Today is National Health Care Decisions Day! Do You Have Your Health Care Proxy?

National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16th. We all know we should have advance directives in place that tell medical professionals who our agent is when we cannot communicate and direct the agent as to our wishes. Do you have your health care proxy signed?

I have written about this in my ezine for years. Sadly, I posted in the blog in 2010 and from my review the statistics have not improved BUT awareness is growing.

Here’s part of a message I received from Dr. Pat Bomba (a/k/a rock star of the End of Life planning world and all-around super individual):

Today is the seventh annual National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD). This is a national day set aside to encourage everyone age 18 and older to have family discussions about personal values and beliefs, to choose a spokesperson, and to complete a health care proxy. NHDD exists to inspire, educate & empower the public & providers about the importance of advance care planning.

Who : You, your family, loved ones and friends. Everyone 18 years of age and older!

What : Speak with your husband, your wife, your loved ones and your doctor about your values, beliefs and what is important to you.

Where: Your home, around the kitchen table or wherever your family gathers to discuss important issues.

When: April 16 (NHDD) or any time in April!

Why: Anyone can face acute illness or injury and lose the ability to make medical decisions. Starting advance care planning discussions early will ensure your care and treatment is directed by someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf. Early conversation eases anxiety for your loved ones and provides peace of mind.

How: Real stories can help you start the conversation.

The health care proxy is the “magic” legal document in New York as established by New York Public Health Law section 2981. Known as a healthcare power of attorney in other states, we simply call ours the “health care proxy.” Statistics vary, but the average seems to be that less than 1/3 of our state population has a valid health care proxy in place. The New York State Department of Health has a very helpful online explanation, questions and answers and the official form for the health care proxy. Of course your attorney would be happy to assist you in preparing the health care proxy as part of your estate planning; I typically prepare a will, health care proxy and power of attorney as a package. The health care proxy form was designed to be valid without the need for attorney supervision or a notary public seal so you can literally set it up at your kitchen table. To be valid the form simply needs to include your name and address, your agent’s name and address, and have your signature in front of two witnesses, neither of whom can be the agent listed.

We also now have the Family Health Care Decisions Act in New York, that will allow family members to make decisions in the absence of a health care proxy. Do not rely on this measure, though, not when you can control who speaks for you and direct the choices they make on your behalf.

Get your health care proxy in place today – and then give it to your medical providers for your chart!

 

Is Your Disney Vacation Derailing Your Kids’ Future?

For Rochester parents it’s spring break! Many moms and dads have boldly ventured onto shockingly expensive flights, jam-packed hotels and yes, Disney crowds all to give their kids a fantastic experience to remember for a lifetime.  Know what those same parents who have dropped literally thousands of dollars have NOT done? They haven’t done crucial planning to protect their kids in the event they can’t be there for them, either due to death or disability.

We have run giveaways a couple times, most recently in February for a FREE digital copy of a quick read, an eye-opening book on protecting your kids, Wear Clean Underwear. (Because I’m serious about making sure parents do everything they can I’m reopening the offer through the end of April – get YOUR free digital copy by signing up at www.rocparentsbook.com or calling me at 585-244-2170. If you want a hard copy I’ll pay for it but I ask that you cover $4.95 for shipping and handling from Amazon.)

iStock_000017507571LargeWe’ve had hundreds of people request it since we first offered it to parents last summer, and I’m so gratified that so many moms and dads really care about protecting their kids, and not just with the right car seat or background check on the sitter or care center. But you know what? THEN those same caring parents put blinders on. Many leave our emails unopened and only a handful each month have followed up with us to take advantage of a FREE planning session (a $750 value) that we offered when we sent the book so they can name guardians on the spot for their kids.  Odds are that with the sheer volume of people requesting the book that something bad will happen to some, like a car accident or serious illness, something that prevents them from being there for their kids and leaves the kids at the mercy of adults they don’t know and trust. If you don’t spell out who has the authority to be with your kids a court will decide, and in the meantime they could end up in the system through Child Protective Services. I don’t know a single parent who would choose either of those options. Would you? It really breaks my heart because it’s so easy to avoid the added stress and pain for your children.

