It’s August! A month of long, lazy days still stretch out ahead of you. Maybe your kids are returning from sleepaway camp … what a great time for you to go on vacation before the grind of school begins! Whether you are picturing eating gelato in Italy or sipping cocktails on a quiet beach, wouldn’t it be nice to have peace of mind in the knowledge that your vital estate planning documents are in good shape before you go? Knowing that those precious children of yours are protected if something happens to you and your spouse?
The last thing you need to worry about on vacation is what will happen if you don’t come back, and a good set of estate planning documents will keep that worry far from your mind. This typically means setting up a Will (including Trusts for the kids) tailored to the needs of your family before your next journey.
Remember, simply writing a few requests down on a piece of paper does not mean you have a plan in place! In New York, a Will must meet statutory requirements to be considered valid in the eyes of a Court. And if you want trusts for your children or have any special circumstances, you want to make sure that your documents are appropriately drafted to account for them.
So, before you pack that suitcase, talk to us about getting your estate plan in order. We can help you put a Will and trust in place (or update older documents if you have them) and create Powers of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directives that will give someone else permission to handle your affairs and make medical decisions in a true emergency.
Of course, we hope you will never need these documents, and these ideas are not fun to think about! But peace of mind is an essential item to pack, and it works with every adventure!
If you need help with your estate planning documents before your vacation this summer, please call us at the Law Offices of Lisa S. Katz, PLLC at 914-244-0908, and we’ll get you on the calendar before you go away. Then you can truly relax on your trip, have fun and fill your day with activities you love to do. Because vacation time is precious and there’s no point in wasting it worrying!
Is your baby going to college? August is almost here and if your child has graduated high school, they may soon be off to college. But while you are busy buying extra-long twin bed sheets and fans for those hot dorm rooms, don’t forget the most important items, which you can’t buy in a store. Once your child turns 18, there are legal documents that he or she must have to make sure they are protected in case of emergency. Because while your 18 year old may still be your baby, in the eyes of the law your baby is now an ADULT!
That means you can no longer make important medical or financial decisions for your child without his or her permission. So if your teen has an accident while at college, it’s highly likely that you will be unable to get any information or make decisions about their care. You can’t even call the financial aid office at your child’s school or talk to a credit card company or insurance agency without your teen’s permission.
But let’s face it….your job of being a PARENT doesn’t stop just because your child turns 18. If there’s a medical emergency or your child asks for financial help, you NEED the ability to cut through the legal red tape and get involved. Doctors, hospitals and financial institutions may NOT bend the rules on this.
Fortunately, there’s a solution and it’s something that EVERY parent of a child 18 years or older should make sure to have!
You must have 3 KEY DOCUMENTS in place to make important medical or financial decisions on your child’s behalf (just imagine the nightmare of your child getting hurt hundreds of miles away at school and the hospital refuses to give you so much as a status update!).
These key documents give you the legal permission you need to HELP your child now and stay involved in an emergency. The documents include:
1. A Health Care Proxy (with HIPAA language);
2. A Living Will; and
3. A financial Power of Attorney.
Hopefully you never need to use these legal documents. Think of having these documents in place for your child as a safety net - if you need them, they will be there to protect you and your teen. All you have to do is present them if needed (to a hospital, bank, etc.) and you’ll be able to immediately speak on your child’s behalf. There’s no greater peace of mind than knowing you can stay in control and make critical decisions if necessary!
And don’t forget that having an “adult” child is a huge life-change for mom and dad too, and your estate planning documents may need to be updated accordingly. Your wishes for how your now-adult children will inherit your money if something happens to you may be different than what you set up when they were babies. You may want to amend or set up trusts, and you may also consider placing your adult child in a position of authority in your plans so they have the legal power to help YOU if you experience a problem or medical crisis in the future.
So take a deep breath, and call us at the Law Offices of Lisa S. Katz, PLLC (914-244-0908) to discuss how we can help you keep your sanity and protect your “babies” as they take their next exciting steps away from home!
Steve Earle, the American musician, said it best: "They say death and taxes are the only things that are inevitable. The truth is, you can not pay your taxes. I've done it, and there's consequences. Death you're not going to get out of, and you kind of got to deal with it."
We at the Law Offices of Lisa S. Katz, PLLC would never advocate that you not pay your taxes, but we ABSOLUTELY advocate that you have a Will (or Trust) in place with appropriate tax planning to ensure that your money and belongings are distributed according to your wishes after you die.
According to a recent survey by Caring.com, fewer than half of American adults have a will. We understand that no one likes to think about dying, but we can walk you through the process of preparing your Will and other important documents so that you will walk out with a safety net in place and, dare we say, a smile.
Click HERE for a link to an Article in today's New York Times that discusses the importance of having a Will in place.
Please call us at 914.244.0908 or visit our website at www.lisakatzlaw.com to schedule a consultation to help you accomplish this important task.
Please read the interesting article below from CFO.com.
