The Best Time to Update Your Estate Plan

The Best Time to Update Your Estate Plan

When was the last time you thought to review and update your estate plan? It is a frequent misconception that once your estate plan is in place, it needs no further adjustments or review. However, as life is filled with exciting milestones as well as hardships, it is crucial that you regularly update your estate plan as life is constantly evolving. Planning an estate is a beneficial way to manage and protect your assets and ensure that your wishes and desires will be fulfilled after death. In this article, we will explore the importance of frequent revision of your estate plan and key life events that prompt reevaluation.

The Best Times to Update Your Estate Plan

Why is it necessary to continuously review your estate plan?

Life is constantly filled with ups and downs including new births, deaths, marriages and divorces and it is important to be prepared for any situation. Regularly reviewing your estate plan can ensure that it aligns with your current circumstances and desires. This will allow you to address any recent changes in your family, designate beneficiaries and update other important information including appointing guardians for children. Periodic revision of your plan can lessen the potential for disputes among beneficiaries and family members and ensures that your wishes and desires are up to date.

Your financial situation is prone to change throughout your life. You may obtain and sell assets or might start a business which can have ramifications on your estate plan. By taking the proper steps to protect your assets, including updating your estate plan, you can ensure that they are distributed in alignment with your desires and lessen the potential for challenges in the future.

Additionally, Laws and policies are not static and they are always subject to change. Failing to be informed about recent policy changes can have implications on your estate plan. It is important to stay up to date about recent tax laws because it will provide you with the opportunity to maximize tax savings. Consulting with an estate planning attorney can help you ensure that your plan aligns with the most recent laws and regulations.

When is the best time to review my estate plan?

Below is a list of some essential life events after which you should consider reviewing and updating your estate plan accordingly. 

  1. Marriage or divorce- Whether you and your partner are joining lives through marriage, or separating through divorce, these events call for a review of your estate plan. Updating your plan after these life events provides you with an opportunity to account for your spouse, consider children from previous relationships as well as modify beneficiary designations.
  2. Birth or adoption of a child- The welcoming of a new child into your life is an exciting milestone, and also prompts for an updated estate plan. A new child may encourage you to add guardians for your child and set up trusts in preparation of your child’s financial future.
  3. Changes in your financial circumstances- Your plan should be reviewed thoroughly and updated in the event of substantial changes in your financial situation. For example, after the buying and selling of assets or receiving an inheritance, it is important to take advantage of new financial opportunities by updating your plan.
  4. Death of a loved one- If a loved one or beneficiary in your plan passes away, it is essential to make the necessary adjustments to your plan including the addition of new beneficiaries.
  5. Relocation- Moving to another state or country is a major event that requires the revision of your estate plan. Different states and countries have different laws and regulations in regard to tax and estate, therefore, in order to ensure your plan aligns with the local laws, it is necessary to review your plan and make the appropriate adjustments.
  6. Changes in laws- Laws are constantly evolving and they are always subject to change. Therefore, when estate and tax laws are created or changed, it is important to review your plan and make sure it conforms to the current legal policies.
  7. Retirement- As you approach retirement, it becomes especially important to address things such as income planning and healthcare in your estate plan as well as ensuring the future protection of your assets.

Regularly updating your estate plan is a crucial responsibility that should not be overlooked. Life can be extremely unpredictable, between family and financial circumstances, and it is essential to ensure your plan is up to date. Doing so can protect both your assets and your loved ones. To consult with a knowledgeable and experienced estate planning attorney, please contact the Trust and Estate Planning Law Office at (718) 333–2395.

How to keep your money within

How to keep your money within

Planning for your future is imperative for preserving and passing on your wealth. An estate plan will not only allow you to secure your earnings for your loved ones but also save money in estate taxes. When leaving an inheritance, your heirs may be subject to various estate taxes and fees associated with passing on assets. The idea of estate planning may seem unnecessary to some, whether due to non-marital status, not having children, or a perceived lack of assets. However, these are misconceptions that underestimate the value of your estate. Everyone, regardless of their family situation and finances, has an estate that can benefit from estate planning services. By seeking the expertise of an experienced estate planning attorney, you can preserve your estate, retain its value, and strategically plan for the future.

How to Keep Your Money Within the Family with Estate Planning

Why is estate planning significant? An estate plan enables you to decide who will inherit your assets, how they will be distributed, make plans for your funeral and burial, as well as select guardians for your children. For individuals in single households without children, spouses, or living relatives, estate planning becomes even more crucial as you need to consider the future of your assets and healthcare. Planning ahead ensures you are prepared for any sudden life changes.

