Choosing a trustee and an executor

The requirements for a trustee and how to choose one

How do you choose a trustee? What qualities should a trustee have? Alisa Shin and Sarah Price of Vanguard Advice Services discuss the requirements for a trustee and how to go about choosing one.

Video: https://personal.vanguard.com/us/insights/video/3437-Retail-Exc3

Transcript:

Liz Tammaro: And, Alisa, what are the pros and cons of creating a trust?

Alisa Shin: That’s a great question. People hear the word “trust,” and they automatically think of controlling people, and that’s not necessarily true. There are a lot of different types of trusts. I think most trusts that people are familiar with are trusts that are irrevocable, trusts that can’t be changed. And for a lot of people, that’s scary because they end up—They think they’re going to create this document that will date back to the dinosaur age, and, you know, they can’t ever change it again, and so they have to live with it. And that’s not necessarily true.

Trusts, irrevocable trusts, are really used for many reasons. One, obviously, if you have children or beneficiaries who are young and who can’t manage the money, a trust is a way to protect that money, to put a structure in place for the investment management and the management of how the assets are distributed to the beneficiary. And you can time it out so that a 15-year-old isn’t getting a large sum of money, and they can get it at a more appropriate time.

The more common reasons why people also use trusts is, one, to provide asset protection. A properly drawn irrevocable trust can protect those assets from future creditors in case the beneficiary gets sued, and a future creditor can also mean a divorcing spouse. So even if a beneficiary doesn’t have a prenuptial agreement, an irrevocable trust, if it’s drawn up correctly, could protect those assets so the divorcing spouse could not get those assets.

Liz Tammaro: And I’m hearing you say irrevocable doesn’t necessarily mean not changeable, right?

Alisa Shin: Correct. So there’ll be restrictions as to who could make the change, but a lot of times, when we talk with clients here at Vanguard, we really encourage clients because we just don’t know what the future is going to entail, to empower a beneficiary to have the ability to change the terms of the trust and determine who should get it at the beneficiary’s later passing, at their death.

And that’s typically called a testamentary limited power of appointment. It’s limited because you can decide who could receive the money. You could say that your child could give it to anybody they would like, or you could say that they can only give it to their descendants or charitable organizations. You can make it as broad or as restrictive as you would like.

Liz Tammaro: Okay, so you talked about some of the benefits of a trust. How about, are there any drawbacks to creating trusts?

Alisa Shin: You know, the drawbacks of creating a trust, it creates a little bit of a complexity in your life. When someone has a trust, that trust is a separate taxpayer, technically. It will have a second taxpayer identification number. So that means that that trust will have to file its own income tax returns, meaning the trustee will do that for them. It will have a separate account that won’t be combined into your own personal account because you want that to make sure that it stays protected from future creditors and so forth for the reasons we discussed.

Sometimes, depending on who your trustees are, there are additional costs associated with the trust. You need to, if you have a professional trustee serving, they might charge a commission. Clearly, if you have an accountant who’s preparing the tax return, there’s going to be one additional tax return that needs to be prepared for that trust.

Liz Tammaro: And one other thing, I’ll just open this up to both of you. I heard you say that it’s really important that it’s drawn up properly. Talk to me a little bit more about what you mean there?

Alisa Shin: In terms of, I assume, asset protection and so forth?

Liz Tammaro: Yes, the trust. You said it’s really important that it must be drawn up properly; the document must be— What do you mean by that?

Alisa Shin: There are certain provisions, something called a spendthrift provision that would need to be included in the document. I would say, in today’s day and age, a spendthrift provision is almost always in every trust document. But the other part of drawing it up properly is understanding what impact guaranteeing money from the trust would have for your beneficiary.

So if you create a trust that says, “Pay the income to my beneficiary every month,” because that’s a guaranteed income stream, that income stream loses its protection from a future creditor. Whereas, if the trust said, “The trustee has the discretion to use the income for my beneficiaries’ benefit,” that gives it a more solid layer of protection from a future creditor or a divorcing spouse.

