New Hyde Park Estate Planning Blog

Updating your will and trust's executor or trustee is vital

You're getting older, and you know that it's time to appoint an executor or trustee to your estate. You want to protect your assets and estate as much as possible while still giving your beneficiaries the things you've saved for them.

Since you already have a trust or will, it's important to appoint the right trustee or executor. It's not as difficult as you may think.

Seniors are often a target for financial abuse

It is sad to think that some of our most vulnerable members of society fall prey to those hoping to exploit them financially. Unfortunately for many senior citizens in New York and elsewhere, this can easily be the case. As your parents age, they may become unwitting victims of financial predators.

Financial abuse against elders occurs more often than you might think. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, about one out of every 20 seniors become financial targets. The fact that many older citizens suffer from cognitive impairments or need assistance with daily living can make them easier prey. Your parent might become an unwitting pawn in a financial exploitation game in the following ways:

  • A scammer posing as the IRS or a utility company might call and claim your parent owes them money and threaten to turn off the power or have your parent arrested if he or she does not pay immediately.
  • Your parent might receive a letter or phone call falsely claiming that he or she has won the lottery and must pay a processing fee to receive the winnings.
  • Door-to-door salespeople might speak to your parent about making “discount” home repairs, only to accept a deposit and then never return.
  • A scammer might contact your parent by email, posing as a stranded or arrested child or grandchild pleading for money to get out of trouble.
  • Your parent might be persuaded or forced under duress to give control of his or her bank accounts to someone whose only intent is to drain his or her savings.

'Do Not Resuscitate' orders and your preferences

At your request, you're able to have a "Do Not Resuscitate" (DNR) order in your medical charts. There are a few restrictions, though. For example, if you have a disease that affects your mental state, you may not be able to sign legally binding documents.

All adult patients have a right to request a DNR in New York. You can request it in a written format or verbally. At least two witnesses have to be present at the time you sign the document. If you have a health care proxy, he or she may make a decision regarding your DNR if you are unable to do so yourself.

James Brown's estate is still pending 11 years later

The late James Brown passed 11 years ago, yet his estate is not yet settled. His estate plan did not distribute his wealth well, according to a report, and in reality, not a cent has gone to his beneficiaries. The report states that there have been dozens of disputes filed against his estate, which makes it impossible to dole out the funds to the man's beneficiaries.

One case involves Brown's children and grandchildren. They're suing and claiming that the man's widow made "backroom agreements," surrounding the copyrights of Brown's songs, which would be illegal. Several others have contested the will stating that they should have been trustees or beneficiaries, respectively.

How can you make being an executor easier?

It's never easy to be the executor of an estate. Many important things rest on your shoulders. While you might be alright with being in charge of another person's financial matters, it's still a difficulty that you may not enjoy.

Fortunately, there are some ways to make being an executor easier. You can, for example, make sure you get multiple copies of a death certificate, which makes it easier to notify businesses, creditors and others about the party's death. Obtain twice as many as you think you need, since not having enough isn't a problem you want to run into.

Should you work with an elder law attorney?

An elder law attorney may be familiar with many kinds of law, but he or she generally practices and is experienced in elder law. He or she handles legal matters involving estates, planning for guardianship, long-term health care planning, Medicare and Medicaid, wills, trusts and other important matters for aging individuals. Don't let the name of the practice area confuse you, though; elder law attorneys work with people of all ages.

If you're a young adult with many assets or have just started a family, working with an elder law attorney could help you create guardianship plans for your young children or to begin financial planning. If you're an older person approaching retirement, your attorney can help you create a durable power of attorney, draft a living will or even understand your rights if you enter a nursing home.

Choosing an executor is necessary when estate planning

If you have started planning your estate, then you may realize that you need someone to become an executor for your estate. An executor has an important job to do. He or she is in charge of making sure your last will and testament is carried out as you wished. The executor must make sure your property and assets are cared for and that debts are paid off. Any remaining property you have must be distributed to your beneficiaries, and that's something your executor makes happen.

There is no law regarding who an executor has to be. It could be a good idea to work with an attorney as your executor, since he or she will be familiar with the law and working with the court. Anyone can be your executor, though, from a sister or brother to a friend or a child.

Visiting an attorney? Know what to expect

As you age, you may realize that there are many legal documents you need to complete. You need to create a will, an estate plan and may want to design a trust. You want to protect your assets and avoid losing them because of needing nursing care. Yes, there are many things to think about, which is why you may want to work with an elder law attorney.

An elder law attorney's job is to help you understand ways to protect yourself and your assets as you age. Your attorney may be able to help you apply for benefits, too. These attorneys are specialized in elder law, helping people make the right decisions to protect themselves and their loved ones as they age.

Can a conservatorship help my incapacitated elderly parent?

If you have an elderly, incapacitated parent who is unable to make independent decisions, or you have a parent who is at a high risk of becoming incapacitated, you are likely under a great deal of stress. There are many decisions that must take place as you face the inevitable end of your parent's life. 

In the meantime, you must also face the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of your own life and of your own family. There are many factors to consider, and you may lack the information you need to make the right decisions. Here is some information that can help you as you move forward in taking care of your aging parent.

Only those with legal standing can contest a will or trust

When you write a will or create a trust, you need to understand that people still have a right to contest your documents. Fortunately, only those who have legal standing may do so. That includes people such as disadvantaged or disinherited heirs or beneficiaries. Without standing, a person can't file a lawsuit, helping prevent frivolous and expensive court dates.

In some states, you can have your will and trusts validated before you pass away. Several states including Delaware, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, North Dakota, Alaska and Arkansas, allow for pre-death validations. Usually, only residents may use this technique, but sometimes, nonresidents are allowed to do so as well. If you can get a pre-death validation, it limits or eliminates the chance of challenges against a will or trust. It may be worth looking into if you live close to a state where it's allowed or have beneficiaries in that state.

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