5 Important Reasons to Avoid a Do-It-Yourself Will

will

When it comes to your will, advice from an estate planning attorney ensures your wishes are carried out exactly as you desire, leaving no room for confusion or misinterpretation. We’ve seen the rise of do-it-yourself wills over the last few years, but it’s important to understand what can go wrong with this method:

1. A will must be signed and witnessed following proper protocol in order to be valid in a court of law. Simply typing your last wishes up on a piece of paper while you’re home alone and signing it will not hold up with a judge, and its validity can be contested.

2. Making changes to your will must follow proper protocol, or else they may be considered invalid. It’s common to make changes to your will, but you can’t just re-draft your will on your own. Enlisting the help of an estate planning attorney to make amends to your will ensures these changes are honored when the time comes.

3. You must follow proper protocol when having your will witnessed. This includes having two independent adults present at the same time, neither one of whom can be listed as the beneficiary of your will. When done under the guidance of an estate planning attorney there is little room for doubt as to whether proper procedure was followed. 

4. Misspelled names might render your will invalid. Our eyes tend to gloss over spelling errors quite easily, especially if it’s a name that you see often. Having a professional set of eyes read your will can catch costly spelling errors and other mistakes. 

5. Your will affects the family members you leave behind. An incorrectly executed will can eliminate your family’s income source, cause them to lose their home, and leave behind a frustrating, confusing mess. 

Our affairs are rarely as straightforward as we think they are. The DIY route may seem tempting due to the convenience, but it’s recommended to invest a little more time and money by enlisting the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. They can prepare you for circumstances you probably have not thought of, and ensure your will truly fulfills your last wishes.

Advice from New Jersey estate planning attorneys

If you have questions about estate planning, or you’re ready to draw up your will, please contact us today. Discover why we’re New Jersey’s most trusted estate planning attorneys. We look forward to hearing from you.

What are Medicaid Transfer Penalties?

medicaid

Medicaid can be a complicated system, and you may benefit from speaking with an elder law attorney who can help clear up any confusion you might have. It’s normal to want to complete all the Medicaid enrollment paperwork yourself, however, in order to avoid a Medicaid transfer penalty, we recommend speaking with an attorney who specializes in elder law.

To understand what a Medicaid transfer penalty is, let’s go back a few steps. In order to be eligible for Medicaid, you cannot have recently transferred assets, because the government wants to prevent seniors from simply giving away all their assets to family and friends, then enrolling in long-term care paid for by Medicaid. 

When a new application is submitted, Medicaid’s system reviews the applicant’s past financial information within a specific frame of time, known as the look-back period. Each state has slightly varying look-back periods, and in New Jersey it’s five years, meaning all the applicant’s financial information dating back five years will be thoroughly examined. 

What exactly are they looking for? They’re looking for any gifts the applicant gave, or any assets the applicant transferred, for less than what is called fair market value. If any assets or money changed hands for less than the fair market value during the five-year look-back period, the applicant will be ineligible for Medicaid for a certain period of time, known as the penalty period.

For example, if you give your adult daughter a car worth $100,000 and in return your daughter pays you $200, Medicaid will delay covering the cost of any of your expenses, because if you had received a fair market value price for the car you could have used that money to pay for your care instead of enrolling in Medicaid. The delay in covering your care is the Medicaid transfer penalty, and the length of the penalty period depends on the total amount of assets transferred and gifts given. 

Incurring a Medicaid transfer penalty means you are responsible for the full cost of your care until the delay is over. For seniors on a budget this can be difficult and stressful, especially those with more complex medical needs.

Advice from New Jersey elder law attorneys 

The Medicaid transfer penalty system does have exceptions and exemptions, and if you’re unsure about how it works, we are happy to talk through your specific situation step by step. We are proud to be trusted attorneys in many areas of elder law, including healthcare proxy, power of attorney, medical directive, and Medicaid, so please contact us today and let us know how we can help. 

