Quantcast

Jennifer B. Cona , Cona Elder Law

8 POSTS 0 COMMENTS

Why Hire An Elder Law Attorney

elder law
Getty Images

If you are concerned with the health and financial welfare of an older adult in your life, you need to hire an Elder Law Attorney.

Elder Law is a very specialized area of law that focuses on the legal needs of older adults. It encompasses key issues facing adults as they age, such as long-term health care needs, financial well-being and quality of life, and includes Estate Planning, Asset Protection Planning, Medicaid Planning, Medicaid Applications, Wills and Trusts, Probate, Estate Administration, Advance Directives, Special Needs Planning, and Guardianships.

If you have wondered: “What can an Elder Law attorney do for me?” take this 5 question quiz:

  1. Have you updated your Will in the last 5 years?

  2. Have you protected assets in case you need home care or nursing home care?

  3. Do you have a Living Will, Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney?

  4. Have you taken steps to protect your home?

  5. Are you willing to spend one-half or even all of your assets on the cost of your care?

If you answered “No” to even one of these questions, it’s time to see Cona Elder Law!

Asset protection planning is the process of safeguarding your assets in advance of a long-term health care need so that your hard-earned money can pass to your loved ones. Medicaid Planning means protecting assets by securing eligibility for government benefits.

Early planning is key. The current look-back period for Medicaid nursing home benefits is 5 years, 2.5 years for home care. Every adult should have an Estate Plan regardless of age or nwealth. In a Will, you set forth your instructions regarding who will receive your property upon your death. You can also name a guardian for minor children, protect assets in a Special Needs Trust for disabled beneficiaries and engage in tax planning. A Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy and Living Will allow you to plan ahead in the event of incapacity.

By engaging in asset protection and Medicaid Planning, families can ensure their loved one receives the care they need which they otherwise may not be able to afford; a healthy spouse who wishes to reside in the home will have the financial resources to continue to do so; their assets will not be subject to Medicaid’s estate recovery program, particularly real estate liens.

A knowledgeable, reputable Elder Law attorney is worth her weight in gold. Your loved one’s health, well-being and financial security is at stake. Your inheritance is at stake. Not only do you need an Elder Law attorney, you need an experienced one. Look for an Elder Law attorney or firm that ONLY practices Elder Law. The laws are constantly changing and the attorneys need to be dedicated to this area of law 100% of the time, like the attorneys at Cona Elder Law.

Jennifer B. Cona, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Cona Elder Law PLLC. Cona Elder Law is an award-winning law firm concentrating in the areas of elder law, estate planning, estate administration and litigation, and health care law. The firm has been ranked the #1 Elder Law Firm by Long Island Business News for eight consecutive years. For additional information, visit conaelderlaw.com

 

 

Irrevocable or Revocable: Which Trust Is Right For You?

trust
Getty Images

All trusts are not created equally; there are many different types used for a variety of purposes. Two common types of trusts in estate and asset protection planning are revocable and irrevocable trusts.

A revocable trust is a trust where you, the trust creator, reserve the right to revoke or change the trust at any time. If properly structured and funded, a revocable trust can be helpful in avoiding probate and allowing for easier management of assets during incapacity. Beware, however, that a revocable trust offers no asset protection. For Medicaid purposes, all of the assets in a revocable trust are considered available and may have to be spent down on the costs of care.

The better option for most older adults is an irrevocable trust. This type of trust cannot
be revoked or changed by you alone, but can be with the consent of the trust beneficiaries. The benefit of making a trust irrevocable is that it can be structured as a Medicaid asset protection trust.

An irrevocable trust set up for asset protection purposes can hold almost any type of asset, including your home, bank accounts, and investments. You cannot have access to the principal of the trust, but you can retain the right to receive the income (dividends and interest). After five years have passed, the assets held in the trust are protected with respect to Medicaid. You would not have to spend down those assets on the cost of care, and instead they are protected and will be inherited by your beneficiaries.

By properly planning ahead, your assets can be maintained for quality-of-life items and ultimately left to your heirs. But creating the trust is only the first step. The trust also has to be funded, meaning assets must be transferred or re-titled into the name of the trust.

For many families in the metro NY area, their most valuable asset is their home. As such, we often transfer title to the home to the irrevocable asset protection trust in order to protect its value. You can still sell your home, purchase a new property, keep your real estate tax exemptions, and no one can sell your house without your consent. Other assets can be placed in a trust for asset protection purposes as well, such as investment accounts, bank accounts, mutual funds, and life insurance.

