What you need to know about Estate Planning:

Estate Planning
Estate Planning

From CNN/Money: Valuable and easy to understand information to help you get ahead of your Estate Planning needs. Click here to read.

For more information or free consultation give me a call.

Regards, Brian

by Brian A. Raphan, PC



5 reasons you should review your existing Will:

iStock_willIf you already have a Will you actually are ahead of the game. However, do you remember what your wishes were at the time you had it prepared? Or do you remember where a copy is? In a file cabinet? A safe deposit box? In any event it’s recommended that you review it every few years. Here’s 5 good reasons why:

​1. Changes in relationships
Maybe your relationships with people named in your Will have changed over the years? Maybe your favorite niece isn’t so favorite anymore and you don’t want to leave her your jewelry. Maybe your assets have grown substantially and you want a favorite charity to benefit. Or a second marriage has brought loving and wonderful new people into your life. Or there have been births of grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, that you may want to add to your will.
Whatever your circumstance, it’s recommended that you review your will and name a guardian(s) in the event something happens to you or your spouse. Also, if your children have reached the age of majority, you may wish to consider revising certain bequests, or even naming them as executors. Go through your list of heirs, guardians, trustees, or executors. Consider their circumstances. For example, are they still of sound mind and capable of serving in the role you have designated? Has a family member passed away or become incapacitated? These are some reasons you may need to immediately update your Will.

2. Changes in Assets
If your estate has experienced a substantial increase or decrease in value, take another look at your Will. Maybe you have bought or sold a major asset or started a business. Or have a new personal belonging you know a loved one will cherish.

3. Changes in Location
If you have moved out of the state where you executed your Will, you should consult an attorney in your new location to determine whether it is still valid. State laws vary, and you shouldn’t assume that your old will meets your new state’s requirements.

4. Regular Check Ups
If you haven’t looked at your will in a few years, right now is probably a very good time to start your initial review. You won’t need a lawyer for that. Start out simple–how do you feel about the people named in your Will. Look at your division of assets. If questions or adjustments arise then it may be time to give your attorney a call. Also, if you are over 65 years old, it is also recommended that you review your Will, especially as this is roughly the age when your IRA, 401(k) and or other qualified plans require you to begin taking your distributions.

5. Changes in Tax Laws
State and federal tax laws are constantly changing, so you will want to be aware of any changes that may affect you. You may only need a Will–an essential form of Estate Planning–but as your wealth, assets and circumstances change you may need further estate planning. Be informed and consult an attorney who specializes in Wills and Estate Planning. Of course we have in-depth knowledge in this area of law so give us a call for a free consultation or to simply learn the possible effects.

Begin your review with this checklist:
Consider these factors as you review your Will:
• Birth or adoption of a child/grandchild
• Marriage/divorce
• Death of someone named in your will
• Children have reached the age of eighteen
• A change in the circumstances of your executor, guardians, trustees, etc.
• You would like to provide for a charitable or other organization
• An increase or decrease in the value of your estate
• You started a business
• A change in tax laws
• You are approaching the age at which you are required to begin taking distributions from your IRA,
401(k), or other qualified plan.
• You moved out of state
• It has been three years or more since you have reviewed your will​

If you have any questions feel free to contact me.
Regards, Brian

10 Reasons to Create an Estate Plan Now

Many people think that estate plans are for someone else, not them. They may rationalize that they are too young or don’t have enough money to reap the tax benefits of a plan. Or if helping aging parents some think it may be too late to protect assets. But as the following list makes clear, estate planning is for everyone, regardless of age or net worth. 

As a listed attorney on ElderLawAnswers.com, I’d like to share their article and 10 valid reasons for Estate Planning.

1. Loss of capacity. What if you become incompetent and unable to manage your own affairs? Without a plan the courts will select the person to manage your affairs. With a plan, you pick that person (through a power of attorney). 

2. Minor children. Who will raise your children if you die? Without a plan, a court will make that decision. With a plan, you are able to nominate the guardian of your choice.

3. Dying without a will. Who will inherit your assets? Without a plan, your assets pass to your heirs according to your state’s laws of intestacy (dying without a will). Your family members (and perhaps not the ones you would choose) will receive your assets without benefit of your direction or of trust protection. With a plan, you decide who gets your assets, and when and how they receive them.

4. Blended families. What if your family is the result of multiple marriages? Without a plan, children from different marriages may not be treated as you would wish. With a plan, you determine what goes to your current spouse and to the children from a prior marriage or marriages.

5. Children with special needs. Without a plan, a child with special needs risks being disqualified from receiving Medicaid or SSI benefits, and may have to use his or her inheritance to pay for care. With a plan, you can set up a Supplemental Needs Trust that will allow the child to remain eligible for government benefits while using the trust assets to pay for non-covered expenses.

6. Keeping assets in the family. Would you prefer that your assets stay in your own family? Without a plan, your child’s spouse may wind up with your money if your child passes away prematurely. If your child divorces his or her current spouse, half of your assets could go to the spouse. With a plan, you can set up a trust that ensures that your assets will stay in your family and, for example, pass to your grandchildren.

7. Financial security. Will your spouse and children be able to survive financially? Without a plan and the income replacement provided by life insurance, your family may be unable to maintain its current living standard. With a plan, life insurance can mean that your family will enjoy financial security.

