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Nursing Home

Plan Ahead Before Seeking Nursing Home Care: Avoid Unnecessary Debt for You and Your Family

Plan Ahead Before Seeking Nursing Home Care: Avoid Unnecessary Debt for You and Your Family

Many senior citizens may need the services of a nursing home or at-home care at some point in their life. You might assume that government assistance or health insurance will step in and cover the cost if you cannot afford these services. Unfortunately, neither health insurance nor Medicare covers long-term care. Because obtaining long-term care insurance can be very expensive, Medicaid could become your only option.

Medicaid coverage is not a given, however. If you have assets or recently transferred assets, Medicaid may determine you do not qualify for coverage until a certain amount of time has passed. If this happens, you and their family can face significant medical bills. If you cannot pay, nursing homes may take you to court to get reimbursed.

What steps can you take to avoid this? First, before applying for Medicaid, get a better understanding of the timelines in your state – known as lookback periods – that can affect your eligibility. Then you can engage in proper Medicaid or asset protection planning in advance of these timeframes. A good age to begin planning is around age 65, although everyone’s situation is different.

Individual states run Medicaid programs, and every state has different rules regarding Medicaid eligibility. These programs were designed as a payor of last resort — in other words, to qualify, you must meet strict requirements. There are two primary types of Medicaid benefits: home care and skilled nursing home care.

Lookback Periods

You must submit an application to your local Medicaid office to qualify for these benefits. As part of this process, the state will look at any money or property you may have transferred within a certain lookback period. In New York, for example, this period of time will soon be 30 months for home care and 60 months for skilled nursing care.

These lookback periods can have serious consequences. If you have not engaged in appropriate asset protection planning, you may not be able to qualify for home care or nursing home care for many months. The result is that many elderly individuals must then spend down their savings and liquidate their assets to pay privately for their home care before Medicaid starts covering anything. If a person no longer has resources and is subject to a disqualification penalty period, family members may have to step in and bear these costs on their own.

So, what can you do? The answer is to start planning as soon as is practical.

Options to Explore

Speaking with an elder law attorney can help you and your loved ones explore options available to avoid you or them being personally responsible for the costs of your care.

  • Medicaid Asset Protection Trust — One common approach is placing assets in a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust. You may be able to use this to shelter various assets such as stock accounts, savings, a home with unprotected equity, and much more.
  • Pooled Income Trust — Another option you may explore is contributing income that exceeds Medicaid allowances to a Pooled Income Trust. This can allow you to qualify for Medicaid while diverting excess income to a trust that pays qualified expenses on your behalf. This will enable you to benefit from the income and not spend it on things Medicaid could have otherwise covered.
  • Spousal Refusal — Your spouse may also have options that can help you qualify for Medicaid. One such option includes exercising a right of spousal refusal — a process available in some states by which the income and assets of your spouse can be removed from consideration in your Medicaid eligibility analysis.

Finally, an attorney can help you understand if certain transfers are permissible under Medicaid rules without triggering a penalty period.

Without proper planning, individuals with assets and income exceeding specific state-set thresholds would have to spend this income and their assets on their care or exempt items before they can receive Medicaid benefits. For assistance in planning, consult with a qualified elder law attorney in your area.

Read more related articles at:

The Sobering Cost of Long-Term Care

Nursing home debt collection

Also, read one our our previous Blogs here:

Protect Your Estate from Nursing Home Costs

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.


Per stirpes in florida

What Does Per Stirpes Mean In Florida?

What Does Per Stirpes Mean In Florida?

What Does Per Stirpes Mean In A Last Will In Florida?  Last wills and testaments include a number of unique terms which often confuse individuals who are not familiar with the probate process. One of the most common terms that confuses individuals is “per stirpes”, which literally is translated to English as “by the branch”. This term refers to how the testor’s assets will be distributed to beneficiaries if they were to predecease the testor.

As an example, let’s say a testor with two children has instructed in their Last Will and Testament that their assets be equally distributed amongst their children “or to their issue, per stirpes”, if they were not to survive the testor. This means that the assets will be divided equally between their children if they were to not survive them.

Sometimes however, a beneficiary will pass before the testor. If this is the case, then the assets originally willed to the beneficiaries would be distributed to their descendants, or closest surviving relatives if there are no direct descendants. So in this example, if one of the two beneficiaries of the testor were to pass, then the assets originally willed to them would be passed onto the direct descendants of the beneficiaries, with the other half going to the original surviving beneficiary.


When someone dies without a valid will, their assets are declared intestate. It’s important to note that “intestate” does not mean that the property now belongs to the State. In fact, Florida has a specific process in determining who receives the decedent’s assets in the absence of a valid will.

Flowchart representation of Florida intestacy laws for probate without a will. The infographic shows which family member receives the estate starting with the spouse down through the entire paternal and maternal family of the decedent.

  • When the decedent has a surviving spouse and has no living children, grandchildren, parents, etc, then the spouse shall receive the entire estate.
  • If the decedent has a spouse and also has one or more living family members who are family members of the spouse (i.e children), the spouse shall receive the entire estate.
  • If the spouse has additional living immediate family members that are not immediate family of the deceased individual, the spouse shall receive one-half of the estate with the other half going to the spouse’s descendants.
  • In cases where the decedent was not married at the time of their passing, the immediate family members will receive the entire estate. The assets will then be divided in accordance with Florida law.
  • If the deceased person was not married and also has no living immediate family members, the inheritance will pass to surviving parents of the decedent.
  • In cases where someone dies without any surviving close family members, spouses, or relatives, the State of Florida will search for more remote heirs in accordance with intestate law.

