Beth Polner Abrahams is speaking on “Elder Care Law and What You Must Know” around Long Island this month.

The class is sponsored by several school districts.
Check with the district near you about event details and whether the class is Free or Fee.
South Huntington School District Adult Education
October 7, 2014 from 7pm to 9 pm
Walt Whitman High School, Room 525
North Wing, facing Jericho Turnpike
Pre-register: 631-812-3000.  Free with pre-registration.
Glen Cove High School Adult Education
October 8, 2014 from 7pm to 9pm
Glen Cove High School, Room 131
150 Dsoris Lane, Glen Cove, NY  
Info: 516-801-7001
Cold Spring Harbor Central School District Adult Education
October 15, 2014 from 7pm to 9pm 
Cold Spring Harbor High School, Community Center Board Room
75 Goose Hill Road, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 
Pre-register: 631-367-5905
Free with preregistration
Northport School District Continuing Education
October 21, 2010 from 7pm to 9pm 
Northport UFSD Office of Community Services
158 Laurel Avenue, Northport, NY
Info: 631-262-6650
Other speaking appearances
“Sandwiched In: To Mediate or Litigate?” 
Learn about mediation as a non-court alternative to resolving family disputes. 
Experience a mock mediation.  
Port Washington Public Library, 1 Library Drive, Port Washington NY
October 17, 2014 at 12pm to 2pm
Beth’s co-panelists are Harriette Steinberg, Esq. and Elizabeth Pollina Donlin, Esq.  
Info: 516-883-4400
Special Needs Trusts  and Planning – and 17A Guardianship for Your Developmentally Disabled Child
At “Fun Fall Festival” for Special Needs Families
Presented by the Head Injury Association
October 25, 2014 
Beth will speak at 11am to 2pm and provide free materials  
Question and Answer presentations will be ongoing during lunch and the afternoon.  
Stop by and say hello!
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Posted by: BlogMaster | September 27, 2014

Estate Planning: Do You Need Beneficiary Designation Forms?

You’ve done your estate planning. But if it doesn’t include Beneficiary Designation Forms, you’re not done yet.

Congratulations! You prepared a Will or Trust to pass your wealth to one or more beneficiaries.

Perhaps your estate plan includes an inherited special needs trust for a disabled family member, or a trust for young children or grandchildren. Or, your plan includes tax planning for you as a married couple (called Disclaimer Credit Shelter Trusts) or, you have bequeathed a part of your estate to charities.

Are you done now? The answer is No!

Think about your assets and remember that Beneficiary Designation Forms are key to having your wishes – as expressed in your Will or Trust – actually and specifically implemented as you wish after your death.

Why are Beneficiary Designation Forms and titling of assets important and necessary?

Because where there is a beneficiary or joint owner, the assets may not pass as you desire to your Will or Trust.

What does this mean? Some examples…

  • If a young child inherits your account, the Court must become involved to appoint a legal guardian to manage the inherited account. All use of the funds and assets then require the Court’s permission. 
  • If a disabled child or family member who is supported with Medicaid and/or SSI inherits your account outright, they will lose their government benefits.
  • If you want one or more charities to receive a share of your estate, your bequest is eliminated because no assets will pass under your Will.

Our best advice: Take time to look at the type of assets you own and look at your Beneficiary Designation forms.

  • Do you own retirement accounts (annuities, IRAs, etc.) or Life insurance with named beneficiaries?
  • Have you designated beneficiaries for bank or investment accounts – POD (payable on death) or TOD (transfer on death)?
  • If you answered yes to either of the above, these do not pass through you Will or Trust.  The designations may need proper legal tweaking or need to be redone.

At my law practice, signing your Will or Trust is just the first step. The process isn’t done until after the second step: properly completing Beneficiary Designation Forms.

Why is this so important for my clients? Because it helps you attain peace of mind knowing that your Will or Tust will carry forward your exact wishes and plan.

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Posted by: BlogMaster | September 10, 2014

Sometimes it’s a good idea to avoid probate!

