Category: Trusts, Estates & Elder law

What is a Waiver of Estate Rights?
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What is a Waiver of Estate Rights? | Deborah E. Kaminetzky

In New York, your spouse has something called a right of election. What this means is that no matter what you want to leave them in your will, they have a right to $50,000 plus one third of your estate. So for instance if you die with a will leaving your spouse out because perhaps you did not update your will or you purposely left your spouse out for whatever reason, they will still get a share of your estate. If you die without a will, your spouse is entitled to even more – $50,000 and half your estate.

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Custody of Your ORIGINAL Will is Very Important. Why?
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Custody of Your ORIGINAL Will is Very Important. Why? | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 7 minutes} After executing a Will, clients face the question of what to do with their original Wills.

When someone dies in New York State, the court will be interested in seeing their original Will, as it is difficult to probate a photocopy. This is why it is important that the client retains either custody or knowledge of what happens to their original Will once they sign it.

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Who Should Be My Executor?
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Who Should Be My Executor? | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 8 minutes} Choosing the Executor of your Estate is an important decision that can sometimes be difficult. Some people feel that the person they wish to handle their affairs may not be qualified. Others feel that there are too many qualified individuals and they don’t know how to choose among them. Or sometimes clients feel that there is nobody with whom they feel comfortable serving as the Executor and they’re looking for a suggestion. What are some of the issues here?

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Heads Up: Those Beneficiary Designation Forms for Life Insurance and Retirement Accounts Can Make a BIG Difference!
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Heads Up: Those Beneficiary Designation Forms for Life Insurance and Retirement Accounts Can Make a BIG Difference! | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 10 minutes} A lot of people don’t realize that when they die, the distribution of their assets may be controlled by other documents besides their Will. Most commonly, people have life insurance or retirement accounts that they’ve either acquired themselves or through an employer. When acquiring such assets, clients very often are presented with a beneficiary designation form to complete. Unlike assets that do not name a beneficiary and are subject to Probate, any asset that names a beneficiary passes automatically to that named beneficiary, regardless of the terms of the Will. Therefore, it’s really important to make the proper choices as part of your overall estate planning when completing these forms.

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“Every Little Thing Gonna Be Alright”…Or Is It?
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“Every Little Thing Gonna Be Alright”…Or Is It? | Deborah E. Kaminetzky

Bob Marley, the singer famous for the song Three Little Birds, whose chorus was:

“Don’t worry about a thing ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright”

passed away on May 11th,1981, without a will, with a fortune, and with at least eleven children from several different mothers, one of whom was his wife. The court battle was long and complicated.

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Sciacca Law Celebrates 10 Years Helping New Yorkers
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Sciacca Law Celebrates 10 Years Helping New Yorkers | Tom Sciacca

{3 minutes to read} May 2017 marks ten years since I opened the doors to my law practice. At 30 years old, opening my practice was both exciting and terrifying. I was up to my eyeballs in student loan debt, yet I had just left a position with a midtown firm with steady work and a steady paycheck. But I was in the greatest city in the world and had some dreams to chase.

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3 Crucial Estate Planning Documents
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3 Crucial Estate Planning Documents | Peter Gordon

{4:40 minutes to read} Why should you have a living will, healthcare proxy, and power of attorney? People are living longer and enjoying fuller lives. However, it is possible that because of a sudden illness or injury, you may be unable to talk to a doctor to make decisions about your treatment or direct your financial decisions. To plan in advance, it is important to prepare a few simple legal forms.

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What is a Revocable Trust and is it Appropriate for Me?
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What is a Revocable Trust and is it Appropriate for Me? | Tom Sciacca

{Read in: 3:30 minutes} What is a Trust, and more specifically, what is a Revocable Trust? Creating a Revocable Trust is like creating a new legal entity. This Trust is created by a Grantor and managed by several people known as Trustees. In its simplest form, a Revocable Trust is a Will substitute that avoids probate.

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What is a Trust?
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What is a Trust? | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 6 minutes} A lot of people talk about Trusts these days. You may hear about them on the radio or see financial experts talking about them on television. Sometimes clients come in and advise me that they want me to write a Trust for them. But when I inquire as to why someone sitting across the table from me would like a Trust, I find that few people know very much about them. In this post I will address the following questions: What is a Trust? What are some of the different types of Trusts? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of Trusts?

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Have the Talk Before You Take the Walk
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Have the Talk Before You Take the Walk | Deborah E. Kaminetzy

Most couples get together based on attraction, discuss one or two main expectations or goals, fall in love and decide to get married. They then focus on wedding plans, thinking that if they can negotiate a large event between two families and come out unscathed by the wedding date that they will succeed in their marriage. So why do so many divorces occur?

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Adult Guardianship: What happens if you can no longer manage your affairs?
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Adult Guardianship: What happens if you can no longer manage your affairs? | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 8 minutes} Every now and then, an adult may lose his or her capacity to make important medical, financial, or other decisions. This may be a result of a major medical incident, such as a stroke, or because of the effects of aging that some people experience. Regardless of the reason, if someone has not adequately planned for their incapacity, they may need the intervention of a Court to have a Guardian appointed for them. This article (1) provides insight into how a client can potentially avoid the need for a guardianship proceeding, and (2) provides an overview of such a proceeding should the need arise.

