Millions Could Lose Medicaid When Pandemic is Declared Over- How to Protect Your Coverage?

While the decline of COVID-19 cases is a relieving sign of progress, the end of the pandemic could mean the end of Medicaid coverage for millions. Federal law prevented states from stopping Medicaid benefits until the pandemic is declared over. As we near the end of the health emergency, it is vital you understand how to protect your coverage.

Congress passed a law providing that the state could not terminate the benefits of Medicaid recipients who were enrolled as of March 18, 2020. It states that the coverage must continue through the end of the month that the Secretary declares the pandemic has ended. Although the public health emergency has not officially ended yet, the Biden administration intends it to some time in 2022.

Protecting Medicaid Coverage After the Pandemic

The impact this could have on your Medicaid is not fully defined, but it is estimated that about 15-million non-elderly people could lose their coverage. Further, it is important you understand your options for maintaining your long-term care. Planning in advance is required for protecting your future health needs. Below are four different strategies you could adopt to help keep your Medicaid coverage.

1. Asset Protection and Income Trusts

Asset protection trusts allow your wealth to be distributed to the same people when you die so your loved ones don’t have to pay capital gains tax on the amount your assets have increased in value during your lifetime. Assets transferred to an asset protection trust don’t belong to you. Be sure to note that transfers to trusts that occur within five years of when you need the Medicaid will be subject to the look-back period, so you must plan well in advance of when you need the care.

When applying for Medicaid, the income limits are strict. If your income surpasses the qualification threshold, it must be adjusted accordingly. A method to do this is establishing a qualified income or pooled income trust. A qualified income trust is irrevocable and can be established to hold the amount of income that exceeds your Medicaid limits. In some states, you can spend down the amount of income that is excessive so you can meet eligibility requirements, while in others you cannot. A pooled income trust is another type of irrevocable trust that holds excess income, designed for people who are disabled. Moreover, you can decide which of these types of trusts is the best fit for your individual needs.

2. Promissory Notes and Private Annuities

Make sure you are not giving away your assets and money during the look-back period, as you will be penalized. A promissory note or private annuity allows you to create a cash flow from your other assets so you can use it to pay for your nursing home care during a shorter penalty period.

3. Caregiver Agreement

A caregiver agreement may provide access to services that otherwise would not be included in Medicaid. Under this, a trusted family member may leave his or her job to care for the elderly individual. Services may be paid for in advance to reduce the countable income for Medicaid eligibility. For a caregiver agreement to be accepted by Medicaid, you must do the following:

  • Define hours and services in the contract
  • Maintain a daily log of hours and services
  • Pay to Medicaid the unearned amounts that remain upon your death
  • Calculate lump sum payment using market rates for services and reasonable life expectancy

4. Spousal Transfers

Transfers of assets between spouses are both permitted under the law and not subject to the look-back period, making it an appealing means of healthcare coverage protection. This makes the ill spouse eligible for Medicaid, while Medicaid reserves the right to ask for monetary contributions from the healthy partner. Note that in states that don’t allow spousal refusal, both spouses' resources are counted towards the eligibility requirement, defeating the purpose of this strategy.

For more information on how to protect your Medicaid coverage, please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333-2395.

Here are The Top 5 Things to Look For

Here are The Top 5 Things to Look For

Planning your estate is an easy means to alleviate the burden on your loved ones following your death. It is important to make sure your wishes are carried out, but as with everything, pre-paid funeral plans have risks attached. When looking for a pre-paid funeral plan, you must exercise the utmost care.

To be considerate of your family, you should not place the entire financial burden of planning your funeral on them. In an effort to relieve your family of this expense, you have the option to pay for your funeral in advance with a pre-paid funeral plan purchased through a funeral home. To make things easier for your family during an already difficult time, pre-paid funeral plans have the potential to act as a good way to spend money to reach the Medicaid qualification threshold.

Here are The Top 5 Things to Look For

Nevertheless, every year when funeral homes go out of business before the need for a funeral arises, consumers lose money. There may be no way to recover your funds if the funeral home mismanages them. Customers are not necessarily entitled to refunds if they change their minds, and some funeral homes sell policies requiring additional payments.

There are five important things for you to consider if you decide to go ahead with a pre-paid funeral plan. 

1. Shop Around

Prices among funeral homes can vastly range, so checking a few different ones before deciding the one you want is a good idea. To promote transparency, the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule requires all funeral homes to supply customers with a general price list that details prices for all possible goods or services. This clause also stipulates the items consumers cannot be required to purchase and the types of misrepresentations that are prohibited.