5 Important Documents to Have in Place for Estate Planning during COVID-19

estate planning

If you’re searching for a dependable estate planning attorney in New Jersey, we are here to help. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the lives of people across our country, we want to ensure you are prepared if you or someone in your family contracts the virus. Don’t leave your family open to medical and financial risks – get these five estate planning documents in place today:

  1. Guardianship: If you have children under the age of 18, you want to know they will be taken care of if you become ill and need to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time. A Guardianship appoints someone to take care of your children if you become unable to care for them, often a relative or a close family friend, and you can rest assured that your children will be in capable hands if something should happen to you.
  2. Healthcare Power of Attorney: If you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself, you don’t want decisions to be made by the courts. This document appoints someone in your family to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
  3. Living Will: In this document you can specify the types of medical care you do or do not want in certain situations, so you don’t leave your family guessing if tragedy should strike. You don’t want your family feeling confused and uncertain if something happens to you and they are required to make decisions on your behalf.
  4. Revocable Living Trust: This document is crucial, because it allows you to allocate your assets, including money and property, in the event you should pass away. Family feuds over assets are unfortunately very common, but you can avoid this and remove any doubt by creating a Revocable Living Trust.
  5. Durable Financial Power of Attorney: If the unthinkable happens, would your family face financial strain? This document appoints a trusted person to pay bills, make deposits, and other important transactions on your behalf.

Contact our New Jersey estate planning attorneys 

When it comes to estate planning it’s always best to be prepared. These documents are a crucial part of your family life and you deserve to have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that if tragedy strikes, your affairs are in place. It’s simply too risky to wait until it’s too late.

We are standing by and ready to help. Contact us today for assistance with Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, Trusts, and more. Discover why we’re trusted estate planning attorneys in New Jersey. We look forward to hearing from you.

3 tips for people in the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program

medicaid

Are you in need of an elder law attorney in New Jersey? Elder law covers a range of issues from estate planning to Last Will and Testament to Power of Attorney and many more. Every family is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, especially when it comes to complex issues like the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program.

If you or a loved one are a member of the QMB program, and you’re still receiving bills from medical providers for items and services that should be covered, you may find these three tips helpful:

  1. Tell the provider(s) that you’re enrolled in the QMB program, which means you cannot be charged for certain things including co-payments, coinsurance, and Medicare deductibles. The provider(s) may request a copy of your QMB card, and if you’ve already paid for items or services that are covered by the QMB Program, you can claim a refund.
  2. If a medical provider continues to bill you, please call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) and speak to a Medicare representative, who can request that the medical provider stop billing you. The Medicare representative can also assist you with claiming a refund for items or services you’ve already paid for.
  3. File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) if you’re having problems with a debt collector. You can reach the CFPB toll-free at (855) 411-2372.

If you’ve taken the above steps and still think you’re being charged for items and services you shouldn’t have to pay for, please contact our office and we’ll be happy to discuss your situation with you. The QMB program and all the paperwork that accompanies is very complex, and can often be confusing and can leave you feeling frustrated. Rather than spending weeks or months going back and forth with a Medicare representative, speak with us today and we’ll work on obtaining a resolution. 

Do you need an elder law attorney in New Jersey? 

Matters involving your family are often delicate and sensitive, and you deserve someone who will be thorough and understanding. No two elder law cases are the same, and we pride ourselves on providing personalized and compassionate advice and representation to all of our clients. Don’t wait until it’s too late to get your family’s affairs in order – be proactive and help your family stay prepared.

We are standing by and ready to handle your case with the care and attention it deserves. Our experienced team can assist with Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, estate planning and much more. Please contact us today if you need an elder law attorney in New Jersey.

The Pros and Cons of a Miller Trust

miller trust

Firstly, what is a Miller Trust? 

Texas falls under the list of states that have an “income-cap” and makes an allowance for a Miller Trust. Should the applicant’s income be more than the “income-cap”, the applicant’s initial income needs to be adjusted downward. 

By redirecting income to the Miller trust, and lowering the initial income, this will allow for the applicant to qualify for the Medicaid program.

Continue reading “The Pros and Cons of a Miller Trust”

What is the Kiddie Tax and Why Does it Matter?

estate planning attorney

 

 

 

 

 

Kiddie tax is imposed on individuals under 18 years old (or younger than 24 and a full-time student) whose investment and unearned income is higher than an annually determined threshold.

Unearned income is referred to funds such as interest, dividends, and capital gains, but not including wages. It was designed to prevent parents from passing their unearned income to their children and avoid paying higher tax rates. The 1986 tax reform act stated that certain types of unearned income, such as investment income, would be taxed as if the money was the income of the parent. Under the new law, as per the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, a child’s investment income isn’t taxed at the parent’s marginal tax rate. Instead, it’s taxed at the rates applicable to trusts and estates.