Initiating a Trust

For individuals with substantial estates or concerns about their heirs' responsibility with inheritance, creating a trust and appointing a trustee for asset distribution is critical. There are many ways to set up a trust, but an irrevocable trust provides the most tax benefits. In an irrevocable trust, the money no longer belongs to you but to the trust itself, which protects it from estate taxes. Another way to ensure your money stays within the family is by setting up a dynasty trust, which safeguards the money within your estate for future generations and shields it from divorce, lawsuits, and creditor claims. In New York state, a dynasty trust remains effective for another 21 years after the death of the last person for whom the trust was created. This trust not only avoids estate taxes but also the generation-skipping transfer tax.

Retirement Accounts to Roth Accounts

Leaving heirs with traditional 401(k) or IRA accounts can result in substantial tax bills. Under current laws, non-spouse heirs are required to withdraw all the money within the account within a ten-year span, potentially leading to higher taxes due to the increased taxable income. Converting traditional accounts to Roth accounts can help avoid these tax burdens. While the amount converted is subject to regular income taxes, withdrawals from Roth accounts are tax-free, providing long-term tax savings.

Plan for Long-Term Care Expenses

Long-term care expenses can significantly impact your assets and financial well-being. Incorporating long-term care considerations into your estate planning can help mitigate these costs. One effective strategy is to explore long-term care insurance options that provide coverage for medical and care expenses in the event of a chronic illness or disability. Additionally, Medicaid planning allows you to structure your assets and income in a way that qualifies you for government assistance while preserving your estate. Setting up trusts, such as irrevocable Medicaid trusts, can protect assets from being counted for Medicaid eligibility purposes. Proactive planning for long-term care expenses safeguards your assets and ensures that you receive the necessary care without depleting your estate.

In conclusion, estate planning is a multifaceted process that can save you money and provide financial security for your loved ones. By considering the various aspects of estate planning, such as trusts, retirement account conversions, and long-term care planning, you can strategically manage your assets, minimize tax liabilities, and protect your estate. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is crucial to ensure that your estate plan is tailored to your unique circumstances and goals. Take the first step in securing your financial future by contacting the Trust and Estate Planning Office at (718) 333-2395.

Essential Estate Planning Guide for Veterans: Strategies, Tips & Benefits

Essential Estate Planning Guide for Veterans: Strategies, Tips & Benefits

When we picture veterans, we often think of the courageous acts and heroic sacrifices made to protect our country. These brave individuals have defended our freedom while facing countless challenges while serving our country. Unfortunately, oftentimes their selfless acts lead them to forget about themselves. In our case, veterans often forget to create a well thought out estate plan and inform themselves of veteran benefits they may have access to. Anyone, including active military personnel, should consider estate planning in order to ensure their loved ones are well taken care of in the event of their passing. In this article, the trust and estate planning office will cover some crucial estate planning strategies for veterans as well as the benefits veterans may be entitled to unknowingly.

Serving Those Who Served: A Guide to Estate Planning for Veterans

A Guide to Estate Planning For Veterans

Write a will- A will is a legal document which outlines the desires of the testator, or the individual writing the will, and ensures that their assets are distributed accordingly after death. A will is an essential aspect of your estate plan to ensure that your assets will be distributed to the proper beneficiaries. In addition to outlining your asset distribution plan, a will also allows you to name guardians for minors in the event of your death as well as designate an executor, who will ensure that your will is carried out. A will only takes effect after your death.

Establish power of attorney- Your power of attorney is a legal document which designates an individual to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you are incapable of doing so. Unlike a will, your power of attorney is effective during your lifetime. If at any point you are incapable of making decisions or managing your affairs on your own, your power of attorney will do it for you. With the risks of military service, establishing a power of attorney can be extremely beneficial in the event that you become incapacitated.

Create trusts- Creating a trust is a beneficial way to protect and manage your assets. A trust is an entity that specifies who will receive your assets and how you want them handled in the event of incapacitation. Unlike a will, a trust takes effect while you are alive. A trust also skips probate court, a process intended to settle a deceased individual's estate plan, and minimizes taxes, which makes it an efficient way to protect your assets.

Purchase life insurance- As a veteran, you may be eligible for life insurance benefits. Programs including SGLI, a program providing life insurance coverage for active military, and TSGLI, a program providing coverage for family members of active military, provide life insurance for veterans and their families. 

Healthcare directives- An advanced healthcare directive is a legal document which outlines your medical wishes in the event that you become incapacitated. Writing a healthcare directive can designate an individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapable of doing so. Additionally, it is beneficial to state your medical preferences such as your preferences on pain relief, resuscitation, life sustaining treatment, organ donation, mechanical ventilation, etc. to guide your family and medical professionals in making healthcare decisions.