2. Make Sure You Have a Reputable Funeral Home

Unfortunately, there have been cases of funeral providers taking advantage of customers. Be sure to select a funeral home with an established positive reputation.

3. Carefully Read the Contract

Before signing you must understand what exactly it is that you are agreeing to. For example, if you move, is this plan transferable? Does it cover funeral services? Will your estate be responsible for covering additional costs if prices rise? Is the plan cancellable and refundable?

4. Find Out Where the Money Goes

The plan should provide information on what the funeral home will do with your money. While some states have protections in place to make sure the money is safeguarded, others do not. 

5. Ensure the Plan Won’t Affect Medicaid Benefits

If you are buying the policy as part of Medicaid Planning, you have to purchase an irrevocable plan. This commitment indicates that you cannot cancel it once it is bought. 

Once you have purchased a plan, inform your family about your decision and where the documents are filled. If your family is not updated that you have selected a plan, the plan is useless.

If you want to look for the pre-paid funeral plan that works best for you, contact the Trust and Estate Law Office at (718) 333-2395

What to Do If Your Medicaid Application Is Denied

If your Medicaid application is denied, you may initially feel hopeless, but you have the opportunity to appeal the decision. While the requirements of Medicaid are strict for low-income individuals, there is the potential to gain great benefits. Qualifying for medicaid is a complicated process, so if you are denied at first, do not panic.

What To Do If Medicaid Denies Your Application

Medicaid is a federal and state program that assists with the cost of healthcare for those who cannot afford it. It is comprehensive health coverage that covers a number of circumstances. Eligibility varies, but in New York, you must be either pregnant, responsible for a child 18 years old or younger, blind, disabled, live with a disabled family member, or be 65 years or older. The income threshold ranges based on the household size. You can apply by phone, via a written application, or by going to your local department of social services, or on the New York State of Health website.

Upon receiving a Medicaid decision, rejection is fairly common, even if you are eligible. Below are common reasons why your Medicaid application may have been declined.

1. Missing or Incomplete Documentation

You must have a complete packet when filing your Medicaid application. While in the past they would wait for supplemental documentation if they knew you were in the process of obtaining additional information, now they are quick to deny if you do not follow up. Be sure to provide the correct documentation and fill out the entirety of the application.

2. Excess Assets

In order to be eligible, there are strict caps on the number of assets one may have. Review the income and countable assets requirements for your given state. In New York, the asset limit is $15,900, while just about every other state's cap is $2,000.

3. Transferred Assets

If you transferred assets within five years of applying for Medicaid for less than market value, you may be subject to a penalty. If a transfer of assets is to a disabled or legally blind child, you are exempt from asset transfer penalties in New York.

You will be issued a denial notice within 45 days of the application or 90 days if you filed for benefits because of disability. Upon receiving your denial notice, review it carefully and follow the directions on how to file an appeal.

Before this, you can attempt to informally ask the agent to reverse the decision. If you were declined because you made a mistake, this is the easiest and most efficient way to proceed. Escalation to a supervisor or a formal appeal may be unnecessarily complicated depending on the reason you were rejected.

The deadline to appeal may be as short as 30 days or as long as 90 days following the denial notice. Regardless of if it is requested, be sure to submit your request for appeal in writing so there is a record of it. You must be diligent about submitting by the deadline. 

After you submit, the Medicaid agency will set a hearing date. Applicants must attend the hearing or else their case will be dismissed. You have the right to have witnesses testify at the hearing and to question the witness of the Medicaid agency. 

An attorney can ensure you have all of the correct documentation and materials to present at your appeal hearing. If you win, you will receive your rightful benefits. If you lose, the notice will outline how to appeal your decision, which usually involves written arguments. You must have the assistance of an attorney for this step.

To hire a medicaid planning attorney, contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333-2395

Upcoming Changes to NY Medicaid 2022-23

Medicaid is operated on both federal and state levels, which provides a range of benefits in medical and health. Medicaid primarily is for individuals who suffer from chronic illness, are in cognitive or physical decline, injured/disabled, and require consistent medical treatment. Laws surrounding who qualifies for Medicaid change constantly, meaning it’s necessary to stay informed on the latest changes to be aware of your eligibility status. Below are some new and upcoming changes to Medicaid.

Upcoming Changes to Medicaid

Upcoming Changes to Medicaid in 2022:

Independent Assessor for Home Care - In Effect May 1, 2022

As of May 1 2022, Medicaid applicants over the age of 18 applying for Personal Care or Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP) services will need to go through nurse assessments conducted by New York Independent Assessor (NYIA). The NYIA will conduct nursing assessments for “Immediate Need” applicants and others who apply to the local Department of Social Services, which is the Human Resource Administration (HRA) in NYC for personal care or CDPAP.