Who must pay the Kiddie Tax? 

Your child may be compelled to file a tax return to report and pay tax on income earned, however, may not be subjected to the Kiddie Tax. The Kiddie Tax normally kicks in when all the following criteria are met:

  • Is required to file a tax return
  • Has more than $2,100 of unearned income
  • 18 or younger and didn’t earn income that was more than half their support at the end of the tax year
  • Had at least one living parent at the end of the tax year
  • Didn’t file a joint return for the year

How much is the Kiddie Tax?

Add up the child’s net earned income and net unearned income. Then subtract the child’s standard deduction to arrive at taxable income. The portion of taxable income that consists of net unearned income and that exceeds the unearned income threshold is subject to the Kiddie Tax. This rate can be as high as 37% for ordinary income and short-term gains and 20% for long-term gains and dividends.

How can you avoid paying the Kiddie Tax?

You can prevent paying the Kiddie Tax by keeping the child’s annual investment income at $2,100 or less. This can be attained by investing in things that increase in value. Another option is saving inside a 529 plan.

Conclusion:

It’s not unusual for parents and grandparents to make financial gifts to children and young adults. Before you transfer income-producing assets, remember to consider the Kiddie Tax. Contact SSC Legal for advice to make sure the Kiddie Tax doesn’t come as an unwelcome surprise.

Frank R. Campisano is an experienced Estate Planning attorney with a long history of service and loyalty to his New Jersey clients. In addition, he can assist you with storing or updating your Last Will and Testament, college savings strategies, developing trusts, healthcare proxies, Power of Attorney documentation, and much more.

For a free consultation, please contact us today and speak to Frank R. Campisano or visit our website at http://www.scclegal.com/ for more information about how we can assist you.

3 Estate Planning Tips for Blended Families

estate planning

Many couples find their perfect match the second time around at marriage, and this can mean bringing together kids from different marriages. It’s a happy ending, but it does mean that your estate plan needs to be a little more complex in order to ensure dependents are correctly provided for – even if everyone involved has the best possible intentions. Here’s some insight for blended families from a leading estate planning attorney in NJ.

Life Happens

It sounds like a slightly obvious comment, but “life happens” really is a fundamental concept behind successful estate planning, and it’s an important one for blended families. For example, if a spouse dies and then the remaining spouse remarries, possibly having children with the new spouse, how can you ensure that the children the first spouse brought into the marriage are cared for? It’s not about whether the new spouse may keep everything for their biological children (although this sadly is a scenario that occurs), it’s about ensuring peace of mind for both spouses that no matter what happens, all the children from both sides are provided for as they deserve.

3 Tips for Successful Estate Planning

1. Go Beyond a Simple Last Will and Testament: 

In complex situations, a simple Will won’t really have the capacity and scope to adequately meet your estate planning needs. For example, a straightforward Will that leaves everything to your spouse means that in the event of you passing, your spouse can not only cut your children off and remarry, but your assets can also be used to support his or her lifestyle, as there’s no legal obligation to provide for your children. You’ll need a more complex, professional Last Will and Testament to cover your needs.

2. Create a Trust: 

Estate planning attorneys recommend that you consider creating a trust in addition to a Will. Trusts are very flexible and allow you to tailor your estate plan in much more detail and with much more legal power. For example, you can create a trust that leaves your assets to your spouse in the event of your death but, upon the spouse’s death, these assets pass to your children. You can also state that assets go directly to your children at a certain age, are used for certain expenses like education or buying a home, or that a spouse no longer receives any income from the trust in the event that they remarry.

3. Don’t Forget About Healthcare Decisions: 

In blended families, it is especially important to decide who gets to make important healthcare decisions in the event that you are unable to. You can name anyone, including your spouse or even an adult child. Devastating medical events can cause rifts in any family, and the last thing you want is a stepparent cutting off access to their spouse’s children under these circumstances. 

Effective, Comprehensive Estate Planning in New Jersey

At Sedita, Campisano, and Campisano, LLC in New Jersey, estate planning attorney Frank Campisano is ready to assist you with all your estate planning needs – whether you need to make a business succession plan, a personal estate plan, Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, a Living trust or to minimize inheritance tax on your estate. He can also assist in the event of Will disputes.

