Things You Should Know About Estate Planning, Probate And Elder Law In New York

Over the past 36 years, I helped thousands of families throughout the New York City area create estate plans that meet the needs of their families. This page explains some of the things New Yorkers should know about estate planning, probate and elder law.

  • In addition to an unlimited exemption from federal and New York state gift and estate taxes for bequests to U.S. citizen spouses, there is also a federal gift and estate tax exemption for 2017 of $5,499,000. If your estate is under this amount after paying bequests to spouse and paying administrative expenses and debts, generally no estate tax will be due. Estates above such exemptions incur a federal estate tax of up to 40 percent.
  • If your spouse is not a U.S. citizen then special tax rates apply. For an explanation please go to this article.
  • In addition to the spousal exemption as stated above, the New York state estate tax exemption is $4,187,500 effective April 1, 2016 through March 31, 2017, and then $5,250,000 through December 31, 2018 (careful about going "over the cliff"). The New York state estate tax above this amount is 5.6 percent — 16 percent. For more information about going over the cliff go to this article.
  • Gifts to charities reduce your taxable estate and make you feel good.
  • If you make gifts to charities, consider making them from an IRA as the income on that IRA is not taxable to a charity so both the estate and the charity can benefit.
  • New York state has no gift tax. This means that you can give away five billion dollars today and pay no New York state gift tax. However, if you die within three years of the date of the gifts, they come back into the estate to determine whether the estate is taxable. This does not include your $14,000 annual per person gift.
  • New York state exempts from Medicaid equity in the marital home up to $828,000 — this figure is annually adjusted for inflation.
  • For Medicaid eligibility, New York state allows unlimited transfers to a spouse and then the sick spouse can go on Medicaid almost immediately. The well spouse (called the "community spouse") will likely be sued but for the lower Medicaid rate rather than the higher private pay rate and even then you can sometimes negotiate a settlement.
  • A health care proxy appoints a person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. You should state whether you are a "pull the plug" type of person or want to stay alive no matter.
  • A power of attorney appoints one or more agents to make financial decisions for you. Be careful because once the power of attorney is signed by both you and the agent, it is "live" and can be used immediately so only give the power of attorney to someone very trustworthy. The best policy is to keep it to yourself until needed.
  • In New York state probate does not have to be either expensive or lengthy. Generally, only hire an attorney who will do the probate on an hourly or flat fee basis. A legal fee based on a percentage basis of the estate mostly favors the attorney.
  • Trusts are usually not needed in New York state since probate is easy but if you don't know who or where your relatives are then trusts may make sense.
  • For information about Medicaid go to this page.
  • You can make an organ donation on your health care proxy and your driver's license. You should also tell your family what you want.
  • To learn whether the money being received for reparations qualify as exempt for Medicaid eligibility, go to this website. Don't forget inherited reparations.

Think about your own needs. Speak to an attorney who can address your concerns and put your plan into effect. To learn more about what a knowledgeable lawyer can do for you, call 800-371-5844 or complete our intake form to schedule your initial consultation. My Riverdale law firm is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and by appointment on weekends. I am in the Park Avenue office often so you can always make an appointment to suit your needs.