts should take priority in our lives. In fact, the point could be argued that we have a responsibility to our families to keep these documents current.

Estate Planning Isn’t Only for the Wealthy

You’ve lived modestly, saved for retirement and played by the other rules financial analysts insist are crucial. Even then, many believe they don’t have the wealth to justify estate planning. Once you begin delving into your assets, it becomes clear that estate planning isn’t just for millionaires.

Remember the purpose of estate planning is to distribute assets among your beneficiaries. It’s also important for tax purposes and not to mention the avoidance of a lengthy probate process. The probate process will only affect assets in the deceased’s name. It doesn’t include joint property since that goes to the surviving owner. Those who die testate (with a will), the courts will simply acknowledge and properly file the will. Intestate, on the other hand, is when a will doesn’t exist; the courts then make the decisions applicable to state law. By memorializing your wishes, it can help prevent too many hurt feelings within your family – or at least minimize any suspicions of ulterior motives.

The Intimacy of Estate Planning

Before you begin the planning process or if you’re updating a will, it’s always a good idea to list your assets. Don’t forget to include property you own, retirement accounts, stocks, cash on hand, jewelry, antiques and life insurance policies; it simply provides perspective as you move forward. Also, you might want to start thinking about who will inherit your estate. This way, once you meet with your estate planning lawyer, you’re more likely to provide her with a complete snapshot, so to speak, of what your estate looks like.

Even as the tax laws change often – both on state and federal levels – those whose estates do not exceed $5 million don’t have to worry about federal estate taxes. Keep in mind, some states have their own estate taxes, again, this is something you’ll want to discuss with your estate planning lawyer.

It’s really important to cover these bases and put the wheels in motion that can save your family a lot of unnecessary stress. It’s challenging, of course, but because estate planning is very personal and intimate, the last thing you want to do is put this into a court’s hands to decide for you.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

The Conversation Project

Jan 20, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Advance Healthcare Directives, Wills and Trusts

A recent survey unveiled a few surprising mindsets in America and how we handle end of life matters. It’s being called “conversation disconnect” and it shows that 90 percent of us know we should have an end of life conversation with our loved ones, yet less than 30 percent of us have made that effort. The Conversation Project conducted the survey and as estate planning lawyers, we know all too well the awkwardness and uncertainty about discussing our final wishes with our family members. But we also know the importance of those talks.

Proper legal planning includes making those decisions relating to end of life realities. Living wills are important documents to have as they provide in detail your expectations and who you trust to ensure those expectations are met in your final days.

Ellen Goodman, Founder of The Conversation Project explains, “We have arrived at something of a sea change. Americans now overwhelmingly agree that it’s important to talk with our loved ones about how we want to live at the end of our days. Yet, we still find it hard to begin those conversations,” stated Ellen Goodman, Founder of The Conversation Project. “We need to close the gap so that people will die in the way they would choose.”

The reasons why so many Americans are hesitant about having those conversations might surprise you. One third of those surveyed say they’re too young to worry about death. Another 21 percent say they don’t want to make their loved ones feel uncomfortable. The discomfort factor for themselves accounts for another 20 percent of those surveyed. Many admitted to hoping someone else would bring the subject up and they also agreed that they’d welcome the opportunity provided they don’t have to start the conversation.

A living will can memorialize those wishes, but they don’t eliminate the need to let family members know that it exists and what it reveals. Along with that, a medical power of attorney should also be part of an estate plan. These too are often difficult to broach. This is what allows you to name someone you trust to make medical decisions if you’re unable to do so. Its challenges are found in the “what if” factor. Whomever you choose must be willing to adhere to your wishes. That person isn’t always shouldering the decision making, but rather, ensuring the decisions you’ve already made are honored. Of course, there are those times when he must decide for you – if, for instance, you’re in an accident.

We know how important these talks are. We also know the family anguish of not having a living will. In fact, meeting with your estate planning lawyer to update your living will and overall estate plan can be a great way to bring the subject up with your family. Those who did have such a conversation say they felt as though the burden wasn’t as heavy as it could have been. A full 63 percent say they were able to move forward with the tough choices when they know they were honoring a loved one’s request. Nearly 40 percent are confident that loved one passed at peace with his choices.