If you live in New York State and know who your heirs are (and where they are) in a full family tree, then probate is not complex and not overly costly. In fact, most consumers confuse probate (for a Will) with the longer post-probate process of administering the estate (paying bills, selling a home, filing estate tax returns, etc.).

But even if you know your entire family tree, sometimes avoiding probate is a good idea – particularly if you own real estate, business interests or properties in more than one state.


Because in addition to the probate of a Will in your state of residence at your death, your executor must go to each state where you own property and re-do the entire process! And the fees can add up – court filing fees, legal fees and delays in each state where probate (called Ancillary Probate) are needed.

That’s when it may be time to consider a Revocable Living Trust.

And there’s another benefit to a revocable living trust.

If you become incapacitated or infirm and are unable to manage your property, your successor trustee can step in and act as the manager for your benefit without a court proceeding.

What must you do?

Visit a qualified attorney to discuss a Revocable Living Trust or other type of trust. The success of avoiding probate doesn’t end with signing the Trust. The lawyer should counsel and advise you on transferring the assets (by deed, shares of stock, etc.) to the Trust – or you will not avoid probate.

And remember, a Revocable Living Trust does not minimize or avoid inheritance taxes for New York State residents. If you are married, your living trust needs proper planning (see my blog on Disclaimer Credit Shelter trusts as part of your estate planning and NYS inheritance tax).

Never fall for ‘cookie-cutter’ estate planning, looseleaf plans or off-the-shelf kits sold by some law firms! These will not address your unique needs or your family’s.

My law firm provides personalized estate plans. Contact my office to discuss whether a revocable living trust is appropriate for you.


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Posted by: BlogMaster | August 15, 2014

Married Couples and Doubling the Estate Tax Exemption

In my prior blog I talked about the increase by NY State that allows an individual to pass more wealth to their survivors.

This so-called Exclusion amount will increase from $1 million to more than $2 million between April 1, 2014 and January 3, 2019, and ongoing until it reaches more than $5 million.

With proper planning, a married couple in NY State can pass along twice the Exclusion amount.

Is there a trick?

No. It just requires creating a Disclaimer Credit Shelter Trust in your Will or Living Trust.

Here’s how it works.

Each spouse leaves all of their own assets to each other. On the first spouse’s death, the survivor has up to 9 months (when an inheritance tax return is due) to ‘disclaim’ assets into a trust for their benefit under their own Will or Living Trust.

Using simple current figures, the surviving spouse typically owns $2 million of their own and disclaims the $2 million inherited from their deceased spouse. When the surviving spouse dies, the assets in the ‘disclaimed’ trust plus the $2 million all pass inheritance tax free to their heirs.

This chart shows the Exclusion amounts allowed by law – adjusted annually for inflation:

From 4/1/14 to 3/31/15              
NYS individual owner =  $2,062,500 Exclusion from Taxation              
NYS Married couple =    $4,125,000 Exclusion from Taxation with Planning
From 4/1/14 to 3/31/15              
NYS individual owner =  $3,125,500 Exclusion from Taxation              
NYS Married couple =    $6,251,000 Exclusion from Taxation with Planning
From 4/1/16 to 3/31/17                
NYS individual owner =  $4,187,500   Exclusion from Taxation              
NYS Married couple =    $8,375,000 Exclusion from Taxation with Planning
From 4/1/17 to 12/31/18
NYS individual owner =   $5,250,000   Exclusion from Taxation              
NYS Married couple =    $10,500 Exclusion from Taxation with Planning and ongoing in 2019

Basic estate planning for married couples doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Getting the right legal counsel and advice are key to doing it right.

Take time to look at your estate plan and assets. Estate taxes are alive and well and not going away in the foreseeable future.

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Posted by: BlogMaster | July 15, 2014

NY Estate Tax: Still Alive, So Plan Well!

On April 1, 2014, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo passed legislation increasing the amount of wealth a state resident can pass to their survivors upon death, without incurring any inheritance tax.