So when you think about asset protection, divorce protection, it’s really a balancing game between giving your beneficiary access to the money and some comfort knowing that he or she might be able to get the money that they needed versus leaving it to a trusted advisor, a trusted family friend to make sure those assets are protected.

Important information

All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of money you invest. Diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss.

This hangout is for educational purposes only. We recommend that you consult a tax or financial advisor about your individual situation.

Read more on the subject: Download Free Probate Guide.

5 Tips for Arranging and Paying for a Home Health Aide:

-By Emily Garnett, Associate Attorney at Brian A. Raphan, P.C.

Finding oneself or a family member in need of home care can be a tough pill to swallow. It is often difficult to accept that you or a loved one is no longer able to safely do many of the activities of daily living that you once could. At that point, it may be time to bring in a home health aide for assistance with a wide variety of activities of daily living.

1. How to Arrange Help and Payment: Many people choose to privately pay for home health aides. If you choose to go this route, you can utilize a long-term home health care program (LTHHCP). These are agencies accredited by the state that provide home health aides. They manage the staffing and payroll. However, you can also choose to select aides that are privately paid, and work outside of an LTHHCP agency. For these aides, you would have to manage staffing and payroll issues yourself, or utilize the expertise of an elder law attorney or geriatric care manager to manage these details.

Medicaid Planning

2. Using Medicaid to Pay: If you are unable to privately pay for home care, you have the option of applying for Medicaid to obtain coverage for long-term home care. It is advised that you work with an elder law attorney or other professional to facilitate this process, as it can be complicated, and the regulations are frequently changing. In order to qualify for Medicaid, the applicant must meet certain requirements for income and assets. The current Medicaid asset limit is $14,550.00, and the monthly income limit is $809.00. Unlike nursing home Medicaid, there is no look-back period for community Medicaid, meaning that Medicaid is not going to investigate past money transfers like they would for an application for nursing home coverage. There are several ways to address the income and asset limits required for Medicaid acceptance, the most common being the use of pooled trusts to shelter those funds. Pooled trusts are frequently used to meet the Medicaid spend-down, which is the requirement that an applicant reduce his or her available income so that it remains under the Medicaid limit.

3. Shelter your Income: Once an individual applies for Medicaid coverage, he or she can join a third party pooled trust to shelter the excess income and meet the spend-down. These trusts allow the individual to use the funds sheltered in the trust for personal needs outside of the Medicaid coverage, including expenses like rent, utilities, and phone bills. If this arrangement is not made, the applicant runs the risk of rejection by Medicaid or having to privately pay for some part of his or her home care each month.

4. Enrollment for Managed Long Term Care: Once you have applied for and been approved for Medicaid, you will work with your elder law attorney or specialist to enroll in a managed long-term care program (MLTC), which will provide home care services. The first step in this process is assessment by a new program, the Conflict-Free Eligibility and Enrollment Center (CFEEC), sometimes also referred to as “Maximus”. This assessment takes about two hours and provides a determination to Medicaid that the consumer is eligible for home care services. At that point, the consumer selects a managed long term care plan to enroll in. The MLTC plan then schedules a second assessment, also lasting about two hours, in which the specific care needs of the consumer are assessed. At the conclusion of this assessment, the nurse performing the assessment will submit the information to Medicaid, who will ultimately determine the number of hours of home care needed each day by the consumer. This process is very time-sensitive, so work closely with your Medicaid attorney assisting with the application process, to avoid costly and unnecessary delays.

5. Keeping Your Ongoing Benefits: Once the application process is complete, your home care will likely start on or around the first of the following month. At that point, your obligations as a consumer are to maintain the income and asset limits, including utilization of a pooled trust if needed. You will be required to annually re-certify with Medicaid that you have maintained these levels. Should you have questions at that point, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your Medicaid planning attorney, rather than risk losing your Medicaid benefits. It is worth noting, however, that occasionally delays arise in various points of the application process through no fault of the attorney or applicant. Should you find yourself in such a position, understand that these issues do arise, and make sure to cooperate with your attorney or specialist’s advocacy efforts towards resolution.