The NYIA will be conducting a clinical assessment in addition to a standard nurse assessment by either a doctor, physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner. With these tests, the NYIA will determine if an applicant is eligible for personal care or CDPAP. If the applicant is deemed ineligible, they have Fair Hearing rights, meaning they can appeal their decision.

If the NYIA deems the applicant eligible, they are referred back to their local Medicaid office. The previous assessments will then be used to determine how many hours of personal care or CDPAP should be authorized. If you are approved for over 12 hours of personal care a day, the Medicaid Office or plan must refer the case back to the Independent Assessor for a third assessment, which is an Independent Medical Review (IMR). An IMR is used to determine whether the proposed plan of care is safe and can maintain the health of the applicant when they are home.

Increases in Medicaid Eligibility of Applicants 65+ and Blind/Disabled Individuals - In Effect January 1, 2023

New York Governor Hochul and State Legislature passed four increases in Medicaid eligibility for New Yorkers who are 65+ blind, or disabled in the NYS budget. Below are the four changes that will go into effect:

  • Medicaid Asset Limit has increased by nearly 50%
  • Medicaid Income Limit has increased to the same amount used for Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) Medicaid for younger people (138% Federal Poverty Line or “FPL”)
  • Medicare Savings Program: Qualified Medicare Beneficiary limit increased from 100% to 138% FPL. Individuals with higher incomes not exceeding 186% FPL will be eligible for QI-1.
  • Undocumented Immigrants Age 65+ will not be eligible for full Medicaid benefits as opposed to only “emergency” Medicaid

New Medicaid Limits in 2023 for 65+, Blind, & Disabled

Benefit Federal Poverty Line % SINGLES COUPLES
2022 2023 2022 2023 2022 2023
Income Limit Per Month
Medicaid 82% 138% $934 $1,563 $1,367 $2,106
QMB 100% 138% $1,133 $1,563 $1,526 $2,106
QI-1 135% 186% $1,529 $2,107 $2,060 $2,838
Medicaid Asset Limit $16,800 $28,134 $24,600 $37,908

Public Health Emergency - Extended Through July 2022

The Biden administration extended the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency on April 13, 2022 for 90 days. This means that the government is prohibited from discontinuing or cutting funding for Medicaid through July 2022. 

This means restrictions on eligibility cannot be implemented before October 1, 2022, which would include the 30-month “lookback” that would disqualify applicants from obtaining home care benefits, or require applicants from needing physical assistance with 3 activities of daily living or two if diagnosed with dementia in order to qualify for CDPAP.

For more information on NY Medicaid changes from 2022 to 2023, contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at 718-333-2395.

Should I Create a Life Estate or an Irrevocable Trust?

As you are getting older, Asset protection and Elder Law planning becomes relevant.  As you are researching an optimal estate plan to preserve assets from nursing home bills, a life estate deed transfer may initially sound appealing. After all, a life estate deed is a legal means for transferring home ownership rights. However, there are downsides you must fully understand before making this commitment. Prior to making the decision of adopting a life estate, it is crucial to fully understand the risks.

Creating A Life Estate or Irrevocable Trust

Life estates are characterized by two or more people having ownership over a property for non-overlapping periods of time. These parties are the life tenant and the remainderman. The life tenant owns the life estate and has full control during their life. The remainderman has ownership interest upon the death of the life tenant. 

In many circumstances, executing a life estate makes the most sense. It is useful for those looking to simplify estate planning and avoiding the probate process. The transfer of the property to the remainderman is automatic, providing convenience without the need for a will. For example, parents can easily pass homeownership to their children while possessing their property for their entire lives. This provides transparency to the beneficiaries and affirms the life tenant exactly what will happen to their property when they pass away. 

Additionally, a life estate deed protects the property from a Medicaid lien and increases the tax basis. If eligible for Medicaid, the government may try to recover the costs of care from their estate once they pass away. A life estate protects the home from being included in the Medicaid recovery process.

Although a life estate may seem appealing, some caveats come with them. There are three main unfavorable aspects. If you consider these reasons as dealbreakers, a life estate will not work for your personal estate goals. 

Real Estate Related Challenges 

Upon establishing a life estate, obstacles will arise if you plan to sell or mortgage property. The remainderman must agree if you decide to borrow or sell against the property. Nevertheless, this can be solved with a Testamentary Power of Appointment in the Deed. This allows life tenants to change who receives their property by directing its disposition in their will. While it won’t sell the property, it gives the life tenant more leverage in negotiation over the remainderman. An alternative to this is the Nominee Realty Trust, where one or more children act as Trustees for all so that decisions must be followed on a majority vote.

