Articles Posted in Asset Protection

Although passing an estate through probate can be an unnecessarily long and expensive process, it is usually an administrative task through which heirs receive their inheritance as the deceased saw fit to award. However, family dynamics can complicate the expediency at which executors are able to pass some estates through probate, leaving the courts, rather than the deceased in his or her last will and testament, to ultimately decide which heirs or other interested parties receive certain portions of the estate.

Instead of using the courts to settle these types of disputes, families should consider mediation as an alternative to expensive and time consuming litigation in front of judges with already heavy caseloads. Mediation is a type of dispute resolution where both sides meet with an independent party to help negotiate a settlement to the matter, out of court and without the need for extended litigation and costly legal fees.

Often times, disputes over who gets what during the probate process are the manifestation of long standing animosity between family members or individuals close to the deceased. While mediation has no authoritative decision making over who gets what, it can be beneficial because it allows both sides to keep control over their position, is less confrontational than a courtroom setting, and can preserve familial relationships by resulting in wins for both sides, rather than victory for one party and a defeat for the other.

Under state and federal laws, nursing homes can only evict patients for a limited set of reasons and are supposed to face serious civil penalties if they break the law to force residents out on the street. However, these same caregivers have very intimate knowledge of the regulatory system and often interpret resident behavior in such a manner that would allow the facility to expel an individual who would otherwise would have remain with the care facility.

While there are many reasons why a nursing home or assisted living facility may choose to evict a resident from their care, one of the all too common reasons may come down to greed as some patients services transition from Medicare to Medicaid. As a result, federal regulators have begun to step up investigation and enforcement actions against unscrupulous facilities who choose the more lucrative yet essentially illegal business practices.

In December 2017, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent memos to state nursing home inspectors notifying these departments that federal agencies would begin examining the discharge records from the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes. In 2015 alone there were almost 10,000 complaints filed by nursing home residents alleging they were wrongfully evicted from their facility. However, some elder legal advocates believe these numbers may be underreported because many more elders do not contest their eviction.

Acting as the executor to an estate is an important duty with many responsibilities. While it may seem overwhelming and confusing at first, there are some very simple and basic first steps executors need to take that can help acclimate them to the process and help ensure that the deceased’s final wishes are carried out and all beneficiaries receive all the portions of the estate that they are due.

Most people generally advise their loved ones of their final wishes as it pertains to funeral arrangements. If this is the case, it may also be so that the deceased or his or her family has also made arrangements to pay for the funeral. If not, it will be up to the deceased’s surviving family members to make such arrangements, something the executor will not be expected to complete. However, it will be necessary for the executor of the estate to keep a financial record of all the burial costs paid out of the deceased’s estate as they may be deducted from any estate taxes.

Next, the executor will need to locate the deceased’s last will and testament and filed with the Surrogate Court in the county where the deceased resided or intended to reside if he or she lived out her final days outside of the county. Sometimes, the will may already be registered with the appropriate Surrogate Court, making this step easier.

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) claims state and federal agencies tasked with evaluating experimental programs from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Studies (CMS) fail to properly evaluate the initiatives. According to the report, some states can take years to finish evaluations and complete reports on programs implemented to help save taxpayers money and improve patient care.

Furthermore, when reports do become available CMS often fails to give the public access in order for ordinary people to see for themselves what works and what does not for the working poor of America. While many experts studying the issue found the shortcomings to be troubling, many were not surprised at the way states and federal agencies go about evaluating what incremental changes to CMS programs could be worthwhile.

Some states do not even finish their evaluations and complete reports until after the federal government approves the experiments for a second time. Such moves often leave observers scratching their heads as to how states can continue to receive funding for experiments on CMS programs without even taking into account whether they have a positive impact on the health and wellness of state residents or the programs fiscal soundness.

A new study recently published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine suggests that doctors and patients could make use of the time old “bucket list” to make improved decisions on end of life care. The bucket list is typically understood as a list of accomplishments or experiences an individual wishes to achieve before his or her passing. Often times, this can be a combination of achievable, real life possibilities or other lists of fantasies.