Emily Garnett, Esq.

The Law Offices of Brian A. Raphan, P.C. 7 Penn Plaza, Suite 810 New York, NY 10001 T: (212) 268-8200

“Helping Senior New Yorkers for over 25 Years”

Legal DIY Web Sites Are No Match for a Pro, Consumer Reports Concludes

After road testing three leading Web sites that help you create your own will, power of attorney, and other important legal documents, Consumer Reports has concluded that none of the will-writing products is likely to entirely meet your needs unless those needs are extremely simple.

Consumer Reports

The independent non-profit testing agency evaluated three online services: LegalZoom, Nolo, and Rocket Lawyer. Using online worksheets or downloads, researchers created a will, a car bill of sale for a seller, a home lease for a small landlord, and a promissory note. They then asked three law professors — including Gerry W. Beyer of Texas Tech University School of Law, who specializes in estates and trusts — to review in a blind test the processes and resulting documents.

In his evaluation of the will-making programs, Prof. Beyer said that two of them could create good simple wills but he found deficiencies in all three, including features that could lead a user to add clauses that contradict other parts of the will.

Consumer Reports’ verdict?   “Using any of the three services is generally better than drafting the documents yourself without legal training or not having them at all. But unless your needs are simple—say, you want to leave your entire estate to your spouse—none of the will-writing products is likely to entirely meet your needs. And in some cases, the other documents aren’t specific enough or contain language that could lead to ‘an unintended result,’ in [a professor’s] words,”

An article on the study, titled “Legal DIY websites are no match for a pro,” appeared in Consumer Reports.  To read it, click here.

Consumer Reports’ findings accord with ElderLawAnswers’ own evaluation of online estate planning programs. For their White Paper on these programs, click here.

For a FREE DOWNLOAD : GUIDE TO ESTATE PLANNING click here.

WHY IRREVOCABLE TRUSTS VS OUTRIGHT GIFTING

People often wonder about the value of using irrevocable trusts in Medicaid planning. Certainly gifting of assets can be done outright, not involving an irrevocable trust. Outright gifts have the advantages of being simple to do with minimal costs involved.

Brian Raphan, P.C.

So, why complicate things with a trust? Why not just keep the planning as simple and inexpensive as possible?

The short answer is that gift transaction costs are only part of what needs to be considered. Many important benefits that can result from gifting in trust are forfeited by outright gifting. These benefits are what give value to using irrevocable trusts in Medicaid planning.

Key benefits of gifting in trust are:

  1. -Asset protection from future creditors of beneficiaries. Preservation of the exclusion of capital gain upon sale of the Settlors’ principal residence (the Settlor is the person making the trust).
  2. -Preservation of step-up of basis upon death of the trust Settlors o Ability to select whether the Settlors or the beneficiaries of the trust will be taxable as to trust income.
  3. -Ability to design who will receive the net distributable income generated in the trust.
  4. -Ability to make assets in the trust non-countable in regard to the beneficiaries’ eligibility for means-based governmental benefits, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
  5. -Ability to specify certain terms and incentives for beneficiaries’ use of trust assets.
  6. -Ability to decide (through the settlors’ other estate planning documents) which beneficiaries will receive what share, if any, of remaining trust assets after the settlers die.
  7. -Ability to determine who will receive any trust assets after the deaths of the initial beneficiaries.
  8. -Possible avoidance of need to file a federal gift tax return due to asset transfer to the trust.

If you have questions about any of the above items, please call me, Brian A. Raphan, Esq at 212-268-8200 or 800-278-2960. There are additional measures available and your individual situation should be assessed before making any financial decision.