The full process can be found in Chapter 732 of The Florida Statutes. This process is very in-depth and often causes confusion/disagreements among beneficiaries. As a result, it’s vital to work with a Florida probate attorney that’s experienced with issues involving intestate succession.


Another common term associated with Last Wills and Testaments is “per capita”, which can create further confusion when discussing the distribution of assets. While per stirpes will ensure that the shares originally willed to surviving beneficiaries will stay the same regardless of whether other beneficiaries pass on, per capita will instead divide the amount evenly among all living descendants.

This means that per the earlier example, if one of the beneficiaries passed away and had three children, the estate would actually be divided into four separate and even parts – one part for the original surviving beneficiary and the other three for each of the deceased beneficiary’s children. Essentially, in a will with per capita, you never create a share for an already deceased beneficiary as would occur in per stirpes.


The meaning of per stirpes may be different depending on whether you’re having the will prepared or if you’re the beneficiary of the estate. If you are creating a will for your estate then having per stripes included will ensure that your estate is passed down to your children or the next closest descendants in line.

In the event that you are on the other side of the will as a beneficiary or heir and notice per stirpes mentioned in it, it means that the share for any deceased close relatives will go to their descendants if any. Otherwise it will be split evenly between the closest surviving relatives as the will outlines.

Sometimes it can be challenging to understand the details of a will, particularly if there are many beneficiaries listed. In that case, most find it beneficial to work with an attorney specializing in probate and estate planning to help not only formulate the will but also to understand a will, especially when per stripes is involved.


Read more related articles at:

Per Stirpes: Meaning and Uses in Estate Planning

What does per stirpes mean?

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:


Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.


Retirement risks

Assessing the Risks Workers Face Going Into Retirement

Assessing the Risks Workers Face Going Into Retirement

According to the brief, titled “How Well Do Retirees Assess the Risks They Face in Retirement?,” recent studies have identified five major risks: the risk of outliving one’s money (longevity risk), the risk of investment losses (market risk), the risk of unexpected health expenses (health risk), the risk of unforeseen needs of family members (family risk) and the risk of retirement benefit cuts (policy risk).

The analysis shows that these risks affect different cohorts of the working population differently. For example, for single men reaching retirement, the top three sources of risk are longevity, health and market risk. According to the CRR, the typical single man would be willing to give up as much as 27% of his initial wealth to fully eliminate longevity risk.

Health risk ranks second in this cohort due to the unpredictability of medical expenditures in late life, including the cost of long-term care, the brief says. Market risk ranks third due to retirees’ relatively long—about 20 years—investment horizon. The brief suggests that policy risk is small because Social Security reform is unlikely to have a significant impact on people who have already retired or who will do so soon.

The risk ranking for married couples was similar to the results for single people, though the relative value of the risk is larger overall for couples, the brief says. This means that a couple would be willing to give up 33% of their initial wealth to avoid longevity risk, compared with 27% for a single man.

The brief also shows the most serious subjective risks perceived by different groups tend to be different from their actual risks. For example, for single men, market risk tops the list of perceived risks, followed by longevity, health, family and policy risks. According to the CRR, single men and couples alike tend to significantly underestimate their medical expenses in old age.

Perceived longevity risk and health risk rank lower because retirees are pessimistic about their survival probabilities, the brief says. This implies that retirees do not have an accurate understanding of their true retirement risks.

Additionally, the analysis highlights the importance of longevity and market risk, which underscores the need for lifetime income either through Social Security or private sector annuities, the brief says. Long-term care is also a significant risk faced by retirees that they often underestimate. Better-designed public programs and private products, possibly integrated with life annuities, could help to protect retirees with limited financial resources from this potentially catastrophic risk, the brief concludes.

Read more related articles at:

Retirees are underestimating retirement risk, study finds


Also, read one of our previous Blogs here:

When Should I Start Saving For Retirement?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.


Can SSI Be Garnished?

Can SSI Be Garnished?

Can SSI be garnished? The bank account of a person is the first thing that creditors will be looking to seize when they have a judgment against them. However, if those funds came from SSI or Social Security benefits, there are limitations on what the creditor can do with it. As a bankruptcy law firm, we often hear questions like: Can SSI be garnished?  The answer to that is that it simply depends. Generally, no, it cannot. However, there are a few instances where the government may garnish money from your SSI and Social Security benefits.

What is SSI?

SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income, which is a federal income program administered by Social Security. However, the funding for SSI does nor come from Social Security taxes, but rather general tax revenues. The intention of SSI is to assist elderly, blind, or disabled people who have little to no means of income. It provides these individuals with money so that they can obtain basic needs for survival, such as food, clothing, and shelter.

SSI is different from Social Security benefits in that it is not based on you or a family member’s prior work history. Those insured with Social Security, meaning they worked for a certain amount of time and paid Social Security taxes, receive these benefits. Meanwhile, SSI gears more towards those who have limited resources and meet the specified requirements. Individuals who receive SSI are most likely living on a fixed income and, as mentioned before, are elderly, blind, or disabled.