Understanding Benefits For Veterans

  1. Social Security Survivors Benefit- You may be eligible for payments from social security if your spouse dies. If your spouse was of retirement age, you may receive 100% of their benefits, however the amount is less if the late spouse is under the retirement age.
  2. Improved Pension through the Department of Veterans Affairs- This benefit is a way for caregivers of veterans to receive payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for looking after them. These caregivers can be friends or family, however spouses are not eligible for payment.
  3. PACT Act- The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act was created to extend VA healthcare eligibility to veterans with toxic exposure. It also requires the VA to provide toxic exposure screenings for all veterans.
  4. Healthcare benefits- Multiple healthcare programs are in place to assist with healthcare expenses for veterans and their families. For example, TRICARE offers several types of coverage including health insurance for active duty families, National Guardsmen and their families as well as retired military personnel. Other programs include CHAMPVA, which shares the cost of medical care with the VA and eligible individuals, as well as PCAFC, a program which allows family or friends to receive payment for providing care to an eligible veteran. These programs are in place to assist former or current military members and their families with finances.
  5. Life insurance programs- Multiple life insurance policies exist for veterans which cover not only active military, but their family members as well. SGLI is a low cost life insurance policy for service members, including active military personnel. FSGLI is a similar program but covers family members of active service members.
  6. Burial benefits- In the event of the death of a veteran, free of charge burial services and grave markers are provided in a national cemetery. If family members decide on an alternative location of burial, there are limitations on financial assistance from the government.

Estate planning for veterans is not only necessary, but is also a powerful way to honor their service and protect their loved ones. By creating an adequate estate plan, veterans can ensure that their assets are protected and their family is provided for in the event of their passing. From creating trusts to learning about the unique benefits offered to veterans, there are numerous strategies to help veterans plan their estate. The process may be overwhelming, which is why hiring an experienced estate planning attorney can provide you with peace of mind during this process. For all your estate planning needs, contact the Trust and Estate Planning Office at (718) 333–2395.

Estate Planning Secrets for a Blissful Retirement Under the Older Americans Act

Estate Planning Secrets for a Blissful Retirement Under the Older Americans Act

Old age is a daunting prospect for most, as leaving work and living a retired lifestyle simply is not compatible with most people’s lifetime of hard work and sacrifice. Old age, however, should not be seen simply as a transition to the end of one’s life, but rather the opportunity for fulfillment and expansion of one’s horizons. In 1965, the Congress passed the Older Americans Act to provide community social services for older people. This act, which has been renewed through the 2024 fiscal year, provides for, among other things, nutrition and social services to the aged and their caregivers, organizes opportunities for civic engagement, and community service employment for lower-income aged Americans. As life expectancy has increased, so has the commitment of the United States to provide for its elderly communities. The reality of estate planning when entering later life should also be as smooth a process as possible, and consulting with an experienced elder planning lawyer will help you to understand the potential benefits retirees and older citizens can receive and the programs they can partake in, such as those provided by the Older Americans Act.

Relieving the Anxiety of Older Age and Estate Planning

The Older Americans Act

The Administration for Community Living, an organization dedicated to the health and independence of older Americans, is currently seeking recommendations for proposed updates to the regulations of most of its Older Americans Act programs, the most significant set of updates in nearly 30 years. The government of the United States has long sought ways to improve the lives of older Americans, and one of the most significant pieces of legislation it has passed is the Older Americans Act. First passed by Congress in 1965, the act was initially targeted at a lack of community-based social services for aging Americans. The original legislation established grant authority to states for community planning and social projects, research and development projects focused on older Americans, and training for personnel in the field of aging. The act also established the “Administration on Aging” to administer grants and serve as a nucleus for matters concerning older Americans.

Since 1965, technological and medical advances have increased the life expectancy in the United States, which means that more people are able to enjoy their retirements in later years. In  response, the Older Americans Act has undergone several reauthorizations and amendments. The most recent reauthorizations, in 2016 and 2020, which will last through the 2024 fiscal year, have provided for a year-long extension for the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, more autonomy for state and local governments regarding the allocation of National Family Caregiver Services to keep older people in their homes, and required the assistant secretary for aging to issues guidance to states on serving Holocaust survivors. These reauthorizations also have provisions for strengthening elder abuse prevention, screening efforts, fall-prevention, and chronic disease self-management programs. 

Estate Planning for Older Age

Although old age and retired life have been made easier since the introduction of the Older Americans Act and the expansion of benefits programs, estate planning and asset protection must be a priority for your golden years. An important aspect to consider in planning for later life is Medicaid.  As most older adults in the United States are at least partially insured by Medicaid, it is important to understand that eligibility is dependent on, among other things, one’s income and assets. Although estate planning might have the stigma of making one seem old or aging, it is responsible financial practice to plan ahead and ensure that you receive the health coverage you need. To this end, an experienced Medicaid planning lawyer will help you to create the best estate plan that protects your hard-earned assets while also ensuring that you receive the coverage you deserve.

