"I'M NOT VERY WEALTHY."
"I'M TOO YOUNG"
"IT'S NOT RELEVANT TO ME."
You are not alone if the term Estate Planning may conjure up these or similar notions. I am here to recommend that especially if you are not wealthy or elderly, you deserve the opportunity to develop a plan that will secure your assets, maintain your wishes and even eliminate potential family relationship problems. Estate Planning is something that every adult should explore with the guidance of a patient and experienced Elder Law attorney and advocate.
Consider the following, if you haven't already:
• “What will happen to me if my husband/wife/partner passes away or becomes seriously ill or disabled?”
• “What will happen to my husband/wife/partner if I pass away or become seriously ill or disabled?”
• “What about my special needs child?”
• “Am I 100% positive that I know for sure what will happen to my money/house/valuables/income if I get seriously ill or pass away?”
• “What will happen to my kids if I pass away and my husband/wife/partner marries someone else?”
Perhaps you are embarrassed to consult with an attorney because you feel that your family dynamic is too challenging or you are not comfortable sharing a particular life event or situation. Do not allow such thoughts to prevent conscientious planning. JCS Elder Law, PLLC can help you put structure and purpose to your planned and unplanned future with compassion, patience and a unique expertise. We know that your story is not always the reflection of a purposeful decision but rather the culmination of oft-times unfair and unfavorable life events that were not within your control.
There are many common misconceptions about Estate Planning
The following statements should never be accepted at face value without professional advisement:
“The government will reach into my bank account and take all my savings.”
“I have a house, a car, a pension and a savings account…..I can’t get Medicaid.”
“Care provided by Medicaid is sub-standard – the facilities are filthy and understaffed; the home
care aides are unfit.”
“I waited too long to plan and I missed the boat for asset protection and eligibility. It’s too late.”
“My family situation is too unusual. I don’t want to feel judged.”
“Elder law attorneys are unaffordable and provide services exclusively for the wealthy.”
Estate Planning starts with making a simple appointment to visit our practice. Ideally (but not a requirement), you are able to bring documentation and a thorough intake interview can be conducted. Your Elder Law attorney will introduce Estate Planning tools such as Beneficiary Designations, Joint Ownership, a Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Living Will, MOLST, Trusts (Revocable, Irrevocable, Special Needs and others), Veterans Benefits and Life Estates, among other alternatives. These will be explained in a clear, understandable manner. You may be surprised to learn about the great differences between what happens when a person passes away with or without a Last Will and Testament by walking through a case study involving the Probate versus the Administration of an estate. You may also seek to understand how recent changes to the tax code impact the federal and New York State estate tax. Although there are times that no action is recommended, a customized plan to capture your wishes and values can be created, allowing you to have peace of mind when thinking about the future. It’s not only responsible…it’s therapeutic!
Medicaid is a federal/state/county program which provides medical and medically-related benefits to individuals who meet its eligibility requirements. Although it is available to persons already receiving public assistance, it can be available to those with higher income and resources in many situations.
Medicaid eligibility guidelines vary, depending on whether an individual or a couple seeks Community Medicaid or Nursing Home Medicaid benefits. Once an application is approved for financial eligibility, Medicaid may cover doctor visits, medications and medical supplies, hospitalization, adult day care programs, long-term care in the home or in a skilled nursing facility and other reasonable, medically necessary services.
With Estate and Medicaid Planning, You Can:
Protect your assets and income while receiving premium in-patient care or at home personal care aide services;
• Hire loved ones (not a spouse) and/or friends to provide home care services
• Protect assets for your heirs from all creditors – including Medicaid - while avoiding probate;
• Assign trusted friends or family members to handle your financial affairs as well as medical decisions, should you lose the ability to make good decisions;
• Finally learn what a trust is – and the difference between an irrevocable and revocable trust. They’re not just for the wealthy!
+ And more……..You can! It’s not too late!
Although the Court is involved when a person dies with a will – the probate proceeding is less onerous than the administration proceeding which is necessary when there is no will.
Probate requires the filing of a petition, along with the original will, to the Surrogate’s Court in order for the document to be deemed sound and viable. In most cases, the probate petition requires that a waiver is signed by all interested parties, consenting to the appointment of the nominated executor.
If you die without a will, the New York statute, in a sense, writes a will for you. The statute directs that your assets are distributed based on the composition of your family, regardless of what you may or may not have wanted. The distribution is based on the “Rules of Intestacy”, a hierarchy based on a general relationship preference:
If you are survived by:
• a spouse and children; your spouse takes the $50,000.00 of your estate and half the balance of the property while your children share the rest;
• a spouse and no children; your spouse takes all;
• no spouse, no children but parents; your parent or parents take all;
• no spouse, no children, no parent(s); descendants of your parents (siblings) take all;
• no spouse, no children, no parent(s), no siblings; one or more grandparents or their descendants; half goes to the maternal side and half to the paternal side (but not including first cousins once removed)
• If “descendants’ include a combination of generations; living children take a full equal share and the children of pre-deceased children will divide equally the combined shares of their deceased parents.
It’s easy to see that your property may not be distributed according to your desire.