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Adult Guardianship: What happens if you can no longer manage your affairs?
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Adult Guardianship: What happens if you can no longer manage your affairs? | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 8 minutes} Every now and then, an adult may lose his or her capacity to make important medical, financial, or other decisions. This may be a result of a major medical incident, such as a stroke, or because of the effects of aging that some people experience. Regardless of the reason, if someone has not adequately planned for their incapacity, they may need the intervention of a Court to have a Guardian appointed for them. This article (1) provides insight into how a client can potentially avoid the need for a guardianship proceeding, and (2) provides an overview of such a proceeding should the need arise.

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Power of Attorney: What You Need to Know
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Power of Attorney: What You Need to Know | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 8 minutes} Whether a client needs a Power of Attorney is one of the most frequent questions I get. Perhaps you’ve considered signing one yourself. I’d like to spend some time today discussing (1) what a Power of Attorney is, (2) what it allows someone to do for you, (3) what it doesn’t allow someone to do for you, and (4) some of the concerns that you should consider before executing one.

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Estate Planning for Parents of Special Needs Children
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Estate Planning for Parents of Special Needs Children | Ronald A. Fatoullah

By Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. and Eva Schwechter, J.D.

{4:34 minutes to read} For most parents of children with special needs, government benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) are an invaluable resource. These programs help to cover some of the care necessary for their child’s health and well-being. These benefits are contingent on a number of eligibility rules with which the applicant/recipient must comply. Many parents are familiar with the basic concepts of these rules, such as the need to keep the child’s assets under a specific resource limit, to refrain from giving the child money outright, and the importance of establishing a supplemental needs trust to protect their child’s assets.

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Estate Tax: The Basics
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Estate Tax: The Basics by Tom Sciacca

{Read in 4 minutes} Many people have heard of estate tax, but not everyone understands whether or not it would be applicable to them.

In its simplest form, the estate tax is a death tax. Any assets that change hands by reason of one’s death is subject to the estate tax. It does not matter if the assets pass under the Will as part of the probate process or pass automatically by operation of law to named beneficiaries. For example, a person’s condo, which usually passes according to the terms of their Will, is equally subject to the estate tax as are their retirement accounts that names beneficiaries who inherit directly.

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Don’t Let Life Insurance Affect Your Medicaid Eligibility
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Don’t Let Life Insurance Affect Your Medicaid Eligibility | Ronald A. Fatoullah

By Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. and Jeffrey P. Gorak, Esq.

{4:50 minutes to read} A life insurance policy is a contract between an individual (the insured) and an insurance company (the insurer) where the insured pays a premium in exchange for the insurer’s promise to pay a certain sum of money (the death benefit) to the designated beneficiaries on the death of the insured.

The two most common types of life insurance policies are 1) term life insurance and 2) whole life insurance.

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The Elusive “Iron-Clad” Will
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The Elusive “Iron-Clad” Will | Tom Sciacca

Question: Is there any such thing as an “iron-clad” Will? Simple answer: Nope (sorry ‘bout it). A lot of people think that putting a certain amount of time, work, or even money into drafting estate planning documents can prevent a troublesome family member from challenging a Will. That’s not how things work. In New York (like in most states), we have a self-policing system of determining validity of Wills. That means that when someone dies, the Court puts his or her next-of-kin on notice that someone is offering the Will for probate. Essentially, telling them that if they have an objection to the Will, they should show up in Court and let their voice be heard as to why the Court should not probate it. Best-case scenario, a troublesome family member will simply not appear in Court; worst-case scenario, they see it as an invitation to challenge the Will’s validity.

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Passing Your Home to Your Children
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Passing Your Home to Your Children | Ronald A. Fatoullah

By Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. and Stacey Meshnick, Esq.

{3:53 minutes to read} Giving your house to your children can have potential tax consequences, but there are ways to accomplish this transfer without the negative side effects. The best method to use will depend on your individual circumstances and needs.

The simplest way to give your house to your children is to name them as beneficiaries in your will. If you are a New York resident, as long as the total value of your estate is under $4,187,500 (until April 2017), no estate taxes will be imposed.

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How to Leave Money to Disabled Beneficiaries Without Compromising Benefit Entitlements
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How to Leave Money to Disabled Beneficiaries Without Compromising Benefit Entitlements | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 4 minutes} While not everyone who suffers from a disability is on government entitlements, many times I am faced with questions from people who have adult children or siblings who fall into this category. What is their concern? Their concern is that they want to make some provision for their loved one without losing the needs-based government entitlements that they need to meet their basic daily needs.

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Cleaning Your Legal House: Is It Time to Update Your Will?
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Cleaning Your Legal House: Is It Time to Update Your Will? | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 6 minutes} The changing of the calendar is often a catalyst for many people. At the beginning of each new year, many clients take inventory of their legal affairs. They question whether their existing documents need to be updated, with their Will topping the list.