It is important to understand that there are no entitlements with the Older Americans Act because Title III of the act does not create a legal requirement to finance services for individuals. Older Americans eligible for Medicaid benefits and over the age of 60 may receive services under the Older Americans Act, however, Medicaid-funded services often take precedence. Services that cannot be rendered by the Older Americans Act may still be available for Medicaid eligible persons. The intricacy of the social services provided under the Older Americans Act and other federal welfare programs such as Medicaid make having an elder planning attorney ever more important. An experienced attorney will help to determine which benefits and services one can receive and assist one in qualifying for the programs they need. 


Old age and retirement should not be seen as an anxiety-inducing or burdensome time, but rather as an opportunity for enjoyment. The older years of Americans have been made easier with the Older Americans Act and Medicaid coverage, but this should not prevent you from engaging in financial planning as soon as possible. Creating a comprehensive estate plan and planning for Medicaid will give you flexibility in planning your finances for your later years and give you the peace of mind to enjoy your retirement and the opportunities for engagement it provides. To speak with New York’s most experienced elder planning attorney, call the Trust and Estate Planning Law Office at (718) 333-2395.

Looking Ahead: Estate Planning for Early Onset Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Looking Ahead: Estate Planning for Early Onset Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Alzheimer’s and dementia are two of the most common fears that come with age, especially if you have a genetic predisposition to these diseases. The tragedy of these conditions is that there is truly nothing you can do to stop yourself from losing your memory. However, as you face this stark reality, it is important to be aware that there are steps that you can take, from a legal perspective, to set up your descendants for success before it is too late. When creating an estate plan, you must legally be of sound mind. If the attorney has any doubt that you have the capacity to make your own decisions, they are obligated by law to consult with a doctor. If you are at risk for developing early-onset Alzheimers, it is important to avoid delaying your estate planning journey.

Estate Planning for Alzheimer’s

Appointing a Power of Attorney

One of the most integral steps to take if you are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia is appointing a power of attorney. This allows you to communicate your healthcare preferences through legal documents. This also ensures that your medical and personal care decisions are aligned with your values and preferences, even when you are no longer able to make decisions due to cognitive decline. 

A power of attorney should be bestowed on the person that you trust most to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to do so. Your healthcare proxy will be the person advocating for you and reflecting your wishes. A durable power of attorney is equally as important. The person that you chose for this role will handle your financial affairs, pay bills, manage investments, and make any decisions regarding property or the law on your behalf. 

The Living Will

The fear with Alzheimers is that you will one day no longer be able to take care of yourself, and that you must rely on others to make decisions on your behalf. Perhaps the single most essential document in estate planning for early-onset Alzheimer’s and dementia is your living will. This document is crafted while you are in a sound state of mind, able to think critically about your future. A living will can contain any and all of your wishes for how you hope to live out the rest of your life. It gives you power over your future and gives advance directives to the people responsible for taking care of you. Your living will should include preferences for medical treatment and end-of-life care as well as your desires for life-sustaining treatment, organ donation, and other critical decisions.

Other Estate Planning Considerations

Just as you would with an ordinary estate plan, it is important to think about all of your assets and what you want their journey to be. There are various types of trusts that can be used to pass down different types of assets in a wide range of formats. While you can still make decisions, it is up to you to secure both your own financial future and the future of those you care about. You will need to designate guardianship for minors if you have children you will not be able to care for in the event of an early-onset of the disease. You should also consider your long-term care options and how they will affect your assets. 

If you plan to go to a long-term care facility or receive government-subsidized at-home care, there are important considerations. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will drain all of your assets, even liquidating properties, before turning to state-subsidies. In order to protect the financial futures of your beneficiaries, it is important that you set up an irrevocable trust. An irrevocable trust separates the ownership and control of the assets it holds. This means that you can continue living in your house, but since the asset is no longer legally owned by you, it cannot be targeted by nursing homes or other creditors. After you pass away, the house will safely go to your beneficiary.

Navigating this process is extremely difficult, and likely impossible, without an experienced attorney by your side. A good attorney will set you up for success to the best of their ability in your personal, financial, and medical future. If you have any further questions about when it is the ideal time to begin your estate planning journey, please call the Trust and Estate Planning Law Office at (718) 333-2395 to take your next steps.

Why is it important for Black families to write a will?

Why is it important for Black families to write a will?

Writing a will is not just an administrative task—it is a critical step that ensures your loved ones are provided for even after you are gone. Surprisingly, many individuals, including celebrities, neglect this essential aspect of estate planning. A-listers such as Chadwick Boseman, John Singleton, and PnB Rock tragically passed away without a will in place, leaving their hard-earned legacies to be tangled in lengthy and costly probate battles. However, it is Singleton and PnB Rock’s estate that draws our attention, serving as recent and instructive case studies from which we can learn valuable lessons.