Can Social Security Be Garnished for Medical Bills?

So often do we hear the question, “can SSI be garnished?” It’s completely understandable that many who are on these benefits fear that if they have an outstanding debt, the creditor will garnish funds from their SSI or Social Security. However, this fear is, for the most part, baseless. This is because federal law prohibits regular creditors from seizing your Social Security and disability benefits.

According to Section 207 of the Social Security Act, regular creditors are not able to garnish or levy any money from Social Security or SSI. “Regular” creditors refers to anyone attempting to collect money for things like credit card debt, personal loans, payday loans, repo debt, and yes, even medical bills. Federal law does not allow these creditors to touch your Social Security benefits to collect debt.

Can My Disability Check be Garnished?

Both Supplemental Security Income and Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) are generally exempt from creditors. We say “generally” because there are a few exceptions when it comes to this law. We’ll get into those later.

Despite these very explicit exceptions, however, some creditors may still attempt to garnish or levy your bank account. If you owe debt, a creditor may get a court order to freeze the money within your bank account. Before 2011, banks were able to comply with these court orders without first checking for the source of income. However, a federal law passed in 2011 that requires banks to review the account information to determine whether the debtor received any SSI or SSDI by way of direct deposit. This means that if your disability check directly deposits into your account and a creditor attempts to freeze your account, your bank must protect those benefits from garnishment.

Though it is illegal for regular creditors to garnish money from your disability checks, it is important you don’t mix your Social Security income with other income received in your name. Creditors may mistakenly seize these funds in your account if you do so because they don’t know where your regular income ends and where your SSI begins. If you do happen to commingle your income, you will need to prove to the court that the money in your account is ineligible for seizure. If you need to defend against any seizure of benefits, your best bet is to use Section 207 of the Social Security Act.

Is My Social Security Protected From All Creditors?

Generally speaking, protections are in place that make Social Security funds restrained from garnishment and other actions taken by debt collectors. However, this is only if the money deposits into your account directly. If you transfer the funds into a different account after receiving them, protection will not be automatic.

A creditor may still have your account frozen, if you have delinquent payments. If they issue a garnishment and you don’t respond to claim your exemptions, the funds may still transfer to the creditor. Even if you claim your disability exemptions, the funds remain inaccessible to you until it goes before a judge. To ensure protection of your Social Security from regular creditors, it’s best to have your disability money directly deposited into your account so the bank can make this distinction for you.

Unfortunately, just because regular creditors cannot touch your benefits doesn’t mean it’s safe from everyone. Your Social Security isn’t entirely invincible. Listed under the same section of the Social Security Act (207), certain creditors are exempt from this law. To no surprise, this includes the federal government.

So, when can SSI be garnished, exactly? The first and perhaps most obvious is for the IRS to collect overdue federal taxes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the government agency responsible for collecting U.S. tax dollars and enforcing tax laws. This government service can, in fact, access tese benefits to cover any back taxes you may owe.

Student loans, child support, and alimony can also get taken from your disability benefits. That is, if you refuse to pay them on your own. A person may bring legal action to enforce their rights to child support and/or alimony. Of which, the result may be garnishment from the money you receive from Social Security.

Read more related articles here:

Can Social Security payments be garnished?

SSR 79-4: SECTIONS 207, 452(b), 459 and 462(f) (42 U.S.C. 407, 652(b), 659 and 662(f)) LEVY AND GARNISHMENT OF BENEFITS

Also, read one of our previous Blogs st:

Are You Relying on Social Security Alone for Retirement?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.

2002 Celebrity Deaths

Final Goodbye: Remembering The Celebrities We Lost In 2022.

However, she was far from the only famous person to pass away over the course of the year.

Final goodbye: Remembering the celebrities we lost in 2022

Sidney Poitier, 94. He played roles of such dignity and intelligence that he transformed how Black people were portrayed on screen, becoming the first Black actor to win an Oscar for best lead performance and the first to be a top box-office draw. Jan. 6.

Bob Saget, 65. The actor-comedian known for his role as beloved single dad Danny Tanner on the sitcom “Full House” and as the wisecracking host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Jan. 9.

Robert Durst, 78. The wealthy New York real estate heir and failed fugitive dogged for decades with suspicion in the disappearance and deaths of those around him before he was convicted last year of killing his best friend. Jan. 10.

Ronnie Spector, 78. The cat-eyed, bee-hived rock ‘n’ roll siren who sang such 1960s hits as “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain” as the leader of the girl group the Ronettes. Jan. 12.

André Leon Talley, 73. A towering and highly visible figure of the fashion world who made history as a rare Black editor in an overwhelmingly white industry. Jan. 18.

Louie Anderson, 68. His four-decade career as a comedian and actor included his unlikely, Emmy-winning performance as mom to twin adult sons in the TV series “Baskets.” Jan. 21.

Ivan Reitman, 75. The influential filmmaker and producer behind many of the most beloved comedies of the late 20th century, from “Animal House” to “Ghostbusters.” Feb. 12.

Sally Kellerman, 84. The Oscar and Emmy nominated actor who played Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan in director Robert Altman’s 1970 film “MASH.” Feb. 24.

