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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Estate Planning Essentials for New Parents (or Responsibility in Six Not So Difficult Steps)

I have had the opportunity to meet with many new parents to discuss what steps they need to take in order to make sure their loved ones are provided for should the unexpected occur.  The trust that these individuals have placed in my firm, and myself, is humbling.

I decided to write a brief book to answer many of the questions that these young families typically ask.  It is by no means a comprehensive guide to estate planning, but rather a roadmap that will give you a overview of the process. Think of it as the Cliff Notes for estate planning for young families.

I believe you will find Estate Planning Essentials for New Parents (or Responsibility in Six Not So Difficult Steps) to be a useful resource.  Please feel free to download, print or share the book with anyone whom you think may benefit from it.

Contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Jimenez P.C. today to schedule a No Cost Estate Planning Consultation at (631) 244-1534.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Calls for increased monitoring of Article 81 guardians

Today the New York Law Journal has an article relating to a clinic run by the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and the recommendations it has put forward regarding monitoring and standardization of Article 81 guardianship practice.

I am hopeful that some of these recommendations make their way into day-to-day practice. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Who inherits the intangible iTunes library? or my World of Warcraft avatar?

A friend of mine just pointed out a very interesting article on Marketwatch, who inherits your itunes library, which deals with the new reality of music and book ownership. 

In the days before iTunes if someone who had a large physical collection of records, cd's or books passed away it was very typical that this was part of their estate.  It could be specifically devised to individuals or divided among the distributees of the deceased.  But what happens when this impressive collection is intangible.  As the article points out, you don't own albums or books through iTunes.  What you own is a license to view this content.  So does the license die with you, regardless of how much money you may have spent over your lifetime acquiring this cloud based library? 

One area that the article does not touch upon is the world of massive multiplayer online role-playing games (mmorpg for the short) and social gaming. What happens to the avatars of deceased players?  Some of these avatars represent a large investment of time and money.  Will arguments be made that they should be treated as an asset of the estate, especially if it can be shown that a monetary value can be assigned to the characters?    Will the next few years see a development of Farmville trusts?  It sounds ridiculous, but with estates and property law barely embracing the 20th century who can say what will happen when it decides to embrace the twenty-first. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Free Lecture Series offered by Good Samaritan Hospital

Good Samaritan Hospital is offering a new lecture series "Good Sam University in the Community."  Speakers include physicians and allied health professionals from the hospital.  These lectures are free to attend.

Some upcoming lectures that may be of interest include:

9/25/12 - Can We Really Believe the Media? Its influence on our health and well-being.  Speaker - Howard J. Balbi MD, Director Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Good Samaritan Hospital & Center for Pediatric Specialty Care.  Location - St. John's High School

10/18/12 - Where Did I Put My Keys Again? Techniques to Improve Your Memory. Location - Babylon Public Library

10/25/12 - How to Prevent Concussions in School-Aged Athletes.  Speaker - Sarita Duchatelier MD, Chief Pediatric Neurology.  Location - St. John's High School

For more information or to register for any of the events listed, please call 631-376-4444.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Willowbrook State School. Will the pendulum ever swing back?

This morning I happened to see an article in the Long Island Press about the demolition of the buildings at the King's Park Psychiatric Hospital Campus.  Having grown up a few blocks away from what once was the Edgewood and Pilgrim State Psychiatric Hospital grounds I always wondered what lead to these sprawling campuses being abandoned and shuttered in the eighties and nineties.  Was it a case of modern medicine becoming so effective at treating many of the disorders that the residents suffered from that large scale institution had become a thing of the past?  Had the cost to maintain these facilities gotten so out of hand that the state couldn't afford to run them anymore? Had mainstreaming and community based care supplanted the need?

In reality it was all of these reasons and none of these reasons.  Mass institutionalization may have been the cutting edge of medical science when these facilities were constructed, but without adequate staff, budget or treatments available many of them turned into warehouses. Recently I watched a documentary entitled "Unforgotten:  25 years after Willowbrook."

The Willowbrook State School was a facility located in Staten Island.  Opened in 1947 it was created to house, educate and treat children who were mentally retarded or developmentally disabled.  As the years passed it devolved and by 1965, Willowbrook housed over 6,000 mentally disabled children, despite having a maximum capacity of 4,000. Senator Robert Kennedy toured the institution in 1965 and proclaimed that individuals in the overcrowded facility were "living in filth and dirt, their clothing in rags, in rooms less comfortable and cheerful than the cages in which we put animals in a zoo" and offered a series of recommendations for improving conditions. "Excerpts From Statement by Kennedy", The New York Times, September 10, 1965. The school gained a reputation as a warehouse for New York City's mentally disabled children, many of whom were presumably abandoned there by their families, foster care agencies or other systems designed to care for them.