Why is it important for Black families to write a will?

Estate Planning Within the Black Community

Startling statistics from a recent 2021 survey on wills and estate planning reveal a stark reality: while 33% of Americans have taken the crucial step of creating a will, only 27.5% of Black Americans have done the same. It is estimated that over the next 25 years, $68 trillion will be transferred from American households to inheritors and charity. However, due to the underrepresentation in estate planning, the Black community stands at risk of missing out on a substantial portion of this transformative wealth transfer.

The confusing reality of wealthy individuals, including Black celebrities, who fail to establish a will after their passing raises a fundamental question: How could individuals with significant wealth find themselves in such a vulnerable position? The answer lies in a larger issue: the lack of emphasis or education surrounding the importance of wills and estate planning, not only for these individuals but also within the broader Black community.

This can be attributed to various complex reasons such as redlining, a discriminatory practice that emerged in the 1930s and refused financial services to individuals on the basis of race and ethnicity. Through this practice, segregation was reinforced as limited housing opportunities forced Black individuals into concentrated pockets for poverty thus limiting the ability to move into more prosperous neighborhoods. Concentrated pockets of poverty translates to restricted access to quality education, healthcare, and job opportunities. All of these factors have an impact on knowledge of wealth building opportunities such as estate planning to this day.

The Case of John Singleton

 John Singleton is a Black film director, screenwriter, and producer who passed away in April 2019. He’s best known for his film debut “Boyz n the Hood”, and most recently his work as co-writer for the Hulu Original “Snowfall”. At the time of his death, his estate was valued at $6.8 million. The contents of his estate include a Los Angeles home, a 1999 Lexus, a 2003 Mercedes Benz, a 2012 sailboat, ownership of 70% interest in Crunk Pictures, LLC, and was the owner of the New Deal Productions that was valued at $3.2 million.

However, at the time of his death, Singleton had no trust and an outdated will that was created in 1993. He was a father to several children, but only his eldest daughter was included in the outdated will. As one can imagine, when it came time to settle the distribution of his estate, his children were in a battle to acquire their portion of the foregone estate. This battle began after the Singleton’s passing in 2019 and recently ended in February 2023. This is a testament to the extensive process of probating. Aside from the tragic passing of Singleton, another tragedy is the effect probating has had on his family. For the past 4 years, the Singleton family have slandered each other on social media amid discourse about various subjects, but specifically about the distribution of the estate. This not only tarnishes the household name, but also the grieving process. This could have been avoided had the will been updated.

PnB Rock and the Importance of a Will When You’re Young

The rapper and singer PnB Rock is another example of a celebrity who made the mistake of not writing a will. PnB Rock passed away in September of 2022, and left behind Stephanie Sibounheuang, his girlfriend and the mother of his daughter. On Instagram LIVE, she shared that her boyfriend had no life insurance or a will. “We didn’t have nothing set up. We’re so young, we didn’t plan on death. I don’t get no death benefits. I don’t get nothing.” Furthermore, the mother of his child, due to the absence of a will, has been faced with the task of providing for herself as well as her child on her own. 

Writing a will is essential to making sure your loved ones are taken care of. No matter how young or old you are, having a will should be a priority. Life is unexpected and as Sibounheuang stated, they were so young that they didn’t plan on death. Death is not something that can be planned but an estate is. Writing a will seems intimidating to many, but with help from a credible attorney, the process will be made simpler.

The trust and estate planning office specializes in wills and trusts while also understanding the unique challenges faced by Black Americans when it comes to estate planning. In addition to Inna's impressive credentials, our clients have consistently praised her compassionate approach to addressing their concerns during what can be a stressful process. One client expressed, “First she made you feel at ease with [the] entire process and spoke to my family very frankly and openly giving them episodes from her experience [of] how something could go wrong so they had a good idea of what type of trust they need to set up.” When seeking will and trust services, Inna Fershteyn is the professional to trust. To begin drafting your will today, please contact our dedicated Trust and Estate Planning Office at 718-333-2395.

How do Non-marital Children Inherit Wealth Under NY State law if their Parents Die Without a Will?

How do Non-marital Children Inherit Wealth Under NY State law if their Parents Die Without a Will?

Loved ones are not always family by blood, especially as the traditional, “nuclear family” structure is fading in frequency. In the eyes of the law, a legal family may differ from what society typically defines as a family unit. While this distinction may seem unfair, it is important to understand that there are specific measures one must take to align legal status with emotional and familial bonds. When you die without a will, or die intestate, your assets go through the probate process and then are distributed according to the law. Not only do legal beneficiaries often lose money to probate fees, but New York State law only takes into account legally named children as beneficiaries. By creating a strong estate plan, you will ensure that those you love, no matter your relationship, will inherit the assets you believe they deserve. 

