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Thursday, November 5, 2015

What is a Continuing Care Retirement Community?

These are alternative housing options for seniors, in which multiple levels of care, including independent living, assisted living and long term nursing home care are contained within one community. The number of these communities is growing rapidly in New York State.

An initial entrance fee is required. These entrance fees can range from $100,000 to $1MM, depending on the health of the resident, the type of housing, and the type of service contract. In addition to the down payment, the resident must pay a monthly maintenance fee, which can range from $3,000 to $5,000 a month. Additional fees may be incurred for housekeeping, social activities and transportation. The resident must maintain a Medicare and a Medigap insurance policy.

The advantage of these communities is having multiple levels of care prearranged in a single place, without a need for multiple moves. Since home care and nursing home care is arranged, Medicaid planning will not be necessary. There will be no need to transfer assets and the individual can retain control of all of his assets. Furthermore, depending on the contract, the down payment may be protected from an unexpected death. If a resident enters the community and dies 3 months later, the contract may provide for a refund to the family of a percentage of a down payment

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What are the Current Gift and Estate Tax Laws?

 

Current Tax Rates: The top federal estate tax return is 40%. The top New York State estate tax return is 16%.

Federal Estate and Gift Tax Exclusion: In 2015, the federal estate and gift tax exclusion is $5,430,000. That means that no federal taxes will be due for gifts made during one’s lifetime that in total did not exceed this amount. Similarly, no federal taxes will be due for estates whose assets do not exceed this amount, even where assets are passed to children or other non-spouse beneficiaries.  

The New York State has an exclusion of $3,000,000. This number is set to increase annually, until it reaches the federal exclusion in 2019. The New Jersey State has the smallest estate tax exclusion in the country of $675,000.

Portability of Spousal Estate Tax Exemption: if a predeceased spouse did not fully utilize his or her $5,430,000 estate tax exemption, the surviving spouse can utilize the unused exemption of her predeceased spouse.  This benefit, however, is only available for federal returns, and not for New York State returns.

Marital Deduction: No estate tax is due on any property which passes from the decedent to his or her surviving spouse. However, this deduction is only available as long as the surviving spouse is a United States citizen. If the spouse is not a US citizen, then, to take advantage of this deduction, property should pass to a “Qualified Domestic Trust” for the benefit of the surviving spouse, at which point it becomes fully deductible. However, there are a lot of requirements that need to be fulfilled for the QDT.

Step Up in Basis: the basis of a property acquired from a decedent is its fair market value (FMV) at the time of death. The income tax benefit is always a consideration when planning for estate taxes. When the beneficiary sells the property, his capital gains tax will be calculated on the difference between the market value at the time of sale and the FMV at the time of sale. If these are close in time, little or no capital gains taxes may be due.

  • When a husband and wife own property as tenants by the entirety, one half of the property is included in the deceased spouse’s estate, resulting in a step up in basis as to one-half of the property.

  • Where there is a joint tenant other than a husband and wife, there is a full inclusion in the estate of the first to die and a corresponding 100% income tax step up, unless the survivor can prove that she supplied part or all of the consideration.

  • When an owner reserves a life estate in real property and transfers the remainder to another party, there is a 100% tax step up in basis upon the life tenant’s demise.

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

When is Medicaid entitled to recovery of benefits paid? Part 1

  1. If Medicaid was paid improperly, the Department of Social Services is entitled to recover all improperly paid benefits.

         If Medicaid discovers that an individual was ineligible because the information provided was false, there will be 3 steps taken. First, any further medical assistance will be discontinued. Second, the case can be referred to the local District Attorney office for criminal prosecution. Third, a lawsuit for the civil recovery may be commenced, to recover the money overpaid.

         The first step in this process is usually a letter, received by Medicaid recipient, informing him that he is being investigated for Medicaid fraud, and asking him to come in for an interview.

 

2.     Medicaid is entitled to recover from the estate of anyone who was 55 or older when the assistance was granted. However, this recovery is limited by several important considerations:

  1. The recovery is limited to benefits paid within 10 years of individual’s death.

  2. Medicaid is excluded from making a claim against the estate of an individual who is survived by a spouse, a minor child, or a disabled child. However, the lien is held in abeyance only. Once the surviving spouse dies, a lien can be placed against the second to die spouse’s estate to recover Medicaid benefits paid to the first spouse.

  3. Medicaid may only make the recovery from the probate assets of an individual (those assets that pass under a will or by administration if there is no Will, and not part of a revocable trust, life estate or joint tenancy agreement).

