TRUSTS AND ESTATES
Your legacy deserves a strong advocate. At KSLN we will work with you to plan for the future, ensuring you have a voice after you are gone and that your final wishes are respected.
Creating a comprehensive estate plan will provide you with ultimate control over your legacy which will give you peace of mind today. Understanding the process is personal and sometimes very difficult, so it is important that you work with an experienced attorney from our team who will share in this journey with you and create the appropriate set of documents that will fit your individual needs.
The term “estate plan” usually consists of a few very important documents:
Your Last Will and Testament is likely the single most important document in your estate plan, as well as how you hold title to your assets and name your beneficiaries during your lifetime. Your Will gives specific instructions as to what should happen to your property after your death and names who you want to be in charge of seeing that your wishes are met.
If you do not have a valid Will, your property will be distributed under the laws of “intestacy,” which dictate how the assets in your estate will be distributed, often contrary to what your goals might be. Without a Will, you lose control over how your property will be divided and you have no say as to who handles your property after your death.
A trust is a legal mechanism for transferring ownership of assets from one person (settlor) to another (trustee) with an agreement that the assets will be used or distributed according to the directions of the settlor for the benefit of another person (beneficiary). Trusts may be created by a person’s Will to take effect upon that person’s death or created during one’s lifetime by establishing a Trust Agreement. Trusts can be an integral part of your estate plan to help save estate taxes, preserve assets for long term care needs and assist with the distribution of assets to someone under a disability.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a document in which you name someone to act as on your behalf with regard to your personal legal or business affairs, commonly referred to as “attorney-in-fact” or “agent”. A Power of Attorney can be specific (for example, it may authorize your agent to act on your behalf with respect to only one or two types of transactions) or it can be broadly worded to allow your agent to act on your behalf with respect to a wide array of matters. The Power of Attorney is not effective until both the principal and the agent have signed it.
The Power of Attorney is a two-part document comprised of the New York Statutory Short Form and the Statutory Gifts Rider. The Short Form allows you to nominate an agent to handle your regular personal business affairs. The Gifts Rider authorizes the agent to make gifts on your behalf of more than a total of $500. This authorization can be very important if an agent needs to use the Power of Attorney to make transactions which will assist in one’s long term care needs. The law always requires the agent to use the Power of Attorney only for the best interests of the principal.
Health Care Proxy
A Health Care Proxy authorizes a particular individual (your “agent”) to communicate binding health care decisions for you when your doctor has determined that you are not capable of communicating them for yourself. The proxy assures your doctors and the hospitals in which you receive treatment that they can rely on the agent’s expression or interpretation of your wishes regarding medical treatment, including end of life decisions such as the administration of artificial nutrition and hydration (food and water by tubes) in the event of an irreversible medical condition.
It is important to select someone you trust to communicate your health care wishes. You cannot name your doctor as your health care agent. It also is important to make sure that the person you select to serve as your health care agent understands what your wishes are with respect to treatment. This will allow your agent to follow your wishes when you cannot communicate them directly to your health care providers. You may only name one agent to act at a time, but you can nominate a successor to act if your primary agent is unable to serve.
When someone dies and they own assets in their own name or own assets that designate the estate as a beneficiary, an estate is created. If that person had a Will, an executor will be responsible for handling all tasks associated with the estate. A court proceeding is required to officially appoint the executor. If someone dies without a Will, the court will appoint a family member to act as administrator and New York law will dictate how that person’s estate will be distributed.
It is not always easy to be named as an executor of a person’s Will or to serve as the administrator of a loved one’s estate. Kenney Shelton Liptak Nowak LLP has handled estates in numerous counties within New York State and will help you navigate the entire administration or probate process.
Here is a list of some of the tasks that may be required as executor or administrator:
• Preparation of all court documents
• Personal and fiduciary income tax returns
• Estate tax returns
• Distribution planning
• Asset preservation
• Payment of debts and obligations
SPECIAL NEEDS PLANNING
The estate planning attorneys of KSLN have worked for years with families of individuals with disabilities and understand your concerns about your loved one’s personal and financial well-being. Our legal experience working in disabilities law make us an excellent choice for creating a special needs trust for your loved one with a disability.
• Government Benefits
People with special needs, especially those on governmental benefits (e.g. SSI or Medicaid), present a unique circumstance for Estate Plans. An inheritance, either through a Will or without one, will likely put their eligibility for those benefits at risk. To help protect their eligibility for benefits, your loved one with a disability will likely be helped by setting up a Special or Supplemental Needs Trust.
• Supplemental Needs Trust
A Special Needs Trust (Supplemental Needs Trust in New York) can be created in the same way to manage certain assets of an individual with disabilities so that these assets do not interfere with the individual's eligibility for state and federal assistance programs, such as SSI or Medicaid. For families of individuals with disabilities, creating a special needs trust can be an important way to provide for the financial future of a loved one whose disability prevents him or her from working or managing finances.
ELDER LAW PLANNING
It is very difficult to deal with the aging process for you or your loved ones and the many decisions that must be made along the way. Long-term care costs can be exorbitant and can deplete your entire estate in just a few years if you fail to plan properly. It therefore is imperative to understand the complex legal ramifications of your actions and how even a simple gift, the wrong advice or an improperly filed Medicaid application can adversely impact your ability to qualify for government assistance or get into the nursing home of your choice.
Proper planning and knowledge is critical. Working with an experienced elder law attorney from our team will help guide you throughout the process and provide you with specialized advice and recommendations that will empower you to make the right decisions for you and your family.
Kenney Shelton Liptak Nowak LLP can help you:
• Analyze your ability to afford nursing home care with or without government assistance
• Formulate the appropriate long-term care plan to help protect your assets and that suits your family’s needs
• Process and file an application for Medicaid benefits so that you can qualify for such benefits as soon as possible
• Represent your interests with government agencies and organizations that may be involved in the long-term care process.
If you are appointed as an individual trustee of a trust, you may need help identifying or discharging your duties. We will help you analyze your fiduciary responsibilities and devise a plan for you to fulfill those responsibilities during the administration or settlement process. We also assist corporate trustees in the settlement of simple and complex trusts throughout all counties in New York State.
There are times where individuals will not be happy with the choices that a deceased person made in his or her estate planning documents. Under those circumstances, a Will contest may follow. You may be a beneficiary or family member who does not agree with the terms of another person’s Will or you may be the executor or administrator who is responsible for defending a Will contest. We can advise you regarding the steps you may need to take on either side of the Will contest and assist you in negotiating or defending/pursuing one.
> Estate Planning (Wills, Trusts, Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxies)
> Estate Administration/Probate Proceedings
> Special Needs Planning
> Elder Law
> Trust Settlement and Administration
> Estate Litigation