With the escalating cost of healthcare, it is more important than ever for older adults to
protect the assets they worked their whole lives to save from a sudden healthcare crisis. An irrevocable trust is an important tool in that asset protection plan. Contact the experienced attorneys at Cona Elder Law to discuss your asset protection plan.

Jennifer B. Cona, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Cona Elder Law PLLC. Cona Elder Law is an award-winning law firm concentrating in the areas of elder law, estate planning, estate administration and litigation, and health care law. The firm has been ranked the #1 Elder Law Firm by Long Island Business News for eight consecutive years. For additional information, visit conaelderlaw.com.

 

 

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters hereSign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

Covid Wake-up Call: Young Families Realize the Importance of Estate Planning

cona elder law
Getty Images

Jill’s husband Rob fell critically ill with Covid and was on a ventilator. They did not have wills, and by the time they sought to have a will drafted for Rob, he passed away before it was signed. The laws of intestacy controlled the distribution of Rob’s estate, so Jill received $50,000 and one-half of the assets and their children, ages 15 and 13, received the other one-half. Certainly not what Jill and Rob intended or wanted.

Covid has taught us that the unexpected and unthinkable can happen to any of us at any time. This wake-up call has resulted in younger families prioritizing their personal affairs to be sure they are in order. Protecting yourself, the ones you love, and your assets starts with estate planning.

Last Will and Testament: The most essential document in your estate plan is a Last Will & Testament. This is a legally binding declaration of how you wish to have your assets and property distributed upon your death. Young families typically execute Wills in order to name guardians of their minor children. It is also important to leave assets in trust for minors until an age you specify (i.e. 18, 25, 30). If you have a child with special needs, it is critical that you direct your child’s inheritance into a Special Needs Trust so that your child will not lose their government benefits (Medicaid, SSI) upon receiving the inheritance.

Advance Directives: These legal documents, namely, a Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and Living Will, allow you to plan ahead in the event of incapacity. These important documents enable you to keep control of key financial and health care decisions by making arrangements in advance and appointing trusted agents to assist you in the future.

Note that the Power of Attorney Law just changed on June 13. As of that date, wholesale changes to this legal document were made so be sure you sign the new Power of Attorney document.

Virtual Access/Document Vault: Cona Elder Law offers a virtual document vault so you can securely store your important estate planning documents for on-line access anywhere at any time. You and whomever you authorize will be able to access your important legal documents wherever and whenever they are needed.

We’ve had the Covid wake-up call. Now is the time to take action to protect yourself, your assets and your loved ones. Be sure to seek the services of the experienced attorneys at Cona Elder Law to receive your customized trust, estateand elder law plan.

Jennifer B. Cona, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Cona Elder Law PLLC. Cona Elder Law is an award-winning law firm concentrating in the areas of elder law, estate planning, estate administration and litigation, and health care law. The firm has been ranked the #1 Elder Law Firm by Long Island Business News for eight consecutive years. For additional information, visit conaelderlaw.com.

 

 

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters here. Sign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

The New Power of Attorney: What You Need to Know for June 13

power of attorney

As we reflect on the lessons learned during the pandemic, one thing is certain: the unexpected and unthinkable can happen to any one of us at any time. People
of all ages are rushing to get their estate planning affairs in order. A Power of Attorney is a critical legal component of any estate plan.

New York State passed legislation simplifying the Power of Attorney document effective June 13, 2021. Here’s what you need to know:

What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to name a trusted person to handle financial transactions and make financial decisions for you, such as paying bills, handling banking, insurance, real estate transactions and asset transfers, even if you
become incapacitated.

What Changed?
The new law simplified the Power of Attorney (POA) legal document and its execution. For example, the Statutory Gifts Rider has been eliminated. In addition, the basic statutory gifting amount has been increased from $500 to $5,000. Execution of the POA has been streamlined. Importantly, banks and other financial institutions can no longer reject your POA out-of-hand or require their own document, a problem encountered by countless clients. Under the new law, financial institutions must accept or reject your POA within 10 days of submission. If your POA is rejected, the financial institution must provide you with a valid reason in writing. Further, an institution which unreasonably refuses to accept a POA can be sued and you can be awarded damages and attorney fees.

Does Everyone Need a New Power of Attorney?
No. If your Power of Attorney (POA) was properly executed and in compliance with the law at the time it was signed, you do not need a new POA. However, the new POA has extra protections for clients, as noted above, so you should consider when to update. If your POA is more than two years old, or if other circumstances have changed in your life or in your agent’s or beneficiaries’ lives, such as retirement or retirement planning, changes in health condition or care needs, births, deaths, divorces, marriages, etc., it is a good time to review your estate planning documents to make this and any other necessary updates.