Emilio Delgado, 81. The actor and singer who for 45 years was a warm and familiar presence in children’s lives and a rare Latino face on American television as fix-it shop owner Luis on “Sesame Street.” March 10.

Traci Braxton, 50. A singer who was featured with her family in the reality television series “Braxton Family Values.” March 12.

Madeleine Albright, 84. A child refugee from Nazi- and then Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe who rose to become the first female secretary of state and a mentor to many current and former American statesmen and women. March 23.

Taylor Hawkins, 50. For 25 years, he was the drummer for Foo Fighters and best friend of frontman Dave Grohl. March 25.

Bobby Rydell, 79. A pompadoured heartthrob of early rock ’n roll who was a star of radio, television and the movie musical “Bye Bye Birdie.” April 5.

Liz Sheridan, 93. She played doting mom to Jerry Seinfeld on his hit sitcom. April 15.

Orrin G. Hatch, 88. The longest-serving Republican senator in history who was a fixture in Utah politics for more than four decades. April 23.

Naomi Judd, 76. Her family harmonies with daughter Wynonna turned them into the Grammy-winning country stars The Judds. April 30. Died by suicide.

Mickey Gilley, 86. A country singer whose namesake Texas honky-tonk inspired the 1980 film “Urban Cowboy” and a nationwide wave of Western-themed nightspots. May 7.

Fred Ward, 79. A veteran actor who brought a gruff tenderness to tough-guy roles in such films as “The Right Stuff,” “The Player” and “Tremors.” May 8.

Bob Lanier, 73. The left-handed big man who muscled up beside the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as one of the NBA’s top players of the 1970s. May 10.

Vangelis, 79. The Greek electronic composer who wrote the unforgettable Academy Award-winning score for the film “Chariots of Fire” and music for dozens of other movies, documentaries and TV series. May 17.

Ray Liotta, 67. The actor best known for playing mobster Henry Hill in “Goodfellas” and baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams.” May 26.

Andy “Fletch” Fletcher, 60. Keyboardist for British synth pop giants Depeche Mode for more than 40 years. May 26.

Tony Siragusa, 55. The charismatic defensive tackle who was part of one of the most celebrated defenses in NFL history with the Baltimore Ravens. June 22.

James Caan, 82. The curly-haired tough guy known to movie fans as the hotheaded Sonny Corleone of “The Godfather” and to television audiences as both the dying football player in the classic weeper “Brian’s Song” and the casino boss in “Las Vegas.” July 6.

Ivana Trump, 73. A skier-turned-businesswoman who formed half of a publicity power couple in the 1980s as the first wife of former President Donald Trump and mother of his oldest children. July 14. Injuries suffered in an accident.

Paul Sorvino, 83. An imposing actor who specialized in playing crooks and cops like Paulie Cicero in “Goodfellas” and the NYPD sergeant Phil Cerreta on “Law & Order.” July 25.

Tony Dow, 77. As Wally Cleaver on the sitcom “Leave It to Beaver,” he helped create the popular and lasting image of the American teenager of the 1950s and 60s. July 27.

Nichelle Nichols, 89. She broke barriers for Black women in Hollywood as communications officer Lt. Uhura on the original “Star Trek” television series. July 30.

Pat Carroll, 95. A comedic television mainstay for decades, Emmy-winner for “Caesar’s Hour” and the voice of Ursula in “The Little Mermaid.” July 30.

Bill Russell, 88. The NBA great who anchored a Boston Celtics dynasty that won 11 championships in 13 years — the last two as the first Black head coach in any major U.S. sport — and marched for civil rights with Martin Luther King Jr. July 31.

Olivia Newton-John, 73. The Grammy-winning superstar who reigned on pop, country, adult contemporary and dance charts with such hits as “Physical” and “You’re the One That I Want” and won countless hearts as everyone’s favorite Sandy in the blockbuster film version of “Grease.” Aug. 8.

Wolfgang Petersen, 81. The German filmmaker whose World War II submarine epic “Das Boot” propelled him into a blockbuster Hollywood career that included the films “In the Line of Fire,” “Air Force One” and “The Perfect Storm.” Aug. 12.

Anne Heche, 53. The Emmy-winning film and television actor whose dramatic Hollywood rise in the 1990s and accomplished career contrasted with personal chapters of turmoil. Aug. 14. Injuries suffered in a car crash.

Len Dawson, 87. The Hall of Fame quarterback whose unmistakable swagger in helping the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl title earned him the nickname “Lenny the Cool.” Aug. 24.

Bob LuPone, 76. As an actor, he earned a Tony Award nomination in the original run of “A Chorus Line” and played Tony Soprano’s family physician, and also helped found and lead the influential off-Broadway theater company MCC Theater for nearly 40 years. Aug. 27.

Mikhail Gorbachev, 91. The last leader of the Soviet Union, he set out to revitalize it but ended up unleashing forces that led to the collapse of communism, the breakup of the state and the end of the Cold War. Aug. 30.

Queen Elizabeth II, 96. Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and a rock of stability across much of a turbulent century. Sept. 8.

Ramsey Lewis, 87. A renowned jazz pianist whose music entertained fans over a more than 60-year career that began with the Ramsey Lewis Trio and made him one of the country’s most successful jazz musicians. Sept. 12.