Contact us today and let us deliver expert estate planning advice to take care of all your wishes, whether your needs are big or small. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.scclegal.com/

When Is the Right Time to Start Planning for Long-Term Care?

long-term care

Most people understand that planning for long-term care is an important part of their overall retirement strategy, especially as costs for senior care and assisted living services continue to increase. But, when is the right time to start? Here is some advice from a leading elder law attorney in New Jersey.

Having a long-term care strategy in place is about saving and planning with this specific goal in mind, rather than choosing a senior care provider or trying to predict your future medical needs. By having a savings and Medicaid plan in place as early as possible, you benefit from having more choices and options at your disposal, you have more control over your future and you’re properly positioned to give yourself or your spouse high-quality care without jeopardizing your finances. Here are four indicators that you should get in touch with your elder law attorney as soon as possible:

1. A Life-Changing Diagnosis

Unfortunately, the realization that a long-term care strategy is essential often only happens when a client or a loved one receives a diagnosis that changes their lives. If you are in the position where you or your spouse has been diagnosed with a chronic or debilitating condition, it’s essential to speak to an elder law attorney to not only see what you can do to afford the care required, but also to plan for future care needs and to protect your assets.

2. A Significant Age Milestone

While severe illness can strike at any age, the reality is that we become more vulnerable as we get older. It’s recommended that individuals should start planning for long-term care at age 60 at the latest. This gives you enough time to build up funds slowly to support long-term care needs.

3. Recent Hospitalization

This is a critical wake-up call for many clients who have been putting off long-term care planning. If you or your spouse has recently been hospitalized for surgery, an illness or a fall, then now’s the time to really make long-term care planning a priority. In fact, the risks associated with any underlying health conditions or frailty make this a necessity.

4. Disabled Child

Many long-term care plans aren’t necessarily to the sole benefit of you or your spouse. Rather, they’re about preventing a financial burden from falling on your dependents. And, sometimes, they may even be needed to make provision for dependents who are less independent. Long-term care planning provides critical peace of mind, ensuring that your child or children are provided for in the event that you require long-term care.

Frank R. Campisano is a highly experienced and compassionate elder law attorney with considerable knowledge of long-term care planning and Medicaid planning. In addition to planning ahead financially for Medicaid eligibility, he is also able to assist with Medicaid applications, appeals, and other Medicaid issues. If you or a family member needs assistance with Medicaid planning or protecting their assets effectively, don’t hesitate to get help today. In addition, you can also prepare additional estate planning documents, such as your Last Will and Testament, Healthcare Proxy, Power of Attorney documents, and trusts.

For a free consultation, please contact us today and speak to Frank R. Campisano or visit our website at http://www.scclegal.com/.

4 Important Reasons to Avoid a Do-It-Yourself Will

last will and testament

DIY is fantastic, and there’s nothing quite as satisfying as building your own skill set while you paint your new home, tile a bathroom or repair your deck. But, there are some things where DIY is not the way to go. This especially applies to legal documents, where years of training and experience are needed to draft ironclad documents that can withstand every challenge thrown at them. Your Last Will and Testament is one of these. Here are four good reasons why you should call your estate planning attorney in New Jersey when you want to draft your Will.

1. Your Situation Is Unique: 

DIY Wills are one-size-fits-all forms. However, if there’s one thing we all know it is that our financial situations, assets, and relationships are completely unique. No two Wills ever look the same. It’s up to the estate planning attorney to create this totally unique document, ensuring that your wishes are met and that the right legal framework is there to ensure they are carried out. We don’t fill out a form – we create a document that is as unique as you are.

2. DIY Wills Have No Quality Control: 

DIY Wills cause massive problems in the legal system because they often contain faults, ambiguities, and spaces for legal conflicts to arise. Often, they are created by persons who have no legal experience or qualifications to do so, which means your wishes are left unclear and can be challenged in court. This is costly for families and can become the root of severe conflict between loved ones, which isn’t anything that anyone wants to leave behind as their legacy.