In 1972 a doctor who worked at the school contacted CBS investigative reporter Geraldo Rivera.  Rivera's expose entitled Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace uncovering a host of deplorable conditions, including overcrowding, inadequate sanitary facilities, and physical and sexual abuse of residents by members of the school's staff.  The public outcry was huge and steps were taken to reform the school, with it eventually being closed down in 1987.  The residents there had been transferred out to group homes or other less restrictive environments.

Following Willowbrook the pendulum shifted and the focus became one of mainstreaming the developmentally disabled.  No one can argue with the positive results this has had, both for the developmentally disabled population and our society in general.

However, we have to keep in mind that without constant attention any system can break down.  I have yet to hear a colleague who deals with mental hygiene law ever say, "You know what there are too many of?  Group homes.  There are just too many beds and too many choices." There aren't enough beds.  There are not enough choices.  We also have to keep in mind that in the rush to close budget gaps and deficits, some programs are more vulnerable than others.  When it comes to programs for vulnerable populations, trimming the fat off the budget is never kind. 

For the time being I think the memory of Willowbrook and the other schools like it is too fresh in the minds of mental hygiene practitioners and the family members of the developmentally disabled to ever let mass institutionalization come to the table as an option in the war against the deficit.  But a few generations removed from now will a spreadsheet presented at a budget meeting somewhere show that one large facility is more cost effective than four dozen smaller ones?  And if so, will someone at that meeting remember Willowbrook. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Get that estate plan in order before you go on vacation.

I came across the following article on the Massachusetts Estate Planning and Elder law Blawg published by Leanna Hamill, Esq.  I think it is an excellent summary of what you need to do in order to make sure that if the unexpected happens while you are away on action, the appropriate estate planning documents and advance directives are in place.  You can find Leanna online at http://www.hamilllawoffice.com

This will not be one of those thrilling posts from a fashion magazine about the latest resort wear to bring on a trip. Nor will it be like the articles I read on the 10 things to pack for a successful triathlon. No, this is just your standard (but important) estate planning check list.

It’s not that you are more likely to get hurt or have an emergency while you are away from home, but vacations and trips are often what cause people to think about their plans and the future. So, it is with that in mind that I give you this handy list of things to check before you leave:
  1. If you don’t have any legal documents in place and are leaving soon, or want to spend all your money on umbrella drinks instead of a lawyer, at least sign a health care proxy before you leave. These are free from your doctor’s office or most hospital websites. This will allow someone to make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable.
  2. If you do have the documents in place, just take a glance at them and make sure the people you’ve named to help you in a crisis are still the same, and that their situation hasn’t changed drastically such that they may be unable to help you. You might even want to send them an email letting them know you are traveling, reminding them they are named as your agent in the event of emergencies and letting them know where they will find your important papers if they have to help you.
  3. If you do want changes made to the documents, call your lawyer as soon as you can. If there are just minor changes they should be able to help you with those with fairly short notice. More extensive changes might need to wait until you get back.
  4. If you have minor children, you’ll want to make sure you have guardianship nominations in place (in case something happens to you on the trip, regardless of whether you are traveling with or without them.) You’ll also want to check and make sure that the people you’ve named to handle any money that will be inherited by minor children are still able and willing to serve. If you are traveling without your children, make sure you have emergency guardianship proxies in place and that the caregiver has a copy of them.
It’s always best to do these things in advance, so you can think through your choices and decisions. But there are definitely interim plans you can put into place to help you rest easier on vacation. Just be sure to follow through with the long term plan when you return!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 is here.

So this means that your 2011 annual accountings and reports for Article 81 Guardians are due in five short months.

If you are the guardian of the person or property of a ward you MUST file your annual reports.  There is no negotiation on this point.  A failure to file your reports in a timely manner can cause you to be removed as guardian.

Now is the time to begin gathering all the financial records regarding your ward for 2011.  If you wait until May you are going to be running against the clock to gather the required information and prepare your report.

If you feel that you are not going to be able to comply with the reporting requirement, or have any questions regarding what information you need to submit, your court examiner is an invaluable resource.

As Guardian you may have the authority to seek outside assistance to prepare the accounting and report.  However, in some cases you may need the approval of the Court before you can retain an accountant or attorney to perform this work on your behalf.

The Law Office of Daniel A. Jimenez P.C. can assist you in preparing these reports.  Free initial consultations are available to discuss your annual reporting requirement. Call 631-244-1534 to schedule an appointment.