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Managing the Legacy of a Family Business

There is a lesson to be learned from Tywin Lannister, the influential patriarch of Game of Thrones. Despite amassing great wealth and power throughout this life, his attempts to create a business legacy for his family failed.

A family-owned business is a hard-won commodity and is considered a legacy to be passed from one generation to the next. However, that legacy is often lost in the transition because of poor estate planning. More than 70 percent of family-owned businesses do not successfully survive the transfer from one generation to another.

How can a business owner ensure their plans for the future are successful?  As a first step, he or she should communicate with family members about their intentions for the business. Then, a business succession plan that transfers control and ownership to primary family members (including in-laws or other relatives, if they are involved with aspects of the business) should be established.

The business succession plan may also include details that preserve “institutional memory” to keep legacy reputation intact. Plans should specify who actually owns the business, what advisers are on board to help with the ownership transition, who is in charge of the day-to-day business activities, and what provisions have been put into place for the heirs not actively involved in the business.

The business owner should work with an estate planning attorney to establish this business succession plan. . The estate planning attorney can also assist with plans to ensure that the business has access to a significant cash flow to pay estate taxes, to provide compensation, supervision and training for employed family members, and to establish a buy-sell agreement in place for future sale of company shares or partnerships.

Ensuring that the family business does not fall victim to the same fate as the Lannisters requires a unique combination of proper estate and tax planning, business acumen and common-sense communication with those closest to you. Hiring an experienced estate planning attorney to help put these plans in place is a necessary step in protecting one’s legacy.

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 13th, 2015 and is filed under Estate Planning | no comments | Leave a comment

Bill Overhauling Medicare Passes in the House

By Alberthe Bernier, Esq.

Before the House adjourned for a two-week recess, representatives passed legislation overhauling the outdated method for paying physicians who accept Medicare.  Physicians and seniors across America are breathing a sigh of relief, as the bill ensures access to better healthcare services and professionals, many of which quit treating Medicare patients altogether due to the dysfunctional Sustainable Growth Rate Formula (SGR) implemented in 1997.  Littman Krooks Medicare Planning

Here are the highlights of the bill:

  1. The legislation replaces the current model of paying physicians based on the services provided (also known as ‘fee-for-service’) to value or outcome based payment (‘fee-for-value’);
  2. The popular Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health care coverage for low-income children was extended for another two years; and
  3. The bill requires seniors who make more than $133,500 to pay more for Medicare coverage starting in 2018.

Although the bill will add $141 billion to deficit over a decade, the bill promotes higher quality of care for Medicare patients and long-term sustainability of the Medicare program. The House passed the bill in an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 392-37.  Now the U.S. Senate must pass the bill when Congress reconvenes April 13.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 and is filed under Elder Law, medicare | no comments | Leave a comment

Don’t Forget Dependent Care Tax Breaks on Your 2014 Return

Littman Krooks estate planning

By Tom Breedlove, Director, Care.com HomePay

As the April 15th tax filing deadline gets closer, those who have put off their taxes until the last minute – and there are a lot of us – are apt to forgetting minor details that can impact our returns. In the household employment world, two commonly overlooked tax-time items for New York families are the federal and state dependent care tax breaks.

To qualify for these, both spouses must either be working or a full-time student and have expenses related to the care of someone they can claim as a dependent. For the federal tax break, families should use IRS Form 2441. They may itemize up to $3,000 for 1 dependent and $6,000 for 2 or more dependents. Most families will receive a 20% tax credit on these expenses, saving up to $600 if they have 1 dependent and up to $1,200 if they have 2 or more dependents. According to 2012 data from the IRS, approximately 420,000 New York families took advantage of this credit and saved an average of just under $600.

The New York state tax credit for dependent care is very similar to federal tax credit. Families can use Form IT-216 and claim the same expenses they reported on IRS Form 2441. The state tax credit for most families will be 20% of the credit they receive from the IRS – meaning they can save up to $120 if they have 1 dependent and $240 if they have 2 or more dependents. It seems like a small amount, but every little bit helps.

