Elder law attorney Albert Goodwin is committed to helping seniors meet the challenges of getting older. As a senior, your income may have declined when you stopped working, but your medical and living expenses are soaring. You are gradually becoming more vulnerable and more dependent on others. Depending on the state of your health, you may need a home health aide or to be in a living facility. You are worried if you will have enough money to maintain your lifestyle and if there will be anything left for your family. You are worried about losing your house and retirement assets to pay for your healthcare and long-term care.
You need legal documents that can protect you from medical expenses and losing control of your life. You need to have estate plan to preserve your hard-earned assets for the next generation. You may even need a guardianship to protect you from abuse.
Elder law attorney Albert Goodwin can help you maintain a comfortable lifestyle while preserving your wealth for the next generation of your family.
Documents to Help Seniors Not Lose Control of Their Life When They Become Disabled
An elder law attorney can prepare documents that help seniors what happens in the event you are not well enough to make your own decisions. A Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a person to manage your financial affairs, a Health Care Proxy allows you to appoint a person to make medical decisions for you and a Living Will makes known your wishes regarding life-prolonging medical treatments.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you give another person legal authority to act on behalf of the senior. A senior can select someone they trust, like their child, to be their “agent”. A revocable power of attorney makes sure that you can change your agent at any time.
If you do not have a power of attorney, your family might have no choice but to ask the court to appoint a guardian to make medical or financial decisions on your behalf. This procedure can be expensive and time-consuming and may result in the court appointing someone that you might not have wanted to make financial decisions on your behalf.
An elder law attorney will prepare a Living Will, which determines what life-sustaining measures if any, you wish to be taken in case you will not be able to direct the doctors. For example, do you want to leave a do not resuscitate (DNR) instruction? Does your religion dictate a preference? What do you want to happen to your organs? These and many other issues are addressed by your elder law attorney in your living will.
An elder law attorney will prepare a Health Proxy is a document that specifies the person that you would like to make health decisions for you when you are not able to do so yourself. A Health Care Proxy is a power of attorney for healthcare decisions.
Every Senior Should Have a Will
If you don’t have a will, then the court will distribute your property according to New York’s intestacy laws. Your estate would still be divided only among your relatives, and the proportions of the distribution will most likely be different than what you would have wanted. You will lose the opportunity to leave out some of your relatives, and children may gain access to large sums of money upon turning 18.
Without a Valid Will Made by an Elder Law Attorney, Your Family Would “Inherit” Attorneys’ Fees, Estate Taxes, Confusion and Feuds
If you leave behind a business, real estate, or financial papers which it would be a loss to sell at the current market conditions, the court might force your estate to sell such an asset. If you leave behind an asset that requires management, the court might direct your heirs to jointly manage the asset, without defining each heir’s role. Such co-ownership often results in feuding over money and control, which leads to years of litigation and tens of thousands of dollars spent on lawyers.
An elder law attorney can help you make a will, letting you select who will serve as your executor (the person who handles your estate). You would choose someone that you trust, probably a relative and someone who is familiar with your property. Without a will, the family might disagree with whom the court should appoint as an executor, which may result in feuding and probate litigation.
Making a will is a good time for tax planning, saving your heirs tens of thousands of dollars in estate taxes. It is also a good time to calculate your estate tax liability and make sure that your estate has liquid assets to satisfy estate taxes. Otherwise, the probate court will force your heirs to sell a part of their inheritance to pay for estate taxes.
A Trust to Shield Your Assets from Creditors and Predators and Get Medicaid to Protect Your Family from Long-Term Care Costs
An elder law attorney can make a trust that can provide various important benefits to a senior – get Medicaid, avoid probate, maintain privacy, avoid multiple-state legal proceedings, avoid interruption of income and use of assets, provide planning for mental disability, and save money on estate taxes.
- Qualify for Medicaid. There are several types of trust that can help some individuals qualify for Medicaid, including home care and nursing home coverage. This helps you avoid spending your hard-earned assets on medical care and long term care, leaving those assets to your family. Learn more about Medicaid trusts.
- Protection from creditors and lawsuits. A properly executed and funded irrevocable trust will shield the principal of the trust from creditors and lawsuits.
- Avoid probate. Probate proceedings can become expensive and delayed. Property that you will transfer to a trust will not have to go through probate.
