Recap of my previous post: I introduced you to Mediation and recommended a self-help book, Mom Always Liked You Best: A Guide for Resolving Family Feuds, Inheritance Battles & Eldercare Crises,”. I also explained my role as a neutral Mediator through my company, BPA Mediation, to help resolve elder care and special needs disagreements.


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This quote from Stephen R. Covey may describe your family: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change)

For head-to-head family conflict, here is a mediation strategy from “Mom Always Liked You Best”:

The goal:

  • Try to understand what your parent, sibling, spouse or other family member is trying to tell you, from their perspective.
  • As a Mediator, I refer to this as ‘active listening,’ because you are really listening, not thinking about what you want to say next.

The process:

  • All available family members who are involved in the dispute or disagreement gather in a quiet room, with ample time so the process is not rushed.
  • Each participant – including the senior if this is an elder care issue that involves them – is given an equal opportunity to speak without being interrupted.
  • After one family member speaks, each of the others repeat, in a positive way, what they think they heard that person say. For example, “I heard you say that you are unhappy with my decisions about bill paying and that I have not given you enough information for you to stay informed about this. Did I hear you correctly or did I understand you correctly?”
  • If the person replies that you did not hear them correctly, the next step is for each family member to gather more information by asking the speaker ‘nonthreatening’ and ‘I’m not accusing you’ questions. As a Mediator, I use this technique to help mediation participants understand what it feels like to ‘be in the other person’s shoes.’
  • When everyone in the room has enough information, take a break so each participant can think about how what they learned affects their own position or what they thought was happening prior to this discussion and the disagreement.
  • This is the point where I, as a Mediator, would facilitate by asking each family member to take a step back from their ‘stand’ or position on the dispute or disagreement.

If your family requires a neutral Mediator, please contact my office to learn how my BPA Mediation services can help, and visit

Next blog: More self-help techniques for managing elder care and special needs disputes.

For legal representation in elder law, Medicaid, estate and special needs planning and guardianship, visit

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Caucasian Couple Not Looking

“I’m right, you’re wrong.” Whether you’ve said this out loud to a spouse, children, senior parents, siblings, or just thought it, family conflict can become a part of our personal lives.

Often, when conflict escalates, tempers flare, people take sides, lawsuits are filed, costly legal fees chip away at savings, and family relations can be disrupted, altered or even irrevocably destroyed.

My professional advice: Stop the madness – and choose Mediation, the alternative way to resolve conflict.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a process that brings disagreeing or disputing persons or parties together for facilitated conversations, which can result in a settlement or compromise of the disagreement or legal dispute. The person who acts as the neutral facilitator is called the Mediator.

What kinds of family issues can you bring to Mediation to avoid lawsuits and the associated high legal costs?

The issues suitable for Mediation fall into two categories:

  • Elder care disagreements between siblings, spouses and other family members about health care decisions, caregiving, financial management, and guardian designation for incapacitated seniors; and
  • Special needs disagreements between divorced (or divorcing) parents over visitation, future planning, and guardianship for intellectually disabled adult children.

Can you use a Mediator’s techniques before new disputes surface or existing disputes re-appear?

Yes. I recommend you read the popular book, “Mom Always Liked You Best: A Guide for Resolving Family Feuds, Inheritance Battles & Eldercare Crises,” by Arline Kardasis (Elder Decisions of Boston, Massachusetts), available online at and Agreement Resources, LLC.

My upcoming blogs will describe some of the tools you can try with your own family.

But, for families with mushrooming conflict, a neutral Mediator may be the best or only way to avoid costly litigation or to manage and shorten existing litigation in elder care, guardianship and special needs planning.

For more information about my work as a Mediator, BPA Mediation, please visit

For legal representation in elder law, Medicaid, estate and special needs planning and guardianship, please visit


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Posted by: BlogMaster | April 13, 2015

Spring Estate Planning Update: Inheritance Tax Laws and More

If you follow an annual spring cleaning ritual, we suggest you add an estate planning and overall financial review to your “To do” list. Here’s an update on legal changes and common sense reminders to help you get started. 

New York State changed the inheritance tax laws Happy successful attractive elderly couple reading together outd in April 2014, increasing the tax-free threshold from $1 million to more than $2 million for persons who die after April 1, 2014. The threshold for taxation will increase again in 2015 to more than $3 million and continue to increase until 2017 when an individual must own more than $5 million before state and federal inheritances taxes must be paid.