Three Reasons Why Joint Accounts May Be a Poor Estate Plan

Many people, especially seniors, see joint ownership of investment and bank accounts as a cheap and easy way to avoid probate since joint property passes automatically to the joint owner at death. Joint ownership can also be an easy way to plan for incapacity since the joint owner of accounts can pay bills and manage investments if the primary owner falls ill or suffers from dementia. These are all true benefits of joint ownership, but three potential drawbacks exist as well:

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  1. Risk. Joint owners of accounts have complete access and the ability to use the funds for their own purposes. Many elder law attorneys have seen children who are caring for their parents take money in payment without first making sure the amount is accepted by all the children. In addition, the funds are available to the creditors of all joint owners and could be considered as belonging to all joint owners should they apply for public benefits or financial aid.
  2. Inequity. If a senior has one or more children on certain accounts, but not all children, at her death some children may end up inheriting more than the others. While the senior may expect that all of the children will share equally, and often they do in such circumstances, there’s no guarantee. People with several children can maintain accounts with each, but they will have to constantly work to make sure the accounts are all at the same level, and there are no guarantees that this constant attention will work, especially if funds need to be drawn down to pay for care.
  3. The Unexpected. A system based on joint accounts can really fail if a child passes away before the parent. Then it may be necessary to seek conservatorship to manage the funds or they may ultimately pass to the surviving siblings with nothing or only a small portion going to the deceased child’s family. For example, a mother put her house in joint ownership with her son to avoid probate and Medicaid’s estate recovery claim. When the son died unexpectedly, the daughter-in-law was left high and dry despite having devoted the prior six years to caring for her husband’s mother.

Joint accounts do work well in two situations. First, when a senior has just one child and wants everything to go to him or her, joint accounts can be a simple way to provide for succession and asset management. It has some of the risks described above, but for many clients the risks are outweighed by the convenience of joint accounts.

Second, it can be useful to put one or more children on one’s checking account to pay customary bills and to have access to funds in the event of incapacity or death. Since these working accounts usually do not consist of the bulk of a client’s estate, the risks listed above are relatively minor.

For the rest of a senior’s assets, willstrusts and durable powers of attorney are much better planning tools. They do not put the senior’s assets at risk. They provide that the estate will be distributed as the senior wishes without constantly rejiggering account values or in the event of a child’s incapacity or death. And they provide for asset management in the event of the senior’s incapacity.

They provide that the estate will be distributed as the senior wishes without constantly rejiggering account values or in the event of a child’s incapacity or death. And they provide for asset management in the event of the senior’s incapacity.  To download a FREE GUIDE TO ESTATE PLANNING click here.

For more information about this article feel free to email me at info@raphanlaw.com

Regards, Brian

Court Ruling: Transfers Made Years Before Needing Care Were Not Made in Order to Qualify for Medicaid

Doing Medicaid Planning for clients, I often get asked the question: “How does medicaid determine if my gifts were made to qualify for medicaid or not?” Saavy clients have a long history of gifting to show a pattern meant for gifting not medicaid spend down. This recent decision should be of interest.

medicaid planning, appeal
http://www.raphanlaw.com

A New York appeals court holds that a Medicaid applicant who transferred funds several years before needing long-term care and kept enough resources to care for herself rebutted the presumption that the transfers were made in order to qualify for Medicaid. Safran v. Shah (N.Y. Sup. Ct., App. Div., 2nd. Dept., 2013-04373, 20166/12, July 2, 2014).

While she was living independently and didn’t require long-term care, Louise Kornhaber transferred funds to her family as gifts. Several years later, Ms. Kornhaber entered a nursing home. Due to the unexpected theft of her remaining resources, Ms. Kornhaber applied for Medicaid. The state assessed a penalty period based on the uncompensated transfers.

Ms. Kornhaber appealed, arguing that the transfers were made for a reason other than to qualify for Medicaid. The state affirmed the penalty period, and Ms. Kornhaber appealed to court.

The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, orders the state to provide Ms. Kornhaber with Medicaid benefits, holding that the penalty period was not appropriate. The court rules that because Ms. Kornhaber still had enough resources to maintain herself for years after she made the transfers, she rebutted the presumption that the transfer was made in order to qualify for Medicaid.

