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Becoming a Legal Guardian

Under Article 81 of New York’s Mental Hygiene Law, a court is authorized to appoint a guardian to manage personal or financial affairs of an incapacitated person. Not all guardianships will be the same, as they are tailored to the necessities of the incapacitated person known as the ward. Some guardianships will only be granted to provide assistance with one specific need, whereas others will include assistance with many needs.
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Revocable Living Trust

A revocable living trust allows assets within the trust as well as income generated by those assets to be managed and distributed by the trustee. The trust income and property are then distributed in accordance with the terms and conditions of the trust. This type of trust is referred to as a living trust because it is established during the life of the creator.

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Keeping Your Will Updated and Naming Beneficiaries on Assets

A Last Will and Testament is an important estate planning document that contains provisions for assets and the distribution of property upon death. Unfortunately, many individuals fail to account for assets that do not pass directly under a Will. These assets may include life insurance policies, pensions, IRAs, and 401(k) or 403 plans. After the policyholder of these assets dies, the policies may distribute the benefits to their heirs at law if there is no beneficiary designation and no Last Will and Testament.

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Health Care Proxies and Power of Attorney

A Health Care Proxy is a document that designates an agent to make health care decisions on an individual’s behalf in the event that he or she is unable to do so. Federal regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), protect the confidentiality of an individual’s medical information as well as their ability to make health care decisions. The establishment of a Health Care Proxy and the HIPAA release form are the best means of carrying out health care decisions on behalf of loved ones.
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Increase in the New York Estate Tax Exclusion

As of April 1, 2017, the New York State estate tax exclusion increased to $5,250,000 from the $4,187,500 exclusion amount in effect since April 1, 2016.  As of January 1, 2017, the federal estate tax exclusion is $5,490,000. The New York State exclusion amount will remain in effect until December 31, 2018 and, as of January 1, 2019, this amount will be indexed for annual inflation.

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Voluntary Administration Proceedings for Small Estates

When a parent dies without a Will and leaves behind money (example $10,000) in a sole checking account, a proceeding would be governed by the small estate process. Not all estates require a full probate or an administration proceeding. If the deceased passed away after January 1, 2009 and has $30,000 or less in personal property, they are entitled to a voluntary administration proceeding, which is a simplified Surrogate’s Court procedure.

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Negotiating Legal Fees

Questioning an attorney bill is not that uncommon in today’s world. In fact, state and local bar associations both consistently report that fee disputes are some of the most common complaints that they receive against lawyers. This has even led some states to start up certain attorney-client fee dispute programs to resolve the issues. While attorney fees are most certainly not cheap, it is important to remember that in most cases the fees are, indeed, justified.

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Why Establishing a Durable Power of Attorney is Important

A power of attorney is an important estate planning document and can be an essential tool in ensuring that an individual’s wishes are carried out should he or she become mentally or physically incapacitated. A power of attorney is a standardized legal document that allows an individual, known as the principal, to designate a representative, known as the agent, to make financial decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated or unable to act on their own behalf. A power of attorney specifies how much power an agent will have and can be created with limited powers, broad powers and can become effective upon the occurring of an event. Many individuals assume that regardless of whether it is limited or broad that the document will contain the same language and provisions. However, more often than not, this presumption is incorrect and may lead to issues in the future.

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New York Homeowners May Be at Risk of Losing Foreclosure Help

Last year, the foreclosure rate in New York State surged and today thousands of residents are at risk of losing their homes. It was recently announced that state-funded resources that provide foreclosure assistance will not receive funding as of October 2017 and will stop accepting clients as of this spring. Currently, there are no plans to replace the funds allocated to foreclosure assistance. Some warn that the lack of foreclosure resources for New York residents can have devastating effects, leading to homelessness and homeowners falling victim to scams.

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Tracking down a Retirement Account

Many individuals have worked for different companies throughout the years and may have had a 401(k) plan worth a small amount of money when they left.  Some people lose track of these accounts over the years or find that their plan was transferred to another administrator. Sometimes, in such a case, the administrator may not be able to locate the plan.  Unfortunately, there is no central repository for missing 401(k) funds to date.

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