Another obstacle is that if the property is sold, the remainderman is entitled to a portion of the profits equal to what their interest is determined to be at that time. It is also difficult to remove or change a name once it is on a real estate deed.

Legal Responsibility of Remainderman 

The problems of the remainderman become your problem as well. If this individual is in any legal predicament, such as being sued, getting a divorce, owing taxes, or filing for bankruptcy, the interest in the home is not protected. However, while claims can be made against the property, nobody can kick you out for the duration of your lifespan.

Medicaid and State Assistance Disqualification 

Giving away an interest in the property could result in disqualification from Medicaid assistance, should you need long-term care within five years of the transfer. To add on, that state could file a claim against the income portion of the payments it has made on your behalf. In this case, at least the portion of the proceeds allocated to your child would be protected.

Irrevocable Trust

Irrevocable trust is a much better alternative to protect your property from creditors including Medicaid liens and nursing home costs. For more information on irrevocable trust, please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333-2395.

3 Reasons to Create a NY Irrevocable Trust

Elder planning is an important and necessary step to take in order to make sure that your wishes for the future are carried out in the way you intended. In this process, a decision you will make is what type of trust is best for you. A trust allows a trustee to hold assets on behalf of beneficiaries.

Creating An Irrevocable Trust

One type of trust is an irrevocable trust, which cannot be changed or revoked after signing. Giving up control over your assets is a big commitment that must be carefully considered. Individuals who would benefit from an irrevocable trust typically fall into one of three categories.

3 Reasons to Create NY Irrevocable Trust

  • Minimize Estate Taxes

The primary benefit of an irrevocable trust is minimizing estate taxes. An irrevocable trust removes all incidents of ownership, meaning your assets are removed from your name. Assets in an irrevocable trust are no longer a part of your estate, which allows for tax efficiency.

  • Government Programs 

Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover all costs that a senior citizen needs. Medicaid would pick up the tab for long-term care, but the program has strict need-based limitations. To qualify for the Medicaid income threshold, you could transfer your assets into an irrevocable trust. As long as you fund the trust at least five years before submitting your Medicaid application, the assets will not count in your qualification. After executing your irrevocable trust, a tax ID number is created which allows individuals qualifying for Medicaid to move their assets out of their name.

  • Protect Assets

To protect your assets from creditors, it usually requires your trust to be irrevocable. The Trustee and Beneficiary must be unrelated parties. For people who face lawsuits frequently, having “asset protection trusts” is important. An asset protection trust allows your hard earned money, property, etc. to be safe from creditors.

Living In a Property Transferred in an Irrevocable Trust

If you are living in a property transferred in an irrevocable trust, the creator of the trust will still play a role. For example, they are responsible for all household expenses but reserve the right to live in the house. This is known as a “life estate.” Your house becomes safe from creditors and estate taxes. However, if you change your mind about having an irrevocable trust, the grantor cannot make any changes without the permission of the beneficiary(ies). Moreover, having an irrevocable trust is a significant commitment that should not be taken lightly. 

For more information on how to decide if an irrevocable trust is right for you, please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333-2395.

4 Reasons Why A 24-Hour Home Care Aid is Better Than An Assisted Living Facility

4 Reasons Why A 24-Hour Home Care Aid is Better Than An Assisted Living Facility

Elder care is often difficult and extensive and is different for every individual. One thing is clear - no one can or should do it alone. As our loved ones age and their needs change and very often escalate to around the clock care, we face the difficult decision - should we hire a live-in home care aid or should we resort to putting our loved ones into an assisted living facility and sometimes even a nursing home?  But how do these options compare? Based on the vast experience of an elder law attorney in NY and based on visiting many different retirement facilities in NY, Medicaid funded nursing homes in NY, and assisted living facilities in NY, we compiled these top four reasons why a home care aid or a live-in caregiver is better than a nursing home or an assisted living facility.   

hiring-a-live-in-caretaker-pros-and-cons

Live-In Caregiver or Home Care Aid in NY:

Live-in care is a service provided by either a professional caregiving company, a private hire, and the role of a live-in caretaker requires them to live in the home of the care recipient. It is implied that room and board will be provided to the caregiver. Live-in caregivers are allowed to rest and sleep, and therefore should have a 5-8 hour sleeping time allotted in the care plan. It would be beneficial to align the caretaker and care recipient’s sleep schedules.  