Please keep in mind that these tax breaks assume the family is paying their caregiver legally. The IRS and the state of New York only reward those who put forth the effort to do things the right way. The tax breaks exist to help offset the cost of paying employment taxes, which means paying the caregiver “on the books” isn’t really as costly as many people think.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 and is filed under Estate Planning, Tax Planning | no comments | Leave a comment

The Able Act: Better Economic Future for People with Disabilities

Littman Krooks attorney Amy C. O’Hara, Esq., presented on the Able Act at Arc of Westchester’s Family Resource Day, a day of transition and transformation including seminars, demonstrations, art exhibition opening and a special needs vendor resource fair.

To view our materials from this event, please click on the appropriate link below:

  • The Act Act (a presentation by Amy C. O’Hara, Esq.)

Learn how the able act will create a pathway for a better economic future for people with disabilities. Tax exempt savings accounts can now be set up for maintaining health, independence and quality of life, while protecting eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and other important federal benefits for people with disabilities.

View Presentation

  • Able Act Passes (by Bernard A. Krooks, Esq., as published in EP Magazine, February 2015 Issue)

The community of individuals with special needs and their family members will have a new tool at their disposal: A new tool with which to maintain a private fund of assets while preserving certain government benefits.

View Article

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This entry was posted on Monday, March 16th, 2015 and is filed under Special Needs Planning | no comments | Leave a comment

How working after retirement affects Social Security

A growing number of people continue to work after retirement, some to supplement their income and some simply to stay active. Most retirees can continue to work without any negative effects on their Social Security benefits.

There is no reduction in Social Security benefits for those who continue to work, as long as they have reached full retirement age. For some, Social Security benefits may actually increase, because benefits are calculated using the highest 35 years of earning.

For people born between 1943 and 1955, full retirement age is 66 years old. For those born in 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67 years old.

Taking Social Security benefits before reaching full retirement age and continuing to work can lead to a reduction in benefits. For those under retirement age for a full year, the Social Security Administration deducts $1 in benefits for every $2 earned above the annual limit of $15,720. For the year in which the individual reaches full retirement age, $1 is deducted for every $3 earned above an income limit of $41,880 in the months before the individual reaches full retirement age.

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This entry was posted on Monday, February 23rd, 2015 and is filed under Elder Law, Estate Planning | no comments | Leave a comment

If You Want to Withdraw from Medicare Advantage

Medicare recipients choose to withdraw from Medicare Advantage for a variety of reasons, including difficulties accessing their provider, coverage problems, premium increases and issues with Part D coverage.

Medicare Advantage enrollees have through February 14, 2015 to withdraw from their Medicare Advantage plan and instead receive Medicare Parts A and B through Original Medicare. During this period, recipients can also join a Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) if necessary. There are some issues that individuals should keep in mind if they would like to withdraw:

  • During the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP), it is not possible to switch to another Medicare Advantage plan – the only option is to go to Original Medicare coverage Part A and Part B. Those who would like to switch Medicare Advantage plans may do so during Fall Open Enrollment, which runs from October through December.
  • Individuals returning to Original Medicare should consider how they might manage the deductibles, coinsurance and copayments they may encounter when seeking medical care and coverage. For example, individuals seeking to purchase a Medigap policy may face higher premiums or a waiting period.
  • Keep in mind, if you drop other coverage (i.e. employer or union health care coverage), you may not be able to reinstate your coverage.

To learn more about these Medicare click here: http://www.medicare.gov/

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 and is filed under Elder Law | no comments | Leave a comment

Important Differences between 504 Plans in Public Schools and Colleges

It is important for students with disabilities who plan to attend college, and their parents, to understand how their legal rights related to their disability will change in a post-secondary education environment.

In public elementary and secondary schools, students with disabilities may receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The IDEA does not apply in the workplace or in post-secondary education, so services available under IDEA, such as an individualized education program (IEP), are not available in college. However, services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act may continue at the post-secondary level.