A well-drafted Will anticipates various changes in a client’s life, and often does not require periodic updating absent a major life event. It is essential, however, that clients periodically review their Wills to ensure that it still fully reflects their wishes.

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End-of-Life Discussions & Decisions
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End-of-Life Discussions & Decisions | Susan Moussi

{3:30 minutes to read} The subject of this article comes from my personal experience this past fall with the death of my husband, Cliff. Cliff was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2014. Life took on a new normal, and we had nearly two years after his diagnosis to take care of planning, completing paperwork, and discussing his wishes. Not everyone gets an advance notice like this. Accidents do happen, so I urge you to make a New Year’s resolution to take the following steps, no matter your situation:

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Reducing Capital Gains Taxes
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Reducing Capital Gains Taxes | Ronald A. Fatoullah

By Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. and Debby Rosenfeld, Esq.

{5:26 minutes to read} The capital gains tax (“CGT”) is a tax imposed on the profit that is realized by an individual when he or she sells certain types of assets. The most common capital gains are realized from the sale of stocks, bonds, precious metals and real property. Although it is often said that nothing in life is certain except death and taxes, the one tax a person may be able to avoid or minimize the most through planning is the tax on capital gains.

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Secure Your Wishes with a Health Care Proxy
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Secure Your Wishes with a Health Care Proxy | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 8 minutes} What is the best kept secret about a Health Care Proxy? It’s absolutely free and you don’t need a lawyer to do it.

A Health Care Proxy may be one of the most important legal documents that you ever sign, yet many people do not know what it is. Basically, it’s a statement a person can sign appointing someone else to make his or her medical decision for them if there were ever to come a time when that person cannot make a medical decision on their own.

First, you should consider clicking here. This is New York State Department of Health’s website, where the Health Care Proxy form is available as a fill-in-the-blank document in several different languages. This is something that you can complete simply by following the instructions provided on the website.

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The Nuts and Bolts of a Will Execution
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The Nuts and Bolts of a Will Execution | Ronald A. Fatoullah

By Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. and Debby Rosenfeld, Esq.

{3:49 minutes to read} As many know, the Last Will and Testament is a document in which a person (the “testator”) articulates to whom he/she wishes to leave all of his/her assets upon death. Wills are official documents, and they often mean a great deal to the respective testator. Because a will is such an important document, it must meet the legal requirements set forth by the state in which the testator resides in order to be valid.

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Setting the Record Straight on Probate
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Setting the Record Straight on Probate | Thomas Sciacca

{Read in 8 minutes} As a trusts and estates attorney, a lot of times people ask me, “Do I need to avoid probate?” Frequently, people have seen a recent television program with a TV personality advising them to execute Revocable Trusts or people telling them horror stories about what the probate process has done to them, but very infrequently do people actually understand what probate is. Let me tell you a little bit about what it is so that you can make a decision about what is appropriate for you and your loved ones.

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Using Trusts to Manage Bequests
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Using Trusts to Manage Bequests | Ronald A. Fatoullah

By Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. and Yan Lian Kuang-Maoga, Esq.

{3:21 minutes to read} The concept of controlling one’s heirs from the grave may be difficult to fathom. However, there are many circumstances in which it is necessary to set some control over the inheritance to an heir in order to protect him or her. Trusts are often used to set the appropriate level of control and to provide peace of mind to the creator of the trust. Trusts are also used for estate tax planning purposes.

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How to Avoid Undue Influence in Estate Planning
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How to Avoid Undue Influence in Estate Planning | Ronald A. Fatoullah

By Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. and Eva Schwechter, J.D.

{3:31 minutes to read} Most people have heard the term “undue influence” in connection with a will or an estate plan, but what does it mean and how can it be avoided?  

Undue influence occurs when someone exerts pressure on an individual, causing that individual to act contrary to his wishes and to the benefit of the influencer. The pressure can take the form of deception, harassment, threats or isolation.

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Four Myths About Medicaid’s Long-term Care Coverage
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Four Myths About Medicaid’s Long-term Care Coverage | Ronald A. Fatoullah

By Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. and Yan Lian Kuang-Maoga, Esq.

{4:38 minutes to read} Long-term care is not cheap. The cost of employing a home care attendant in the New York City area ranges from $15 to $25 an hour and a nursing home bed runs from approximately $13,000 to $17,000 per month. Finding the right solution to help pay for long-term care is critical. While Medicare gets most of the news coverage, Medicaid still remains a mystery to many individuals.

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The Importance of Preparing for the Future
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The Importance of Preparing for the Future | Ron Fatoullah

By Ronald A. Fatoullah

When people are in the midst of their child-rearing years, they typically don’t worry about costs that they might incur in their post-retirement years. Life is in the now, and between carpooling, piano lessons and other extracurricular activities, summer camp, and the cost of tuition, time is limited and there are few extra funds to address the potential health care costs that may arise in the future.

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