Estate Planning Services Overview
- Basic and Advanced Estate Planning
- Family-Owned Businesses
- Estate Planning for the GLBT Community
- IRA & Retirement Planning
- Asset Protection & Business Planning
- Elder Law & Medicaid Services
- Incapacity Planning
- Trust Administration
- Estate Planning For Your Pets
- Special Needs Planning
- Blended Families
- Estate & Gift Tax Figures
Basic and Advanced Estate Planning
If you have a well-drafted estate plan in place, you’ll insure that your estate passes to whom you want, when you want, and is carried out in the manner you’ve chosen.
If you elect to establish a trust, you can rest assured that your family won’t have to endure the public process and costly manner of probate. Also, with proper estate planning, the government won’t be able to take what you’ve spent a lifetime building. You need to be aware of the many options that exist in estate planning – and you must choose your attorney wisely.
That is why the Law Offices of Barton P. Levine offers this wealth of free information and free estate planning seminars. We want you to feel confident about the choices you make – let us be your guide on the path toward preserving your family’s future.
Through the use of Wills, Living Trusts (simple and complex), Irrevocable Trusts, Family Limited Liability Companies, Family Limited Partnerships, Charitable Gifting Strategies, Durable General Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies, HIPPA forms and Living Wills, we help families preserve their wealth for future generations, minimize estate taxes and avoid expensive and lengthy probate proceedings. We invite you to call us toll-free at (516) 415-0696 or contact us online to arrange for a free consultation.
Our estate planning services include a wide range of practice areas. These include the following:
Our law firm offers estate planning assistance for the unique needs of Family Businesses. We help clients preserve this important part of their legacy for future generations. We invite you to call us toll-free at (516) 415-0696 or contact us online to arrange for a free consultation
Estate Planning for GLBT Community
We offer guidance and assistance to members of the LGBT Community on their unique estate planning needs. This includes assistance in setting up Living Trusts and Health Care Directives.
Our firm has a long history of helping LGBT individuals to overcome shortcomings in the law in order to protect their future. While there have been significant advances in anti- discrimination legislation and gay couples can now choose to marry, issues still remain in incapacity planning, retirement planning, and estate planning. Our firm can help you deal with those issues and make the best use of legal tools to protect your future.
We can also answer questions you may have including:
- Why is LGBT planning important?
- What should be a part of your plan?
- How can an LGBT planning attorney help you?
For lesbians, gay individuals, bisexual individuals, and transgender individuals, estate planning and retirement planning can be complicated by inadequate recognition under the law, as well as by more complex family situations.
You may have a partner who you were not able to marry for a long time, which could mean you own substantial separate property or are not able to qualify for Social Security on each other’s work records. You may have non- biological children who you have raised but not adopted. You may also have a family who is not fully supportive of your sexuality or of your gender identity.
These are just some of the many issues that need to be addressed in the creation of an LGBT estate plan. Like anyone else, you want control over what happens in case you become incapacitated or if you pass away. You also want a secure retirement and to provide for your children and loved ones in the future. LGBT estate planning helps you to do all of these things while taking into account the unique issues that can be created by your sexual or gender identity.
Your LGBT estate plan should include the use of many different kinds of legal tools that protect you and protect your loved ones. The specifics of your plan should be customized to meet your needs, but your plan may include:
- Instructions for guardianship of children: This can be especially important if children are being raised with a partner who has not formally adopted them. Custody issues can arise when a parent passes away in these situations and you want to make your wishes very clear.
- Advanced instructions for your funeral and memorial. There have been many tragic cases where unsupportive family members have not posthumously recognized the true gender identity of a transgender person who has passed away. If you want to ensure you are remembered with your true gender, rather than your birth gender, you may wish to make plans in advance for your funeral and memorial.
- An incapacity plan. You want to make sure the person of your choosing manages your assets and makes medical decisions for you if something happens to you. This can be especially important if you are not married to your partner.
- An estate plan. You want to control who inherits your property. While you can use a will, sometimes a will is contested by non-supportive family members who may not recognize your relationship with a loving partner. You need to ensure you use the right legal tools to facilitate the seamless transfer of assets, which may include trusts and joint accounts that transfer assets outside of probate.