Other research has already indicated the importance of having end of life care decisions between doctors and patients and this latest article suggests that adding the creation of a “bucket list” could be another vital piece of the puzzle. By focusing purely on diagnostics and disease management, many clinicians may unknowingly create a “conversation gap” that could deprive patients living out their last days in peace and happiness.

Sadly, when patients are faced with a serious diagnosis their sole focus often becomes centered around their medical care and can steer them away from both short and long term life goals. While it can be hard to imagine anything other than undertaking every possible treatment to fight what may otherwise be a terminal illness, many patients fail to take into account the loss of life experiences that add up when committing most of their time and effort into beating their disease.

Comprehensive estate planning should be a continuing process. It is important to review your estate plan periodically, especially after major life events occur. An experienced estate planning attorney that helps you review your comprehensive estate plan as part of their service can make sure that you address changing needs and circumstances. The following can also provide a framework for you to start thinking about what to look for when reviewing your estate plan.

Start with Your Will

This is often a good place to start in creating your estate plan and in reviewing it. As time goes on, you are likely to experience a number of changes. Your family may grow to include additional beneficiaries. You are also likely to acquire a number of different assets. An effective Will will take all of this into consideration and include detailed instructions for distributing the assets within it.

There are many reasons why discussing your comprehensive estate plan with your beneficiaries is important. Not only can it help clarify your decisions and provide the reasoning for some choices that may otherwise cause conflict and strife, but it can prepare beneficiaries for their role in the estate plan.

Sometimes, circumstances arise in which a beneficiary may not want the inheritance that is being left to them or it may simply not be practical to accept it. When these situations arise, the beneficiary may have the option of turning down – or disclaiming – the inheritance.

Reasons for Disclaiming an Inheritance

A comprehensive estate plan is more than just a Last Will and Testament coupled with a trust. In includes important aspects that require careful planning for a long period of time. For instance, considering long-term medical care as part of your financial outlook and retirement planning is an important part of your estate plan because it can help safeguard assets and provide a source of financial support for your long-term needs so you can avoid draining assets from your estate to pay for unexpected costs. However, you should also consider planning for challenges like incapacity to ensure the integrity of your estate.

Tools for Planning

A durable power of attorney can help protect your rights and assets in the event of incapacitation. These documents nominate an individual to make important legal and financial decisions for you, especially in relation to your assets. The individual you nominate can work within the authority you provide them with to protect assets within your estate.

Needing access to a deceased family member’s safe deposit box is a common issue many families face as they prepare to pass a last will and testament through probate in New York Surrogate’s Court. While many assume they can simply bring their loved one’s death certificate and box key to the bank and explain the situation to the bank manager, the truth is that most bank officials will turn down these requests without proper paperwork from the Surrogate Court.

When faced with the impasse, many individuals look at the situation as a catch 22. On the one hand, access to the safe deposit box is needed to probate the will and on the other hand, the safe deposit box cannot be accessed until the estate is probated. Fortunately, New York’s estates and trust laws are prepared for such scenarios and offer a somewhat streamlined process for gaining access to a safe deposit box where a will and other important documents may be stored.

New York Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act, Section 2003 gives interested parties, those with claims to an estate, the right to request access to the deceased’s safe deposit box for the purpose of uncovering the last will and testament. To gain an “Order to Open Safe Deposit Box,” the interested party will need to file the necessary paperwork with a copy of the death certificate and applicable fee.

In New York, if someone passes away without a surviving close family member to inherit the estate, it becomes what is known as a kinship case. While most of us take the time to plan our estate by creating a last living will and testament or a trust to leave our assets to family members and close friends, not everyone is blessed to leave behind a loving family or close associates to pass on an estate.

Chapter 17(B) of the N.Y.S. Consolidated Laws codifies who is entitled to receive the deceased’s estate if he or she passes away without leaving a will. Typically, the surviving spouse is entitled to all of the deceased’s estate if the couple leaves behind no surviving children or grandchildren. If there are children, the surviving spouse receives the first $50,000 of the estate and then half or the remainder which will be split with the surviving children.

When children lose both their parents, the estate will be divided equally between the surviving children. But what if the deceased leave no wife or children? How far will courts and interested parties need to go to figure out who gets what? The answer depends on a variety of factors, including who the deceased leaves behind and whether any interested parties have passed away.

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