When I talk to friends most of them admit they’ve done nothing at all and only a few have done the bare minimum by naming guardians under their wills.  Isn’t it insanity to spend thousands on car seats, safety products and nannies/care but do nothing to protect your kids if you can’t be there for them?   So you decide, which investment should come first – Disney or your kids’ future?

If you’re reading this, go ahead and grab your free digital copy at www.rocparentsbook.com and THEN, even before you get the book, CALL US AT THE POWERS LAW FIRM TO SCHEDULE YOUR COMPLIMENTARY PLANNING SESSION WHERE YOU CAN NAME GUARDIANS ON THE SPOT FOR YOUR CHILDREN. Don’t become one of those statistics, please. Mention you read this blog post. We’ll get you in ASAP.

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What to Know When You’re Asked to Sign a Nursing Home Admissions Agreement as a Responsible Party

What to Know When You’re Asked to Sign a Nursing Home Admissions Agreement as a Responsible Party

After reviewing three different nursing home admission agreements in less than a week I thought it might be helpful to mention some of the pitfalls. Happily I received a link to a recent article posted by a fellow elder law attorney.  Please keep in mind that while federal law governs much of what can be required by admissions agreements state law will also play a large role and you owe it to yourself and your loved one seeking admission to consult with a knowledgeable elder law attorney.  The upfront fee is slight compared to possible litigation expenses that could crop up in the future.

 

Estate Planning When You Split Your Year Between Two States

Being able to split your time between two or more places you love is a much-desired retirement dream for many people.  A great example are those folks referred to as “snowbirds” who live farther north in the United States during the summer and then head back to the warmer southern states for the winter.  That allows folks to enjoy our gorgeous New York summers while still keeping warm all winter long.

Many people living this lifestyle completely overlook the fact that it can have a major impact on what happens to their assets when they die.  If you were to pass away in New York, the laws governing your estate may be totally different than those in Florida, Arizona, or whatever warmer state you’ve chosen for the snowy season.

Some Laws Differ from State to State

Basically, you need to make a decision about which state is your true legal residence.  This may be affected by the amount of time you spend in each or some other factor.  If you’re in a situation where you truly can choose, then you really want to work with your tax advisor and a Rochester  estate planning lawyer to figure out which state’s laws are going to be the most advantageous to you and your estate and then work to ensure your choice is formalized.  There are all kinds of factors which can influence this decision, such as the property laws of each, your marital status, and even tax rates.  For example, Florida has been known for not having estate taxes at all.  This is great, but it does have other taxes that could come into play.

When you pass away, your estate can end up going through probate in both states.  This can be time consuming and expensive, and you may be able to avoid it by working with a Rochester lawyer to set up some trusts and other protections.  There are some documents, however, that you might want to consider creating in both states where you reside.  For example, it may be helpful to have medical and financial powers of attorney drawn up in both New York and the other state in order to avoid problems and delays should they be needed.

What Do You Do When You Live In Two States?

Even if you “live” in both states, you can only officially reside in one.  You are considered a visitor in the other state.  A New York attorney will be able to help get you up to speed on the laws of our state and can help you compare them to similar laws in the other state where you reside.  Just as you’ve chosen to live in two states for the advantages to your life, there are also advantages to what happens after!

Now when you’ve most likely just returned north is a good time to figure out the situation before you head south again.  Too often folks call us the week before they leave for Florida and that doesn’t give you time to consider options – and you usually can’t get an appointment with us that quickly.  We only reserve 1 emergency appointment each week and it fills up quickly.  Call us now at (585) 244-2170 for your wealth planning session. We would love to work with you and your tax and financial advisor to ensure that your options are maximized, your wishes are honored and your tax dollars are not wasted accidentally.

Who Really Needs a Business Lawyer?

To the average person, the term “business lawyer” or “corporate lawyer” may sound like something that only exists on Wall Street.  In reality, though, nearly every business in Rochester or anywhere really can and should use the services of a good business lawyer.  This means large and small businesses alike.

Business lawyers play a very different role than that of trial lawyers.  Rather than fighting one another, “opposing” attorneys are generally working together to bring about legal transactions between businesses.  It’s also very common for a business or corporate lawyer to help a business set up and review its contracts, to advise on tax issues and to help with the legal setup of the company.