For many years, the maximum inheritance an individual could pass tax-free to survivors (‘exemption‘) was $1 million – and higher, if the person also bequeathed funds to charities.  And, with proper planning in Wills or Trusts, married couples could pass $2 million tax-free.

With the new legislation that took effect on April 1, 2014, the revised basic exemption amount is $2,062,500 for an individual – and twice that amount for a married couple, with proper planning. The amount will increase annually each April until 2019, when the individual exemption matches the Federal exemption of $5 million – and $10 million for a couple, with proper planning.

Sounds too good to be true. So what’s the hitch?

The hitch is that you will face higher estate taxes if your estate value is more than 105% of the exemption amount in any calendar year before your death.

Example: An individual who dies in April 2015 can pass a $3,125,500 tax-free exemption to their heirs. But if their estate is worth $3,281,250 (105% of the exemption), their entire ability to pass wealth without taxes does not receive the full exemption from inheritance tax (because it is phased-out) and could be zero, the closer to the 105% exemption the estate value is!

What can you do if this new legislation impacts your estate?

Have a “legal check-up” to ensure your Will and Trust are up-to-date. Remember that assets which may pass outside of your estate (including joint bank accounts, retirement accounts with beneficiary designations, life insurance, etc.) are still subject to inheritance tax unless a charity inherits the account.

With careful planning and wise legal advice, you can retain more wealth at the time of your death and pass more of that wealth to your designated heirs.

But NY State estate taxes are here to stay, so make sure to review your legal documents and understand your options while you still have time to make appropriate arrangements.


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Posted by: BlogMaster | June 24, 2014

Joint Bank Accounts: Pros and Cons for Estate Planning

Beth Polner Abrahams, Esq., Attorney at Law, is speaking at this free informational event open to the public:

Planning for the Future: Putting Plans in Place for Funeral Arrangements 

Thursday, June 19, 2014 from 6:00-8:00 PM

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County – Extension Education Center
423 Griffin Avenue [rear door], Riverhead, NY 11901. Phone: (631) 727-7850.
Register by Monday, June 16, 2014
Call (631) 369-7345 – press zero “0” – or email April Goss with your name, phone, and the number of people attending

Most of the individuals served by EEDA (East End Disability Associates, Inc.) and other Long Island agencies receive government funding in the form of Medicaid and Social Security benefits. Family members and advocates of disabled adult children need to ensure that current or future funeral arrangements preserve, and do not jeopardize, eligibility for these benefits.

Beth Polner Abrahams will present an overview of SSI and Medicaid: how to get and keep those benefits; special needs trusts (the types and why it doesn’t have to be costly); tips to get started on a life care plan for your adult disabled child.

Other speakers: Lisa Meyer-Fertal, CEO of EEDA, and Kenneth T. Rothwell, Director, Alexander-Tuthill Funeral Home.

Topics include:

 The importance of putting plans in place

 Regulations that govern residential providers

 Regulations/Eligibility guidelines for Medicaid & Social Security Administration benefits /Resource Management

 The costs of funeral arrangements

 The options available to fund funeral arrangements

 Estate Planning; Wills & Trusts– lets clear up the confusion

 Identifying the wishes of the individual

 Assess what you have and figure out what you need to implement the plan

Seating is limited at this free event. Register by June 16 to reserve your seat.

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Please see Part 1 in last week’s blog post before reading further.

The sad story of “Bernice” – who was scammed, victimized, financially and emotional abused, and lost everything – begs several serious questions:

  • How can you avoid mail fraud scams like the fake lottery that suckered Bernice into giving up $70,000?
  • How can you protect yourself and your loved ones from other types of fraud – currently in use and in the future?