Jean-Luc Godard, 91. The iconic “enfant terrible” of the French New Wave who revolutionized popular cinema in 1960 with his first feature, “Breathless,” and stood for years among the film world’s most influential directors. Sept. 13.

Ken Starr, 76. A former federal appellate judge and a prominent attorney whose criminal investigation of Bill Clinton led to the president’s impeachment and put Starr at the center of one of the country’s most polarizing debates of the 1990s. Sept. 13.

Louise Fletcher, 88. A late-blooming star whose riveting performance as the cruel and calculating Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” set a new standard for screen villains and won her an Academy Award. Sept. 23.

Coolio, 59. The rapper was among hip-hop’s biggest names of the 1990s with hits including “Gangsta’s Paradise” and “Fantastic Voyage.” Sept. 28.

Loretta Lynn, 90. The Kentucky coal miner’s daughter whose frank songs about life and love as a woman in Appalachia pulled her out of poverty and made her a pillar of country music. Oct. 4.

Angela Lansbury, 96. The scene-stealing British actor who kicked up her heels in the Broadway musicals “Mame” and “Gypsy” and solved endless murders as crime novelist Jessica Fletcher in the long-running TV series “Murder, She Wrote.” Oct. 11.

Robbie Coltrane, 72. The baby-faced comedian and character actor whose hundreds of roles included a crime-solving psychologist on the TV series “Cracker” and the gentle half-giant Hagrid in the “Harry Potter” movies. Oct. 14.

Leslie Jordan, 67. The Emmy-winning actor whose wry Southern drawl and versatility made him a comedy and drama standout on TV series including “Will & Grace” and “American Horror Story.” Oct. 24.

Jerry Lee Lewis, 87. The untamable rock ‘n’ roll pioneer whose outrageous talent, energy and ego collided on such definitive records as “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and sustained a career otherwise upended by personal scandal. Oct. 28.

Takeoff, 28. A rapper best known for his work with the Grammy-nominated trio Migos. Nov. 1. Killed in a shooting.

Aaron Carter, 34. The singer-rapper who began performing as a child and had hit albums starting in his teen years. Nov. 5.

Jeff Cook, 73. The guitarist who co-founded the country group Alabama and steered them up the charts with such hits as “Song of the South” and “Dixieland Delight.” Nov. 8.

Gallagher, 76. The long-haired, smash-’em-up comedian who left a trail of laughter, anger and shattered watermelons over a decadeslong career. Nov. 11.

John Aniston, 89. The Emmy-winning star of the daytime soap opera “Days of Our Lives” and father of actress Jennifer Aniston. Nov. 11.

Jason David Frank, 49. He played the Green Power Ranger Tommy Oliver on the 1990s children’s series “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.” Nov. 19.

Irene Cara, 63. The Oscar, Golden Globe and two-time Grammy winning singer-actor who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance … What a Feeling” from 1983′s “Flashdance.” Nov. 25.

Christine McVie, 79. The British-born Fleetwood Mac vocalist, songwriter and keyboard player whose cool, soulful contralto helped define such classics as “You Make Loving Fun,” “Everywhere” and “Don’t Stop.” Nov. 30.

Gaylord Perry, 84. The Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young Award winner was a master of the spitball who wrote a book about using pitch. Dec. 1.

Bob McGrath, 90. An actor, musician and children’s author widely known for his portrayal of one of the first regular characters on the children’s show “Sesame Street.” Dec. 4.

Kirstie Alley, 71. The actor known for her work on “Cheers” and “Veronica’s Closet,” among many other films and TV shows, reportedly died of cancer. Dec. 5.

Gary Friedkin, 70. A local actor know for his work on “Happy Days” and “Young Doctors in Love,” died from COVID-19 complications Friday in a Youngstown hospice.

Mike Leach, 61. The gruff, pioneering and unfiltered college football coach who helped revolutionize the game with the Air Raid offense. Dec. 12.

Stephen “tWitch” Boss, 40. The longtime and beloved dancing DJ on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and a former contestant on “So You Think You Can Dance.” Dec. 13. Died by suicide.

Franco Harris, 72. The Hall of Fame running back whose heads-up thinking authored the “Immaculate Reception,” considered the most iconic play in NFL history. Dec. 20.

Pelé, 82. The Brazilian king of soccer who won a record three World Cups and became one of the most commanding sports figures of the last century — as soccer’s most prolific scorer with Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team. Dec. 29.

Barbara Walters, 93. An intrepid interviewer, anchor and program host, she led the way as the first woman to become a TV news superstar. Dec. 30.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 95. A German theologian who tried to reawaken Christianity in a secularized Europe and who will be remembered as the first pontiff in 600 years to resign. Benedict announced in 2013 that he no longer had the strength to run the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic Church. Dec. 31.

Final goodbye: Remembering the celebrities we lost in 2022

Read more related articles here:

Notable Deaths of 2022

In Memoriam: Notable people who died in 2022

Also, read one of our previous Blogs here:

Celebrity Deaths in 2020 — Six Estate Planning Lessons We Can Learn

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.



New Year's resolutions

Why Estate Planning Can be A Great New Year Resolution For 2023.