How Nonmarital Children Inherit Wealth When Parents Die Without a Will

New York State Intestate Law and Nonmarital Children 

Intestate laws, which govern the distribution of assets when someone passes away without a valid will, vary depending on your state. New York State intestate laws are intricate and often difficult to understand. These laws may not align with your desired outcomes or yield ideal results for you and your family structure. To briefly outline basic New York intestate law: 

  • If the deceased has a spouse, the spouse inherits everything 
  • If they have a spouse and children, then the first $50,000 plus half of the balance goes to the spouse while the children inherit the remaining half of the balance 
  • If children die prior to the deceased, then grandchildren step into the role and inherit instead of the children

It is important to note that while adopted children inherit assets like a biological child, foster children and stepchildren are only allowed to inherit if they are legally adopted. Non-marital children, or children born to an unmarried couple, will inherit from their mother automatically without any further requirements. However, non-marital children will only inherit from their father when paternity is established. Paternity can be established through legal acknowledgment by the father, court determination, or genetic testing. If a non-marital child dies, their spouse, mother, and maternal family are automatically entitled to their estate. The father and paternal family are also included, provided that paternity has been established. There are more layers to New York State intestate law, but in summary, it is very complex and does not often act in your favor if you have a non-traditional family structure. 

In the event that a father figure dies prior to establishing legal paternity or an estate plan, a nonmarital child can still inherit wealth if they file a paternity petition with a family court and win their case. If it is possible to show DNA results, legal documents, or any other proof that would be accepted in a court of law, they can obtain a share of their father’s wealth. However, this is a lengthy process and it is often difficult to establish paternity after the father has passed, especially with no DNA test. After paternity has been established, the nonmarital child can assert their inheritance rights as a legal heir and file a petition with the probate court to make a claim against their parent’s estate. This process is filled with unpredictability and it can be months or even years before the case is resolved. As nonmarital parents, it is wise to consult with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney in order to explore your options to ensure that your child and assets are protected in the event of your passing. 

Avoiding Probate 

Creating an estate plan is a proactive and prudent step that can help you avoid the headache that comes with the probate process. By meticulously crafting an estate plan, you can ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Life flies by quickly, and you never know what might happen tomorrow, so it is never too early to make an initial plan. You must also acknowledge that estate planning is not a one-time endeavor. It is important to routinely update your estate plan when important milestones occur such as getting married, accumulating new wealth, and welcoming children. A well-thought-out and comprehensive estate plan goes beyond asset distribution, encompassing many different elements such as the establishment of trusts, designation of beneficiaries, appointment of guardians for minor children, and planning for tax implications. By considering all of these aspects, you will maximize your personal benefit and the benefit for your inheritors. This is especially important for parents of nonmarital children, specifically fathers, because New York Intestate law will not be on your side. By taking the time to create and regularly update your estate plan, you inevitably gain control over your financial legacy and ensure that your hard-earned assets fall into the desired hands. 

Estate planning can be a daunting task, and most people do not want to engage in such a process because it forces them to face their mortality. However, no matter how old you are, if you have any assets that you see as valuable, it is essential that you set up an estate plan. Estate planning gives you autonomy over who your assets go to and it helps descendants avoid dealing with the taxing probate process after you pass. In non-traditional family situations, estate planning is essential because New York State intestate law does not often work in your favor. It is important to have an experienced attorney by your side throughout your estate planning journey to help maximize the benefits and minimize the long-term costs. If you have any further questions or are ready to begin your estate planning journey, please contact the Trust and Estate Planning Law Office at (718) 333–2395.

Is it Worse to Die Without a Will in New York or New Jersey?

Is it Worse to Die Without a Will in New York or New Jersey?

There comes a time in everyone’s lives when they ask the question –– do I need a will? The answer is indubitably yes, everyone needs a will. When someone dies without a will, all of their assets, with the exception of assets that are held jointly or that require a named beneficiary upon creation, are distributed based on a state’s intestacy laws. A will is a document that lists the individuals your assets will be allocated to in the event of death, and having such a document can save your loved ones a lot of time, angst, money, and even legal fees. To get a basic sense of state intestacy laws, we can compare New York and New Jersey.

Is it Worse to Die Without a Will in New York or New Jersey?

Dying Without a Will in the State of New York

If you die without a will in the State of New York, your surviving spouse inherits the entire probate estate if there are no children or other descendants. In the case that there are children, the surviving spouse inherits the first $50,000, and the remaining balance is divided in half between the spouse and children. 