If you would like for there to be an active caregiver while the care recipient is asleep, overnight care and 24-hour care is also available. Overnight or 24-hour caretakers agree to and are paid to stay awake. 24-hour care is usually arranged by an agency so that the 24-hour period is split between multiple caregivers to ensure that the care recipient is never left unattended.

Whether it’s live-in care or 24-hour care, around-the-clock care provides safety and care to elderly in the comfort of their own home.

Assisted Living NY or Nursing Home NY facilities:

Assisted living is another option that may be more suitable for those who need more supervision. Assisted living facilities give the elderly personalized care in a residential setting and transfer the care recipient out of their home. Residents are typically assessed when they first move in, which allows the facility to make an individualized and specific service plan. Facilities often provide services like managing medication, assisting with bathroom use, and helping with dressing and grooming. Most facilities also provide meals, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, and social activities.

In contrast, NY nursing homes have trained medical staff that provide more medical help than help with everyday activities. Medicare and Medicaid accredit these facilities where they can provide both short-term rehabilitation and long-term medical care. NY Medicaid would cover the cost of such nursing homes, but if the person has assets, a 5 year look back provision exists.  These facilities are recommended to those who need more intensive or specialized medical care.

4 Reasons a 24 Hour Home Care Aid or Live-In Home Attendant Is Better than a Nursing Home

  1. Live-in caregivers can provide companionship and socialization to an elderly person that may be more recluse.
  2. Families of the care recipient often find comfort knowing that a caregiver is in the home with their loved one at all times and has much less exposure to people who may be sick of Covid-1.9
  3. It's much cheaper to have a live-in caregiver rather than paying for the Assisted living facility or a nursing home where cost can range up to $15,000 a month.  
  4. Seniors are a lot more comfortable in their own home especially if they have dementia or Altzeimer. 

Cons of Live-in Care

  1. Typically, live-in caregivers are privately hired so vetting people can be a long and arduous process. It depends on the caregiver’s background and qualifications as well as the needs of the care recipient. 
  2. Independent caregivers can create tax complications and arduous paperwork unless the caregiver services are covered by Home Care Aid medicaid.  
  3. It can be quite costly to maintain the home itself with property taxes, home repairs, and upkeep so an independent person is needed to take care of financial issues.
  4. Hiring a live-in caregiver is largely dependent on trust which will take time to build. The responsibilities and demands of a live-in caregiver are intense and could potentially cause relationships to sour. 

4 Benefits of Assisted Living Facility:

  1. Assisted living can provide a healthy lifestyle and social activities fostering engagement.
  2. It is a more economical choice compared to a nursing home.
  3. Family members may feel less stressed or worried knowing that their loved one is in a safe environment that will provide excellent care.
  4. Seniors can retain independence while getting back or exploring new hobbies. Without the responsibility of maintaining their home, they have more free time. 

4 Detriments of NY Assisted living Facilites:

  1. Depending on the facility, medical care may not be provided at all一especially for certain medical conditions.
  2. Seniors may find it challenging to adapt to a new place, a group setting, and new policies.
  3. Facilities could limit the senior’s privacy.
  4. Assisted living facilities in NY are very expensive. The average cost of the facility is around $10,000 a month.

If you need Elder Care planning in NY and would like to speak to NY best Elder Law attorney and NY Asset Protection lawyer please contact our Trust and Estate Planning law office at 718-333-2395 for all of your elder planning needs.

What Are Some Alternatives to Guardianship?

Guardianship is a court arrangement where a judge appoints someone to assist in managing an individual’s healthcare and financial affairs when the individual is no longer able to do so on their own. Guardianship is divided into two categories that deal with different aspects of the individual's needs. The first category allows the guardian to oversee the ward’s daily care, Guardianship of the Person. The second category grants the guardian power to oversee the ward’s personal and home property, Guardianship of the Property. Usually, people who require guardians are individuals who may have neglected to engage in advance estate and care planning.

some-alternatives-to-guardianship

The guardian could be a family member or the court could appoint an independent person. The court then supervises the guardian after they have been appointed. Guardianship appointments can be time-consuming and costly with prolonged legal fees. However, the good news is that guardianship is preventable. There are a few alternatives to guardianship that you can explore with early and proper planning. The following are potential alternatives to guardianship that should be widely considered. 

Obtaining a Representative Payee as Alternative to Guardianship of the Property 

If someone receives government benefits like Social Security, but they cannot manage the money on their own, the Social Security Administration can grant an individual to be appointed to receive the funds on behalf of the incapacitated individual. Social Security designates this person as a representative payee. The payee is required to use the funds to pay for the individual’s expenses and report the expenses to the agency. The payee must give an account to Social Security for how the money was spent. If you believe this is necessary for you and your family or loved one, you can do this by contacting Social Security and completing an interview. After completing the interview, you may be approved and be appointed a representative payee. Becoming a representative payee may avoid the need for a Guardian of the Property. 

