ESTATE PLANNING

It is important to have a basic estate plan in place regardless of the size and complexity of your estate.  Although it may seem like a morbid chore, estate planning offers several benefits.  In addition to providing for the orderly transfer of your property to the people or organizations you care about the most, a good estate plan can also:

  • Include instructions for your care if you become disabled before you die.
  • State your wishes for the kind of life-sustaining medical intervention you want, or don’t want, in the event that you become terminally ill and unable to communicate.
  • Name a guardian and an inheritance manager for minor children or disabled adult children.
  • Grant a person you name the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so.
  • Grant a person you name the authority to manage your financial affairs if you become unable to do so.
  • Provide for family members with special needs without disrupting state or federal government benefits.
  • State your wishes regarding anatomical gifts – whether or not you wish to donate your body after death for medical research and education.
  • State your wishes regarding how you want your remains to be treated after your death – where you would want them buried, or otherwise laid to rest.
  • Provide for loved ones who might be irresponsible with money or who may need future protection from creditors or divorce.
  • Provide for the transfer of your business at your retirement, disability, or death.
  • Arrange it so that taxes siphon as little as possible from your estate.
  • Give you the satisfaction of knowing your financial affairs are in order, so you won’t leave your loved ones with a costly administrative burden.

The goal of any proper estate plan is to accomplish these goals with the least amount paid in taxes, legal fees, and court costs.

Elements of an Estate Plan

An estate plan can include a variety of instruments, such as a will, one or more types of trusts (revocable and irrevocable trusts, insurance trusts, special needs trusts, or charitable trusts), and other documents, including advanced health care directives and powers of attorney.

THE TIME FOR ESTATE PLANNING IS NOW
It isn’t unusual for wills and trusts to go long periods of time without being updated. It isn’t unusual for nursing home costs to be as much as $15,000 monthly (in the NYC area), making long-term care financially devastating to many. It isn’t unusual for problems to arise when you least expect them to. Don’t put it off any longer, contact us to put a plan in place and secure your family’s future.

Wills

One of the most critical components of estate planning is the drafting of the will. A will is a written document that stipulates how an individual’s property should be dispersed after death.
Legally binding, a will can be an important source of direction for family members after a person dies. Understanding the intentions of the deceased helps prevent miscommunication among loved ones and keeps legal costs to a minimum. Fiore Law Firm, P.C. provides competent, compassionate legal services, including wills, trusts, and the protection of client’s assets, no matter what the size of the estate.

A will becomes effective at death, but it is not considered valid until it goes through probate. When writing your will, you are permitted to appoint a person to administer/probate your estate. If a person dies without a will, there are specific rules regarding the passing of property. Based on these rules, your property may be distributed to individuals that you did not want to leave property to.

 

Can you do it yourself?
You could, but because drafting a will is complex, and New York laws change over time, it is advisable to use the services of an experienced New York estate planning attorney like Fiore Law Firm, P.C. to be certain that your Will is effective.

The cost for drawing up a will depends on how much time it takes to fully examine and take into consideration all aspects of the client’s particular situation. Fiore Law Firm, P.C. always provides complimentary consultations and estimates for wills.

Whether you are in the initial stages of planning your estate, need assistance revising an existing plan, or have questions about other planning matters, we encourage you to contact us for a consultation.

It is never too early to begin estate planning.  Your first step is to take stock of all your assets.  These include your investments, retirement accounts, insurance policies, real estate, business interests, and valuable items (in financial or emotional terms), such as jewelry, cars, and coin or baseball card collections, for example.

Next, decide what you want to achieve with those assets and to whom you want to inherit them.  This is also the time to think about the people you would trust to handle your business affairs and medical care in the event that you become incapacitated.

Once you have some answers to these questions, you are ready to seek our advice and to help you create an estate plan that is specifically designed to meet your unique needs and goals.

Trusts

Understanding Trusts
A trust is a relationship between several individuals whereby property and assets are transferred by one or more persons, and held by a second or more for the benefit of a third. The creator of the trust is known as the “grantor, settler, or donor.”  He or she transfers property and assets to a “trustee” who has a legal duty to abide by the instructions of the trust for the benefit of the “beneficiary.”
There are many different types of trusts recognized under the law. The type of trust associated with planning an estate is a called a “living trust,” also known as a “revocable trust” or an “intervivos trust.”  A living trust is a formal legal document that, when executed, holds ownership (or “title”) to the property and assets listed in document.

In today’s complex world, there are many kinds of trusts available for many different purposes. We help guide clients through that maze to determine if a trust is the best planning tool, and if so, what type of trust will best achieve your goals.

Some of our clients need assistance in minimizing or avoiding federal and New York State estate taxes. We offer advice and assistance regarding life insurance trusts, irrevocable trusts, and other tax-planning trusts to lessen the impact of estate taxes.