Why Estate Planning Can Be A Great New Year Resolution For 2023.

‘Tis the Season for Estate Planning

The New Year usually offers up a batch of resolutions to help us change our ways and set new goals. We look forward to the new year ahead, excited at the prospect of offering fresh energy and a new approach–of bringing an improved version of ourselves into the future.

So, our resolutions often start with the most common actionable goals. We commit to eating healthier, exercising more, and organizing our home office. But there may be other highly impactful goals to be set and achieved?

There can’t be a better New Year’s resolution to make–and keep–than estate planning. And with just a little focus and application you can provide immeasurable comfort and security for your family. Families come together during the holidays as an expression of love and caring. Any discussion about an estate plan is also an expression of love, protection and caring for the surviving family left behind. When brought up with tact and sensitivity, it can be one of the best things to accomplish this holiday season – to ensure that the living legacy of a loved one has been safeguarded. Unfortunately, a majority of U.S. adults do not have a plan.

And what could be better than this holiday season to show love.

Sometimes, just the idea of estate planning can raise all sorts of questions and bring up a slew of conflicting emotions, many of which boil down to facing some challenging realities. But we know that the advantages will far outweigh the disadvantages. And therein lies the big payoff. Your satisfaction in securing your family’s financial future–to the full extent of your abilities and resources–is worth any temporary discomfort.

Proper estate planning will minimize the legal interventions, translating directly to time and money saved. Make this start of the new year the time you finally meet with your family and discuss future contingencies. Let them know you’re putting a plan together to protect them if you’re not there to help ensure their welfare.

Estate Planning is Not as Daunting as You Think

When it comes to making complicated financial decisions, especially those that involve some hard calls, many of us procrastinate and stall. Let us provide some simple tools to help you turn this seemingly daunting task into easy-to-follow, manageable steps.

Security Matters–New Year’s Day and Every Other Day

We all wish for continued good fortune and health for ourselves and our families. Yet, we understand that life is nothing if not uncertain. And we know that, in the end, we will rest easier if our family’s financial future is secure. Did you know that most Americans do not have a will or estate plan? So what happens to your family if you’re not here to make tomorrow’s decisions? This uncertainty is not what you want for your loved ones. See our blog  on talking to aging parents about estate planning for  some helpful guidance to familiarize you with the process and get you started.

Estate Planning Makes Good Financial Sense

Do you wonder  about the affordability of estate planning? In general, its cost will depend on the size and complexity of your estate. Of course, dying without a will or estate plan means there will likely be court and legal interventions, according to state law. When the courts intervene, there are at least two things that are highly probable: your estate will take longer in probate, and you’ll pay more in taxes and fees.

Organization Matters!

Any New Year’s resolution with any chance of successful resolution starts with a good checklist. Estate planning is no exception. Organizing your assets digitally and securing original documents or hard copies is the first and most important step in the process. Once organized, you can write a will and specify a financial and medical power of attorney. And remember to update beneficiaries on your bank accounts to help minimize the probate period.

Build Trust and Confidence this New Year

Family dynamics can contribute to the many reasons why you might be uncomfortable with estate planning or sharing your plans with your family members. But in the end, it is time to make the tough decisions, have the hard conversations, and do what you can to benefit your family. And while family members are not necessarily all on board with your decisions, at least it’s all out in the open, and you can build from there.

So, as uncomfortable as tackling this ‘Estate Planning’ goal might initially seem, this is not something to leave for another year. We’re here to help you start estate planning. As New Year’s resolutions go, putting your affairs in order will be a proud accomplishment. Nothing says “responsible, right, loving action” like creating an estate plan for your family.

Read more related articles at:

New Year’s Estate Planning Resolutions

Estate Planning New Year’s Resolutions

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Creating an Estate Plan Should Be a New Year’s Resolution

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.


estate and gift taxes

Lifetime Estate And Gift Tax Exemption Will Hit $12.92 Million In 2023

Lifetime Estate And Gift Tax Exemption Will Hit $12.92 Million In 2023

The Internal Revenue Service Today announced new inflation-adjusted limits for 2023 that will allow well-off folks to transfer much more to their heirs tax free during life—or at death.

One key gifting change is to the annual exclusion: you will be able to give anyone else (and as many people as you want) $17,000 in gifts in 2023, without worrying about using up your lifetime gift and estate tax exclusion or paying gift tax. That’s up from $16,000 in 2022 and $15,000 in 2021, where it had been stuck since 2018.

The other big change: the lifetime estate and gift tax exemption (also known as the unified credit), will jump to $12.92 million in 2023, up from $12.06 million in 2022. Since couples share their exemptions, it means a wealthy couple that starts making gifts in 2023 can pass on $25.84 million.

Another way to look at it: if they have already maxed out their nontaxable gifts, they can give an extra $1.72 million to their heirs in 2023. That’s in addition to making $34,000 per couple (two times $17,000) in annual gifts to each child, grandchild, sister, brother, niece, nephew, neighbor and friend they’re feeling generous towards.

(The IRS also announced today dozens of 2023 inflation adjustments affecting the income tax. You can see all the new numbers in Revenue Procedure 22-38.)

In addition to making annual $17,000 gifts, you can also pay unlimited amounts for anyone’s tuition or medical expenses, without eating into your lifetime exemption, so long as you make those payments directly to the school or medical provider.