Medicaid is a preferred creditor. As a result, Medicaid’s lien must be satisfied before other creditor’s claims and before any bequests to beneficiaries are distributed.

Most Medicaid liens can be negotiated.

3. Medicaid is entitled to recover from the proceeds of an action arising from an accident or malpractice, as the result of which the injured party received Medicaid benefits.           

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Estate Tax Implications for Fractional Art Ownership

In the past, the IRS has denied valuation discounts for fractional undivided interests in the work of art. As a result, shared ownership in a painting was not entitled to a tax discount during estate value calculation.

In a recent case, Estate of Elkins v. C.I.R. 140 TC 86 (2013), 764 F.3d 443 (5th Cir. 2014), a Tax Court and a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals appear to consider express restrictions on sale and use. Unfortunately, no decision on the ultimate discount value was given. However, the law is likely to develop on this issue further.

As a result, art owners who are willing to relinquish a part of their ownership to children, grandchildren or other family members, may now use this discount method to achieve substantial estate tax savings.

The information in this blog was adopted from the following article

 https://news.artnet.com/market/estate-tax-on-inherited-art-collections-323840

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Social Security Survival Benefits

Who is entitled to survivor benefits:  

A widow or a widower is entitled to full survivor benefits at the age of 66 (or 67, for people born after 1962). In order to qualify for the benefits, the spouse must have been married to the deceased for at least 9 months prior to death. Divorced spouses are entitled to the same survivor benefits (provided that the marriage lasted for at least 10 years).

An unmarried child is entitled to full survivor benefits until age 18 (or 19, if he is still attending a secondary school full time)

Dependent parents (defined as those whom the deceased supported for at least one half of their total income) are entitled to survivor benefits as well.

How much are survivor benefits:

The amount depends on (1) the earnings of the deceased (2) the age of the recipient spouse and (3) whether or not the recipient spouse continues to work.

The earnings of the deceased: of course, the more the deceased contributed to the Social Security system, the higher the survivor benefit amount will be for all recipients.

If the widow or widower has reached a full retirement age, then he / she will receive 100% of the deceased worker’s benefit amount. If the widow or widower has not reached a full retirement age, then he /she will receive between 71.5% and 99% of the deceased worker’s basic benefit amount.

If the widow / widower continues to work and he / she is below the full retirement age, then the survivor benefits will get reduced. If, on the other hand, the survivor is above the full retirement age, then the benefits do not get reduced, despite the additional income.

Surviving dependent parent is entitled to 82.5% of the deceased worker’s basic benefit amount.

The total amount a family can receive each month is between 150% and 180% of the basic benefit rate.

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Can you have a Digital Will in New York?

In a recent Australian case, Re Yu [2013] QSC 322, a digital Will was admitted to probate. Mr. Karter Yu, prior to committing suicide, drafted several documents on his I-phone, saying farewell to his family and friends. One of these documents was his stated Will, appointing his brother as an Executor. The court, after pain-staking analysis, admitted this electronic document to Probate. The court did this despite the fact that the legal requirements of the execution were not met.

In New York, which is very strict about observing all legal formalities, this bending of the rules would not have been permitted and Mr. Yu would have been considered to have died “intestate” – without a Will. There are several requirements for a Will to be valid in New York:

  1. A Will must be in writing

  2. A Will must be signed at the end by the Testator

  3. The Testator must sign the Will in the presence of at least two Witnesses

  4. The Testator must declare to the Witnesses that the document that he is about to sign is his Willwhile

  5. The two witnesses must attest to the Testator’s signature and must sign the document themselves.

The only exceptions that are permitted to the punctilious execution of these formalities are for members of the armed forces of the United States while in the actual military or naval service during a war or other armed conflict, a person who serves with or accompanies an armed force engaged in actual military or naval service during a war, or a mariner while at sea. Upon an expiration of one year from a discharge from armed forces, or upon an expiration of three years from the time the mariner returned from the sea, such a Will becomes invalid.

As a result, if one wants to have a proper Will in New York State, ALL legal requirements as stated above must be observed.

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

California Lawmakers resurrect the Right-To-Die Bill

The bill would allow doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients. The bill already passed the State Senate in June, but faced strong opposition in the Assembly, due to a large number of Catholic legislators.

The legislation was inspired by Brittany Maynard, who, after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, moved to Oregon in order to have an option to end her own life in a dignified manner. Before she died, Maynard left a video asking the California lawmakers to amend the state laws to allow others to have the same dignity.

