A “Health Care Agent” under the NYS Health Care Proxy will be able to make any and all medical decisions on your behalf if and when you are unable to make decisions on your own. This can include end of life choices, as well as, ability to make decisions concerning artificial nutrition and hydration, when this power is included in the form.
This is your statement of your health care choices when you are you are unable to express your wishes, particularly with a focus on end-of-life issues. This statement will information your health care agent of your wishes and provide “clear and convincing” evidence needed in New York State to enforce your end of life choices. This directive will only take effect when there is no hope of recovery, no treatment you would benefit from.
When you sign a Power of Attorney, you appoint a person known as your “agent”, whom you trust to handle your legal and financial affairs should you become incapacitated. The standard form, which must be used, is the New York State Statutory Short Form Power of Attorney. This form includes a Statutory Major Gifts Rider which contains important powers necessary for making lifetime gifts, as well as implementing tax & Medicaid planning.
Your wealth passing after death may be subject to federal and state estate taxes. Estate Planning can reduce this tax burden for your beneficiaries and ensure your family receives the assets you worked so hard to acquire. The 2017 federal Tax Cut and Job Act had greatly increased the estate tax exemption amount, which has minimized the impact on most estates. It is to be noted that the cut is only until 2025, then we are unsure what the estate tax statute will be.
Almost everyone over 65 or disabled will have Medicare if they worked the required work quarters. Enrollment begins age 65 or at retirement. Upon enrolling in Medicare, you may make an election as to which type of coverage will be best for you (regular original Medicare or an Advantage Plan). These plans change on a yearly basis and because your health condition may change over the time, your Medicare coverage should be reviewed yearly. Medigap policies. Also called Medicare Supplemental Policies, may be needed to off-set or help you pay the hospital and medical deductibles and co-payments, as well as other fees not covered by Medicare. Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs. Individuals must select coverage during the set enrollment period.
If you have a concern about the cost of Long Term Care (“LTC”), this is the time to shop and determine whether or not long term care insurance makes sense for you. You may need insurance to specifically cover long-term health costs such as nursing home, home care and assisted living care. It gives you the ability to meet the catastrophic costs of long-term care. It is best to buy these policies by age 60, when your risk factors are lower, which will be reflected in the annual premium. New LTC insurance policies are now being offered in hybrid forms, which includes life insurance type death benefits.
Holding assets jointly tilted with another confers rights to the joint owner and gives both owners free access to this asset. Joint assets are useful to avoid the probate process. When two people jointly hold title to an asset, the person who survives becomes the sole owner thus avoiding any need to probate the estate. This technique should be used with caution and it must be understood that this asset will operate outside your Last Will and Testament or Trust and pass by operation of law directly to the joint owner.
A Will provides instructions on the distribution of your assets upon your death. A Will needs to be reviewed and updated every few years to adapt to changes in your family situation, your assets or a change in the state laws. A Will must go through probate in the Surrogate’s Court of the County in which the decedent resided. If you have property in multiple states such as a vacation or second home in another state, this can result in two probate proceedings. One in the decedent’s resident state and an ancillary probate in the second home state. Probate in many states are not complex, although often slow and expensive. Probate should be avoided if there is family disharmony, disruptive family members, unknown intestate heirs and if there is immediate access to assets for a minor child(ren) or disabled heirs.
If you have substantial resources or complicated assets held in multiple states or you anticipate a challenge to the validity of your Will, a living trust can avoid the cost and delay of probate. A living trust can shelter your assets from creditors and can provide for special needs or disabled heirs. There are several types of Living Trusts: Revocable, Irrevocable, Medicaid & Special Needs Trust are to be considered in developing a proper estate plan.
You need to regularly review your retirement fund portfolio, which includes such plans as IRA’s, 40l(k)’s, tax deferred annuities and other qualified retirement assets. Update your investments and your beneficiary designations. Retirement savings are a central part of the financial security of the later years as an important source of your income. Distributions from these types of accounts have income tax liability as tax deferred assets and you should consider these assets along with all of your savings, in developing a plan to determine which assets should be used for your support in your retirement years. Required minimum distributions must be taken at age 70.5 and taxes must be paid on these distributions.
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