The estate tax is assessed at a 40% rate for the largest estates. But the $12.92 million per-person lifetime exemption is really only a starting point for the very rich when it comes to wealth transfer. A variety of planning techniques involving GRATs and other trusts can be used to leverage that exemption. Even today’s bear market provides planning opportunities.

See: Is Inflation High Compared To Years Past? BreakingDown Inflation Rates By Year

Note that unless you’re ready to part with assets during your life, that new $12.92 million exemption number is not guaranteed. Under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (a.k.a. the Trump tax cuts), that lifetime exemption will fall by more than half at the start of 2026. (Republicans made the individual Trump tax cuts temporary to squeeze more cuts into their already pricey package.)

Whether the estate and gift tax exemption will actually decline so dramatically will depend, of course, on the political control of Congress and the White House come 2025 and 2026 and the budget and deficit pressures of the day. (An early version of the Democrats’ proposed Build Back Better Act would have cut the exemption in half—but that provision was unlikely to win the support of more conservative Senate Democrats.)

Read more related articles here:

IRS bumps up estate-tax exclusion to $12.92 million for 2023. Here’s what that means for wealthy Americans

What’s the Gift Tax Exclusion for 2023?

Also, read one of our previous Blogs here:

Estate Tax Exemption Amount Goes Up for 2022

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.



new year's lasting change

The One New Year’s Resolution That Creates Lasting Change

The One New Year’s Resolution That Creates Lasting Change

Planning for your Future with an Estate Plan.

If you think of estate planning as something only ultra-wealthy people need to do, you’re not alone. That’s a common misconception. Why can this be The One New Year’s Resolution That Creates Lasting Change?

Financial planners know that most people need to have estate plans, no matter how much or even how little money they have. An estate plan includes healthcare directives and identifies guardians for minor children in the event you and your spouse die unexpectedly. It also can be created to avoid your family from having to go through probate court.

Skipping this part of your overall financial and legal life could put you, your assets and your family members at risk. Estate planning is done to protect you and your loved ones. That’s just one reason why everyone needs one. Having an estate plan protects you while you are living.

The One New Year’s Resolution That Creates Lasting Change

An estate plan is more than just a will or a trust. The two most common tools in an estate plan are a will and trust, but that’s just the beginning. A will, or last will and testament, is the document that provides the instructions for your heirs and beneficiaries to follow after you die. Trusts are used to protect assets and enforce your wishes, after you’re gone. However, a good estate plan should also include these documents:

  • An advance healthcare directive or healthcare proxy. These documents stipulate how you want to be treated, if you are alive but so sick or injured that you can’t provide directions. You may want to have a Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR).
  • Powers of attorney. This legal document outlines who can represent you in legal, medical or financial matters, if you are not able to do so.

The right documents help avoid probate court. If you don’t have a will, any property or possessions must go through the probate system. Your documents and information about your assets become part of the public record and can be seen by anyone. Going through probate opens the door to litigation and disputes, which can further delay settling your estate. Having a will and the proper trusts gives clarity to heirs about what you want.

An estate plan protects your children. If you don’t have a will, a court names the guardian who will raise your children. Instead, decide who you would want. Make sure the person you want to care for your children will accept this responsibility. Trusts are a way to preserve assets for your children. The trust is managed by a trustee after you die and can stipulate specific rules and uses for the assets. For instance, you can provide a certain amount of money for the children, until they reach age 18. At that point, your trust could instruct the trustee to use the money for college expenses. You can be as specific as you wish.

Meet with an estate planning attorney familiar with the laws of your state. An estate planning attorney will know the estate and tax laws that apply to you and your family. Let this be the One New Year’s Resolution That Creates Lasting Change.

Read more related articles here:

Leaving a legacy: Why everyone needs an estate plan

Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan

Also, read one of our previous Blogs here:

Estate Planning Is a Gift and a Legacy for Loved Ones

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.


What Is The Place of the Metaverse and Digital Assets in Estate Planning

The Place of the Metaverse and Digital Assets in Estate Planning

It is not strange to hear news of people dying intestate, often leading to the loss of valuable property. Innovators continue to create novel uses of technology and thus creating new types of digital footprints and property, piling complexities to an already challenging area of the law. The Metaverse is no exception.

By now, you’ve heard of this virtual world, but did you know your clients are spending real money living in it?

What is The Metaverse?

Before going all-in into estate planning as it relates to digital property and the Metaverse, it is essential to understand what the Metaverse entails. The Metaverse can be rightly described as a virtual space where businesses and individuals can purchase different assets, ranging from real estate to pictures and practically any other type of property.

It has become even more attractive recently, with big brands like Nike selling an NFT sneaker for $134,000. Gap and Walmart are investing heavily. Digital-only real estate brokerages are opening in the Metaverse. Decentraland is registering around 21,000 virtual real estate transactions in its Metaverse. These amount to a total value of $110 million in 2021, giving individuals access to valuable property. However, with the increasing popularity of the Metaverse comes the ultimate question – “what happens upon the death of a property owner or account holder?”

