Estate Planning 2018-01-22T15:41:48+00:00




Planning for what will happen when you are gone or when you may not have capacity to make your own choices involves difficult decisions and is something people often put off. In many cases, it is sadly delayed until it is too late.

If you die without a will, New York State laws determine how and to whom your assets and property are distributed. This may be contrary to your wishes.

When it comes to protecting yourself, your property, your legacy, and your loved ones, it is vital to create a solid estate plan, which may include advance directives, wills, trusts, and more.

Without these documents in place, if issues arise, your loved ones may need to petition the court for guardianship, and have the court appoint an individual to make financial and/or health care decisions.

Advance health directives are legal documents where you can appoint an agent (or agents) to act on your behalf and provide a legal outline and explanation of your desires in the event that you cannot make medical decisions for yourself due to illness or disability. A Power of Attorney provides legal authority for another person on your behalf in specified or all legal and/or financial matters.

Even if you are young and healthy, setting up these important documents can give you peace of mind about the future, knowing that you will be properly cared for in case of an emergency or unexpected disability. If for any reason you are unable to make important decisions or express your desires for medical and health care or to handle your legal and financial affairs, the documents that you have prepared in advance will serve as an invaluable tool.

Health Care Proxies

A Health Care Proxy allows you to appoint a person as your agent to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you cannot speak for yourself for any reason. Your health care agent should be a person whom you trust, who knows your wishes about medical treatment, and who is willing to be your advocate and take responsibility to ensure your wishes are followed.

Living Wills

A living will sets forth your end of life wishes so that they may be known if you are unable to speak for yourself.

HIPAA Authorization

This type of authorization is a document which names people you have authorized to receive your health records.

Durable Powers of Attorney

One of the best ways to ensure you are well cared for in the future is by setting up a Durable Power of Attorney. This legal document allows you to appoint an agent to handle financial matters on your behalf as your agent, or your “attorney-in-fact.” A validly executed power of attorney is an important tool which would allow your agent to handle your finances for you, even if you become unable to make financial decisions due to illness or a medical condition.

Be proactive and plan in advance. Set up an appointment to begin by contacting us today.

Your last will and testament is an expression of your intention concerning the disposition of your property at your death. Besides providing for the orderly distribution of your assets after your death, a will allows for you to select the person who will handle your estate after your demise, and allows you to name a guardian for your minor children.

There are statutory formalities which govern the due execution of a will in New York State. An elder law attorney can draft a will which follows your plan for the distribution of your estate to ensure any distributions will not have any unintended legal consequences, and also be sure that your will is executed in accordance with New York law.

Contact us at (516) 466-WILL to schedule an appointment with our elder law attorney!

While probate and estate administration can be a smooth process, at times it can become an emotional, drawn out and even expensive process at a time of mourning. This might be due to conflict between children or inability to identify ownership of assets. Commonly, people prefer that after they pass, their estate can be effortlessly distributed to the beneficiaries of their choice with minimal hassle and expense. There are a number of strategies that allow a decedent’s property to pass to another person without going through the probate process.

These probate avoidance strategies include:

  • Joint tenancy
  • Beneficiary designations
  • Revocable living trusts and
  • Other estate planning techniques

For example, a joint bank account or retirement assets with named beneficiaries or an account titled “in trust for” or “payable on death to” pass to the surviving joint tenant or beneficiary automatically by law. In New York, if there are assets held in the decedent’s name alone, a probate or administration proceeding may need to be filed with Surrogate’s Court in order to collect those assets. It is important that every asset be correctly titled and the appropriate beneficiaries be in place.

We can help you review your estate and help set up a plan to help you minimize or possibly enable your estate to avoid the probate process.

Call us to set up a consultation to review your estate plan.

Properly drafted and executed inter-vivos (living) trusts are an important estate planning tool and offer many advantages which are not available through the use of a simple will.