First, it should be noted that while Section 504 only applies to schools that receive federal funding, most colleges and universities do, and private post-secondary schools that receive no federal funding are still required to provide similar accommodations to students with disabilities, under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability, meaning that the needs of students with disabilities must be met as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities are met. Colleges and universities must provide accommodations for students with disabilities. As a practical matter, this may include accessibility of classrooms, dormitories and other buildings; additional time on tests; substitution of some course requirements; interpreters or readers; adapted computer terminals and other services. Such services must be provided unless a fundamental alteration of the program or an undue financial or administrative burden would result.

Students with disabilities going from high school to college will need to advocate for their own needs more than ever. If the university has a disability support office, the student will need to make contact with that office to explain his or her needs. If a student has a history of accommodations in high school, then documentation of this should be provided to college or university officials. Most of all, students will need to be persistent, keeping a record of who they talked to, and continuing to press the matter until the needed accommodations are received.

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This entry was posted on Friday, January 16th, 2015 and is filed under Elder Law | no comments | Leave a comment

Guest Blog:Holiday Gift Ideas for Seniors

Our guest blogger this week is Lou Giampa is the President of Right at Home (Westchester). Lou is a New York State Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) who volunteers in hospitals and nursing homes throughout Westchester County.  He also volunteers with the Alzheimer’s Association, Meals on Wheels, and the Aging in Place community.

Mom and Dad are knocking out their bucket list – wine country trip, tandem skydiving, harbor dinner cruise – you can’t keep up with them. Grandma loves to cook, but standing in the kitchen causes knee pain. Grandpa must watch his TV programs, but he cranks the volume too high. Uncle Galen enjoys golf and gardening, but his hands lose their grip. Aunt Marianne relishes sitting down to chat over gourmet coffee and chocolates. For active and less active adults like these, how can you find them just-right gifts for the holidays

“The types and price ranges of holiday gifts for seniors expands every year and you can feel overwhelmed with choices,” said Lou Giampa, President of Right at Home of Westchester.  “In our work with the elderly and their families, I recommend that gifts mean something significant to the senior loved one and involve time spent together. Older adults don’t just want a handsomely wrapped gift. They want to enjoy memorable experiences with you.”

Giampa suggests the following variety of holiday gifts for seniors, depending on budget and the loved one’s activity level and personal interests:

Personal GiftsBionic StableGrip™ gloves for golf, gardening, fitness, driving and everyday tasks were developed by an orthopedic surgeon for a smooth, ergonomic grip and less hand pain (under $50).

  • For Him – Magnetic money clip; passport wallet; novelty neckties; National Football League (NFL) cuff links; Major League Baseball (MLB) team tie bar; carrier fleece blanket; personalized grilling apron; vintage golf club covers (under $50)
  • For Her – Massaging slippers; spa gift set; makeup travel toolkit; gardening tote with tools; skin beauty moisturizing set; full-service picnic basket; smart pedometer; acupressure mat (under $50)

Kitchen and Food – Pasta pot for two; “Wine of the Month” clubs; portable wine and cheese cooler; beer-tasting set; no-melt ice cubes; seasonings and finishing salts; gourmet olive oils; specialty foods gift basket; coffee bean and tea leaf sets; premium steaks ($20 – $100)

GelPro® floor mats offer soft shock-absorbing gel core therapeutic comfort for anyone suffering from foot, back, hip or knee pain, or osteoporosis, arthritis or plantar fasciitis. It is ideal for standing at the kitchen sink or garage workbench ($50 – $120).

Technology – The Crosley Cruiser portable turntable celebrates the sounds of vinyl records in a briefcase-styled record player that’s light enough to carry anywhere. About the size of a cellphone, the Bellman & Symfon® personal amplifier filters out background noise to give the gift of better hearing ($80 – $150).

Travel – Food and wine tours; brewery tours; American history tours; art and history museums; national parks; urban exploring on a guided Segway (free – full travel expenses)

Experiential Action and Adventure Gifts – Hot air ballooning; white-water rafting; surf lessons; stock car passenger or driver; boat dinner cruise; scenic helicopter tour; tandem skydiving; flying lessons; mountain biking; rock climbing; hang gliding; big game hunting; fly-fishing; snorkeling ($100 – $1,000)

Time – One of the most meaningful gifts any time of year is to carve out regular visits and outings with your seniors. Plan weekend handyman projects or go out for dinner and a movie. Check in regularly with phone calls and social media, but best of all, sit down together to talk, laugh and reminisce (priceless).

