• How to Utilize Medicaid Spend-Downs for Your Long-Term Planning
    As Americans age, they may face failing health, and many of them turn to in-home caregivers or nursing homes for their skilled care. Both routes are expensive, and the cost of care is still on the rise. However, Medicaid is a federal program designed to provide health coverage for low-income individuals, including the elderly, offering assistance with medical costs such as nursing home care, hospital stays, and prescription drugs. While there are income and asset limits to the Medicaid program, there exists a pervasive misconception that one must be extremely poor to qualify. Fortunately, Medicaid can provide a safety net for more of the population than it seems. There are ways to protect your assets for future generations including through trusts and other tactics, including “spending down” your assets rather than paying them to a nursing home. Medicaid spend-downs offer a strategic pathway for individuals to qualify for Medicaid coverage....
    Read more
  • Tips for a Successful Family Business Succession
    Fewer than one-third of family businesses survive into the second generation, while only 13 percent make it to the third generation. Here are some tips to beat the odds and help your business live on for generations to come. The sooner you start the planning process the better The sooner you start planning for succession, the smoother the transition is likely to be. Beginning the process five years in advance is good and 10 years is even better. In fact, many experts recommend having a succession plan built into the original business plan. Try to include family members in all discussions about succession Creating your succession plan on your own and then simply announcing it to the rest of the family is a recipe for disaster. By discussing your thoughts with other members of the family, you’ll get an idea of who wants to be part of future operations and...
    Read more
  • Navigating the Intersection of Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Financial Security
    As we journey through life, we accumulate experiences, wisdom, and assets that shape our legacy. For many Americans, the golden years of retirement represent a time of reflection, relaxation, and enjoyment of the fruits of their labor. However, this stage of life also brings with it unique challenges and considerations, particularly in the realms of elder law, estate planning, and financial security. May is National Elder Law month. Elder law encompasses a broad spectrum of legal issues that affect seniors, ranging from healthcare and long-term care planning to guardianship and protection against elder abuse. As individuals age, they may face complex decisions regarding healthcare directives, powers of attorney, and eligibility for government benefits such as Medicaid. Navigating these waters requires careful planning and foresight to ensure that one’s wishes are respected, and their interests are protected. At the heart of elder law lies the intertwined concepts of estate planning and...
    Read more
  • April 2024 Jay Leno Conservatorship: The Importance of Proactive vs. Reactive Estate Planning
    Do you remember watching “The Tonight Show” after our local news at 11:35pm, eagerly anticipating Jay Leno’s witty monologues and engaging interviews? For many, Jay Leno’s name is synonymous with late-night entertainment and laughter. However, behind the glamour of Hollywood lies a recent headline that sheds light on a topic often overlooked but critically important: estate planning. This month, Jay Leno was granted conservatorship over his wife, Mavis Leno’s, estate, sparking conversations about the necessity of careful estate planning. While the Leno case may seem distant from our day-to-day lives, it serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of proactive legal measures in safeguarding our assets and ensuring our wishes are honored, especially here in Upstate New York. A conservatorship, or guardianship, is a legal arrangement in which a court appoints a responsible individual or organization (the conservator/guardian) to manage the financial affairs and/or personal care of another person...
    Read more
  • What Women Need to Know about Social Security
    While Social Security is a crucial component of many Americans’ retirement income, it is particularly important to women. Because women tend to live longer than men, and historically, make less money than men, they are at a greater risk for outliving their savings. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has written a booklet detailing what women should know about Social Security. Here are the highlights: Nothing keeps women from getting their own Social Security benefits. If you’ve worked and paid taxes into the Social Security system for at least 10 years, and have earned a minimum of 40 work credits, you can collect your own benefits as early as age 62 Social Security benefits are based on your lifetime earnings. SSA adjusts (or “indexes”) your actual earnings to account for changes in average wages since the year the earnings were received. Then, SSA calculates your average indexed monthly earnings during the...
    Read more
  • Pixels and Passcodes: Managing Your Digital Footprint
    In our increasingly digital world, we leave behind a substantial footprint of online assets and digital legacies. From social media accounts to email subscriptions, these digital assets hold both sentimental and financial value. However, many individuals overlook the importance of incorporating these assets into their estate plan. When we talk about “digital assets,” this may cover a wide range of items, including but not limited to: Social Media Accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn profiles. What needs to be done with those? Is there a way to keep the content? Email Accounts including Gmail®, Outlook®, Yahoo® and other email services. Who can access that? Digital Subscriptions like our beloved streaming services, online publications, and software licenses. This includes ancestry profiles, picture storage sites, airfare miles, and other points and rewards. Cryptocurrencies and Online Financial Accounts: Bitcoin, PayPal, and online banking accounts. Failure to account for these digital assets in...
    Read more
  • The Importance of Choosing a Qualified Trustee
    A trustee can be one person, multiple people, or what is called a “corporate trustee,” such as a bank or trust company staffed by people who manage and grow trust assets. It is essential to choose the right trustee because this person or institution is responsible for carrying out your wishes and protecting trust assets. Many grantors name a spouse, an adult child, a relative, or a close personal friend as trustee. The person you choose must have the ability to serve in this capacity and the willingness to devote all of the time and energy necessary to carry out the mandates of the trust. It is important to note that the trustee must administer the trust faithfully and accurately. He or she can be held legally and financially responsible for any mistakes, even those that are unintentional. This is why you should think long and hard about your choice...
    Read more
  • Are You Prepared for the New Business Reporting Requirements?
    Do you own a business? Have you established a LLC for any reason? Did you transfer a business or LLC into a Trust? The reporting landscape for businesses is undergoing a huge transformation with the introduction of the Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”). This legislation creates a new framework for ownership reporting, impacting smaller and larger businesses alike. The CTA was passed in an effort to combat money laundering and other illegal activities. This federal law applies to any businesses that are formed by registering or filing paperwork with the state or commonwealth. If you do not fall into one of the few, very narrow exceptions, that means your business now must report certain business information to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”), a part of the U.S. Treasury Department. If the CTA applies to a business entity, that business must now disclose the following information about the business itself: The...
    Read more
  • The Risks of Giving Adult Children an “Advance” on Their Inheritance.
    There are many reasons you might consider giving your adult children a portion of their inheritance now, while you’re alive and well. Maybe you’ve seen your nest egg grow thanks to a robust stock market, and you have more in savings than you thought you would at this stage of your life. Perhaps you and your spouse enjoy excellent health and have received nothing but good checkups for years, so you’re not overly concerned about medical expenses. Or maybe just want to be there to experience how your financial assistance helps your children pursue their dreams and achieve their goals. While many parents would like to help their adult children financially as much as possible, before acting on your generous inclinations you should consider a number of potential problems. For instance, what if one of your children could use some help right now, perhaps with paying off student loans or...
    Read more
  • Should Your Beneficiary Serve as Your Executor or Trustee?
    For most people, choosing an executor or trustee means choosing someone close to them – a family member or a friend. However, this often means their executor or trustee is also a beneficiary. But, will choosing a beneficiary create a conflict of interest? The short answer is, the best way to avoid a conflict is to be as specific as possible in your instructions to your executor and beneficiaries. An executor or trustee has a legal duty to manage the property and assets in the decedent’s estate for the benefit of the trust or estate beneficiaries. This means that while the executor/trustee should be compassionate, they must also act in an equal and unemotional manner toward every beneficiary. A beneficiary, on the other hand, is often emotionally involved. Even those beneficiaries who are not concerned with the monetary aspect of their inheritance will likely be emotionally invested in the heirlooms...
    Read more