8. Retirement accounts. Do you have an IRA or similar retirement account? Without a plan, your designated beneficiary for the retirement account funds may not reflect your current wishes and may result in burdensome tax consequences for your heirs. With a plan, you can choose the optimal beneficiary.

9. Business ownership. Do you own a business? Without a plan, you don’t name a successor, thus risking that your family could lose control of the business. With a plan, you choose who will own and control the business after you are gone.

10. Avoiding probate. Without a plan, your estate may be subject to delays and excess fees (depending on the state), and your assets will be a matter of public record. With a plan, you can structure things so that probate can be avoided entirely.

If you’re still unsure if Estate Planning is for you, call me for a free consultation. You may find that a Will, or other measures such as an Asset Protection Trust may be appropriate for you or your family. Also, if you’d like my Monthly Newsletter on such subjects, click here and enter your information in the lower left corner to subscribe.

Sincerely, Brian



Quick Guide: Home Care Checklist

ChecklistEver wonder what to ask when hiring an In-Home Care agency?
I like this simple resource if you are considering In-Home Care. Download the checklist from Caring.com for future use.
Or read the full article by clicking here.
Sincerely, Brian


The Top Eight Mistakes People Make With Medicaid Planning

Medicaid PlanningOne of the greatest fears of older Americans is that they may end up in a nursing home. This not only means a great loss of personal autonomy, but also a tremendous financial price. Depending on location and level of care, nursing homes cost between $40,000 and $180,000 a year. Medicaid planning can be a difficult and confusing process. The following are some common mistakes people make when using Medicaid.

1. Thinking it’s too late to plan. It’s almost never too late to take planning steps, even after a senior has moved to a nursing home.

2. Giving away assets too early. First, it’s your money (or your house, or both). Make sure you take care of yourself first. Don’t put your security at risk by putting it in the hands of your children. Precipitous transfers can cause difficult tax and Medicaid problems as well.

3. Ignoring important safe harbors created by Congress. Certain transfers are allowable without jeopardizing Medicaid eligibility. These include: transfers to disabled children, caretaker children, certain siblings and into trust for anyone who is disabled and under age 65 ; a transfer to a “pay-back” trust if under age 65 ; and a transfer to a pooled disability trust at any age.

4. Failing to take advantage of protections for the spouse of a nursing home resident. These protections include the purchase of an immediate annuity, petitioning for an increased community spouse resource allowance, and in some instances petitioning for an increased income allowance or refusing to cooperate with the nursing home spouse’s Medicaid application.

5. Applying for Medicaid too early. This can result in a longer ineligibility period in some instances.

6. Applying for Medicaid too late. This can mean the loss of many months of eligibility.

7. Not getting expert help. This is a complicated field that most people deal with only once in their lives. Tens of thousands of dollars are at stake. It’s penny wise and pound foolish not to consult with people who make their living guiding clients through the process.

8. Confusion about the difference between lifetime liens on property and estate recovery. There are a number of exceptions to lifetime liens on property, but for estate recovery there is only a deferral for a surviving spouse and a hardship waiver.

Feel free to contact me directly for a free consultation and to see how Medicaid Planning can help you and your family.
Sincerely, Brian

Best Nursing Homes in the New York area

Bed SoresU.S. News & World Report Health is a valuable resource. Here is a helpful list compiled by ranking. There are 579 nursing homes in the New York City, New York metropolitan area, 159 of which received an overall rating of five stars from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. This NYC metro area includes Long Island, Westchester County, and northern New Jersey.
At the top of the New York nursing homes list are those with a rating of five stars from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for their overall performance in health inspections, nurse staffing, and quality of medical care. About 18 percent of all nursing homes in New York earned an overall five-star rating. Narrow your search for a Best Nursing Home by clicking on a metro area or region or by entering a zip code.

Of course, when considering a home for your loved one you should also consider factors important to you, such as proximity to your home, a major medical center, attention for specific medical needs and cost. If you haven’t done so already, Estate Planning and/or Medicaid Planning may be useful for you. If you need more information contact me for a free consultation.
Click here for the report.

Brian A. Raphan



Question: “I want to revise my Will… but it was prepared by another attorney”

Last Will & TestamentMany of my clients come to me by referral from other clients and other lawyers. And, many have had another lawyer prepare their Will years ago. It is not necessary for you to contact that lawyer or law firm if you want to make a revision. Changes in marital status, relationships, tax laws, assets, relocation or simply having different feelings are all valid reasons for you to review your Will and make a change if you desire. Once done you’ll feel better knowing your wishes will be met. Our documents are drafted using effective, but simple non-legalease “mumbo jumbo”, so that you can understand what you are signing.

Additionally, if you are the executor named in a Will of a friend or loved one, which was prepared by another Law Firm, you do not have to use that Law Firm to assist you with the estate proceedings when that friend or loved one dies. Often that firm, or the attorney, will be a stranger to you, may be in another state, may not have a helpful personality, may be non-responsive, or just may no longer be a practicing law.

Feel free to give me a call or email me in either situation. As your attorney I can be helpful in consolidating and simplifying the legal process for you.

Brian A. Raphan