These are just some of the many different issues to address in LGBT estate planning. While the legalization of gay marriage has made it easier to provide for your partner after you are gone and to get protections at the end of your life, you still need to address many important issues to achieve a secure future.
Our firm helps married, coupled, and single LGBT individuals. We will carefully discuss your family and financial situation and your concerns about the future,and we will provide you with the comprehensive legal tools that you need to protect yourself and your loved ones no matter what life brings. Give us a call toll-free at (516) 415-0696 or contact us online to find out more about the services we offer and the personalized advice we provide to lesbians, gay individuals, transgender individuals and bisexual individuals.
IRA & Retirement Planning
Our law firm has experience in the complex area of estate planning with IRAs and other retirement plans. We help ensure clients and their beneficiaries are protected by employing tax reduction techniques.
Many people work their whole lives and still struggle to have a financially secure retirement. While it can be hard to set aside money for the future, you owe it to yourself to create a comprehensive retirement plan, so you don’t have money worries during your golden years. Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, you should have a retirement plan in place.
Your retirement plan should involve much more than just putting aside some money each month. You need to take advantage of tax breaks to help you save, and you need to find informed ways to protect the nest egg you are building. Using the right legal tools and getting professional advice is key, so call us today toll-free at (516) 415-0696 or contact us online to start the creation of your plan. Our firm offers personalized advice and can answer any questions you might have including:
- What do I need to know to make a retirement plan?
- How can IRAs help me save?
- How can a retirement planning attorney help?
When you create a retirement plan, you need to know how much to invest, what types of accounts to invest in, what the rules are for those particular accounts, and how to make sure your assets are protected. An experienced attorney can provide you with assistance addressing all of the different aspects of your plan.
The amount that you will need to set aside for retirement is going to be based on many different factors, including your age at the time when you begin saving, as well as your income level and whether you will have a pension or other benefits coming in.
It is always best to save more, rather than less, and it is always best to make sure you take advantage of some of the important tax breaks that can help you to save. An attorney can advise you on the types of tax-deferred accounts that not only subsidize your savings but that can also help to protect your retirement assets.
For many people saving for retirement, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are going to be the best or even the only option. If you have a 401(K) or other plan at work, you can participate in it and also invest in an IRA. If you have no workplace retirement plan, you can open an IRA on your own with a brokerage firm of your choosing.
When you open an IRA, you can benefit from being able to put aside money pre-tax or from allowing invested money to grow tax free. Most people will opt to either open a traditional IRA that they can invest in with pre-tax money or a Roth-IRA that allows growth and withdrawals without paying taxes.
If you are self-employed, earn non-wage income, and/or own your own business, then you may instead choose a Self Employed (SEP) IRA or a Simple IRA. These can provide advantages, such as allowing you to invest a larger percentage of your income each year than a traditional or Roth IRA would provide.
An IRA has annual contribution limits, so you should strongly consider beginning to invest in an IRA as early as possible. If you don’t put money into an IRA over the course of a year, you never get back that opportunity to invest that pre-tax money. An attorney can help you to open an IRA, to decide which type of IRA to use, and to understand the rules for making investments in your IRA. IRAs also have rules for required withdrawals as you get older. A retirement planning lawyer will help seniors understand and comply with requirements for withdrawing money from IRAs.
Our legal team has helped many people begin investing when they are young for retirement or to catch up during middle age to build a nest egg. We also help seniors make their retirement funds last, protect their assets, and make informed investment choices. To learn more and to begin securing your retirement future, give us a call toll-free at (516) 415-0696 or contact us online.
Asset Protection & Business Planning
We help clients who are small business owners and those who are most susceptible to being sued by assisting with Lawsuit and Asset Protection. We also assist with Business Succession Planning and Small Business Planning. Some of the tools and strategies used are Family Limited Partnerships, Limited Liability Companies and Buy-Sell Agreements. To learn more, give us a call toll-free at (516) 415-0696 or contact us online.
Elder Law and Medicaid Services
We help clients qualify for government medical benefits legally and ensure their estates are preserved for their families, instead of their nest egg being wiped out by high nursing home expenses. See our sections on Medicaid Planning & Nursing Home Planning and Elder Law Representation.
Our law firm helps clients create a plan to handle their affairs in the event of an incapacity before they pass away. This includes planning to avoid a Living Probate or Guardianship proceeding. See our section on Guardianship Representation.