For married couples, we recommend you still take advantage of flexible tax planning ‘Disclaimer Wills’ during the ‘transition’ period and maximize what can be passed free of inheritance tax on the second spouse to die. This is still an important part of tax planning.

What is a ‘disclaimer’ clause in a Will or Trust? It allows the surviving spouse to give up the right to assets or property in the estate and to place the income into a tax-shelter trust (called a Disclaimer Trust). When drafted properly, the Disclaimer Trust enables the surviving spouse to receive income from the trust for life and have access to the principal of the trust if necessary.

Remember, too, that Living Trusts do not save inheritances taxes without required tax language, such as the disclaimer language. If you wish to leave money or property to your favorite charity, charitable bequests reduce inheritance taxes. The charity must be recognized by the Internal Revenue Service in order for there to be a Tax Free Bequest in your will or trust.

Review your existing Powers of Attorney for financial management and Health Care Proxies for medical decision making to ensure they are current and your designated ‘agents’ are available and still willing to act on your behalf when needed. These are important advance planning directives. If you become ill or incapacitated to the point where you cannot manage your own financial affairs, you must already have these legal documents in place to legally empower your chosen agents. Only a qualified estate planning and elder law attorney can prepare and customize these documents properly to address your unique personal and family needs. As we frequently remind you, ignore advertisements for loose-leaf binders filled with ‘national’ estate planning documents. These are often not specific to New York State and can be detrimental to the handling of your finances or health care decisions in the future.

Only a qualified special needs attorney can counsel your family effectively on these estate planning matters. Call my office to arrange a consultation with me, as a special needs law attorney practicing on Long Island, to learn how proper estate planning can benefit you and your loved ones.

Posted by: BlogMaster | March 29, 2015

Planning for your Special Needs Child: The ABLE Act of 2014

Posted by: BlogMaster | March 14, 2015

Alphabet Soup 2015: Special Needs Planning

If you managed to decipher the Alphabet Soup of Agency and Services Naming in 2014, brace yourself for the new naming and acronym challenges taking effect in 2015.

Medicaid services for persons who are intellectually disabled is generally overseen by the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). As with Medicaid for seniors for home care and nursing home services, Managed Medicaid is now part of OPWDD.

As the names of these programs keep changing, the end result is that advocates – legal, parents, and providers –- have expressed concerns as we enter 2015.Alphabet Soup 1

What was previously called “CSS and Self Direction” is now known as “Self Direction with Budget and Employer Authority”. The program – which encourages families to create an individualized plan for services (and, in theory, for housing) for their adult intellectually disabled child – is part of NY State’s “People First Waiver” for Managed Medicaid with CMS, the federal governing agency.  

Applications for initial services and planning go through the “Front Door”, which means that the applicant’s family must contact their local OPWDD regional office, now called the DDRO (formerly known as DDSO). Pay special attention to this hearty mix of acronyms, which are not yet updated on the OPWDD’s website at

My professional advice is that the best source of information for New York State families is the New York Self Determination Coalition ( and their online manual. This is a volunteer group of advocate parents.

What is the best role for a qualified special needs attorney in your planning?

The special needs attorney can help ensure that you understand and are accessing the appropriate resources and benefits (including SSI) for your disabled family member – regardless of their specific impairment.

And only an attorney can prepare a special needs trust. This is still the best option to preserve an inheritance for a family member, because Medicaid is expected to reduce services, particularly in the area of housing. There are many ways to write your wishes for managing the special needs trust into your Will or other estate planning documents, such as your own living trust.

Your family’s and your child’s situations are unique. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise or try to convince you to settle for cookie-cutter planning.

All planning can and should be customized to meet your own family’s needs. Contact my office to arrange a consultation with me, as a special needs attorney practicing on Long Island.

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Posted by: BlogMaster | March 1, 2015

Medicaid and Elder Care Law Updates – Part 2

My previous blog post summarized some of the changes and updates for Medicaid. We continue this week.

elder law attorney long island ny

New York’s Managed Long Term Care Medicaid (MLTC) introduces two new requirements.

