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What Our Clients Say About Us

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Bernie Krooks is among the leading Elder Law Attorneys in the country and I have seen how he serves his clients with professionalism, unsurpassed knowledge and true empathy. As an attorney, I have worked with Bernie on a number of cases. I have seen first hand how he exceeds client expectations. Very impressive.

- S.M. March 4, 2017

I highly recommend Litman Krooks for special education needs and advocacy. Marion Walsh and Sandi Rosenbaum were able to help us secure the educational services that our child needed, and they did it with extremely little time to prepare. We were very impressed with their responsiveness and willingness to take our case with just a few days notice.

- S.M-C. February 21, 2018

Amy O'Hara, Esq, and her support team were first rate in addressing our estate planning needs. They are experts in the field, skilled and quite professional. They were very helpful to us.

- T.B. January 8, 2018

The professionals at Littman Krooks are top notch, smart, attentive, and effective. Our case against the school district for our daughter was resolved in a positive outcome within weeks. I would highly recommend Marion Walsh for all of your most complicated situations. She has great experience and knows the law!!!!

- T.N. March 2, 2018

Our family relied on the calm caring expertise of the Littman Krooks staff and attorneys to guide us through a difficult time. I have recommend the firm wholeheartedly to other families and will definitely use them again should the need arise.

- P.F. February 4, 2019

New York Estate Planning Lawyer

Estate planning is vital to your family’s financial well-being. Creating a will and any necessary trusts can reduce your tax burden while providing for your family and ensuring that your wishes are carried out after your death. Littman Krooks can help you set priorities and put the essential documents in place.

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Reducing Estate Taxes

Families with significant wealth may be affected by the estate tax and will naturally seek strategies to reduce their tax burden.

The federal estate tax exemption amount is $11.4 million per individual, up from $11.18 million in 2018, and it is portable from one spouse to another. Estates above that amount are taxed at 40 percent. New York State has its own estate tax. Two important aspects of New York’s estate tax are that there is no spousal portability, and the exemption amount is a “cliff,” meaning that if the estate is more than 5 percent of the exemption amount, the entire estate is taxed, not just the amount above the exemption amount.

There are several strategies that can be employed to reduce your family’s estate tax burden. Bypass trusts can address the portability issue with New York’s estate tax. Gifts made during your lifetime are a good way to provide for your loved ones while avoiding taxes.

You may make annual gifts of $15,000, per individual recipient, to as many individuals as you like, without them counting toward your lifetime gift and estate tax exemption amount.

New York Estate Tax Considerations

  • New York State has no spousal portability. Unused unified credit cannot be given to a surviving spouse for state tax purposes.
  • If a New York resident has a taxable estate exceeding the New York State exclusion amount by 5%, then an estate tax is imposed on the entire value of the estate.
  • New York State has no spousal portability. Unused unified credit cannot be given to a surviving spouse for state tax purposes.
  • If a New York resident has a taxable estate exceeding the New York State exclusion amount by 5%, then an estate tax is imposed on the entire value of the estate.

Making Use of Trusts

There are many reasons why you may wish to include one or more trusts in your estate plan. While a will provides for direct distribution of your assets, a trust is a way to hold property for the benefit of another person.

The creator of the trust designates a person known as the trustee to manage and distribute the assets for a beneficiary.

When a trust is created by a will, it is known as a testamentary trust. Your will can direct that some assets be distributed directly, and others be put into trust. This may be useful when you have heirs who cannot manage the money on their own, for instance because they are too young or because of a disability. In your will, you can instruct a trustee to manage funds responsibly and make appropriate distributions to the beneficiary.

Trusts can also be created during your lifetime. A revocable living trust can be formed while you are alive to allow a trusted person to manage your affairs, even if you become incapacitated. You can also place your major assets in such a trust, so that your trustee can distribute them according to your instructions directly from the trust after your death, without the need to wait for the process of probating your will.

Trusts can take different forms and can be used for several purposes.

Special needs trusts can provide for a family member with a disability while protecting their eligibility for public benefits. Asset protection trusts can keep resources safe from future creditors. Spendthrift trusts safeguard assets from young adults who have not yet developed good money management skills. Bypass trusts can help wealthy New York families keep the state estate tax exemption of the deceased spouse for the surviving spouse. Charitable remainder trusts take advantage of tax deductions to make an irrevocable charitable gift, while also benefiting a non-charitable beneficiary.

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Estate Litigation

When the intentions of a decedent are clearly stated, the process of probate and estate administration should proceed smoothly and without complications. However, in some circumstances, this process can be delayed and result in conflict and litigation.

