Battisti & Garzo, P.C. is proud to serve the legal needs of the Southern Tier of New York. Our team is here for you when you need assistance with a legal matter. With a prompt and personal response, we are committed to providing you with the legal expertise you need now!
Our Law Firm provides a wide range of legal services:
• Criminal Defense: Felony, Misdemeanor & Violation Level Offenses
• Federal Practice: Criminal and Civil Cases
• Speeding Tickets
• Family Law
• Wills & Estate
• Real Estate
• Landlord / Tenant
• Personal Injury
• Workers' Compensation
Do I need a Will?
A Will allows a person: (i) to choose who will benefit from his or her property, investments and bank accounts, (ii) to determine how much each beneficiary receives, (iii) to place restrictions on the use of the inheritance through a trust, (iv) to choose the “Executor”, the person who will be in charge of the estate, and (v) to include provisions that will help minimize estate, inheritance and income taxes. If you do not have a Will, then state law determines who receives your assets, and who will be in charge of your estate. It is always better for you to have a Will based on your goals and desires. We always suggest that you use a lawyer to prepare a will: (i) to insure compliance with each state’s will execution requirements, and (ii) to explore other viable planning options and forms.
Using a Lawyer Means Better Insurance Settlements
There have been reports recently of insurance companies contacting accident victims immediately after an accident.The companies tell victims they want to help and ask them to quicky settle their claim. If you are in an accident and this happens to you, ask yourself who the insurance company is really trying to help?
In one case, insurance adjusters contacted a 70-year-old woman's family just hours after she was killed in a car accident. They tried to get a settlement before the family could even gather its thoughts. Fortunately, family members told the adjuster they had an attorney, and the adjuster quickly left. In another case, a Florida woman thought she could deal directly with the adjuster who called her right after her accident. But the adjuster is now accused of improperly obtaining information from the woman —information the insurance company is trying to use to lower the amount it pays.
Why are some insurance companies going to such lengths to persuade accident victims to not get a lawyer's help before settling a claim? Simply because they can settle claims for less money if the accident victim is not represented by a lawyer.
Lawyers help clients get all the money they are entitled to after an accident. Most accident victims don't know all their legal rights or all they are entitled to under the small print of an insurance policy. Because of this, getting a lawyer's advice before settling a claim is critical for an accident victim.
Insurance companies that try to disrupt this process sometimes suggest that using a lawyer won't help the accident victim get more money. But the insurance industry's own research proves the opposite is true. For car accidents, insurance industry research shows that the average accident victim receives more money for economic damages (like lost wages and medical expenses) when represented by a lawyer, even after deducting all costs. And when recoveries for pain and suffering are considered, the larger recoveries by accident victims use lawyers is significantly higher.
If you are in an accident, seek legal help immediately. A lawyer can advise you about all your rights as well as advise you about all insurance benefits you may be entitled to receive. Insurance industry research and common sense show that it is wise to consult a lawyer after an accident, and before settling an accident claim.
What about a decedent’s bank accounts, investment accounts, stocks and bonds?
The Executor should provide a copy of the Letters Testamentary – the proof of his or her appointment obtained from the Surrogate Court - to each bank and investment company where the decedent had assets. Hopefully, the decedent previously provided the Executor with the list of his or her assets. If not, the Executor will need to look for bank statements, brokerage statements, or even a decedent’s income tax return to locate the accounts. The more information which the decedent had provided to the Executor in advance the better. Once the bank or brokerage company is notified, then the Executor will be the only person who will be permitted to deal with the assets in the decedent’s account. Eventually the Executor will set up a new separate account in the name of the estate to transfer assets into out of which estate bills can be paid and distributions can be made to the beneficiaries named in the decedent’s will . The Executor will need to get certain information from the financial institutions, such as (i) written conformation of the date of death values of the accounts; and (ii) income which is earned from the account both before and after the date of death. This information is needed to complete several forms an Executor must file, including an Inventory of Assets, estate and inheritance tax returns, and final income tax returns for both the decedent and the estate
What can I do to protect assets in case I need nursing home care?
Nursing home care is very expensive, with round-the-clock skilled care costing $5,000 to $10,000 a month. Medicare and private health care insurance do not pay for such “custodial” care, although brief nursing home stays for “rehabilitation” purposes could be covered. A person could buy “long-term care insurance”, which is a special insurance designed specifically to pay for nursing home care. This option always should be explored, but normally the insurance must be purchased well before the skilled care is needed. A large majority of people, however, do not have long-term care insurance, as the premiums can be fairly expensive. Most people, therefore, have to use their own assets to pay for their care, until they “spend down” to certain “resources” and “income” limits, at which point a government program named “Medicaid” could provide coverage. These Medicaid limits are very low, so most people will have to deplete almost all of their assets and income to qualify. In the case of a couple where one spouse needs nursing home care, Medicaid law does protect the home and a certain amount of investments for the other spouse. There are ways to protect assets from nursing home costs involving the gifting of assets to children and others, but most types of gifts must be completed well in advance (up to five years) before Medicaid is applied for. Some fairly common gifting options include transferring real estate with a “retained life use” or transferring investments to irrevocable “Medicaid Trusts”. Before undertaking any such planning, you should seek the advice of an attorney well- versed in elder law.
Is the Executor required to notify other family members as part of the probate process?
An important component of the probate process is obtaining the written consents of “distributees” – those people who would inherit the decedent’s estate if there was no will. In most cases, this means the decedent’s spouse and children, or if none, then decedent’s parents or siblings. This is the case even if the so called distributes are not mentioned in the will. If the distributees will not sign a written consent, then a citation must be obtained from the court and served on the distributee. The court then sets a return date where the person has a chance to file objections to the will.