New Hyde Park Estate Planning Blog

What happens when a parent isn't mentally competent?

When you're caring for a parent with dementia, there are some things you need to do to stay on the right side of the law. It's common for aging adults to deal with conditions like dementia or Alzheimer's disease, so understanding when your parent is no longer able to make decisions can help you when working on financial and legal matters.

It is most often the children of those who are affected who end up making decisions for their parents. They need to understand when a parent's mental competency no longer gives them the ability to enter into a legal agreement. At that point, the child may need to take over the parent's care completely and assume the roles assigned. It's important for aging parents to decide who they want to have as a durable power of attorney when the time comes that they can no longer make decisions on their own. A durable power of attorney makes decisions on a person's behalf when his or her health makes it impossible for him or her to do so him or herself.

How to choose a power of attorney

As you begin thinking about who will care for your children should you die tragically young or where your assets will go upon your death later in life, you also need to consider a power of attorney. This is an important designation that is included in any and all estate plans. You need to find someone whom you can trust and you don't foresee leaving your life in a negative way or else you will have to update your documents.

You need to choose someone whom you trust. This can be a sibling, cousin, best friend or even a neighbor. You just need to have a strong relationship with the person and he or she needs to be trustworthy. It should also be someone who understands why he or she has been chosen and what he or she has been chosen to carry out for you.

3 estate planning errors to avoid

Making a major mistake with your estate plan could result in financial ruin, trouble in court or massive taxes. There are dozens of things that could go wrong, but a few are more likely than the others.

Leaving your assets outright to your children is one of the major mistakes you can make. Using only a will is another. Finally, not avoiding probate is a serious concern.

3 common misconceptions of Medicaid

Medicaid is a vital safety net in the United States. Approximately 74 million Americans receive health benefits through the program. This includes people with disabilities, senior citizens and children. 

There is a good probability either you or someone you love relies on Medicaid. Therefore, it helps to separate fact from fiction. It is natural some myths have popped up because it is an extremely difficult field to understand. However, here are some of the most common misconceptions that persist regarding Medicaid. 

The right to challenge a will: What you should know

When you think about someone you love dying, the last thing you imagine is having to fight over his or her will. Despite that, many families do end up struggling as a result of changes to wills they never saw coming.

The fortunate thing is that anyone with a valid legal reason may challenge a will. Interested persons could include children, heirs, spouses, ex-spouses and others who could have a legitimate claim in the estate. Usually, those who file to contest a will are one of three things: Intestate heirs, beneficiaries who were listed in a prior will and the beneficiaries listed in the current will.

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.

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