Read the following guidelines and share them with your loved ones – especially seniors who live alone:

  • Telemarketing calls are difficult to stop even if you place yourself and your cell phone on the Do Not Call Registry.
  • Never give your personal information or make donations over the telephone.
  • Never give your address when asked, because that data is passed along or sold to other fraud scams and thieves.
  • One of the most prevalent and scary scams targeting seniors today starts with a phone call telling the senior that their grandchild, child, or other family member has been kidnapped, jailed in a foreign country, or threatened with harm for debts and can only be released if the senior pays a large sum of money quickly. The scammer warns the senior not to notify the police or other family members. To convince the senior their loved one is in danger, the caller might put a person on the phone who sounds like the grandchild or child. Action to take: Call other family members immediately and your local police to see if the person (mentioned by the caller) is actually missing.
  • To minimize unwanted telemarketing calls and solicitations by phone, enroll in the National Do Not Call Registry (for landline and cell phones) by calling 1-888-382-1222.
  • Protect your financial privacy. Make sure all of your financial accounts, and your bank accounts in particular, are password-protected. Do not use your birthdate, mother’s maiden name, pet’s name, home address, or social security number as your password.  If your bank does not use a password-protect security system, we suggest you move your funds to a bank that does.
  • Unsolicited home repairs are other potentially dangerous forms of scam that can threaten your safety. If a worker comes to your door and asks to gain entry to your home – but you do not know them or you did not call them, DO NOT let them do any work in or outside your home and do not pay them any money. Call the police and 911 immediately if they harass you and refuse to leave.
  • Unofficial “government surveys” asking for your personal information are another form of scam. Important: No government agency, including Medicare, Medicaid and supplemental insurance Medicare, will ever send someone to your home to take a survey of your personal information. Even the U.S. census includes protections for individuals against fraud and scams. Do not answer questions unless you know the survey is official. Call the police and 911 immediately if they harass you and refuse to leave.
  • Funeral scams are yet another trend against seniors. The surviving spouse or a family member receives a phone call claiming that the deceased person owed the caller money. Do not pay or give the caller any personal or banking information. Call the police if this happens to you.
  • In another recent scam, callers posing as Internal Revenue agents demanded repayment of a family member’s debt and threatening jail time. They instructed the senior to purchase a Money Dot (money gram) card, as happened to my client Bernice in Part 1 of this blog. If this happens to you, call the IRS and the police, and give them the caller’s phone number [copy it from your caller ID]
  • If you use email or the internet, be aware that email fraud and “phishing” schemes fraud are rampant. Never answer or open an email from someone you do not know. Never click a ‘link’ inside an email that contains no message, even if it came from a friend, family member, or professional you know. Instead, call the person by phone to inform them their email account has been ‘hacked.’
  • Beware of a fake Google email that asks you to click a link and then requests your personal information and email address. Delete the email immediately or forward to Google security.
  • To limit junk mail, register with Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service (MPS) for a $1 fee at Or send a written request, with your name exactly as it appears on the catalog labels you receive, to: Mail Preference Service, c/o DMA, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008. The MPS remains in effect for five (5) ears, or until you place an order or request a catalog. Companies that subscribe to the MPS typically check their mailing lists against the registry a few times a year, so it may take a few months for your junk mail to stop. More DMA info: (212) 768-7277.

Bernice’s story is a sad and difficult one for her family, for the court system, and for me, as the attorney who provided the evidence to have her declared incapacitated under the law.  And, unfortunately, scams against unsuspecting seniors are a growing trend.

Be smart, be wise, be aware. Make the effort and take the time to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Visit my website to learn about upcoming events and watch my new welcome video:


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This is the story of a senior who was the victim of a widespread scam and who ultimately lost $70,000.00.

 “Bernice” is 78 years old and lives on Long Island, New York.  Widowed in her 50’s, she was a successful entrepreneur, buying and selling homes, and working for a government agency. 

But at the age of 75, Bernice began to feel alone – despite three devoted adult children, grandchildren and extended family – and financially insecure. 

Then, the junk mail began arriving – with requests for money by fake charities and fake religious organizations.  Instead of throwing it away, Bernice opened the mail and was drawn into the scammers’ world of need, blessings, and promises.  And then, she received a letter that looked like it was written on Bank of America letterhead, telling her she had won $4.5 million in a lottery. 

