Category: Trusts, Estates & Elder law

Do I Need to Pay Income Taxes on My Inheritance?
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Do I Need to Pay Income Taxes on My Inheritance? | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 6 minutes} One of the most common questions that I get from Executors and beneficiaries alike is whether or not a beneficiary must pay income taxes on their inheritance. This is an important question, so I thought I would address it here in this blog.

Generally, the answer is no! … with some notable exceptions.

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Are DIY Wills as Bad as People Say? Probably Not.
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Are DIY Wills as Bad as People Say? Probably Not. | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 6 minutes} More and more these days, people are drafting and signing legal documents they prepare themselves with the assistance of an automated software program or an online tool. Very often, people will ask me, “Tom, why should I come in and pay an attorney like you to write my Will when I can get it done online for a fraction of the price?”

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Shhhhh! You Might Not Even Need a Will….
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Shhhhh! You Might Not Even Need a Will…. | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 9 minutes} Very often, people have preconceived notions of what happens to their assets if they don’t have a Will. The most common one that I hear is, I know I need a Will, because if I don’t have a Will, the state takes everything . . . but really, nothing could be further from the truth. Most states have statutes creating a pattern of distribution known as intestacy. Intestacy refers to the law that describes who gets what if a person dies without a Will.

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So You’ve Inherited Those Things You Never Wanted…
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So You’ve Inherited Those Things You Never Wanted… | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 5 minutes} When I was a little kid, my favorite board game was The Game of Life. In fact, that game is probably part of the reason I am a Trusts and Estates attorney today. In The Game of Life, a person drives their little car around the board, landing on things which are either good or bad life events. One space that I particularly remember read, “Your uncle has left you a skunk farm. Pay $20,000 to get rid of it.” For whatever reason, that stuck with me all of these years.

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Do You Inherit Debt?
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Do You Inherit Debt? | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 7 minutes} While we all could think of famous people with famous names who have died leaving millions of dollars, this is not the case for most average Americans. While many people are thrilled to be able to leave something to those people or charities that they care most about, there are some people who simply leave nothing behind but their debts. As a Trusts & Estates attorney, people frequently ask me if they are responsible for the debts of their loved ones. Let’s take a look.

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Is There Such a Thing as a Simple Will?
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Is There Such a Thing as a Simple Will? | Deborah E. Kaminetzky

Many clients say that “they just want a simple will.” When deciding how to word bequests in a will, we lawyers have to bring up some uncomfortable topics with our clients. Aside from the fact that our client needs to contemplate their own death, they also need to think about and decide what to do with their legacy if other contingencies come into play, such as if their child passes away before them?

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Your Kids: Who Gets Them and What Do They Get?
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Your Kids: Who Gets Them and What Do They Get? | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 7 minutes} Very often parents come in to see me for estate planning services. Some are parents of adult children; others are parents of minor (under 18 years of age) children. Parents of minor children are concerned about the welfare of their children should they both die before their children reach the age of majority, often focusing on two main points:

– Who should become the Guardians of their children if the children have no surviving parent before reaching the age of majority?

– How should they leave money to their children if they are still minors when they inherit?

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How I Practice: An Interview with the New York State Bar Association
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How I Practice: An Interview with the New York State Bar Association | Deborah E. Kaminetzky

I am very honored to have had the opportunity to sit down with the New York State Bar Association and share how I practice law and organize my business. NYSBA has wonderful resources on their site, including the How I Practice section, which offers tips, tricks, and lessons to other attorneys.

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Six Opinionated People: a Look at Probate Juries
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Six Opinionated People: a Look at Probate Juries | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 8 minutes} To start with, the title of this article is misleading: it is my clumsy attempt at a pun on the famous movie about the way a jury decides a criminal case called Twelve Angry Men. Why am I bringing this up and making sloppy puns here in my blog? Because I wanted to talk a little bit about the role of the jury in a Will contest. As a litigator (attorney who litigates disputes in Court), the mindset of a jury is of tantamount importance to me.

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Did You Remember to Account for your Pets in Your Estate Plan?
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Did You Remember to Account for your Pets in Your Estate Plan? | Tom Sciacca

{Read in 6 minutes} Many of us are fortunate enough to have wonderful pets in our lives that we love as if they were our own family members (because they are!). When writing a Will, clients often focus more on their monetary assets and are less focused on what will happen to their pet upon their death. This is not a reflection of their love or devotion to the animal(s) — it’s just not something that comes to mind as an estate issue. However, any Will that doesn’t fully address a client’s needs is certainly a pet peeve of mine (if my readers will excuse the pun).

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So You’ve Decided to Die? It’s Not as if You Had a Say In It …
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So You’ve Decided to Die? It’s Not as if You Had a Say In It … | Tom Sciacca

{7 minutes to read} Newsflash…you’re going to die. Don’t take it personally. Your kids are going to die, too, and your parents, and your spouse—and me, right? Death happens to all of us. Many of the questions that I get as a Trusts and Estates attorney are questions about funerals. What are the choices, and do your wishes belong in your Will or not?

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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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