- Protection from your children’s spouses and creditors. You may not want any of your hard-earned assets to go to your child’s spouse, whether in divorce or as an inheritance. You do not want any of the assets you give to your child to go to your child’s creditors, whether as a result of a lawsuit or in bankruptcy. A New York elder law attorney can make sure that your hard-earned assets remain in the blood family and not be preyed on by people who are not immediately related to you.
- Maintain privacy from creditors. Proceedings in probate court are public record. Any person or organization will be able to find out the extent and location of your assets. Not so with trusts.
- Avoid multiple-state probate proceedings. If you have property in multiple states, you can avoid ancillary probate proceedings by transferring your property into a trust. Upon your death, the property will pass according to the trust and multi-state Surrogate’s Court proceedings will not be required.
- Protection from irresponsible and inexperienced children. A trust provides limits on how your beneficiaries can spend the assets. For example, you can specify amounts upon reaching a specified age.
- Management of funds for minor children or grandchildren. Minor children or grandchildren cannot manage funds and they will need a trustee to manage the funds for them. If children inherit funds without a trust, the children’s parent or guardian will not be able to access the funds without a lengthy court proceeding and tremendous court oversight, we are talking about having the court endorse every check and having to file multiple reports each year.
- Avoid interruption of income and use of assets. A trust provides for the continuity of management of your assets, and avoids interruption of income and use of assets upon your death or disability. Without a trust set up by a New York elder law attorney, your estate or business may be subject to restrictions imposed by the probate court.
- Provide planning for mental disability. A trust lets you select a trustee – someone you trust to manage your estate on your behalf in the event you become unable to do so yourself. Read more in Planning for Disability.
- Preserve your loved ones’ right to qualify for Medicaid and SSI – if your loved one is disabled and is on means-tested government programs such as Medicaid or SSI, a Special Needs Trust (also known as Supplemental Needs Trust) can help preserve their eligibility. They can continue to qualify to have the government pay for their care, instead of using your hard-earned assets.
- Save money on estate taxes. Trusts can help you legally save a substantial amount on estate taxes. Read How to Avoid Estate Taxes to learn more about the credit shelter trust the life insurance trust. A “QTIP” trust or a QDT trust for the benefit of your spouse can further your tax savings goals.
A Guardianship to Protect Seniors from Financial Abuse
It is an unfortunate reality that there are some relatives in New York who will use their relationship with an elderly person to their own gain. While elder abuse can take many forms, financial abuse can be one way that a trusted loved one of an elderly person can happen without them even realizing that it is going on. If you believe that you have an elderly loved one that is the subject of financial abuse, the first call you should make is to a New York elder law attorney with experience in dealing with elder abuse and guardianship.
Often, financial abuse is not as obvious to family members as physical abuse. Financial abuse is still a serious matter, however, and there are clues to look for to see if it is happening to your loved one. If the elderly person in your life has handed over control of his or her financial care to a family member in the form of a power of attorney, for example, there could be some major red flags to look for to see if there is financial abuse going on. One thing to look for is whether or not your loved one is still receiving the bank statements and know what is going on with his or her account. If it appears that you loved one does not know what is going on, while at the same time money or valuables are starting to go missing, it is time to take action.
The surest way to fight financial abuse is to petition to be your loved one’s guardian. While no one wants to think about their mother, father or other loved one not being able to make decisions for themselves, this can be the best way to secure that loved one’s finances. Becoming a guardian is the best way to stop someone who is taking advantage of a loved one financially, even if they are using a power of attorney.
Through petitioning for guardianship with the assistance of a New York elder law attorney, you can help your parent gain control over his or her money. The first step is to have an emergency guardian appointed so that accounts can be frozen. This will keep your brother or sister from gaining access to your loved one’s money while the guardianship proceedings are going on. Once a guardian is appointed, the accounts can be under the guardian’s control, meaning that it would not be possible for a financial abuser to take any more money. You can also petition for a full accounting if the suspected abuser has been given power of attorney over your relative. This way, there is a better chance that you will find out where your loved one stands financially.
If you need an elder law attorney to help you maintain a comfortable lifestyle while preserving your wealth for the next generation of your family, call Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233 or (718) 509-9774.