Virtual Access/Document Vault:
Cona Elder Law offers a virtual document vault so you can securely store your important estate planning documents for online access anywhere at any time. Contact us to receive a customized trust, estate and elder law plan.

Join us for Power of Attorney Day! Receive a New Power of Attorney in One Visit!
When: Friday, June 18, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. & Saturday, June 19, 9 am.-3 p.m.
Where: Cona Elder Law, 225 Broadhollow Road, Suite 200, Melville
Call: Janet at 631-390-5000

Jennifer B. Cona, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Cona Elder Law PLLC. Cona Elder Law is an award-winning law firm concentrating in the areas of elder law, estate planning, estate administration and litigation, and health care law. The firm has been ranked the #1 Elder Law Firm by Long Island Business News for eight consecutive years. For more information, visit conaelderlaw.com.

 

 

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters here. Sign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

New Medicaid Law: Call for Early Asset Protection Planning

medicaid law
Getty Images

Susan and Jim worked hard their entire lives to create a comfortable nest egg that would last throughout retirement and allow them to leave an inheritance for their children and grandchildren. They were well-off but knew that the costs of long-term care, averaging close to $20,000/ month in a nursing home and $8,000/ month for home care, would wipe out their life savings in short order. They also knew that friends and neighbors in their position had taken steps to protect assets. 

There are many people like Susan and Jim: couples and families with too much money to qualify for Medicaid benefits now but too little money to pay for their own long-term care expenses for very long without depleting the family’s assets. Luckily, they don’t have to. 

Protecting Assets to Qualify for Medicaid Nursing Home Benefits 

To avoid spending down assets on the cost of nursing home care, it is critical to engage in asset protection planning by establishing an irrevocable Asset Protection Trust. But be aware: in order to protect assets, the trust must be irrevocable. A revocable trust does not protect assets. Almost any type of asset may be held in a trust, such as bank accounts, title to your home, brokerage accounts, etc. The key is to plan ahead; currently, an Asset Protection Trust must be established five years in advance (the current look-back period) in order to protect assets for Medicaid eligibility purposes. Since no one knows when a health care crisis may occur, early planning is crucial. 

Susan and Jim were relieved to learn they could qualify for Medicaid in the future and didn’t have to spend their life savings to do so. They found comfort in the fact that they would have access to the best possible care while still leaving an inheritance to their children and grandchildren. 

Medicaid Home Care: The New Look Back Period 

Most of us want to live in our homes for as long as we can. New York recently imposed a 30 month Medicaid look-back period for home care services. Any transfers of assets made during or after October 1, 2020 will result in a penalty period in the same way that the penalty is calculated for the 5-year look back for Institutional Medicaid benefits. Asset Protection Trusts can be used in the Medicaid Home Care context to preserve assets and secure the earliest possible Medicaid eligibility date. Again, because of the new law and look back period, early planning is key. 

Plan Today to Live Your Best Life 

The best time to engage in Medicaid and asset protection planning is well before a health care crisis occurs. Early planning allows you to keep your options open and to receive care where you want it, such as at home, in an assisted living, or to protect assets from spend-down should you require nursing home care. That said, it’s never too late to protect your hard-earned assets. Even if you’re already in a nursing home, we can still help. 

Jennifer B. Cona, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Cona Elder Law PLLC. Cona Elder Law is an award-winning law firm concentrating in the areas of elder law, estate planning, estate administration and litigation, and health care law. The firm has been ranked the #1 Elder Law Firm by Long Island Business News for eight consecutive years. For additional information, visit www.conaelderlaw.com. 

Join us for our May 18th Webinar: How to Qualify for Medicaid: Home Care & Institutional Benefits

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters here. Sign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

Estate Planning At Every Age: You’re Never Too Young or Too Old to Plan

cona elder law
Getty Images

Estate planning is important at every age. The type of planning required is different across the generations, such as during the earning and accumulating years, during the planning years in which a family is growing, and during the protecting years as a person approaches retirement and beyond.

One common denominator for all generations is the importance of a Last Will and Testament. Young and old, wealthy, and middle income individuals and families must execute a Will so that estate assets can be distributed pursuant to your wishes. Without a Will, the state laws of intestacy determine how your assets will be distributed. For example, $50,000 plus one half of your assets will be distributed to your spouse, with the rest of your assets passing to your children, even if they are minors. This is not what most people want, particularly since your children will receive those monies at age 18. 

Young families typically execute Wills in order to name guardians of minor children. Baby Boomers and beyond should focus on both estate planning and asset protection planning. In many cases, this can involve establishing a living trust and funding the trust with real estate and possibly bank and brokerage accounts as well. Transferring assets will begin the five-year look-back for asset protection and Medicaid eligibility purposes. If there is no healthcare crisis within those five years, all of the transferred assets will be protected and can be inherited by loved ones. 