We help families who have experienced the loss of a loved one with the ensuing Trust Administration process.
Many people coping with the loss of a friend or relative find themselves confused and frightened when thrust into the trust administration process. If you have been named a trustee, you have an enormous responsibility under the law. Even if you are simply a relative or heir, you have a moral responsibility to the deceased to make sure his wishes are respected, as well as a responsibility to protect your own interests when it comes to your inheritance.
We are here to help trustees, beneficiaries, heirs, and family members. We can guide you through the trust administration process to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible and to ensure your rights are protected under the law.
- What is involved in trust administration?
- How can a trust administration attorney help?
- What is involved in Trust Administration?
Trust administration happens in situations where a person passes away at some time following the creation of a trust. The trust document will name a trustee, and will provide instructions for the use of trust assets. The trustee will follow the instructions in the trust document, manage the assets within the trust, and facilitate the transfer of those assets to trust beneficiaries.
The trust administration process happens outside of court, and there is no judicial oversight. However, trustees have a fiduciary obligation to act in the interest of beneficiaries and never to act in their own self-interest. Trustees must manage money properly and carefully, and must take the formal legal steps necessary to transfer assets to new owners in a timely and efficient manner. Trustees may have to deal with issues like re-tilting property and filing a tax return for the trust, depending upon the specifics of the situation. The obligations imposed on a trust administrator can be complicated and getting legal help is advisable.
A trust administration attorney is there to guide you through all of the formal legal steps which must be taken after a death. When you want to ensure you have an experienced and compassionate legal representative, regardless of your role in the trust administration process. So, give us a call today toll-free at (516) 415-0696 or contact us online to learn more about how our legal team can help you with trust administration.
Estate Planning and Your Pets
Our firm cares about the welfare of your pets. Your beloved pets need to be protected in the event you are no longer there to take care of them. Estate Planning and implementing a Pet Trust can ensure that your pets are provided for after your death.
For many people, one fear they have about getting sick or passing away is the fear of what will happen to their companion animals. Having a beloved dog, cat or other animal friend can enrich quality of life for people of all ages and can actually extend your life in many cases. With all that your animal does for you, you want to make sure your beloved pet is always taken care of even if something happens to you.
Pet planning can help you make sure that you take care of your animal and give your pet the love and support that such a loyal pet deserves. Our firm has extensive experience providing assistance to owners of all types of companion animals. We can help you create as simple or as comprehensive a plan as you desire, and we can also offer you answers to some of the questions you may have including:
- When should I create a pet plan?
- What should my pet plan contain?
- How can a pet planning lawyer help?
You should create a pet plan as soon as you have brought an animal into your home. Often, seniors are cognizant of the risk that they will pass away before their pet and they make provisions for the care of an animal. Young people, on the other hand, may not think about becoming sick or experiencing an untimely death. This can result in an animal companion not being cared for properly in the event of an owner’s incapacity or an owner’s passing.
You do not want your animal to end up in a shelter, to be left uncared for if you suffer a medical emergency, or to end up with a caregiver who you would not have trusted. You owe it to your pet to take the necessary steps to identify a guardian, to ensure your animal is cared for, and provide your companion animal a good life, even if something unexpected arises. The sooner you take action, the more certain you can be that your pet won’t suffer terribly if something unexpected happens to you.
A pet plan can be a simple plan or you can take advanced steps to ensure you control your animal’s quality of life even after you are gone. The complexity of your plan is up to you. In some cases, pet owners will simply specify in their will who should become the guardian of their pet in the event of incapacity or death. If you name someone to take care of your animal, you should speak with that person first to ensure they are able and willing to take on the task of pet care. You may also wish to name a backup animal guardian in case the person who was the first choice for caring for your animal becomes unable to respect your wishes.
In many situations, pet owners will actually go further than just making provisions for who gets the animal after death. You may want to ensure that your dog, cat, or other pet is fully provided for. Vet care, treats, doggy day care, toys, and other expenses can grow to a substantial amount of money over the life of the pet. If you want to ensure there is enough money available and the cash is used specifically to provide for your pet, you can create a trust and name a trustee.
The trustee will have a fiduciary responsibility to honor your wishes and to act in the best interest of the trust beneficiary. This means you can rest assured the money you leave behind will be spent of the animal’s needs You can even specify that the money be used to periodically provide some of the same treats and experiences you offered your animal during your lifetime.