3. DIY Wills Have Disclaimers: 

Your Last Will and Testament is one of the most important documents you will create in your lifetime. When you look at almost every DIY Will form, you’ll likely see a disclaimer that they are no substitute for sound legal advice. In a document where sound legal advice is key, these forms offer no guarantees that your wishes will be properly represented or carried out. Contrary to this risky course of action, if you use an experienced estate planning attorney to create your Will, you can rest assured that your Will is ironclad.

4. It Won’t Save You Money: 

Having an estate planning attorney draft your Will does carry a cost. After all, you are accessing all their years of skill and expertise in a complex field. But, while a DIY Will may be cheap, it usually won’t save anyone any money. In fact, it can be far more costly for your loved ones. That’s because these Wills are not as legally clear and sound as a professional Will, which means your loved ones may have to challenge decisions made by executors and the court, and this could result in much higher legal costs and delays than if you had a professionally-drafted document.

Get Peace of Mind and Security for Your Loved Ones With an Affordable, Professional Last Will and Testament

At Sedita, Campisano and Campisano in New Jersey, estate planning attorney Frank Campisano is ready to assist you with all your estate planning needs, whether you need a business succession plan, a Last Will and Testament, a Power of Attorney, a Living trust or want to minimize the inheritance tax in NJ on your estate.

Contact us today and let us deliver expert estate planning advice to take care of all your wishes – whether your estate is big or small. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.scclegal.com/

What Are Medicaid Transfer Penalties?

medicaid

Medicaid is a fairly complex but important healthcare program, and professional Medicaid planning can help you to avoid penalties and maximize on benefits. One of the pitfalls to avoid are Medicaid transfer penalties. Here’s some advice on this issue from an experienced elder law attorney in New Jersey.

Understanding Medicaid Transfer Penalties

In the State of New Jersey, you need to meet certain qualification criteria in order to be granted access to Medicaid benefits, and some of these criteria revolve around the value of your assets.

Medicaid transfer penalties are designed to prevent people from gifting assets away within the 5-year look back period in order to access their Medicaid benefits earlier. This penalty can be severe. It is calculated by adding up the value of all the assets that have been transferred or gifted away and dividing that by the penalty divisor, which is currently set at $343.85 per day or $10,458.77 per month. However, many times your total gifted assets can be divided by this amount determines how many days of coverage will not be covered by Medicaid.

For example, if your total gifted assets amounted in value to $3,438.00, you would have to cover your own costs for a total of 10 days (which can amount to significantly more than $3,438.00, especially if you are in assisted living or require skilled nursing care). You can see that if the amount is much higher, which is likely for many Medicaid applicants, the penalty wait period can quickly amount to concerningly high costs.

How to Avoid or Minimize Medicaid Transfer Penalties

Here, you have a few options:

Have the Gifts Returned: 

This is not an easy process to clear with the Medicaid agency, and should only be attempted if there is no alternative. There is no clear precedent for Medicaid appeals based on the return of gifts although some cases have had some success. And, therefore, it’s advisable to have an elder law attorney in New Jersey to argue your appeal for you in this type of situation.

Limit Your Transfers to Those That Don’t Carry a Penalty: 

Some gifts and transfers don’t carry a penalty, like those to a spouse or a disabled child. Your primary residence can be transferred to your child of under 21, a child who has been your primary caregiver, or a child who has an equity share in the property. Again, these are fairly complex processes and, like any legal issue, have to follow an exact process in order to be seen as valid and meeting these specifications. An elder law attorney is an invaluable resource for managing these processes and ensuring your application process goes smoothly.

Avoid Transfer Penalties Through Medicaid Planning

The best way to avoid all kinds of Medicaid penalties, including transfer penalties, is through professional Medicaid planning.

Frank R. Campisano is a highly experienced and compassionate elder law attorney in New Jersey with considerable knowledge of Medicaid issues. In addition to planning ahead financially for Medicaid eligibility, he is also able to assist with NJ Medicaid applications, appeals and other Medicaid issues. If you or a family member needs assistance with their Medicaid planning or protecting their assets effectively, don’t hesitate to get help today.

In addition, you can also prepare additional estate planning documents, such as your Last Will and Testament, Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney documents, and trusts.
For a free consultation and Medicaid assistance or NJ estate planning, please contact us today and speak to Frank R. Campisano, or visit our website at http://www.scclegal.com/

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