Gifts.com is one of most comprehensive online stores that searches all over the Web for the best gift ideas for senior men and women and even matches products to personality types (e.g., super grandma, health and fitness nut, intellectual). If you are unable to travel for the holidays to be with your older loved ones, Giampa notes that elder care providers like Right at Home offer companion care and transportation for holiday shopping and excursions. Home caregivers also can help your seniors buy the ingredients and make great-grandma’s traditional fruitcake. Or, skip the fruitcake and go for the chocolate-drizzled pretzel sticks.

About Right at Home

Founded in 1995, Right at Home of provides in-home care and assistance to seniors and the disabled.  We help care for seniors who require some assistance in order to maintain their independence, improving their quality of life, and enabling them to remain in their homes.  Our caregivers help with all the activities of daily living, as well as cooking, light housekeeping, safety supervision, medication reminders, and transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, social activities, etc. Our caregivers are thoroughly screened, trained, and bonded/insured prior to entering a client’s home.

For more information, please contact Right at Home (Westchester) at 914.468.1944 or visit us at www.westchesterseniorcare.com or click here to Follow their Facebook page.

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 15th, 2014 and is filed under Elder Law, Guest Blog | no comments | Leave a comment

November is National Home Care and Hospice Month

Millions of people across the country, from family caregivers to nurses to home health aides, dedicate their time and compassion to helping aging, ill and disabled individuals receive health care and support while they remain at home. November is Home Care and Hospice Month, and Americans are encouraged to honor the health care professionals and family members who provide these essential services.

As America’s senior population continues to rise, the need for adult home care providers is increasing. In addition, there is a growing trend towards providing as much care as possible in the home as opposed to an inpatient setting.

The care provided by home health workers, hospice workers and family caregivers is invaluable. Caregivers assist with activities of daily living such as bathing and eating, medication monitoring, skilled nursing tasks, housekeeping, transportation and emotional support.

Hospice care helps individuals facing end-stage illnesses to maintain their comfort and dignity as they approach the end of life. The end of life is one of the most challenging periods faced by individuals and their families, and hospice care workers also care for the spiritual and emotional needs of patients and their families.

During November and throughout the year, individuals are encouraged to recognize the caregivers in their lives. A simple action such as thanking a home health worker or offering respite to a family caregiver can make a huge difference to people who do important work each day.

Here are some helpful resources for caregivers in New York State:

-        New York State Office for the Aging

-        New York City Department for the Aging

-        Westchester County (Caregivers)

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 and is filed under Elder Law | no comments | Leave a comment

How to Balance Savings Between a 401 and a Roth IRA

Roth IRAs and 401(k)s are two of the most commonly used retirement savings accounts. For people with both a 401(k) and a Roth IRA, it is best to balance retirement savings between the two accounts in order to maximize employer contributions and tax benefits.

A Roth IRA provides considerable flexibility both before and after retirement. It is funded with after-tax dollars, so that it grows tax-free for the rest of the account holder’s life. There are no penalties or taxes for taking an early distribution of the amount contributed to the Roth IRA, providing peace of mind in case of an emergency later on.

A 401(k) is funded with pre-tax dollars and the account grows tax-deferred, so that taxes are paid when the distributions begin. Contributions to a 401(k) account receive an immediate tax deduction, but are subject to the uncertainty associated with future tax rates.

The most important consideration when balancing savings between a 401(k) and a Roth IRA is to make sure to contribute enough to the 401(k) to receive the full amount of the matching contribution from the employer. If there is no matching contribution or the match has already been met, then it is time to focus on the Roth IRA.

For people under the age of 50, there is a $5,500 annual limit on contributions to a Roth IRA. If an individual would like to keep saving after contributing enough to max out their Roth IRA and 401(k) employer matching, then more can be added to the 401(k) for additional tax deductions. If both accounts have been maxed out, it may be time to turn to a brokerage account or deferred variable annuities.

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This entry was posted on Friday, November 14th, 2014 and is filed under Elder Law | no comments | Leave a comment