Lamson & Cutner’s mission is to provide legal services for the elderly and the disabled, from its offices in New York City and in Westchester County, in Harrison, NY. Our offices are convenient to the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Nassau and Suffolk counties, as well as to Rockland, Putnam, Orange and Dutchess Counties. We also serve clients throughout New York State via teleconference.
Each person has different issues, and a situation that is unique to him or her. Our Elder Law legal help for seniors and disabled persons includes advising clients on appropriate legal strategies, creating the necessary legal documents, and assisting them to implement their plan.
If you need long-term care, the cost is ruinous if you pay out-of-pocket. In New York, there are steps you can take to protect your assets and income, maintain your lifestyle, and still have access to high quality health care. Proactive, strategic planning with a skilled Elder Law attorney can help you protect assets while qualifying for Medicaid benefits.
Trusts are the workhorses of Elder Law planning. A trust is an entity – a “person” – that is legally permitted to hold and own assets and earn income, and it is a private document. Trusts administered by Trustees, and they also have Beneficiaries who may or may not be Trustees.
The Trustees are frequently the Grantor’s children, relatives, or close friends. The trust may allow them to distribute assets during the Grantor’s lifetime, which may then be used for the benefit of the Grantor. In some cases, clients prefer a professional or institutional Trustee. A trust can be structured to preserve assets for future generations.
There are two key “Advance Directives” that everyone should have, especially the elderly and disabled. These directives, which can avoid the need for Guardianship proceedings, are the Power of Attorney and the Health Care Proxy. A Power of Attorney gives a person or persons who you appoint, the power to take actions in your best interest regarding your money and property. A Health Care Proxy gives one person, your “health care agent,” the power to act on your behalf with regard to your health care, when you are unable to express your own wishes.
While a Will is a common estate planning document for most people, it does not do anything to protect your assets if you need long-term care services. A Will gives instructions as to how you want to distribute your money and property once you pass away, and appoints an Executor to manage the administration of your estate. A Will becomes a public document, and certain family members have the right to contest it.
Every Will must be submitted to a court procedure called “probate.” Probate is the process of (1) determining that the Will that is proposed to be enforced is the Last Will and Testament, (2) of hearing and determining any objections to the Will (e.g., undue influence or fraud), and then (3) of giving the nominated Executor authority to proceed with collecting the assets, paying any creditors, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. The Executor’s authority is granted by the Surrogate’s Court in a document called “Letters Testamentary.”
Estate planning works hand in hand with Elder Law planning, but they are not the same.
Estate planning focuses on the distribution of your assets to your heirs and beneficiaries upon your death. The primary goal is to make sure that your assets will distributed according to your wishes. For those who have a substantial net worth, and for whom estate taxes or inheritance taxes may be a concern, strategies can be considered that will reduce or avoid these taxes.
Elder Law planning focuses on protecting your assets and income while you are alive. A key issue for most clients is the financial risk relating to their health care and the potential need for ruinously expensive long-term care services. For many clients, planning includes preparing for and obtaining Medicaid benefits.
Elder Law planning will usually include facilitate and include your estate plan. When your assets are saved and protected during your lifetime, it is more likely that you will have money and property to leave to your heirs and beneficiaries.
When you pass on, assets that are held in your name cannot be distributed to beneficiaries or heirs without a court proceeding. If you have a Will, that process is called probate. If you don’t have a Will, your estate will be distributed to your legal heirs in a process called administration. Trusts and accounts with beneficiary designations are outside your probate estate, and avoid the need for court involvement.
In many cases, your most valuable asset is your home. And in some cases, you may even own a second home. Without proper planning, your real estate may be considered “available” to pay for your care. It doesn’t have to be that way. The Medicaid planning process typically includes steps designed to protect your real property.
Are there tax considerations involved in Elder Financial Planning?
Elder Law planning often involves the sale or transfer of your assets, in order to gain eligibility for Medicaid benefits. Such transactions may have tax consequences, which should be evaluated before any action is taken.
When an individual loses mental capacity and is unable to manage his or her affairs, or make decisions about medical care — and has failed to execute advance directives (Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy) — it may become necessary for a family member or friend to petition the court for the appointment of a guardian.
Choose Lamson & Cutner for Trusted Attorney Services for Seniors
The skilled attorneys at Lamson & Cutner offer a wide range of elderly legal services designed to provide peace of mind for senior citizens and their loved ones. Your lawyer will work closely with you to understand your circumstances, needs, goals, and concerns. Using proven Elder Law planning strategies that work within federal and state laws, your attorney may be able to help you protect the assets you’ve worked a lifetime to accumulate while qualifying for government assistance to help pay for your care.
Contact us to learn more and to schedule a consultation with an experienced Elder Law attorney today.