Friday, February 27, 2015

I Received a Letter from the HRA Bureau of Fraud Investigations, What Should I Do?

New York Medicaid Fraud Attorney Inna Fershteyn provides details on Medicaid Fraud and Abuse - what it is, the investigation process, who the investigator is, and what you should do if you become the target of Medicaid fraud investigation and prosecution.

Inna Fershteyn
Law Office of Inna Fershteyn and Associates, PC
1517 Voorhies Ave, 4fl
Brooklyn, NY 11235

Friday, February 20, 2015

Robin Williams Widow Sues Estate: Does the Trust Trump Survivor Rights?


Prenuptial contracts walled off the assets from alimony claims when the star was alive but death creates new questions about where a late-in-life spouse fits into an estate plan.

It looked like Robin Williams had negotiated a smooth inheritance solution for his widow and the three children he fathered in previous marriages. 
But now that the executors have started winding down the estate, cracks have emerged in the way the once-ironclad plan spells out who gets what.

While the trustees can probably smooth everything over here with reference to the donor’s intent, the lesson is clear: every detail that be disputed will be disputed, so spell out every single possibility and define all your terms.

Life gets in the way of the best estate plans

As we discussed last year, Williams locked down his legacy in the midst of his second divorce.
At the time, he had three kids and nobody else he cared to leave his money, so he shifted a big chunk of his assets into trusts that would pay off on their behalf.

The kids all got equal shares. The will rolled everything left behind in his taxable estate back into the trust structure where it could flow back into the separate accounts.

But when Williams married Wife No. 3 a few years later, his lawyers had to carve out a fair place for her in a plan that was previously designed to run like clockwork.

The revised structure gave her the couple’s primary residence in Tiburon, appraised at $7 million, and the right to draw enough cash from the estate to keep the house running for the rest of her life.

On the surface, it seems as simple as it gets. The kids ultimately get the fortune and the stepmom doesn’t get pushed out into the cold with millions of fans watching.

And in that scenario, whatever feelings Williams had for all his loved ones are expressed in full. But apparently there were enough vague points to generate friction and drive widow Susan to petition for clarity.

She wanted the trust to pay for a $30,000 renovation. Do upgrades and repairs count under the category of “all costs related to the residence?”

And the kids have apparently been trying to get access to what is nominally her property in order to remove family memorabilia. Does that infringe on her right to keep the contents of the house?

Tighter wording would have proactively answered both of these questions, kept the family out of lawyers’ offices and preserved the quiet around the dead star’s arrangements.

Williams’ lawyers could have spelled out exactly what belonged to the kids and what should be considered normal furnishings of the house.

That way, while life may have gotten messy in the meantime, at the end of the day everyone would know where all the collectibles and costumes belong.

Instructions on transporting “misplaced” property to its proper place and adjudicating disputes would evidently have been helpful as well.

Part of the problem here is that Robin Williams was famous as a world-class collector of esoteric and sometimes surprisingly expensive stuff: army men, scientific oddities, comic books.

As a result, it’s not just a question of who has a deeper attachment to a particular toy but whether the cumulative weight of the “attachments” ends up shifting the overall balance of inheritance.

Maybe Williams actually wanted the kids to have the stuff left in the Tiburon house when he died. Either way, the time to spell it out was when he was still alive to sign the trust documents.

Likewise, “all costs related to the residence” doesn’t cut it. It’s just too vague.

If the star wanted the trust to pay for repairs and renovations, the documents should have spelled it out. And if he explicitly only wanted to cover the current operational budget, the trustees would have known what to tell the beneficiary when she wanted more.

Adding a belt to the rainbow suspenders may not be fun, but it lowers the odds that any vague details left on the table will be big enough to give anyone a strong reason to petition for additional guidance.
In that case, the world wouldn’t be talking about the Robin Williams estate plan today.

More terrified of divorce than death

It’s clear that Williams had been burned by $30 million in alimony payments over his lifetime and the main thrust of his planning was to prevent another settlement dragging him and his kids’ inheritance closer to ground zero.