Medicaid Planning takes the experience and legal expertise of a qualified attorney. The detailed process of medicaid planning needs to avoid errors and mistakes that can make you ineligible of cost you possibly tens of thousands of dollars in delays or penalties. Click here to read: 8  Medicaid Mistakes to Avoid,

For the full text of this decision, go to: https://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_04943.htm

Any questions? Send me an email: info@raphanlaw.com or call 212-268-8200 during the day for a free consultation.

Regards, Brian

9 (Potential) Problems with Your Trust:

All trusts should be reviewed every few years to make sure that they are up-to-date with the law and meet your goals today. Following is a checklist of trust features you can review yourself. But be aware that these only refer to revocable “living” trusts, not to irrevocable trusts.

elder law, brian raphan,

  1. Do you have the right successor trustees? Typically you will be the trustee of your own revocable trust with your spouse as co-trustee (if you’re married). Trusts should name one or more successors in the event the original trustee or trustees are unable to serve. Make sure that you still want the successors you originally named. Also, do you want them to come on and begin acting as trustee now? And if you and your spouse are co-trustees, do you want the successor or successors to step in when the first of you becomes incapacitated or passes away, or not until neither of you can serve?
  2. Who can remove trustees? You can always change the trustees of your revocable trust. But do you want your heirs to have this right after you pass away? This can often avoid problems if there are communication problems or disagreements with the trustee. On the other hand, you might want to limit this to some extent to make sure heirs aren’t just looking for a trustee to do whatever they say.
  3. Can your spouse change the ultimate distribution of trust assets after you have passed away? Many trusts give surviving spouses a so-called power of appointment to redirect trust assets at their death. This can be important to provide for flexibility to respond to changes in family circumstances. However, this usually doesn’t make sense in second marriages. In a Massachusetts court case, the second wife used her power to give everything to her children instead of to the original beneficiaries: her deceased husband’s children. Even in the case of a first marriage, removing this provision from the trust can provide protection for children and grandchildren in case the surviving spouse remarries and becomes estranged from his family.
  4. Does your trust protect your children and grandchildren from lawsuits and divorce? You have the option of drafting your trust to continue for your children’s lives to provide creditor and divorce protection.
  5. Have you funded your trust? We often see great trust documents that don’t do all that’s intended because the clients’ assets are still titled in their names. You can avoid probate and make sure that the estate tax protections in your trust operate as planned through retitling assets in the name of the trust.
  6. Who is named as beneficiary of your retirement plans and other investments? Often clients spend hours with their attorneys crafting an estate plan to match their goals and then circumvent it through naming individuals as beneficiaries of retirement plans and investment accounts. Make sure these are all coordinated.
  7. At what age will children and grandchildren receive their inheritance? Most trusts provide that funds will remain in trust until those inheriting reach a certain age, often 21 or 25. But you can set any age you choose and even permit them to withdraw a portion of the trust at set ages, say half at 25 and half at 30, or a third each at 25, 30 and 35. This doesn’t mean that they can’t benefit from the trust assets in the meantime, but that distribution decisions are made by the trustees until children and grandchildren have more financial experience.
  8. Does your trust have provisions providing for maximum tax deferral if it is named the beneficiary of a retirement plan? While you may choose to have your retirement plans go directly to your heirs — and often this is the simplest approach — if they are going to your trust, it must have special provisions to stretch out the annual required distributions for as long as possible.
  9. Is your trust up-to-date for estate tax purposes? Congress and many states have changed the estate tax laws several times in recent years. If your trust is more than five years old, or if you lived in a different state when it was drafted, it should be reviewed by an estate planning attorney to make certain it is still current.

You can check many of these questions on your own. In fact, it’s a useful exercise to make sure that you understand what is in your trust. Other issues, particularly those related to tax issues, will require consulting with an estate planning professional.

This article also appears in our monthly email newsletter. View it here and subscribe for free.

Regards, Brian

http://www.RaphanLaw.com

States You Shouldn’t Be Caught Dead In:

Robert Negele is a 90-year-old retired executive who has lived in Connecticut for almost 40 years. Despite decades of community involvement, including service on corporate and charity boards, he and two of his children who live nearby are seriously considering leaving the state.

