and Your Family
New York Elder Law
In New York estate planning is more than writing a last will and testament or a trust. Estate planning is also preparing for your financial and personal needs as you age. The legal area that focuses on the special legal needs of older individuals is referred to as elder law. Elder care and estate law are intricately related as both involve planning for your future well-being. The time to contemplate your options for ensuring that you enjoy the best possible quality of life in your senior years is not when it is time to retire, but years before that. Later in life you may need to change your living arrangement and move into an assisted living facility. Even if you remain at home, you may find that you need help with personal care as well as the handling of your finances. To help you understand the intricacies of elder law and estate planning, contact an experienced New York elder law lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates who can help you develop a comprehensive plan for the future.Planning tools
There are several estate planning tools that are designed to contemplate personal and financial needs and issues that are likely to develop as you age. An advance health care directive (AHCD) allows you to let your family, friends, and medical professionals know your preferences for your medical treatment and personal care should you become mentally incapacitated. In addition to preparing for your future healthcare needs, you should also plan to protect your finances and assets in the event you become incapacitated.
Living will. A devastating illness can strike at any time. However, as you age the chances increase of you suffering a medical condition that will impact your mental capacity such as Alzheimer's, another type of dementia, or a stroke. A living will is considered an advance health care directive. It is an estate document in which you memorialize your choices regarding your medical treatment and care so that your family, friends, and doctors will know should you become incapacitated and are unable to express your wishes. Living wills detail the type of medical treatment and life-prolonging measures you want or do not want. For example, your living will might specify which if any life-sustaining treatment or measures you want such as CPR or artificial nutrition.
You can also give details as to what types of medications you would want to relieve pain and the types of palliative care you would prefer if your condition is terminal. You can specify your preferences regarding organ donation, such as if you would like your organs, tissue, or other body parts donated for any reason, or that you do not want them donated. Or you can be more specific and state that you want them donated for purposes of transplant, research, education or therapy.
Health care proxy. A health care proxy is another advance health care directive. Sometimes referred to as a durable power of attorney for health care, in New York a health care proxy is a form that you as the principal can use to name another person your heath care agent. Your health care agent will have the authority to make health care decisions for you, but only if your doctor makes the determination with reasonable certainty that you do not have the mental competence to make health care decisions for yourself.
As an experienced New York elder law lawyer will explain, a health care proxy works in conjunction with a living will—both of which are components of an advance health care directive. Your health care agent will use your living will to guide his (or her) decisions.
Durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney for finances is another document planning for planning for incapacity and planning for your long-term care needs. With a power of attorney you give another person, referred to as your attorney-in-fact or agent, authority to make financial decisions for you while you are incapacitated. It is up to you to decide what authority to give your attorney-in-fact. For financial decisions, you can very specific as to what authority you chose to give your attorney-in-fact. For example, you can grant someone the authority to:
- Manage your brokerage account
- Manage your bank account
- Run your small business
- Buy or sell real estate
- Purchase insurance policies for you
- Manage your retirement benefits or military benefits
- Provide financial support to your spouse and children
- Pay taxes
Another significant issue for seniors is planning for long term care needs. Even if you never become so mentally incapacitated that you require another person to take care of your finances or make health care decisions for you, your health may fail to the extent that you are no longer able to live on your own. A skilled elder law attorney in New York will be able to help you with long term care planning.
Long term care is quite expensive. Assisted living, memory care living, or nursing home fees are thousands and thousands of dollars each month. Even if your assets are substantial, you can quickly burn through your nest egg. With careful planning and asset protection strategies, you will be able to receive the care that you need without spending all of your assets. To learn more about asset protection and strategies to finance long-term care, contact an experienced New York elder law lawyer.Last will and testament
A last will and testament is a legally enforceable statement of how you would like your estate to be distributed once you pass away. You can be very specific as to which of your relatives and friends get portions of your estate. You can even leave money or property to institutions and nonprofit organizations. In your will you can also designate who you want to serve as your executor. The job of your executor is to manage your estate after you pass away and make sure your assets are distributed according to your wishes as stated in your will.
Some would argue that a will is the most important estate document as having a valid will is the only way to ensure that none of your property is subject to intestate succession. New York intestate succession rules define who would be entitled to receive the property in your probate estate in the absence of a valid will. In other words, if you do not write a will, New York will write one for you. Instead of your estate going to the relatives, friends, and institutions of your choosing, it will go to your legal heirs only.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
To learn more about the how to protect your assets, how to plan for your long term care, how to plan for possible future mental incapacity, and how to plan for the future of your family members, contact the seasoned elder law attorneys serving New York at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis and Associates. With over twenty years of experience representing clients in matters related estate planning, long term care planning, and asset protection, and we can help with your planning needs. Contact an attorney in our office at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Brooklyn, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County, Bronx, Long Island, and Westchester County.