Management of Property in the Metaverse

Individuals and businesses continuously increase their portfolios in the virtual space, making it even more imperative to manage their assets effectively. At the same time, they’re alive to ensure they can be accessed and transferred upon death. The Metaverse and virtual assets have several use cases, including personal use and play in the Metaverse, collectible value, and investments. The situation is even more problematic as several privacy laws, and Terms of Service Agreements (TOSAs) put in place to safeguard a user’s privacy remains in force even in the event of death.

These TOSAs make it challenging and probably impossible for the estate to discover the metaverse account and inherent assets upon the account holder’s death. Since the Metaverse is not a legal financial institution, such accounts won’t be turned over to the state or province as abandoned property, leaving them valueless and useless—a loss to loved ones, charities, and business owners.

Discovery of Accounts and Inherent Assets

Events have revealed that such accounts are rarely discovered. While loved ones and representatives might get lucky to know of an account in the Metaverse, they will need much more to access the contents and data they need. Accurate records of their account’s existence tied to the account holder(decedent), proof of financially value property existence, or an explicit declaration of disclosure of the account’s contents is necessary.

These can include but are not limited to possession of transaction receipts, which are often buried in email, stored on files hidden in layers in folders, or concealed in apps to take any action. Unfortunately, relying on passwords is risky and can be deemed criminal activity, seen as account holder impersonation that could permanently lock out accounts, data, and assets.

New fiduciary access laws enacted in most states articulate the requirements for compelling a content provider to disclose the account’s contents. Without meeting the laws’ requirements, it is entirely up to the content provider to decide what will be released to the estate or trust.

Distribution of Assets in the Metaverse

There are no industry standards regarding the distribution of assets in the virtual space in this still-emerging industry. Therefore, each content provider (custodian) has the discretion to handle such matters, and while some have made provisions in their Terms of Service Agreements, others have not. Even after gaining access to the account and its contents, securing the property and safeguarding it until the heirs decide can be daunting.

How to cash out the digital property

Digital assets are often sold and bought on exchanges and online marketplace such as OpenSea, Veve, and Rarible, featuring investors, traders, and assets such as digital arts. Multiple such platforms have recently emerged to meet different users’ growing and diverse needs. However, getting the most suitable exchange regarding user-friendliness and reliability is not straightforward, especially with the continuous influx of online marketplaces. Consequently, it is imperative for lawyers to be apprised of the Metaverse and how it works to help clients effectively manage their virtual assets.

The Directive Communication Systems Solution 

Directive Communication Systems aims to help lawyers, financial advisors, and their clients prepare digital property for an individual’s estate through a user-friendly online platform. The platform is designed to record online accounts, apps, contents, and disposition instructions for estate planning purposes.

Directive Communication Systems works with professional advisors and their clients to ensure that wealth and estate plans are complete by including digital property without requiring clients to provide passwords. DCS also helps protect the law firm from achieving the desired client’s goals while preventing future court actions and litigation.

The focus of DCS is digital property succession management, with highly experienced and well-trained professionals handling all types of cases, including domain names, URLs, social media, cloud-based storage, and a host of others.

Read more related articles at:

Metaverse 101: What does it mean for digital assets?

The Metaverse: Personal property security in digital assets

Also, read one of previous Blogs here:


Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.

Disability Panel

Disability Panel, Would One Benefit You?

Disability Panel, Would One Benefit You?


A Disability Panel defined: a group of people chosen by the Settlor to determine if the Settlor retains the capacity to serve as trustee of her trust.

Disability Panels are typically included in higher net worth planners’ trusts. Lawyers place a premium on privacy. Lawyers are required by law to protect a client’s secrets. Also, most clients are secretive about their estate, its contents, and its value.

Lawyers often see issues carrying out the Settlor’s intent in the operation of his estate plan. Potential beneficiaries may not agree with what the trust says. This can lead some people to believe that they can achieve a more desirable outcome for themselves if they control the Trust.


There are good reasons to use Disability Panels. The obvious reason is to make sure the settlor still has the capacity to manage his or her estate. If the Settlor has a catastrophic medical event she may not be able to carry out her duties as trustee. If she develops a drug dependency, or mental health problems a Disability Panel may be necessary to determine capacity.


But what if she is just aged, or aged and frail, or has a chronic condition which requires care, but her condition does not affect her capacity. Any of the above may physically disable a person but these conditions may allow the settlor to continue to manage her estate.

There are also patently invalid reasons to use a Disability Panel clause. Care must be taken to ensure that only good reasons for using the Disability Panels are used. This is solved by careful drafting. The Settlor and his successor trustee must understand the clause.


Good reasons to use disability panels are many. First, privacy is the most common reason. Then there is protecting the family name, or the family business. There is also the possibility that use of the Disability Panel will get the person suffering from the disability or incapacity the treatment they need, without risking general public disclosure of the fact that they need treatment.

Second, there is still a stigma that attaches to becoming disabled. It can attach even if it is your parent and not you who is disabled.  To protect themselves some people may want a disabled person who still has capacity removed from  the public eye.

Reversibility is another valid reason for using the Disability Panel. The family that will have to care for the disabled family member can act as an advocate for the settlor’s recovery and bring him home as soon as possible.

Read more related articles here:

Defining Incapacity in the Modern Estate Plan

Making Decisions for Someone at the End of Life

Also, read one of our previous blogs at:

What is a Disability Panel and How Does it Work?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.

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