Our legal team understands the importance the human/animal bond and we know how much joy your pets bring to your life. We will work very hard to help you ensure that you can take care of your animals no matter what happens in the future. So, give us a call today toll-free at (516) 415-0696 or contact us online, if you are ready to take the important step towards making sure your pet is cared for.
Special Needs Planning
We offer assistance to clients who have special needs family members by creating Special Needs Estate Plans. These tailored plans help them preserve government benefits while having their loved one cared for in all areas of their life: financial, educational and medical, and most importantly, their emotional and personal needs in the future. See our Section on Special Needs Plannig.
These days, many families include children, stepchildren, former spouses and in-laws. The number of remarriages has been steadily rising. So, advanced wealth planning with clear goals is advised.
You want to take care of your spouse and your children, but letting them work it out after you’re gone is a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, estate planning takes into account your unique family situation and can alleviate most of your concerns.
Good communication is key. Have an honest conversation with your new spouse about your existing finances, goals for the future and how you expect your assets to be distributed. Such discussions are difficult and can be emotionally charged but will reap rewards in the long run. If your children are adults, you may want to include them in these talks so everyone knows what to expect.
Ensure that each spouse’s share of the estate ultimately ends up with his or her desired beneficiary. In this way, inheritances are protected for each spouse’s children from another relationship, no matter which parent is the first spouse to die. Traditional estate planning distributes an estate first to the spouse and then the children. But after the first spouse dies, the surviving spouse can amend the documents to disinherit whomever he or she wishes – including the deceased spouse’s heirs.
One way to deal with this is to prepare a separate property trust before you get married to ensure your assets end up with your chosen beneficiaries. You may make your current spouse the beneficiary of the trust until his or her death and then name your children, or you may have your separate property distributed directly to your children.
You also should establish a joint trust with your spouse with protection for the children. This places half of your assets into an irrevocable trust for the benefit of the surviving spouse, who is able to live on the income generated and yet preserve the principal for the children.
Other documents to think about:
- Power of attorney for financial affairs — This gives you the opportunity to name a trusted individual, most likely your spouse or one of your children, to manage your financial affairs and legal decisions during your life if you are not able to.
- Advance health care directive — You name someone you trust to make decisions about your health care when you are no longer capable of doing it yourself. It’s helpful to medical professionals if there’s an emergency, plus it gives you an opportunity to discuss your feelings about end-of-life care, organ donation and burial arrangements with your new spouse.
- Beneficiary forms — If you have some of your wealth in life insurance policies and retirement accounts, the beneficiary designations, not your will or trust, will control to whom these monies are distributed. One way to avoid a potential problem is to name each beneficiary as primary and designate the percentage of the asset each will receive.
And other things to consider:
- You may want to provide a death benefit through a life insurance plan for your spouse, while allowing the rest of your estate to pass to your children. You want your children to benefit from your assets without court intervention.
- Now is the time to look over all your financial assets — including that little-used account at a credit union or old 401(k) plan from a job you left long ago. Make changes, transferring accounts to your new spouse and/or children.
- A will is still needed to ensure that assets not titled in a trust are transferred according to your wishes.
Every blended family is different, and each presents its own set of challenges. Designing a plan that keeps all parties satisfied is key, and agreeing on a course of action is bliss. Communication is probably the secret weapon for maintaining harmony — especially in blended families.
Estate & Gift Tax Figures
Whatever amount is used during your lifetime is no longer available for use to pass assets at death. The Estate and Gift Tax Applicable Exclusion is currently $11.18 million.
The amount that can be given to each person you want without using any Applicable Exclusion: The Annual Gift Tax Exclusion is currently $15,000.
The Generation-Skipping Tax Exemption: allows for giving to people who are grandchildren or other “skip persons.” It may also be used as a sophisticated way of avoiding federal estate tax at the death of a child. Each person currently has $11.18 million of Generation- Skipping Tax Exemption.
In addition to the federal Estate tax, many states have an estate or inheritance Tax. State estate and inheritance tax es may apply at a much lower level than the federal tax. It may apply when a person dies when residing in or owning property in any of the many states with such a tax.
Check out our FREE Estate Planning Resources for more information.
Contact us today to schedule a FREE consultation!