Obtaining Durable Powers of Attorney as An Alternative to Guardianship of the Property

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document used to plan ahead of time. A POA allows one person (called the principal) to appoint one or more other people (called agents) the right to make health and/or financial decisions for them. Elders usually appoint an adult child as their agent as their mental and/or physical health deteriorates. In order to appoint an agent, the principal must have the capacity, at the time they choose who they want to act as their agent and when they sign the document. A POA is significantly less expensive and less time-consuming than a guardianship hearing.  Having a Power of Attorney in place could prevent the need for a Guardian of the Property to be appointed. 

Acquiring a Health Care Proxy as An Alternative to Guardianship of the Person

Similar to a Power of Attorney, a Health Care Proxy (HCP) is a document used to plan early. An HCP allows for an individual, with capacity, to appoint another person that they trust to make healthcare decisions for them. The principal will choose one person who can serve as their agent. An HCP, along with any other medical directives, will allow the principal to state their health care wishes early on. Although the HCP can be signed at any time, the HCP is only effective after two doctors decide that the principal is not able to make decisions on their own. Having a health care proxy in place could obviate the need for a Guardian of the Person. 

Trusts And Estate Planning as An Alternative to Guardianship of the Property

A third alternative to guardianship is to execute a trust. A trust is a legal contract between three parties – the grantor, the trustee, and the beneficiary. A trust can serve as a means for property management. Having a trust can sometimes avoid having a Guardian of the Property because the trustee can effectively manage your property, instead of a guardian. 

For disabled individuals or individuals planning for disability, you can create a First Party Supplemental Needs Trust or a Third Party Supplemental Needs Trust. These types of Trusts allow you to protect your assets while still being eligible for certain government benefits. Certain supplemental needs trust may need the court’s approval before being established. Each of these trusts has nuances that should be discussed with an estate planning or elder law attorney. 

Joint Checking Accounts as An Alternative to Guardianship of the Property

A fourth alternative to guardianship and property management is by setting up and maintaining a joint account with another person. You can also add a person to the account for convenience sake only. By adding another person to the account, it will allow the other person to pay the bills and be an alternative to a guardian of the property. 

Assistance with Care Management As Alternatives to Guardianship

If someone requires limited assistance, they may be able to use a case management tool instead of a guardian. They would create a plan that would allow others to assist and support the individual with the specific needs they may have while also allowing the individual to function independently in the areas they are able to. For instance, Adult Protective Services (APS) can provide case management without the need for a guardian. APS would appoint a case manager who can provide assistance with different needs like obtaining and recertifying for Medicaid, assuring proper living arrangements, monitoring safety, managing financials like social security benefits, and providing heavy-duty cleaning services.

How can an elder law or guardianship attorney help?

Guardianship is an expensive and, at times, cumbersome and complicated process. It is very possible to avoid guardianship by using any of the above ideas or resources. We can help you avoid guardianship. If unavoidable, we can also help you petition for guardianship. To learn more about the legal process of seeking guardianship it’s best to consult a lawyer. 

For further elder care information, please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333-2395 to receive the most highly qualified legal advice.

The Importance of Creating an Asset Protection Plan

Asset protection planning is important for everyone, from all walks of life. If you have any money, investments, or property that you want to protect, if you own a business or are starting one, you need to make sure you have a solid plan in place to protect your personal assets. There are many different risks to your financial security, and your plan for asset protection needs to focus on the things that are most likely to impact your savings.

why is creating an asset protection plan important

Why is Asset Protection Planning Important?

Asset protection planning will benefit you by keeping your property and money protected during your lifetime. It can also ensure that you can leave a legacy for your loved ones. There are many specific reasons why asset protection planning is important including:

  • The risk of incapacity: If you become incapacitated (ex: diagnosed with Alzheimer’s) you won’t be able to take care of your assets or manage your finances. Substantial losses could accrue unless you assign someone trusted and reliable to manage your assets. You should plan ahead and assure that you have chosen the right person to manage your assets in case you’re ever incapacitated. Incapacitation can be gradual (ie. dementia) but it can also happen suddenly (ie. falling comatose). It’s better to plan ahead and early; better be safe than sorry. A living trust and/or a power of attorney are useful legal tools that could be used to protect your assets in case of incapacity. 
  • The risk of business losses: If you run your own business, you could face the risk of personal loss if your business goes bankrupt or if you or your business is sued. You don’t want your own personal home or other property to be lost because of business problems so you should explore legal methods to ensure your own assets are kept safe. Incorporating or forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC) could be an appropriate solution because, as long as you follow corporate rules, you will limit the risk of losing money invested in your business and limit the risk of losing personal assets. 
  • The risk of going into a nursing home: As everyone ages, nursing homes are a common long-term care plan. However, the cost of a nursing home can be extremely costly and nursing homes are not covered by most types of insurance, including Medicare. Many people are forced to spend all of their money and even sell their property to pay for a nursing home if they need care. Once the money is spent, then Medicaid begins to pay. However, if you create an asset protection plan, you can prevent your property from being included when determining if you’re eligible for Medicaid so you can get nursing home costs covered without giving away or spending your assets.
  • Losses due to estate tax: When you pass away and leave your assets to heirs, estate taxes could be imposed which could significantly reduce the value of an inheritance. This is mainly a problem for people with larger estates. As of 2021, estate taxes are assessed only if an estate exceeds $5.93 million. But, people with farms or business assets that count as part of their estate could quickly reach this amount and an inheritance could be at risk if there isn’t enough money to pay the taxes on potentially inherited farmland or business assets.
  • The risks presented by your heirs: You should protect your money and property even after you are gone. You can structure an inheritance so it will not be lost or spent recklessly if heirs get divorced or go bankrupt. You can also opt for creating trusts like special needs trusts or spendthrift trusts to meet the specific needs of beneficiaries who will inherit your assets. 

You work hard to amass money and property, and you deserve to protect what you have built so you can enjoy financial security in your old age and so you can make a difference by giving to people or causes you believe in after your death.

What Are Some Ways to Protect Assets? 

1.) Trusts- Irrevocable, Revocable, Medicaid asset protection

Trusts are legal documents that establish legal transfers of your assets. There are many different types of trusts, each serving its own purpose. Three common types of trusts used to protect assets are irrevocable trusts, revocable trust, and Medicaid asset protection trust. 

  • Irrevocable trusts are trusts that cannot be amended once created. Once it has been made, it cannot be changed or terminated without the permission of the grantor’s beneficiary. You also relinquish control of the trust’s assets and control is transferred to the trustee, the person who is legally responsible for managing the trust, and all changes/distributions are left to their judgment. There are many types of irrevocable trusts like asset protection trust, special needs trust, charitable trust, and Medicaid trust. The most common is asset protection trust because, in the event that a creditor files a lawsuit against you, the assets you transferred to the trust will no longer be considered yours. 
  • Revocable trusts (aka living wills) are the opposite of irrevocable trusts. It lets you freely make changes to it up until you die. It allows you to keep control of your assets while you are alive as opposed to giving up control in an irrevocable trust. You can also use it to determine who will inherit your assets after you die. A revocable living trust is preferable to a will since it does not require probate and can be revoked or amended at any moment while you are still alive. Revocable living trusts actually provide little asset protection but are a great way to ensure that your estate avoids the probate procedure after you die. 
  • Medicaid Asset Protection Trust sometimes called Pooled Income Trust, is a tool to protect your assets and allow people to qualify for Medicaid long-term care. A Medicaid Asset Protection Trust is a type of irrevocable trust so the transfer of assets into this kind of trust is considered a “gift.” To protect your assets, the trust has to be created 2.5 years before home care Medicaid is needed or 5 years before nursing home care is needed. This is because Medicaid inputs a look-back period when someone applies for Medicaid. 

2.) LLCs 

A limited liability company (LLC) is a legal status given to businesses. This establishment means the business will be its own legal entity and the owner(s) can be relieved of personal responsibility for their company’s debts or liabilities. An LLC will protect a business owner’s assets like bank accounts, properties, and cars in the event of a bankruptcy or other legal disputes. The owner’s assets cannot be viewed as the company’s assets.

3.) Retirement accounts 

If you have a 401(k), you might want to consider moving some cash into it. Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) enjoy protection under federal law as long as they are ERISA-qualified (such as a 401(k)). ERISA-qualified generally means the retirement account is employer-sponsored so pensions would count too. Your IRA might have even more protection depending on your state’s laws. Retirement accounts are also useful to avoid the probate process so some of your possessions can directly pass to your heirs without being dictated in the will

How can an Elder Law Attorney help?

Asset protection planning is not just for wealthy people, it’s important for everyone. If you have any money, property, or investments that you want to protect, you should create a plan. Planning is also important when you are young, because you can protect more of your assets if you take action early.