The probate and administration process can be disputed when inheritors or other involved parties believe their rights have been denied. A fiduciary or trustee can have his or her performance challenged. A spouse can demand his or her right of election. Wills and trusts can be contested for a variety of reasons. There are serious and complex issues associated with estate litigation. When pursuing a claim, it is crucial to have expert legal guidance that will protect your inheritance and ensure that you receive what is rightfully yours.

While our first priority is to guide parties to a practical and amicable solution, thereby avoiding complications, expense and needless confrontation, we will fiercely litigate on behalf of our clients when necessary.

It is important to note that the statute of limitations in estate litigation matters. Immediate action is required to contest a will and, if not done promptly, you may lose what is rightfully yours. Therefore, it is imperative to obtain expert legal advice as soon as possible.

Our team has successfully represented clients in claims involving the validity of a will or trust, the administration of trusts and estates, and contested accountings. We understand that tremendous frustration can arise out of this process, and we are there to guide you through every step of it.

We can assist you in any estate matter including:

  • Will/trust contests
  • Contested powers of attorney
  • Spousal right of election
  • Contested accountings and actions involving breach of fiduciary duty
  • Fraudulent transfers
  • Protection of beneficiary rights
  • Will and trust construction
  • Trust reformation
  • Guardianship proceedings

Estate Plan

An estate plan is made up of living documents. Legal documents such as Wills, trusts, and powers of attorney are flexible and, therefore, can and should be reviewed on a regular basis.

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Most estate planning professionals advise that an estate plan be reviewed, and if necessary, updated every three to five years, or more frequently should a major life change occur. Many people put off estate planning under the false assumption that planning early will cause the plan to be “locked in,” and unchangeable.

Waiting to start on an estate plan until “sometime in the future” or “a life changing event” such as marriage or having children is unnecessary due to amount of flexibility available in an estate plan. In fact, waiting to begin planning can cause undue stress and financial hardship for loved ones should something unexpected occur. It is always important to have an estate, and it is equally important to review the plan regularly to make sure it still conforms to current living situations.

Executor of an Estate

A person named in a will as the executor of the estate has a significant responsibility. It is important to choose an executor that knows what he or she must do, and – just as important – what not to do.

In New York State, an executor’s fiduciary responsibility to: have the last Will and testament probated; collect the decedent’s assets that pass under the Will (not including joint property, insurance benefits and other assets that pass to others directly); pay debts of the estate, including funeral expenses; pay any taxes the estate owes; and distribute the remaining assets in accordance with the terms of the Will. During the estate administration process, which can take anywhere from several months to several years, the executor is also responsible for managing and investing the estate’s assets in accordance with state law.

The most important thing an executor can do to avoid making mistakes in administering an estate is to seek counsel from an experienced estate planning and administration attorney.

In addition to understanding and faithfully discharging their duties, an executor should also be aware of potential pitfalls. These are things an executor should take care not to do:

  • Distribute assets early
  • Use estate assets for personal expenses
  • Neglect to pay taxes the estate owes
  • Distribute assets before paying debts
  • Fail to obey court orders
  • Fail to address creditor claims
  • Fail to distribute assets in accordance with the terms of the will

Power of Attorney

In general, power of attorney grants the authority to a designated agent to act on behalf of the principal in a variety of legal, medical or financial matters. It can be general and grant the agent the ability to act on the principal’s behalf in a wide range of potential situations, such as paying bills or making business decisions, or specific, such as selling a property or paying bills for a certain period of time only.

Call An Estate Planning Attorney Today:
(914) 684-2100

Knowledge and Experience

Littman Krooks LLP combines extensive legal knowledge and expertise with individual attention to your needs. Over 25 years, we have brought astute, honest counsel and strong, thorough representation to every one of our clients.

Bernard A. Krooks
J.D., CPA, LLM (in taxation), CELA®, AEP® (Distinguished), Founding Partner
Bernie is a founding partner of Littman Krooks and Chair of its Elder Law and Special Needs Department. He is a nationally-recognized expert in all aspects of elder law and special needs planning.
Amy C. O'Hara
Partner
Amy focuses her practice on special needs planning, trusts and estates, personal injury settlement consulting, and elder law.

Award-Winning Legal Service

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Littman Krooks LLP

New York City Office
655 Third Avenue,
20th Floor
New York, NY 10017
(212) 490-2020 Phone
(212) 490-2990 Fax

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Westchester County
399 Knollwood Road
White Plains, NY 10603
(914) 684-2100 Phone
(914) 684-9865 Fax

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© 2019 LITTMAN KROOKS LLP. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

This article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon. If you need legal advice concerning this or any other topic please contact our offices to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys at 914-684-2100 or 212-490-2020.