A typical Rochester business lawyer may have expertise in one or more of the following areas:

  • Accounting
  • Bankruptcy
  • Contract Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • Licensing
  • Securities Law
  • Tax Law
  • Zoning
  • Estate Planning

Each industry will have its own specific issues and concerns, too, so it’s possible for a business lawyer to focus his or her practice on a particular type of business.  In fact, some larger companies have their own corporate lawyers right on staff.

Business Planning

A business lawyer in Rochester can have a really important impact on an individual business.  Not only can they protect it by making sure everything is appropriate when it comes to setting up and running your business, but they can also help you plan for the future.  For example, is there a succession plan in place for when key personnel leave the organization, either expectedly or unexpectedly?  The ability for a business to survive in this circumstance can depend on how prepared it was for this kind of transition.

A related concern is what will become of the business should the owner (or one of the owners) die?  Who has rights to his or her interest and how should the transfer or sale be handled?  Will the business be taken over by a family member, or will it be sold, shut down, or something else?  The business lawyer helps to lay out all the options and make determinations about the decisions that need to be made.

It’s also worth noting that many business lawyers in Rochester have a wide skill set.  For example, in addition to business planning services, they may also provide personal estate planning for wills and trusts, assist with real estate transactions, and assist with divorces or prenuptial agreements.

Getting Help

Whether your business is large or small, a business lawyer in Rochester will help ensure you are set up on a proper foundation and that you are well prepared should you face lawsuits, creditors or unexpected transitions in the future. We frequently refer our entrepreneurial clients to business attorneys we trust.  To schedule an appointment with us, just call (585) 244-2170.

Think You Have Problems?

Who inspires you? Who brings a smile to your face? Makes you say “a-ha?” I discovered Maysoon Zayid earlier this year and saved the link to her Ted talk to my desktop. “I got 99 problems – palsy is just one!” she announces. I defy anyone to listen to her and not (a) laugh out loud, (b) think “what an inspiring woman” and (c) I want to meet her! Check this out and tell me if you disagree in the comments. C’mon, I dare you!

http://on.ted.com/f097SMaysoon Zayid

Savings Bonds Can Create Headaches on Transfer

I recently received a distraught phone call from a client’s daughter over a 1099 form her mother received. When I asked what was wrong she explained that multiple thousands of dollars of income had been reported when she transferred her mother’s United States savings bonds to herself last year. And now the tax return was going to be filed and Mom owed, a lot.

Well, as it turns out, Mom gifted the savings bonds to daughter and now Mom was going to owe income taxes on the interest that had accrued on all of the bonds.  Mom had the cash to pay it but daughter was furious that there were tax implications.  That’s what happens with bonds and unfortunately folks forget about the tax bill that often accompanies a redemption or transfer of ownership, which is treated as though the bonds were cashed in.

Also remember that the income tax issue does not go away if savings bonds are held until death.  Depending on the series, the age of the bonds and the income previously reported multiple factors determine the amount of income reportable.  And, to make matters even more confusing, estates must obtain their own tax identification numbers and savings bond interest can be reported on the individual’s final income tax return, the estate’s income tax return or a combination of the two.  Good estate planning attorneys will work to do post-mortem tax planning, if it’s available, to reduce the amount of income that must be reported on each return and more importantly the amount of income that gets passed out to the estate’s beneficiaries for reporting on their returns.  Sometimes income distributions can be stretched over a couple different tax years, but you need to be careful and you need to talk to your advisors before simply cashing everything in; there is an unfortunate rush to liquidate everything as soon as possible with no counsel and then finger pointing at the advisors for lack of help when no one consulted with us prior to liquidation.  The saying goes “there’s no crying over spilt milk,” but many tears have been shed and dollars paid over redeemed savings bonds that could have waited for better tax treatment.

So what should you do? Give your advisors photocopies of the actual bonds. Simply mentioning that you have 3 Series EE bonds, each with a face value of $20,000, means nothing.  The individual bonds must be valued and the tax implications viewed in conjunction with other income and deductible expenses.  Advice is only as good as the information it is based upon and we have to rely on our clients for that. (If anyone actually has a working crystal ball I am in the market…)

If you are worried about options for planning with different types of assets please call to schedule a session – (585) 244-2170.