The Law Offices of Lisa S. Katz, PLLC will keep our clients apprised of changes in the tax law resulting from the 2016 Presidential Election, and how those changes may impact you.
Police departments recently have been receiving complaints regarding telephone scam artists.
Most recently, senior citizens have received telephone calls from an individual claiming to be a representative of a company that sells medical alert systems. The calls were completely unsolicited by the recipients. The call recipients were told that a home life safety medical alert system has been shipped to the recipients address and that the caller is requiring payment for the system that was alleged to have been shipped.
If you receive a call like this, please refuse to give credit card information or to make any payment arrangements for products or services you did not request. If receiving a call of this nature, ask the caller for a callback name and telephone number and contact your local police department.
Another recent scam reported a person being called by a someone who identified himself as an agent with a Federal Law Enforcement agency and there was an arrest warrant and search warrant issued for the call recipient. The scammer has the call recipient call them back and at that time the call recipient is advised that the warrants will be dropped if they pay a ‘fine’ by telephone. Do not even call the number back, report it to the police.
There is another telephone scam that targets senior citizens and it usually involves a grandchild being jailed in a distant location.
This scam usually wants the caller to withdraw money from the bank and go to a Western Union office to wire the money so the grandchild can avoid jail. NEVER WIRE MONEY without getting the advice of a trusted friend, relative or the police.
Remember: Never give bank account, credit/debit card numbers or wire cash to a caller you did not contact in the first place. Never give in to a rush job. Any reputable business or agency will gladly furnish you with a callback name and number for you to check out before doing business.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, or "ATRA", was signed into law on January 2, 2013. It significantly impacts income taxes, and also provides substantial estate tax relief compared to the changes that otherwise would have gone into effect in 2013. But ATRA isn’t all positive for estate planning: It increases the estate tax rate compared to the previous estate tax law regime.
Here are some of the most important changes to consider:
Exemptions and rates – Estates and Gifts:
Without congressional action, gift, estate and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemptions would have dropped by more than $4 million, and the top rates would have jumped significantly (by 20 percentage points) beginning in 2013. ATRA increases transfer taxes for some families, but much less dramatically: It retains the 2012 $5.12 million exemptions – indexing them for inflation – and increases the top rates by five percentage points to 40%.
The changes are permanent, which, despite the rate increases, will be welcome news to many taxpayers. The exemptions remain at an all-time high level and will keep up with inflation for future years. This means that even if you used up your exemptions in 2012 to lock them in, you’ll still have some more exemption available in future years. In addition, the top rate, though higher than it was in 2012, is still quite low historically.
Legislation in 2010 included a provision that – temporarily – provided significant estate planning flexibility to married couples. If one spouse died in 2011 or 2012 and part (or all) of his or her estate tax exemption was unused at his or her death, the estate could elect to permit the surviving spouse to use the deceased spouse’s remaining estate tax exemption.
This relief was somewhat hollow in most cases, however, because it applied only if the surviving spouse made gifts using the exemption or died by the end of 2012. ATRA has made the portability provision permanent.
ATRA preserves several other provisions that affect estate planning, including:
Many reasons for a plan review
The 2013 estate tax law changes aren’t the only reason to review your estate plan. For example, the state estate tax continues to be a consideration. If you live in a state with an estate tax, the exemption amount could be dramatically different from the federal exemption amount. Improper planning could lead to an unpleasant surprise in the form of significant state estate tax liability. Further complicating matters is that even if your state doesn’t have an estate tax, it’s possible you may be subject to estate tax in other states in which you own property.
Changes in your personal situation may also require a change in your estate plan. Births, deaths, marriages, and divorces can all have an impact. So can changes in your personal finances or your business.
To ensure that you minimize your tax liability and that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes, you need to review your estate plan now. We’d be pleased to help you determine how ATRA and other changes will impact your estate plan and what plan revisions can help you achieve your goals.
The Internal Revenue Service has announced that it has increased the annual gift tax exclusion (the amount that you can gift to any one person in any year free from gift tax) from $13,000 to $14,000, beginning January 1, 2013.
This means that, beginning in 2013, you can give $14,000 in cash or other assets each year to as many people as you want. Spouses will be able to combine their annual exclusions for a total of $28,000.
Gifts that exceed the annual exclusion count against the lifetime exclusion, which is currently $5.12 million ($10.24 million for married couples).
Absent federal legislative action, at the end of 2012, the current lifetime $5.12 million per-person exclusion from the federal estate and gift tax will decrease to $1 million and the tax on transfers above that amount will go up to 55% (currently 35%).
It’s a bit of ancient history, but Jim Morrison's will highlights a misunderstanding in estate planning that is still common today: What happens to the balance of a bequest when the beneficiary dies?
It’s officially spring, and time for spring cleaning! What a great time to make sure that your legal house is in order and to give yourself peace of mind. Open the windows, take out the dustpan and think about what has changed in your life:
So make sure to include your estate plan as part of your spring cleaning this year.