If there is no surviving spouse but there are children, the entire probate estate will be passed to those descendants. The children will take their share of the probate estate “by representation”, meaning that the assets will be divided equally among the members of each surviving generation, or the generation nearest to the deceased ancestor. If the individual does not have a surviving child or spouse, the probate estate is allocated to the deceased's parents and divided equally. 

In the absence of any direct surviving family, the probate estate will be divided in half between the deceased person’s maternal and paternal relatives. The specified order in which the probate estate is passed down begins with the grandparents on either side and subsequently moves to the first cousins once removed. If the surviving relative closest to the deceased is a second cousin or more removed, the probate estate passes to the State of  New York.

Dying Without a Will in the State of New Jersey

In contrast, New Jersey law distributes assets through a “branch system”, where priority is strictly given to the deceased’s surviving spouse if there is no written will. In this case, the spouse inherits the entire probate estate. From there, the situation becomes increasingly complex if children from different spouses and partners are involved. For example, if the current living spouse has children with the deceased, but also with someone else, the spouse will inherit 25% of the deceased’s estate – no more than $200,000 and no less than $50,000 – then the spouse will get half of the remaining estate while the deceased’s children split the other half. In the event of no surviving children or grandchildren, then parents, siblings, and siblings’ descendants are next in line. If no one in the second branch is alive, the last branch consists of grandparents, aunts and uncles, and descendants of aunts and uncles. If no one in the last branch is alive, and there is no living spouse, then unadopted stepchildren get the last chance to inherit before the deceased’s probate estate is seized by the state. 

Which is Worse?

Compared to New York, New Jersey’s intestacy laws are much more intricate, and, many times, your money may not be passed down in a direction that seems appropriate to you. 

The best way to prevent these headaches is by having a written will. A will gives you autonomy, and is a safe way to ensure that your assets are allocated to the people that you believe truly deserve to benefit from your life’s work. No matter how big or small of an impact you believe your assets will make, it is important to have a plan and give you and family peace of mind. If you have any further questions or are ready to begin your estate planning journey, please contact the Trust and Estate Planning Law office at (718) 333–2395.

Steps to Creating An Asset Protection Plan To Safeguard Against Creditors

Steps to Creating An Asset Protection Plan To Safeguard Against Creditors

An asset protection trust is a legal arrangement in which an individual transfers ownership of assets to a trust, with the intention of protecting those assets from future creditors or legal action. The trust is managed by a trustee, who is responsible for managing the assets in accordance with the trust's provisions. 

As mentioned previously, the primary purpose of an asset protection trust is to shield assets from potential creditors or legal action. By transferring ownership of assets to the trust, the individual can protect those assets from future claims. However, it's important to note that asset protection trusts are not foolproof, and there are limits to their effectiveness.

Creating Asset Protection Plan to Safeguard Against Creditors

Creating an asset protection plan can be a complex process, and it's recommended that you consult with a legal and financial professional who specializes in this area. However, here are some general steps you can take to begin creating an asset protection plan:

  1. Identify your assets: Make a list of all your assets, including real estate, investments, and personal property.
  2. Assess your risks: Consider the potential risks that could threaten your assets, such as lawsuits, bankruptcy, or divorce.
  3. Review your insurance coverage: Make sure your insurance coverage is sufficient to protect your assets in case of any risks.
  4. Separate personal and business assets: Keep your personal assets separate from your business assets to avoid liability issues.
  5. Consider forming a legal entity: Consider forming a legal entity, such as a limited liability company (LLC) or a trust, to protect your assets from lawsuits and other legal actions.
  6. Transfer ownership of assets: Transfer ownership of your assets to the legal entity you created. This can provide an additional layer of protection.
  7. Create a succession plan: Create a succession plan for your assets in case of unforeseen events such as disability, death, or divorce.
  8. Keep your plan updated: Regularly review and update your asset protection plan to ensure it continues to meet your needs and to stay up-to-date with changing laws and regulations.

Don’t Wait to Create A Plan:

One of the biggest mistakes an individual can make is to wait until a lawsuit has been filed or is about to be filed to begin protecting their assets. If you wait until this happens, your asset protection strategies may be exposed to creditors and used against you by a judge or a jury. Unfortunately, many people wait until something bad happens to begin asset protection planning, but for your plan to be effective, you need to create it before creditors come for your assets. Creating an asset protection plan is not something that should be done quickly and or serve as a temporary fix.

If you or a loved one are looking to draft a comprehensive asset protection plan that is unique to your circumstances, contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333-2395

Why You Should Review Your Estate Plan Before A Second Marriage

Why You Should Review Your Estate Plan Before A Second Marriage

It is becoming increasingly common for people to remarry and create blended families. When blended families are created, estate planning becomes a little more complicated. Estate planning for a blended family can be complicated because each spouse may want to provide for each other, their biological children, and maybe even their step-children/adopted children after their death. If this sounds like your family, you should proceed cautiously and read ahead for some guidance on estate planning. 