The next day, a letter that looked like it was written on Internal Revenue Service letterhead arrived, confirming Bernice’s winnings and informing her that the income tax for the winnings would have to be paid before she received any prize money. 

And then the telephone calls began. 

The callers – all with foreign accents – assured Bernice that the winnings were legitimate, but that she had to prepay the income taxes.  Bernice was never told what the total income taxes were.  She was instructed by the callers to send, at first, Western Union telegrams, in $500 to $1,000 installments.  The caller’s instructions were detailed and included the names and addresses to send the money – all to various West Indies, Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands. 

Bernice never realized these were all clues that she was the victim of a scam.  Her children and other family members tried to convince her that she had not won any lottery.  But to no avail. Bernice was a believer and would do whatever it took to get her winnings.

As years passed, Bernice would sometimes inform family that she couldn’t leave the home on a particular date because ‘the men were coming to take her to the bank to deposit her winnings.’

The calls were received weekly – soothing calls telling her that her family had forgotten her, telling her that only she knew the truth about her winnings, and effectively isolating her from reality. 

After one year or so, the callers’ instructions changed. 

Bernice was told to purchase “Green Dot” or Money Gram cards from local retailers such as CVS, Walmart, Walgreens, etc.   Bernice obeyed.  Each week – sometimes more often – the callers would instruct her to purchase the money card for $300 to $500, give her a telephone number to call them back, and Bernice would call that number and give the activation code to the caller. 

Within 3 years, Bernice had given $70,000 to the scammers. 

…Watch for Part 2 of Bernice’s story here next week.

Visit our new website at to learn more about Beth Polner Abrahams.

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Posted by: BlogMaster | March 3, 2014

Is Spousal Refusal Still Legal?

The annual budget proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo has a provision about spousal refusal which ‘reads’ like it doesn’t exist. But, if passed, it will in fact extend the opportunity for spousal refusal to married couples where one spouse is a Medicaid recipient at home, receiving home care under MLTC, managed long term care. 

What is spousal refusal?  It is a written statement from the non-Medicaid spouse specifying that he or she is unable or unwilling to contribute excess countable resources and/or income for the cost of care of the other spouse.  In 2014, countable resources are those that exceed up to $117,240.00. 

What other resources are not countable?  Your home, retirement accounts, life insurance without cash value, burial plot, automobile, and in some instances, business property are not countable.  Spousal refusal and the retention of countable resources and income have, in the past, only been available with the nursing home Medicaid program. 

The proposed law would do the following:

  1. For both MLTC home care services and nursing home services, a spousal refusal statement would be lawful (and may trigger spousal impoverishment budgeting, as discussed in my prior blog)
  2. The applicant (or their lawful power of attorney) must sign a statement Assigning Support from their non-Medicaid spouse to the local Medicaid department.  This means that Medicaid still has the right to demand and sue a refusing spouse if there are excess countable resources or income.
  3. But, if the non-Medicaid spouse does not live with the applicant for Medicaid (perhaps they are separated but not divorced, and living apart),  and that spouse fails or refuses to make that income or resources available,  and refuses to sign a spousal refusal statement, MLTC services will still be provided.  The proposed law says an ‘implied’ right of recovery against the non-Medicaid spouse living separately from the MLTC spouse is created for whether during that spouse’s life or in their estate after death.

Advocates see these three problems with the proposal. 

  1. When one Medicaid spouse receives services under Hospice, they may be disenrolled from MLTC and lose the right of spousal refusal. 
  2. In upstate NY counties where MLTC is still not mandatory for home care and the ‘prior’ traditional home care program is used, and for the poor using a Medicaid-based Medicare premium program (called SLMB and QMB), there is no continuation of spousal refusal. 
  3. Many parents have young children under age 18 in Medicaid programs (often called Care At Home) and parental refusal (of their income and resources) seems to be excluded. 

We will keep you up to date on the status of spousal refusal as the budget process progresses. 

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