To learn more about asset protection planning and discover what plan works best for you, contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718)-333-2395 for highly qualified advice.

Responsibilities of an Executor Or Administrator

Today we will discuss the basic duties and responsibilities of an executor or an administrator.

But first, what is an executor? An executor is someone who is legally responsible for sorting out the affairs of the deceased individual. The executor must carry out their duties diligently, impartially, and honestly. An executor who fails to do so may be held personally liable by a court of law. Each state has its own requirements as to who can serve as an executor or administrator but generally, the roles are very similar. The position of executor is a paid position and each state provides its own rules for executor compensation. However, because executors are usually close family members, many executors forgo their compensation.

what are your responsibilities if you’re appointed as an executor or administrator?

And what is an administrator?  An administrator is someone who is appointed by the Surrogate Court to be legally responsible for the decedent’s affairs. The difference between an estate executor and an estate administrator depends on if the deceased left a will, named an executor, or if the named executor declined the appointment. Therefore, if the decedent did not leave a will (dying intestate), does not name an executor in their Will, or a listed executor declines the appointment, the court will choose the administrator of the estate. The administrator must then make sure the estate is settled according to New York intestacy laws which is what an executor does anyways. 

Both the Executor and the Administrator are responsible for making sure that debts and taxes are paid and that what remains in the estate is distributed properly to the heirs of the estate, according to the wishes of the decedent. Both executors and an administrator have the same responsibilities to the state and to the deceased’s beneficiaries. 

The Executor’s or Administrator’s Responsibilities Include The Following:

  1. Determine If Probate Is Necessary

Probate is the legal procedure an estate goes through after someone passes away. This procedure is how the surrogate court will start the process of distributing the estate to the proper heirs that the decedent designates. Many assets can be transferred to beneficiaries simply by law (and avoid the probate process) such as jointly held assets or assets that have beneficiary designations (ie. life insurance policies). If all of the decedent’s property falls into this category probate may not be necessary. Additionally, the decedent may have transferred all of their property to a revocable (living) trust which similarly does not need to go through probate. If, however, the decedent owned assets outright, meaning they’re simply stated in a will, those assets do not automatically transfer upon their death. Instead, probate will be required and the executor or administrator will need to file a petition with the court to be legally assigned as the executor. It is highly advisable to work with an attorney to probate the estate.

  1. File the Original Will With the Local Surrogate Court

The executor is responsible for locating, reading, and understanding the will to determine who will inherit the decedent’s assets. Generally, only an original will can be submitted to the surrogate court to go through probate. An experienced estate planning attorney can assist with this duty.

  1. Notify Financial Institutions & Government Agencies of the Decedent’s Death

The executor should notify the decedent’s banks, credit card companies, and government agencies like the Social Security Administration of the decedent’s death.

  1. Set up a Bank Account for Incoming Funds and Pay Any Ongoing Bills 

The executor has to set up an estate account with a bank so the decedent’s assets can be transferred to it. The account will be used for the ultimate distribution of the assets to any creditors and heirs. The executor should also use this account to pay the decedent’s mortgages, utilities, and other bills that still need to be paid throughout the probate process.

  1. Maintain the Property Until It Can Be Distributed or Sold

The executor has to find, protect and preserve all of the decedent’s assets until they can be distributed. This includes any real property (houses, cars, boats, etc...) owned by the decedent until it is distributed to heirs or sold.

  1. Pay the Estate’s Debts and Taxes

The executor is obligated to pay the decedent’s debts if there are sufficient assets in the estate to cover them. The executor must also file income tax returns starting from January 1st of the current year until the date of the decedent’s death. If the estate is large enough, a Federal estate tax return will need to be filed. Also, if the decedent’s estate exceeds the estate tax exemption in the year of the decedent’s death, state and federal estate taxes may have to be paid.

  1. Distribute Assets

The most common responsibility of the executor or administrator is that they must distribute the decedent’s assets pursuant to the will’s directives. This is after a surrogate court judge has validated the will.  If there is no will, state intestacy laws apply and the administrator will carry out almost all of the same responsibilities as an executor. 

  1. File an Inventory of the Estate’s Assets With the Court

Once the executor knows all the assets in the estate and distributes them pursuant to the will the executor must file an inventory of the assets with the Surrogate Court.

How can an estate lawyer help

Since each estate varies in size and complexity, an executor’s job may be fairly simple or very challenging to carry out. Responsibilities may very well go beyond the 10 common duties in this list. Consulting with an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorney is certainly recommended.

For further estate planning assistance, please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333-2395 to receive the most highly qualified legal advice.