The bill has support of nearly 70% of state residents. The bill contains a lot of regulations to protect against fraudulent prescription of lethal medicine and it does not allow the patients to end their own life (the doctor has to administer the medication).

Currently, 4 states in the country have laws permitting a legal method of ending one’s life. New York State Senator Diane Savino introduced a Death with Dignity bill in Albany in February 2015. The bill would permit prescription of lethal medication to terminally ill patients. Terminally ill is defined as an incurable illness that is expected to result in death within 6 months.  The bill is currently being discussed in the State Senate.

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Estate Tax Planning Considerations for Foreign Nationals

In 2015, a US citizen may gift during life or bequeath at death as much as $5.43MM without paying federal estate taxes. A foreign national, however, has an estate tax exemption of only $60,000. If a foreign national owns a $2MM house in US that they want to pass upon their death to heirs, the heirs will end up paying federal estate tax of $740,000 (plus additional state estate taxes).

To reduce the taxes, a foreign national can utilize the annual gift tax exemption of $14,000. This number is similar to the US citizens and the gift can be given to an unlimited number of beneficiaries, therefore Crummey trusts are very appropriate.

In addition, a foreign national can make gifts to a spouse. However, unlike a US citizen who can gift or bequeath an unlimited amount of money to a spouse without triggering an estate tax, a foreign national is limited to $147,000 of lifetime gifts to a spouse. Any amount greater will trigger a gift or an estate tax.

Canadians, however, benefit from a treaty that allows them the same exemption as US citizens.

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Google Updates Options Regarding Deceased User’s Account

Google has recently made much needed updates to the options available to gain access to the deceased account. Family or estate administrators may now upload death certificates, which Google will review, to determine whether to allow someone the access. Some of the options that fiduciaries now have, include:

  1. Close the account of a deceased user.

  2. Submit a request for funds from the deceased user

  3. Obtain data from a deceased user’s account

  4. Notify Google that user is deceased

  5. Resolve a potential hijacking of a deceased user’s account

In addition, Google added an option for living users to determine what will happen to their account after death.    These are similar to the recently added “legacy” options by Facebook.

https://support.google.com/accounts/contact/deceased?hl=en

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Heirs may not get to keep the money that factory owner earned through illegal activities.

When Arthur Mondella committed suicide in February 2015, he thought that his three daughters and his sister will inherit his $8MM fortune. Mr. Mondella committed suicide when his illegal marijuana growing business was discovered under the floor of his maraschino cherry factory. The factory was started by his grandfather and father in 1948, and the business appears to be legitimate. However, at this point, given how hard it is to tell which of the assets that he owned were from legal activities and which were from illegal ones, the amount that Mr. Mondella’s family will receive remains in doubt.

Under the civil forfeiture proceeding, the District Attorney office may seek forfeiture of funds obtained through criminal acts. The heirs cannot claim an “innocent owner” defense, because at the time the criminal acts were committed, they were not the owners of the factory.

The rules governing the civil forfeiture are arcane – the statute was adopted in 1881 and has not been updated since. The rationale for the statute is to seize money obtained illegally and to fund the NYPD to enable it to continue fighting the crime. However, it is very difficult to determine what amount of money was obtained illegally and what amount was earned through legitimate work. The incentive for the city, of course, is to claim that the largest amount of money possible came from illegal profits. Last year, NYC was projected to receive $5.3MM through civil forfeiture. The addition of $8MM from Mr. Mondella’s estate would be a nice increase to the NYC’s budget.

 

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

How much do Corporate Trustees charge?

Family Trustees: Very often, the Trustee of a Trust is a family member. There are many reasons to create a Trust, but most often all transactions are kept within a family. In those circumstances, the family member Trustee will often get paid nothing, or a nominal amount. The work is done out of love and affection.

Corporate Trustees: In other circumstances, however, there are no family members to act as Trustees. Alternatively, the entire point of the Trust may be to take the asset management and distribution out of the family’s discretion. In those circumstances, a corporate trustee may be the only solution.  

Minimum Balance: This solution, however, is not appropriate for every trust. Certain banks and some financial management companies provide Trustee services. Most banks, however, have a minimum balance below which they are not willing to manage the Trust. Chase, reportedly, has a $2MM dollar minimum trust balance. Other institutions may get involve with lower amounts (such as $500,000 trusts).

Fees: Annual trust management fees can range between 1-2% of the trust balance assets (this fee will cover administration, record keeping, and disbursements). In addition, the institution may charge a separate fee for the asset management services.

 

The information in this blog was adapted from

http://online.barrons.com/news/articles/SB51367578116875004693704580486391945783842

 

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.


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