As a result, while he evidently tried to make sure his new wife was covered in the event of his death, the provisions for Susan were built on a foundation that wasn’t really designed for that purpose.

The trusts keep the assets from ever becoming community property where a divorcing spouse could theoretically stake a claim. The prenuptial contract further limits Susan’s options in the event of a divorce.

But I haven’t heard of too many agreements that sign away elective rights to the estate when it’s death and not divorce that breaks up the marriage.

California will override the will to give a surviving spouse half the community property. In some scenarios, that might have given Susan a claim on the Tiburon house if she used money from her graphic design career to make the mortgage payments.

Otherwise, when Williams died, he might have been worth $50 million, most of which seems to have been separate property held in trust for the kids. That’s going to be out of her reach any way you slice it.

And since she was only married to him for close to three years, there wasn’t much time for her to vest in a lot of community property beyond what his last few TV and voiceover gigs brought in.

She’s entitled to half of that share of the life they built together. Anything he’d accumulated previously was his to give or withhold.

He gave her the house and the money to stay there for the rest of her life. It takes a lot of money to keep a $7 million property running for 25 to 30 years, maybe more.

Call it maybe a $15 million bequest in all, which means that she’s getting more than her mandated elective share unless you think he’s raked in more than $30 million in the last three years.

While the kids say she’s making a naked cash grab by trying to amp up the house and presumably its operating footprint, she’s not suing for the elective share, so this is probably a better deal for her in any event.

Ironically his other ex-wives – the kids’ mothers –got about $15 million apiece for leaving the man on their own accord.

Susan wasn’t with Robin long, but she stuck around until he left her. Maybe she deserves a little more for loyalty. That was for him to decide.

Source: Trust Advisor

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

NY Guardianship and Special Needs planning attorney on RTN with Center for Russian Immigrants

New York Special Needs Planning Attorney Inna Fershteyn discusses Guardianship Proceedings, planning for children with Disabilities, listing kids as beneficiaries in the life insurance policy, emergency medicaid planning and medicaid insurance for non-citizens.

For more information, contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn and Associates, P.C.

Languages: English, Russian

Areas of Practice: Estate Planning, Asset Protection, Medicaid Fraud Investigations, Medicaid Planning, Welfare Fraud, Food Stamps Fraud, Wills, Trusts, Elder Law, Business Continuation Planning

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Law Office of Inna Fershteyn & Associates, P.C.
1517 Voorhies Avenue, Suite 4
Brooklyn, NY 11235
Phone (718) 333-2394

Friday, February 13, 2015

Robin Williams' Widow and Children Feud Over Estate

Robin Williams
Robin Williams, son Zachary and wife Susan Schneider attend The Comedy Awards in New York City in 2012. The late comedian's family is currently feuding over many of Williams' possessions

Robin Williams' widow and his three children from previous marriages are currently engaged in a legal battle over everything from his clothing to his action figures, months after the actor and comic's death.
Williams' third wife, Susan Schneider Williams, whom he married in 2011, filed court documents making her case in December, while his children – Zak, born to his first wife Valerie Velardi, and Zelda and Cody, born to second wife Marsha Garces Williams – submitted their papers in January. The New York Times reports that a number of items are at stake, including photographs, bicycles, fossils, toys and his awards and that the children would like to see the matter resolved "as quickly and efficiently as possible."

The actor's will left his estate to his children in a trust, but it also called for the creation of provisions to benefit his wife, who has two teenage sons of her own. This included the couple's home in Tiburon, California and "the contents thereof." In her filing, Williams' wife alleged that within days of the actor's death, items were "unilaterally removed" from her home. Moreover, when she hired a lawyer, she found that home services like newspaper delivery were canceled. All of this, she claimed, has interfered with the grieving process.

