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Estate Planning

Who needs estate planning?  Probably you do!  Estate planning does not relate to an individual’s net worth.  The purpose of an estate plan is to see to it that your financial goals and the financial goals of your family can be met even after you die.

There are several elements of an estate plan.  A will, a power or attorney, a living will and a health care proxy.  These basic documents comprise an estate plan.

Why You Need A Will

A will is a very basic document in which an individual lays out what he or she wants to happen to his or her assets upon death.  It can also name guardians to the decedent’s minor children.  A major reason for having a will is that if you die without a will you are considered to have died “intestate”.  Individuals who die intestate will expose their heirs and loved ones to additional expenses in dealing with the complications involved with estate administration.

Are Trusts Only For The Rich?

Trusts are documents that allow you to control your assets and its distribution after you die.  Trusts can also be utilized to reduce estate and gift taxes.  Trusts are no longer for the rich.  They’re a valuable estate planning device many middle class families utilize.

Annual Gift Giving

Each individual may give up to $13,000 a year or $26,000 if you are married and giving the gift in conjunction with your spouse.  In addition you can pay an unlimited amount in medical and educational expenses for an individual if these funds are paid directly to the institutions that provided the medical or educational services.

Estate Planning Lawyers

Estate planning is a sophisticated undertaking.  You should utilize experienced well thought of estate planning attorneys to handle these sophisticated transactions.  The law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo have been drafting estate plans for their clients for over thirty years.  The firm probates wills.  They litigate contested wills.  The firm’s attorneys have extensive experience in bringing guardianship proceedings, drafting revocable living trusts and irrevocable living trusts.  Elliot S. Schlissel, Esq. is a member of the National Academy of Elder Care Attorneys.  He provides all types of elder care counseling to his clients including issues involving nursing home abuse, Medicaid, Medicaid planning techniques, specials needs trusts for special needs children which are also referred to as supplementary needs trusts.  Feel free to call our office for a consultation.

Guardian Allowed To Help His Ward Prepare A Will

Justice Alexander W. Hunter sitting in the Supreme Court, Bronx County recently had an unusual case presented to him.  A daughter brought a proceeding in a guardianship.  She requested the court take action to prevent a court appointed guardian from retaining an attorney to draft and execute a new Last Will and Testament for her father.  She took this action because she felt the drafting of this new Will would not be in the father’s best interest.

Justice Alexander Hunter denied her request.  In his decision he stated that her arguments were a regurgitation of allegations she made in her initial petition to be appointed the father’s guardian.  The court had initially found that the father required the appointment of a guardian of both his person and property.  But the court’s decision stated that the court evaluator believed that the guardian should keep the father involved in the decision making processes.  He also stated in his decision that the guardian should give the father the greatest amount of independence and self determination with regard to his property management and the maintaining of his personal needs.  The court felt that the father’s drafting a new Will and Testament possibly “opened the door to potentially costly and protracted litigation post mortem as being speculative.”

Guardianship Lawyers

The Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo have over 100 years experience in the preparation and submission of guardianships to the courts to the courts throughout the metropolitan area.  There are two types of guardianships under Article 81 of the New York Mental hygiene Law and Guardians under the Surrogates Court Procedure Act under Article 17-A.  The Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo have extensive experience in handling all aspects of Guardianship petitions on a regular basis in the courts throughout the metropolitan New York area.  In addition our law office drafts Wills and Trusts and probates Wills.  We assist our clients in Estate Planning matters.  We represent Executors in Estates.  We also draft Revocable Living Trusts, Irrevocable Living Trusts and engage in all aspects of Medicaid Planning.  In situations involving Special Needs children we draft Special Needs Trusts which are also known as Supplementary Needs Trusts.

Estate Planning Problems: Computer Codes

estateplanning-150x150

Computers codes are the new frontier concerning Estate Planning issues. Should a senior become disabled, uncommunicative or die, access to his or her online accounts are creating major estate planning problems. Without the password to an online account it is virtually impossible to get into the account. Yahoo and Google will only provide passwords if court orders are obtained.

It used to be if someone became disabled or died you would go through their papers or review their mail to ascertain where their assets were maintained. Today, most Americans maintain their assets in online accounts that are only accessible by user codes and passwords.

Court Orders

If it should become necessary to obtain a court order to obtain the passwords to an account of the deceased, it may take months to get the proceeding through the courts. If there are no written records, family members and loved ones will be unable to obtain information from the bank account of seniors who become disabled or have passed away.

Hiring Computer Forensic Experts

If you need to get into the account of a loved one and you do not have access to his or her account name and/or password it may become necessary to hire a computer forensics expert to break into the hard drive to find the necessary information. This can take weeks and involve a considerable expense.

Inventory of Computer Codes

John Ramano, the co- author of “Your Digital Afterlife” suggests that each individual write out an inventory of financial online assets. This inventory should include usernames and the passwords that go with each username. He recommends these computer codes be maintained in a secure location such as home safe or a bank safety deposit box.