Estate Planning Considerations Before a Second Marriage

A remarriage may create a unique set of legal questions. People assume that their adult children will automatically inherit their assets when they pass away. People make this assumption because most of their property and assets have been spent with their previous spouse, who was possibly a  co-parent to the children, and the one who may have helped to build or sustain the family assets.

However, a new marriage means that the family property is governed by the laws of the new marriage. If there is no prenuptial agreement with the new spouse and they survive you, then they would inherit at least one-third of the estate according to New York laws. This means that your adult children from a previous marriage might be in for a rude awakening. A large part of the children’s inheritance might be gone due to the new spouse’s right to inherit one-third of their spouse’s estate.

In order to avoid confusion and possible heartache in the future, have these discussions with your family now. Consulting an experienced estate planning attorney will help with deciding the best ways to make sure your wishes are carried out. 

Elective Shares

As stated earlier, if a spouse dies, then the surviving spouse has a right to inherit a one-third share of the deceased’s estate. This is what’s known as an elective share. By law, a spouse cannot be disinherited unless they willingly choose to be. The only way that a surviving spouse can be disinherited completely is through a prenuptial agreement, where each spouse can agree to waive any claims to an elective share of one another’s estates. 

Your elective estate includes not just property in your name alone, but also most assets with beneficiary designations such as bank accounts, securities, IRA accounts, the cash value of life insurance, etc. Essentially, you would not be able to easily ignore your spouse’s rights to their elective share. One may assume that if assets are left in a trust for a child then it would be difficult for the surviving to claim their shares. However, the surviving spouse can still file a probate proceeding and possibly force the child to return the assets to satisfy the elective share law.

Prenuptial Agreement Before The Next Marriage

It’s important to recognize that a prenuptial agreement does not mean that a couple will be planning to get a divorce, or that spouses do not trust one another. Rather, couples are recognizing the importance of their upcoming legal commitment to marriage. Older clients who remarry often have important financial obligations from previous relationships such as alimony or child support payments. They may also have hard-earned estates they wish to leave to children from previous relations. In order to provide a solid foundation for their future marriage, people should consider sorting through their finances. By signing a prenup, couples are communicating their concerns for the future financial security of their other relatives and are expressing their respect for the hard-earned assets and accomplishments of their future spouse.

Review Your Estate Plan Before Remarrying

Before getting remarried it is important to focus on redoing your estate plan. During your first marriage, you may have created an estate plan, however this time it might be more complicated, especially if you have children from your first marriage and/or you have since then acquired more valuable assets. Here are some of the best methods we recommend to ensure that your interests are met when you remarry:

  • Take Stock. You and your soon to be spouse should take an inventory of your individual and/or shared assets and debts. Make sure to include life insurance policies and retirement plans in your stockpile. And be sure to disclose to each other all of this. It is best to be open and honest about money with your spouse. 
  • Financial Management Decision. Once you know what both of you are worth financially, then you two need to decide if you want to combine (or not combine) assets when you are married. For example, if one spouse has significant debt (ie. student debts) you may not want to combine finances or make any joint purchases. These decisions need to be made upfront so everyone is clear on what to expect.
  • Discuss Who Will Receive What. You and your future spouse need to figure out who will receive your estate when you die. This can be complicated discussion if you have children from a previous marriage. By law, if you leave all your assets to your new spouse, there are no guarantees that your new spouse will be required to provide for your children. If you would like to ensure your children are provided for, there are numerous options available. Some of these options include: creating a trust for your children, naming your children as beneficiaries on life insurance policies, or explicitly giving your children joint ownership of a property. If any of these options sound appealing for your case, consult an estate planning attorney for which option is best.
  • Double Check Beneficiaries. If you have a previous estate plan created, you should double check who you named as the beneficiaries on your life insurance policy, and/or retirement plan. Upon reviewing, you may want to change who you previously named. However, if you are divorced, you may not be able to change some of the beneficiaries. When you return to your estate planning attorney, be sure to bring your divorce decree so they can make sure you do not violate the decree. If it is the case that you can not change your beneficiaries, you can buy additional life insurance or retirement plans where you can include your new spouse or future children.
  • Consult An Estate Planning Attorney. Before you remarry and if you have an existing estate plan, you should definitely consider updating your last will. You might also need to update or even create other estate planning documents like a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy.

Before or maybe after consulting an attorney, be sure to be open and honest to your family members and loved ones about your wishes so there are no surprises. If you would like to review and create a new estate plan before remarrying, please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333-2395.