For their part, the children said they are "heartbroken" in their petition and underscored their feelings about Susan Williams by mentioning that she was married to the actor for "less than three years." In their opinion, the widow's filing "adds insult to terrible injury" and is a means to "prevent them from receiving what their father wanted them to receive." They allege that she "acted against [their father's] wishes by challenging the plans he so carefully made for his estate."

The most hotly debated items are Williams' personal effects, including his awards – an Oscar for Good Will Hunting, six Golden Globes, two Emmys and five Grammys. An updated version of Williams' trust said that the actor's clothing, jewelry and photos taken prior to the actor and Susan's marriage, as well as his second home in Napa, California and its contents, should go to his children.

Susan explicitly said that she was not seeking items related to the actor's career in entertainment, but wanted items like the tux he wore to their wedding along with his "personal collections of knickknacks and other items that are not associated with his famous persona." (The word "knickknacks" did not sit well with Williams' children, who thought it was an off-color way of describing the actor's extensive collections of graphic novels, action figures, theater masks and movie posters.)
Susan claimed that the children gave her only three days' notice, following Williams death, before they wanted to come to the Tiburon home and take what the trust promised them. She said that she "became frightened of the co-trustees invading her home" and subsequently blocked them. The children took issue with that move since she allowed to have others into her home, including appraisers who placed a value on items said to belong to the children, as well as construction workers who completed a $30,000 renovation on the home.

Within days of the actor's death, Susan and the three children each released statements about how the actor's passing had affected them. His widow spoke on behalf of the family and asked for privacy while it grieved. The three children each wrote personal notes. Zak called the comedian his "a best friend," while Zelda said she felt "stripped bare." Cody said, "The world will never be the same without him."

Source: Rollingstone

Monday, February 9, 2015

Pitfalls of Medicaid, long-term care planning

It's not against the law to give away assets to qualify for Medicaid, and Carter says there are some circumstances when such steps are appropriate.

But many Americans do not understand the consequences of relying on Medicaid such as the fact they will be giving up control of their long-term care planning. That flies in the face of another finding of the Nationwide Financial survey: Many clients tell their advisers that maintaining control is the most important aspect of retirement health care planning.

"I always tell parents that if you give the money to your kids you have to understand that you are irrevocably parting with it and you may never see it again," says K. Gabriel Heiser, an elder law attorney and author of How to Protect Your Family's Assets From Devastating Nursing Home Cost: Medicaid Secrets.

And they must comply with Medicaid rules. For example, the nursing home they would like to stay in may not accept Medicaid patients. Although Medicaid programs vary by state, few will pay for home health care. And a third of doctors do not accept Medicaid patients, according to an August study by Health Affairs.

Married couples need to know that Medicaid rules provide some protection to the spouse who is healthy and still at home while their partner is in a nursing home. Among other things, they can keep a certain amount of money and their home. But it's a modest amount and may not provide them the lifestyle they expect, Carter says.

Options besides giving away assets to qualify for Medicaid include:

Paying your own way. Wealthy people who want to retain control of their finances may decide to foot the bill themselves. Experts say that if someone has several million dollars in assets, they can afford to pay for nursing home care given that the average stay is less than three years.
"If you've got the money to pay for it, then that's where it should go," says Jim Miller, the Savvy Senior syndicated columnist. "If not, they are using the system to protect their money, pass it on to their kids, and then the taxpayers pick up the cost."

Buying long-term care insurance. These plans often provide other options, such as home health care. The one drawback of this is somebody might put a lot of their savings into something that they may never need.

However, some insurance companies can add a long-term care insurance rider to life insurance policies. Then if the policyholder never needs long-term care they still can provide income to their heirs.

Set up a trust. Those who want to protect their assets also can consider setting up an irrevocable trust instead of giving money to their children. And there are some irrevocable Medicaid annuities that provide an income stream.

Long-term care planning is clearly complicated and it's not easy to find the best option. Although Heiser's book helps consumers understand the rules, even he says that "it is definitely not a do-it-yourself project."

Source: USA Today