“It’s a prime possibility we discuss at Sunday night dinners,” Mr. Negele says.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia, home to just over one-third of the U.S. population, levy an estate tax on the assets of people who die or an inheritance tax on heirs receiving assets. Jim Haynes

A big factor in their deliberations: Connecticut’s estate and gift taxes, which tax assets above $2 million per individual at rates as high as 12%. Mr. Negele says some snowbirds at his Stamford retirement home have shifted their tax home to Florida, while others he knows have left the state altogether.

Mr. Negele is far from alone, estate planners say. “State death taxes are considerably more important than they used to be, and we spend a lot of time planning for them,” says Beth Kaufman, an estate-tax lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale in Washington, in part because of changes in the federal tax laws.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia, home to just over one-third of the U.S. population, levy an estate tax on the assets of people who die or an inheritance tax on heirs receiving assets. Maryland and New Jersey have both, although each allows offsets to prevent double taxation.

ImageIn January, Congress voted to keep Uncle Sam’s inflation-adjusted estate exemption above $5 million per individual ($10 million per married couple). The change excluded almost all Americans from the federal levy, so state-level taxes loom larger by contrast. (This year, the federal exemption is $5.25 million.)

Many states also have far smaller exemptions than Uncle Sam’s. The threshold is $1 million for estate taxes in Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Minnesota, and just $675,000 in New Jersey. Pennsylvania’s and Iowa’s inheritance taxes have no exemption in some cases.

However, all states allow surviving spouses to inherit tax-free from their partners, says James Walschlager, an estate-tax specialist at CCH, a unit of Wolters Kluwer.

Only Delaware and Hawaii track the U.S.’s $5 million-plus exemption, according to Mr. Walschlager (see table on page B10).

Rates can be high as well. The top rate often is double digits, with Washington state’s the highest: 20%.

Read the full article>

Stay well,

Brian

Grandchildren Liable for Grandmother’s Nursing Home Stay After She Transferred Money to Them:

A New York trial court rules that a nursing home resident’s grandchildren are liable for fraudulent conveyance after the grandmother annuitized several annuities to them, rendering her insolvent and ineligible for Medicaid. Chapin Home for the Aging v. Heather (N.Y. Sup. Ct., No. 25327/2010, April 23, 2013).

In 2000, Lillian Heather purchased four annuities for each of her grandchildren as part of her estate plan. The annuities named the grandchildren as annuitants and beneficiaries, but Ms. Heather retained control of the accounts. Ms. Heather also appointed her grandchildren as her attorneys-in-fact under a power of attorney. In 2006, Ms. Heather entered a nursing home. One granddaughter, Kristin Goldman, signed the admission agreement as her designated representative. After entering the nursing home, Ms. Heather annuitized the annuities and the full value was transferred to the grandchildren. She applied for Medicaid benefits, but the state denied benefits because she had transferred assets for less than fair market value.

The nursing home sued the grandchildren for fraudulent conveyance, arguing that they had transferred Ms. Heather’s assets for no consideration, rendering her insolvent. The nursing home also sued Ms. Goldman for breach of contract, arguing that Ms. Goldman had access to Ms. Heather’s assets and should have used them to pay for her grandmother’s care.

The New York Supreme Court, Queens County, grants judgment for the nursing home in the amount of $287,893.95. According to the court, it was undisputed that the transfers were made without consideration.  Moreover, the grandchildren did not present any evidence that the transfers did not make Ms. Heather insolvent. Nevertheless, the court rules that Ms. Goldman is not personally liable for breach of contract because the admission’s agreement did not make the designated representative personally liable.  

For the full text of this decision, click here.

Medicaid Planning can be a helpful way to protect the assets of your family. However, you should not ‘go it alone.’ Medicaid Planning can be quite complex. Be sure to consult an attorney or law firm experienced in this field of expertise before proceeding. We have over 20 years experience in Elder Law and understand all facets of Medicaid Planning. Avoid the pitfalls and errors that can put you in a situation like above. For a free consultation, give me a call.

Regards, Brian

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