Web Based Companies

Another approach is to maintain the services of web based organizations that store information concerning online assets. The organizations such as Entrustet and Legacy Locker will permit access to this web based information to authorized individuals.

There is a program call Last Pass. This allows an individual doing an estate plan to create a master password. The unlocking of this master password by an authorized representative or family member opens up a digital asset list which is created by utilization of the Last Pass software program. This software can also be accessed by handheld electronic devices such as telephones, personal computers and iPads.

Estates Attorney

The Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo has more than thirty years of experience in handling all types of Estate related matters. We probate Wills. We litigate Will contests. We draft Wills and Trusts. We create guardianships for clients. We have developed expertise concerning Estate Tax issues, Revocable Living Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Elder Care issues, nursing home abuse matters, Medicaid, Medicaid planning techniques, Special Needs Trusts and Supplement Needs Trusts for our clients. Call us for a free consultation. Our phones are monitored 24/7. We can be reached at 1-800-344-6431, 516-561-6645 or 718-350-2802.

Why You Need A Living Will

willspic-150x150End of life issues are difficult to face. Everyone that lives will eventually die. If you want to make your own choices as to how you’re cared for, should you become gravely ill, it is important that you have a Living Will. A Living Will is an advance directive that explains to your loved ones and your physicians what type of life prolonging medical treatments you want and don’t want if you become incapacitated, are placed on a resperator, or are unable to express your concerns due to illness or injuries.

End of Life Issues on Long Island

Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk Counties) in the State of New York, is considered a ” high spending” medicare area of the country. Most individuals without health care proxies on Long Island will find themselves dying in a hospital. Individuals with Living Wills can choose to spend their final days in a hospice facility.

Hospice Facilities Verses Hospitals

Hospice Facilities are designed to make patients facing end of life diseases comfortable by treating their pain and allowing their illnesses to run a natural course. Treatment in hospitals is organized around the theory of prolonging life. This can involve aggressive procedures even if the illness is considered by the treating physicians to be terminal. The treatment in hospitals for terminal illnesses can greatly reduce the quality of the individuals life. Sometimes the difference between hospice care and hospital care relates to the quality of the individual’s life while dealing with a terminal illness.

Living Wills and Family Members

Lauren Hersh Nicholas is a health professor with the University of Michigan. She has conducted a study of involving living wills. She states there’s a benefit to the family of the patient. “Family members have a somewhat easier decision making process, because they have greater guidance.” The hospice treatment can eliminate pain and reduce medical procedures that are unlikely to work.

Elder Law Attorneys

The Elder Law and Wills, Trusts and Estate lawyers at the Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo have been helping their clients deal with end of life issues for more than 3 decades. The law firm drafts Wills, Trusts and Health Care Proxies, Powers of Attorney and Living Wills. They represent individuals involved in will contests. They explain to executors of wills their duties. In addition, they draft revocable living trust and irrevocable living trusts. The firm is also involved in assisting clients with nursing home issues as well as medicaid planning technigues. Call for a consultation at 1-800-344-6431, 516-561-6645 and 718-350-2802.

What Wills Can’t Do

WillsTrusts-150x150There are many very important uses for wills. However, there are things for which wills were not designed and cannot accomplish. The following are a list of things that can NOT be dealt with in a will:

1. If you own assets in a “joint tenancy” with another individual, or a “tenancy by the entirety” (a marital estate), you cannot dispose of the assets in a will since there are two owners of the assets. If one party dies, the surviving party inherits all of the remaining assets.

2. If you have a life insurance policy with a named beneficiary, you cannot change the beneficiary designation in a will. To change a beneficiary designation, you must contact the life insurance company and fill out a “change of beneficiary” form.

3. Stocks and bonds that have a beneficiary designation, such as transfer upon death (TOD) cannot be bequeathed in a will. To change the beneficiary designation on these types of stocks or bonds, you must contact the security company that holds the security and fill out the appropriate paperwork.

4. Pension plans, 401K plans, 403B plans, IRA’s, SEP’s and other retirement plans that have a named beneficiary cannot be impacted by a will. To change the beneficiary designations, you must contact the administrator of the plan and complete a “change of beneficiary” form. However, if the beneficiaries predecease you or there are no beneficiaries named, you can name a beneficiary for this asset in a will. This also applies to life insurance policies and annuities.

5. Bank accounts that have a “payable on death” feature or a beneficiary designation cannot be devised under a will. For example, if you have a bank account and it says “pay to my daughter Sue”, and you write a will indicating proceeds in that account are to be paid to your son John, the designation in the bank account will control.

6. You cannot leave contingent gifts in a will. An example would be a gift that is contingent upon a person becoming married, divorced or changing his or her religion. However, you can put a clause in a will leaving money to a son to pay for his college education. In the event the son does not go to college, those funds could be used for another purpose.

