WHAT WE DO
At Esther Schwartz Zelmanovitz, PLLC, our practice is focused on representing clients in the areas of probate & estate administration, estate planning, elder law planning, and more. We have developed a sophisticated understanding of laws in these practice areas and of the legal strategies required to protect our clients’ interests. Our elder law attorneys are known for their knowledgeable, experienced, and caring counsel. We are always ready to deliver cutting-edge representation and personalized guidance from start to finish suited to your specific needs.
We care about our clients and we work hard to make sure that we are able to deliver effective solutions to help them reach their goals.
Elder law attorneys focus on legal issues affecting people as they age. Elder law attorneys also focus on legal issues affecting people of all ages that have a disability or special needs.
Because our elder law attorneys have broad knowledge of many different areas of law, they can coordinate your planning to protect your family and other beneficiaries, protect public benefits, and minimize taxes.
As an elder law firm, we practice in the following areas:
- Advance Health Care Directives
- Asset Protection
- Estate Planning
- Medicaid Planning
- Real Estate
- Special Needs Planning
- Trust Administration
Be proactive. Get started by using our online contact form.
Medicaid is a “means tested government entitlement.” In plain language, this means that a person’s income and resources must be below a certain amount in order to be eligible for benefits, among other eligibility requirements. With proper planning, a person can protect his or her assets. Many people are often misinformed regarding Medicaid planning issues, and think that there is nothing they can do to protect assets. In most cases, some assets can be protected even at a very late date. However, the earlier the planning is started, the more assets can be protected.
The New York State Department of Health lists the annual estimated average nursing home rate in 2018 at $156,636.00 on Long Island and at $147,828.00 in New York City. Most people without unlimited wealth who enter a nursing home will eventually have to rely on Medicaid to assist in payment of their health care.
Our firm is experienced in the use of Medicaid-exempt transfers, irrevocable trusts and combinations of loans and gifting and other planning techniques as tools to protect assets as a part of Medicaid planning.
We can also assist you with the Medicaid application process always ensuring that your interest is of paramount concern.
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.
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.
A living will sets forth your end of life wishes so that they may be known if you are unable to speak for yourself.
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
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF LIVING TRUSTS
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:
- Irrevocable Trust: shelter assets for Medicaid eligibility or to reduce estate taxes.
- 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.
- Life Insurance Trust: can remove the proceeds of a life insurance policy from your taxable estate.
- 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.
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.
There are many complex legal and financial considerations that must be contemplated when selling and purchasing real estate or transferring your residence as part of your estate plan.
With regard to purchases or sales, our firm can help facilitate the process of a purchase or sale in an efficient manner by preparing, reviewing and negotiating the contract of sale, identifying and addressing any outstanding title issues, communicating with your lender if you are financing the purchase, and representing you at the closing.
Our firm can also assist you with transferring your real estate as part of your estate plan or as part of the process of estate or trust administration. This includes (1) transfer of a residence outright (2) transfer of a residence with a retained life estate and (3) transfer of a residence to a revocable or irrevocable trust, as well as other types of transfers.
Our knowledgeable attorneys can guide you through all your real estate options and ensure all aspects of your real estate transaction are handled properly and smoothly with dedicated representation.
PROBATE AND ADMINISTRATION
Whether you have been appointed an executor of an estate, a loved one has passed without a will, or you are the trustee of a trust, the attorneys at Esther Schwartz Zelmanovitz, PLLC can assist you.
Fiduciaries are required to account to beneficiaries or to the court or to other institutions regarding their actions as a fiduciary. Some examples are:
An executor or administrator of an estate has the duty to account to the beneficiaries of an estate at the conclusion of estate administration, showing the assets collected, the debts and expenses paid and the amounts to be distributed.
A guardian has the duty to account to the court regarding the use of guardianship account funds, usually on an annual basis.
Trustees may also have the duty to account for their use of trust funds to the beneficiary, the court or to other institutions on an annual basis.
Our office can assist the fiduciary in the preparation and the filing of such accountings and delivering it to the appropriate parties.
Schedule an appointment so that we can begin to help you fulfill your role as fiduciary.
Probate is the legal process started in order to have a will accepted by the court, and to have an executor appointed to handle the decedent’s estate in accordance with his or her Last Will and Testament. If a decedent dies without a Will, an administration proceeding may take place. If there is no Will stating the wishes of the decedent, New York’s intestacy laws would determine who would inherit the decedent’s assets and who may act as fiduciary of the estate.
The important task of managing and handling a deceased loved one’s estate deserves the respect and attention that the decedent would hope for. The executor or administrator is responsible for managing the deceased individual’s assets and for making sure that the estate is managed and distributed properly according to procedure. Being an executor is a big responsibility that involves many steps.
What are some things an executor or administrator would be expected to do during estate administration?
- Create an inventory of the deceased person’s assets
- File the will (if applicable) in the appropriate Surrogate’s court so that the will may be admitted to probate
- Preserve all of the decedent’s assets until final distribution
- Resolve debt, bills, taxes, and paying creditors
- Notify banks and government agencies of the death
- Distribute the deceased’s assets to beneficiaries
The executor does not necessarily have to be a financial or legal expert, although some individuals do end up hiring these experts to assist with estate administration. Because estate administration is a complex task that can be time-consuming, you may feel more comfortable getting the assistance of an attorney rather than administering the estate by yourself.
If you are named the Executor or Executrix in a will, or appointed the Administrator or Administratrix when there is no will, the responsibilities may appear daunting. We can help you at each step and provide complete services.
Our probate lawyers can help you:
- Appoint a personal representative
- Marshal and protect estate assets
- Prepare an inventory of all estate assets
- Open estate accounts
- Pay estate taxes, debts, and expenses
- Make distributions to beneficiaries
- Prepare accountings or tax returns, and
- Any other necessary work
Our office can provide you with efficient representation to guide you through the process.
A guardian is a person that is appointed by the court to allow a person to make decisions for another individual that lacks the capacity to do so. An individual can be rendered incapacitated early in life, or due to an illness that relates to age, or other times it can be the result of a sudden tragedy. A guardianship may be required when an incapacitated individual has not previously appointed a person to handle matters on their behalf (Power of Attorney for financial matters and/or Health Care Proxy for health care matters) and now can no longer manage their affairs on their own. If you or your loved one need a guardianship, we can help your family through this process with sensitivity and efficiency.