People of all ages should have Advance Directives, namely, a Power of Attorney, Healthcare Proxy, and Living Will. A Power of Attorney is a legal document wherein you name an agent(s) to handle your financial affairs, such as banking, real estate transactions, asset protection planning, and more should you become unable to do so yourself. 

A Healthcare Proxy is a document wherein you designate someone to make medical decisions and communicate with medical providers on your behalf should you be unable to do so.  Everyone older than age 18 should have a Healthcare Proxy. For example, did you know that when your child goes to college, if there is a healthcare emergency, you will not be able to get any information or speak to medical providers unless you are your child’s Healthcare Agent? 

A Living Will is a document wherein you state your wishes regarding end-of-life care, such as artificial nutrition and hydration, pain management, and administration of CPR. By stating your wishes in this document, your loved ones do not need to make these extremely difficult decisions. Instead, they must honor your wishes.

Estate planning is critical at every age but it is also important not to “set it and forget it.” Your estate plan should be reviewed every five years, sooner if you retire or are contemplating retirement, if there are changes in your or your spouse/partner’s health, if there are changes to your family composition, such as deaths, births, divorces, or significant changes to asset levels (other than typical market fluctuations). And keep in mind that one size does not fit all; there are many case-specific issues that affect estate and asset protection planning. Only an experienced elder law attorney can properly analyze each situation and make the best recommendations.

April 16, 2021 is National Healthcare Decisions Day! Join Partner Melissa Negrin-Wiener at 8:30 a.m. for an educational and empowering webinar about the importance of advance care planning such as hospice care, end-of-life care options, and Advance Directives: Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Proxies, and Living Wills. To register, call Shannon Quinn at 631-390-5000 or email squinn@conalaw.com.

LEGAL ALERT: Learn about the changes to the Power of Attorney coming in June by attending our April 16 webinar. New York recently passed a law making substantial revisions to Powers of Attorney, including wholesale changes to this important legal document. These changes go into effect on June 13, 2021. 

About Cona Elder Law PLLC
Jennifer B. Cona, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Cona Elder Law PLLC. Cona Elder Law is an award-winning law firm concentrating in the areas of elder law, estate planning, estate administration and litigation, and healthcare law.  Cona Elder Law takes a holistic approach to elder law, providing support and resources for older adults and caregivers, and maintaining long-term partnering relationships with clients to provide the best solutions for multiple generations.  The firm has been ranked the No. 1 Elder Law Firm by
Long Island Business News for eight consecutive years and received the Business Achievement Award from the Hauppauge Industrial Association (HIA-LI).  For additional information, visit conaelderlaw.com.

Legal Planning For Children With Special Needs

special needs
Getty Images

Estate planning is important for everyone, but for families with a special-needs child, it is nothing short of critical. As a child with special needs approaches age 18, families must prepare for continued decision-making for that child and secure legal authority to do so.

Understanding the types of special-needs trusts and the guardianship proceeding available for individuals with special needs is the best place to start to protect your loved ones. Preparing a Last Will and Testament is the first order of business for parents of a child with special needs. It is important to make sure that your child’s inheritance is directed into a special-needs trust (also called a supplemental-needs trust) for the child’s benefit. Special-needs trusts permit individuals with special needs to retain funds from an inheritance without eliminating or reducing government benefits such as Medicaid or Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Third-party special-needs trusts are established by an individual such as a parent or grandparent with their assets for the benefit of a child or grandchild with special needs.
A third-party special-needs trust may be established and funded during the parents’/grandparents’ lifetime (a living trust) or may be established in a Last Will and
Testament (a testamentary trust) and therefore not created or funded until the death of the parent/grandparent. In either case, the creation or funding of the third-party special-needs trust has no effect on the child’s eligibility for government benefits.

Further, as another individual’s assets are used to fund the third-party trust, there is no payback requirement to the state. Instead, any assets remaining in the trust at the time the person with special needs passes away may be inherited by other family members or beneficiaries.

Self-settled special-needs trusts can be established by a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or the special-needs person themselves (if they have capacity) under the age of 65. The difference, however, is that this trust is funded with the assets of the person with special needs, such as lawsuit proceeds, retroactive government benefits, or an inheritance which was left outright to them. The trust must be a payback trust and therefore any funds remaining in the trust upon the death of the special-needs person must be paid back to the government as reimbursement for government benefits expended on their behalf.