7. You cannot have a clause in a will that goes against public policy or is illegal. An example of this would be an attempt to leave money in a will for the purpose of buying illegal drugs.

8. You can’t make appropriate arrangements for a child or family member with special needs in a will. A special needs trust is required for this purpose.

9. Wills may not contain clauses that leave assets to pets. For example, you cannot leave $10,000 to your dog Rover. However, you are allowed to leave money to an individual taking care of your dog, or a trust can be set up and funded through your will to pay for such care.

Should you have any questions regarding wills, trusts and estates, feel free to contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo, by email or at 1-800-344-6431.

Who Needs a Will? You Do!

last-will-and-testamentDo you have assets? Do you own a house? Have you been married more than once? Do you have children from more than one relationship? Are you concerned about what happens after your death to your spouse and/or your children? Are you single? All of the above individuals need a Will.

Estate contests often develop between children from the first marriage and the second wife. Issues arise when a man or a woman has children from more than one relationship. Sometimes loved ones have financial difficulty and the possibility of receiving assets in an estate brings out the worst in them.

There is a simple way to avoid unnecessary expensive litigation that can last from months or years. Write a Will! A Will states who your loved ones are, what your assets are and who will receive your assets at the time of your death. No one looks forward to dying. The thought of writing a Will is often an issue that individuals seek to put off. However, a Will should be written when you are competent and healthy not right before your death.

Attorneys that handle Wills & Estates prepare Wills. They are generally speaking inexpensive documents to have prepared. They simplify your end of life issues and allow your assets to pass in an orderly manner. Wills cut down on financial disagreements developing among your heirs and loved ones.

If you die without a Will your assets pass to your loved ones through administration proceedings. These proceedings can be time consuming and tedious. More than one person can request to be the Administrator of your estate. This can lead to arguments, bad feelings and increased attorney’s fees.

If you have assets or loved ones, you need a Will! Have it written by an attorney before you are too sick and old to deal with it.

Should you have questions regarding drafting a Will, feel free to call the Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo to discuss these issues at 1-800-344-6431 or email us at schlissel.law@att.net.

Challenging an Invalid Will

elderly-man-in-hospital-bed-dyingPursuant to EPTL § 3-2.1, a Will can only be probated if it conforms to the following requirements, among others:

  • Will must be signed at the end and initialed on every page in front of the witnesses.
  • The Will must be signed in the presence of at least 2 witnesses (Some states require 3)
  • The witnesses must also sign an attestation clause.
  • The “Testator” must “Publish” the Will by saying something like “This is my Will.”

A Probate judge in the Surrogate’s Court may invalidate a will based on several types of objections. If there is proof of undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity, duress, or undue influence, the Will will be invalid.

“Lack of testamentary capacity” means that the Will signer does not understand that what he’s signing is a Will, that he does not understand the nature and value of his property, does not understand who the natural objects of his bounty are (meaning that normally one’s spouse and children are the natural recipients of his or her property after death), or that he does not understand the nature of the disposition he is making (i.e., to whom he is giving his property in his Will).

A decision came out on Monday which is a great example of someone who successfully used the “lack of testamentary capacity” objection to the probate of a Will. In that case, several siblings of a deceased man successfully blocked the probate of their brother’s Will because he lacked “testamentary capacity.”

As he lay dying in the hospital of liver disease, the man’s x-wife and her lawyer got the him to sign a Will that gave her all of his assets. He died of the disease just three days later. In Matter of Stachiew, 96211/2007/D, a Dutchess County Surrogate’s Court judge denied probate in this case, holding that the proponent of the Will, the x-wife, had failed to prove that the decedent was sufficiently aware of the nature and extent of his property, what he was signing, and how he was changing his testamentary distribution plan through the Will. The judge found that the attorney had induced the decedent to sign the Will without regard for his ability to understand what was going on, and was not convinced by the attorney’s “self-serving” testimony to the contrary.

Cases like this illustrate how important it is that individuals hire a competent and ethical attorney who will take all reasonable measures to ensure that every requirement of New York’s Estates, Powers, and Trusts law is complied with.

Our office can assist you if you need help with:

Please call our office at 800-344-6431 or e-mail us for assistance.

Picture courtesy of worlddub.blogspot.com

Who Needs to Write a Will? – Video

This is the first post in a series of short videos by New York attorney Elliot S. Schlissel, Esq, providing basic information about important aspects of Estate Planning. This informational video is entitled, “Who Needs a Will.”

Mr. Schlissel’s is a leading Elder Law and Wills Trusts and Estates attorney in the 5 Boroughs of New York, Nassau and Suffolk Counties so we are pleased to provide this information to Elliot Schlissel New York Law Blog readers.

As always, you can receive legal updates from this site by subscribing by e-mail.

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