Advantages to Living Trusts include:

  • Minimizing probate
  • Assisting in Medicaid eligibility
  • Providing for the care of an individual with special needs
  • Minimizing estate taxes
  • Protecting property from creditors


A trust can own assets such as a home, bank or brokerage account, or life insurance policy. There are several kinds of trusts and each serves an important purpose.

Examples of the benefits of commonly used trusts include:

  1. Irrevocable Trust: shelter assets for Medicaid eligibility or to reduce estate taxes.
  2. Revocable Trust: allows you to act as Trustee and maintain control during your lifetime and upon your passing the trust assets can be distributed to named beneficiaries and avoid probate.
  3. Life Insurance Trust: can remove the proceeds of a life insurance policy from your taxable estate.
  4. Special Needs Trust: provides long-term support for persons with special needs and supplements government entitlement programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.

Regardless of the value of your estate, a trust can be a critical part of your estate plan. Finding the right trust or combination of trusts for your needs requires the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.

At Esther Schwartz Zelmanovitz, PLLC, we are dedicated to providing you with honest and knowledgeable counsel. We understand the importance of estate planning and the long-lasting effects it can have on your family. We can provide customized solutions that are tailored to fit your needs. If you need to establish a living trust, do not hesitate to contact our legal team to discuss the various legal options available to you.

Take your first step in planning by calling us today (516) 466-WILL

A testamentary trust is a trust created under the will of a decedent and starts its existence when the will is accepted for probate and a Trustee is appointed by the court. This is different than an “inter-vivos” or a “lifetime” trust, which is created during the lifetime of the person creating the trust and starts to exist when a written agreement is properly executed and notarized, between the person who creates the trust (the Settlor) and the person who administers the trust (the Trustee).

Some of the ways an elder law attorney can use testamentary trusts to carry out your estate plan are a testamentary trust for children or grandchildren who may be too young to receive a bequest, or a testamentary supplemental needs trust which could protect public benefits for a person receiving a bequest.

Take proactive action.  Get started by calling our team at (516) 466-WILL, or reach us using our online contact form.

Supplemental Needs Trusts are a critical component of your estate plan if you have a special needs child or other special needs beneficiary. With proper planning, you can help ensure your child’s financial future and support to live comfortably, while at the same time you may preserve eligibility for government benefits.

There are a number of government benefit programs designed to help support individuals with disabilities, including Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”), Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and Medicaid. Beneficiaries receiving SSI and Medicaid may only retain a certain amount of assets. If a beneficiary receives excess funds, he or she may lose public benefits or the benefits may be reduced. A properly prepared and administered supplemental needs trust may supplement public benefits by paying for extra items that are not covered by Medicaid or SSI to enhance a beneficiary’s quality of life.

There are different types of trust that can be used to provide for and protect disabled people: a third party supplemental needs trust, a self-settled payback trust and a pooled trust.

Our law firm can assist in preparing supplemental needs trusts, identify available government benefits such as Medicare, Medicaid, SSDI and SSI, provide guidance in administering a trust, and coordinate estate planning efforts to enhance and enrich the life of a person with special needs.

Find out more about the supplemental needs planning services that we offer by calling (516) 466-WILL today!

The term “digital assets” refers to content stored in digital form. Digital assets include electronic bank and investment account statements, e-mail accounts, social media accounts and passwords.

Much of the information stored on computers, hard drives and online accounts is password protected. Unless you plan in advance, the fiduciaries of your estate may not be able to access your digital assets to settle final bills and protect against post-mortem identity theft.

In addition, many people share experiences and details of their lives through social media accounts. There are some digital assets that have purely sentimental value, such as family pictures, which will be difficult for loved ones to preserve without access to password protected social media accounts.

With the increasing role of digital assets, digital estate planning has become a major issue for estate planners. Our firm in Nassau County can plan for the care of digital assets by providing advice concerning the safekeeping of usernames and passwords and the disposition of the digital assets.