Parents of children with special needs must plan for the child’s care beyond the age of 18. If parents wish to continue to make important decisions for their child after age 18, such as medical care, financial, and residential placement decisions, they must become the legal guardian of the child. A petition to become the guardian in this case is typically brought in the Surrogate’s Court and is appropriate for children with intellectual or developmental disabilities. An Article 17A Guardianship covers most decisions that are usually made by a parent for a child, including healthcare and financial decisions. The court can appoint a guardian of the person, the property, or both.

For more information on planning for your child with special needs, join us for our free webinar on Wednesday, March 3 at 10 a.m. schnepsmedia.com/webinars.

About Cona Elder Law PLLC
Jennifer B. Cona is the founder and managing partner of Cona Elder Law PLLC. Cona Elder Law is an award-winning law firm concentrating in the areas of elder law, estate planning, estate administration and litigation, and health care law. Cona Elder Law takes a holistic approach to elder law, providing support and resources for older adults and caregivers, and maintaining long-term, partnering relationships with clients to provide the best solutions for multiple generations. The firm has been ranked the #1 Elder Law firm by Long Island Business News for eight consecutive years and was honored as “A Firm that Makes a Difference” by the Hauppauge Industrial Association (HIA-LI). Cona Elder Law is located in Melville. For additional information visit conaelderlaw.com.

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters hereSign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

How To Use The Power of Your Attorney When A Loved One Passes

cona elder law
Getty Images

Coping with the death of a loved one is the most difficult life event we will ever have to face and it can be even more difficult when you are the executor or administrator of your loved one’s estate.

Managing the seemingly countless tasks involved can be overwhelming, but there are several things you should do soon after your loved one has passed:

• Notify the Social Security Administration if the funeral home did not do this for you.
• Contact pension companies to notify them that your loved one has passed.
• Secure original death certificates for each bank, brokerage, financial institution and insurance company where your loved one had accounts.
• Close your loved one’s credit card accounts to prevent fraud and identity theft.
• Collect mail to gather bank statements, bills and other financial documents.
• Locate the original last will and testament, trust, and any other estate planning documents.
• Gather all insurance policies.

Your attorney will need this information and the documents. Once the assets and
accounts are secured, you can press pause and take care of yourself and your
loved ones.

Probate and the estate administration process are complex, requiring not
only legal assistance but often financial and tax expertise as well. But with guidance and an understanding of some basic terminology, the process can be unscrambled.

When an individual passes away, a representative is appointed to manage the estate and ultimately transfer the estate assets to the beneficiaries. If your loved one had a last will and testament, the executor named in the will submits the will to the Surrogate’s Court. This is called “probate.” If the individual died without a will, the Surrogate’s Court will appoint an administrator of the estate to handle the administration. The laws of intestacy determine the priority order of family members who can serve as the administrator as well as which family members will inherit the assets.

Whether you are the executor or the administrator of the estate, you will need to: collect and safeguard all assets of the decedent; create a comprehensive inventory of all assets; open a checking account for the estate; handle real estate; pay bills; pay all debts and claims made against the estate; prepare and file tax returns; obtain waivers from all beneficiaries; and distribute all remaining money to the beneficiaries.

This is not an exhaustive list. Further, if complications arise, such as disputes, disinherited parties or family fighting, the process can become lengthy and costly.

Before any money can be distributed to the beneficiaries, you must prepare a comprehensive accounting of the financial transactions occurring within the estate. The executor or administrator must account for all assets received, income and interest earned, all bills paid, commissions earned, and any preliminary distributions already made to beneficiaries. This accounting ultimately absolves the executor or administrator from liability once all beneficiaries have received their distributions and have signed waivers.

In this complex area of law, the experienced and compassionate attorneys at Cona Elder Law are on your team helping you every step of the way so you can focus on yourself and your family.

To request a copy of Cona Elder Law’s Probate & Estate Administration Guidebook, contact us at elder@conalaw.com, 631-390-5000 or visit conaelderlaw.com.

 

About Cona Elder Law PLLC
Jennifer B. Cona is the founder and managing partner of Cona Elder Law PLLC. Cona Elder Law is an award-winning law firm concentrating in the areas of elder law, estate planning, estate administration and litigation, and health care law. Cona Elder Law takes a holistic approach to elder law, providing support and resources for older adults and caregivers, and maintaining long-term, partnering relationships with clients to provide the best solutions for multiple generations. The firm has been ranked the #1 Elder Law firm by Long Island Business News for eight consecutive years and was honored as “A Firm that Makes a Difference” by the Hauppauge Industrial Association (HIA-LI). Cona Elder Law is located in Melville. For additional information visit conaelderlaw.com.

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters hereSign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.