We utilize a team approach, working closely with each client’s accountants, financial planners, insurance agents, and other professionals, in order to develop a comprehensive estate plan, which encompasses the “big picture.” We are committed to developing plans specifically tailored to best meet each client’s unique needs. We help clients understand the benefit of and differences between the use of a will, and revocable or irrevocable trusts. By laying the foundation, we assist our clients in focusing and clarifying their goals, both for present and future needs.

Advantages of a Living Trust
Living trusts are similar to Wills as they both provide instructions for how your estate will be distributed at your death; however, unlike a will, a living trust does not need to be “probated.” Probate is the process by which your name is legally removed from a property or asset after your death and ownership is placed in your beneficiary. This process can often be time consuming, expensive, and at times, very contentious.

  • A properly drafted living trust helps you avoid the complexities and inconveniences of probate because your ownership of the property or assets has already been transferred to the trust prior to death. This makes the process of transferring the property or assets to your beneficiary significantly easier and thus court intervention is not required.
  • Additional benefits of a living trust include its flexibility. If you set up a revocable living trust you can alter or amend the document at anytime.
  • Also, you can transfer full ownership of your property and assets to a trust but continue to use and manage them during your lifetime.

Setting up a Living Trust
Living trusts have become increasingly common as a substitute for a will; however, much like a will, setting up a trust is complex. You need the assurance that your trust will be set up correctly. In order to accomplish that, you need an experienced, skilled and compassionate attorney, one who will carefully listen to all of your issues and concerns, making certain the instrument created clearly and effectively communicates all your intentions. Marguerite A. Fiore has all of these qualities. For years, Ms. Fiore has been representing individuals in all five boroughs of New York City, Nassau and Suffolk counties and helping them through this sensitive and challenging time in their lives. She has worked closely with clients to create trusts that fully articulate their wishes and also effectively address every potential legal issue that may arise.

Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) is a formal written document that legally authorizes an individual to represent or act on your behalf in certain situations.  As the creator of the power of attorney, you are referred to as the principal of the power.  The individual you authorize to act on your behalf is the attorney-in-fact.  A power of attorney provides the agent with the ability to make financial and property decisions for you.  A power of attorney will be rendered legally ineffective upon your death, and if not “durable” then also upon your incapacitation.
Durable Powers of Attorney
Like an ordinary power of attorney, a durable power of attorney can be instituted at any time provided that you have the mental capacity to sign one; however, if you were to later become incapacitated, the durable power of attorney will remain in effect. A durable power of attorney is commonly utilized by aging individuals who anticipate they may need future assistance in making decisions about their health and well-being. However, as we all know, anything can happen regardless of age, so it is wise to have a durable power of attorney in place.  A durable power of attorney is an inexpensive and easy way for you to confer decision-making power to the person of your choice when the time is necessary.
Make Certain Your POA is Specific and Protection Your Interests
Although generic durable power of attorney forms are available from various resources, you should be cautious in using them for several reasons.

  • Every situation is different and a power of attorney needs to be crafted to address your specific circumstances. A generic durable power of attorney form is not drafted with you in mind and, accordingly, your interests may not be fully protected.
  • A New York statutory short form power of attorney requires specific language in order to be enforceable and effective for elder law and asset protection strategies.
  • When drafting a power of attorney, it is imperative you make certain your interests are protected.  Having a skilled attorney guide you through the process is the best way to ensure your durable power of attorney is drafted correctly.

Health Care Proxies

The Health Care Proxy is a legally binding document that can be executed without involving the court, making it a powerful, timely, and effective solution for families who find themselves with difficult medical decisions to make involving loved ones.
The Health Care Proxy names a trusted person as Health Care Agent.  The Health Care Agent is the person who will implement any and all health care wishes and decisions should an individual become unable to make them on their own.
The Health Care Proxy is a creative tool used by individuals establishing their “life plan.” This important legal document eliminates confusion and misunderstandings regarding medical decisions and keeps the patient’s choices the top priority, critical when communication becomes impossible.
Rather than viewing this document as a sign of dependence, Marguerite A. Fiore explains to clients that a Health Care Proxy shows extraordinary foresight and good sense. It also avoids the need for extreme legal measures like a guardianship.
Health Care Proxies and Health Care Agents can be changed or cancelled at any time, as long as the patient is able to make sound decisions.

The New York Living Will

A document which includes instructions for medical treatment and end-of-life care is called a Living Will. A living will is a written statement of an individual’s wishes regarding medical treatment. The statement is to be followed if the individual is unable to provide instructions at the time medical decisions need to be made. The health care proxy is significantly different from the living will in that it empowers another person (the agent) to make health care decisions if the patient cannot do so herself. The living will, on the other hand, has no such provision but enables a person to express her own choices regarding medical treatment. However, it is not often that a person can address every situation that may happen so it is always advisable to also have a Health Care Proxy in New York. Like a Health Care Proxy, a Living Will can be changed at any time, as long as the individual making the change is competent.