It’s not easy, but it’s the only way to ensure one’s values are respected when it comes to his end of life care in terms of what’s acceptable and what is not. According to Goodman, it’s a team effort and when everyone from estate planning lawyers to health care providers to the family can unite with a common interest of protecting the client/patient/family member, then everyone knows those wishes were honored.

If you’ve not yet included these important legal documents as part of your total estate plan, now’s the time to put the wheels in motion.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Special Needs Trusts in Hauppage NY: Its Role in Estate Planning

Jan 17, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Estate Planning

Special needs trusts in Hauppage NY – also referred to as supplemental needs trusts – are designed to provide clarity in one’s expectations when he’s disabled. It is sometimes used as part of a will; however, it’s always deemed part of a total estate plan.

These important documents allow one with a physical or mental disability – or one who has a chronic or terminal illness – to ensure his wishes are being met in terms of assets held in that trust. They’re also typically safe from inclusion when it comes to determining government benefits based on assets.

A few of those benefits might include SSI, or supplemental security income, Medicaid, various rehabilitation programs, housing and medicines. Typically, when the numbers are crunched, a person is deemed impoverished if his assets total less than $2,000.

Using Special Needs Trusts in Hauppage NY

The law dictates that a supplemental needs trust or special needs trusts should be used for needs that the government does not provide. When drafted correctly by an estate planning lawyer, these trusts will shine when the government does not provide complete coverage for the disabled person’s needs. If the trust cannot provide anything for that person, then the trust kicks in and covers those needs in their entirety. This applies to those covered under Medicare or Medicaid, as well.

Which brings us to another important point: the rules of Medicaid say these trusts may not be used for day to day expenses such as housing or food; however, they may be used to ensure a home is adequately prepared to meet the needs of the disabled person. An example would be wheelchair ramps. Interestingly enough, the food restriction does not apply to vacations, dinner parties or other entertainment where food is served. This is surprising to many people because they assume the trust is designed to cover their needs for survival only, when in fact, it can and should be used to bring enjoyment and new, positive experiences to the beneficiary.

When Wealth is Not an Issue

Many people also assume their wealth means they have no need for a special needs trust for a loved one. While that’s true in other trusts’ purposes, a special needs trust is focused squarely on the disabled person and his current and future lifestyle. The wealth a family has today may not be enough to provide for a disabled family member tomorrow.

Remember, the assets in the trust will not be counted as assets and therefore, won’t prevent future benefits and program qualifications. Perhaps more importantly, a trust is off limits to creditors and may not be seized. Even if the beneficiary is sued, the assets in the special needs trust remain untouchable.

What is dangerous, however, is to bypass the benefits of a special needs trust in lieu of placing the assets with a sibling, with the belief that sibling will always look after his disabled brother. Unfortunately, there are no shortage of scenarios that prove this is anything but wise. Siblings disagree – even as adults – and if that disagreement is deep enough, it can result in the adult child seeking revenge against his disabled brother or sister.

Even if you’re sure that will never happen, the person holding the funds could be sued or file bankruptcy – and any assets in his name are wide open for seizure – and it matters none if he explains those assets are earmarked for a disabled family member.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. To understand all of the intricacies associated with special needs trusts, it’s crucial you meet with your estate planning lawyer so that he can cover those bases in their entirety. When the future of a loved one is at stake, it’s time well spent.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Considering a DIY Will? Read Our Free Report First

Jan 15, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts

A lot of people automatically assume that they should use a last will when they are planning ahead for the future. Because expressing your final wishes can seem like a relatively simple and straightforward matter you may think that you can construct your own will.

In fact, there are a number of websites out there that make a business out of selling this notion to the public. They will provide you with a download or a worksheet for a fee. You fill in the blanks and you will ultimately have yourself a handy-dandy do-it-yourself last will.

Any legal expert would tell you to take pause before attempting to utilize one of these generic documents. There are a multitude of reasons why you should never attempt to go it alone when it comes to estate planning, and we describe them in detail in our free report.

We have prepared this report in an effort to warn people about the dangers of do-it-yourself estate planning. To obtain your copy of this valuable report take action right now. Click this link, complete the form, and access will be granted:

Nassau County Last Will Report

This report will certainly open your eyes when it comes to DIY legal documents. Estate planning involves arranging for the transfer of everything that you have earned throughout your life to those that are closest to you. It is not wise to risk it all via the utilization of a so-called one-size-fits-all last will that you download off the Internet.

 

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.