  1. All home care applicants residing in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and in New York City (and eventually including upstate New York) require a “conflict-free screening” or evaluation performed by a New York State designated agency called Medicaid Choice. The ‘screen’, to be performed by a nurse, must certify that the applicant will need home care services for at least 120 days – the minimum duration required by MLTC for providing home care, adult day care, and similar services. The timing for scheduling your conflict free screen is crucial to the prompt start of services. Contact my office about the timing element of submission of the Medicaid application, the pooled trust joinder agreement and application, and the conflict-free assessment.
  2. New York State is also rolling-out another aspect of MLTC called FIDA (Fully Integrated Dual Advantage). FIDA will allow an additionally certified MLTC/FIDA agency to coordinate both Medicare services (including doctors) and Medicaid (home aides and senior day care). This may not be necessary for seniors whose Medicare coverage is supplemented with a retiree plan and whose family is involved in day-to-day care and medical decisions. If these conditions are met, the senior must “opt out”. But for Medicaid recipients who lack funds for a supplemental Medicare policy and/or have no family to assist with care coordination, transportation to doctors, etc., FIDA may be the key to successfully remaining in their home. Only an elder law attorney can counsel you on this legal choice.

Remember – Medicaid can be an essential service if you are ill, impaired, and lack sufficient income or resources to pay for proper care. Contact my office to arrange a consultation with me, as an elder law attorney practicing on Long Island.

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Posted by: BlogMaster | February 16, 2015

Medicaid and Elder Care Law Updates – Part 1

This is the first of several blogs to bring you up-to-date on important changes in elder law, special needs planning and estate planning.

Medicaid and elder care law update

Medicaid and Elder Care Law  Long Island NY

If you need New York State Medicaid for home aides or nursing home care, you will need the help of an elder law attorney. Please note that a non-legal advocate is not qualified to give you the proper guidance and advice to navigate this increasingly complex process.

What is involved?

Selection of a managed long term care agency (MLTC), assessment of services, decisions about service coordination (called FIDA), and whether and how to correctly opt out. The language of Medicaid is difficult for you to understand, as the consumer. Only an elder law attorney is qualified to counsel you on key legal decisions that will impact your future and your family’s.

Spousal refusal is still legal in 2015, but Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget has once again proposed eliminating spousal refusal for home care/adult day care Medicaid. Spousal refusal occurs when one spouse requires Medicaid services but the other spouse will remain at home or in assisted living without Medicaid. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of spousal refusal requires an elder care attorney.

New York State Medicaid withdrew a directive for home care income budgeting, which is affecting the monthly income kept by a married Medicaid home care recipient. The policy could have forced seniors into nursing homes.

Medicaid’s decision to revert to the previous policy now means that a married couple with one spouse receiving home care can deposit the Medicaid recipient’s income exceeding $825 per month into a Pooled Community Trust. The couple may still be able to retain the non-Medicaid spouse’s income, invoking spousal refusal if necessary. But this level of legal analysis should only be done by an elder law attorney.

Contact my office to arrange a consultation with me, as an elder law attorney practicing on Long Island.

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Posted by: BlogMaster | February 7, 2015

Still Alice: Candid Look at the Devastation of Alzheimer’s

On the occasion of the film release of “Still Alice”, based on Lisa Genova’s novel of the same name, I am re-publishing my 2009 review from Beth’s Bookshelf blog. 

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Still Alice [Paperback] by Lisa Genova (Gallery. Original edition Jan. 2009)

Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease most often associated with the elderly.  The disease can erase a lifetime of memories, family names and faces, and in some situations, cause aimless wandering, misplaced belongings, as well as loss of any sense of time and perspective.

But it’s not only the aged who are affected.

When the disease occurs in younger persons, ages 40 to 60’s, it is called ‘early-onset Alzheimer’s’. Although less common, early-onset Alzheimer’s can proceed more aggressively to destroy the mind and body.

Still Alice, a compelling novel by Lisa Genova, a Harvard neuroscientist, is the fictional tale of Dr. Alice Howland, a fifty year old psychology and linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Author Genova traces Alice’s descent into dementia, written from Alice’s perspective.

In each chapter, the story charts, month by month, the original diagnosis through the almost complete loss of memory.  In an early scene, before seeking a medical opinion, Alice goes running on her usual route into Harvard Square past the Charles Hotel and the Kennedy School of Government. She suddenly finds herself lost, unable to return home. “She wanted to continue walking but stood frozen instead. She didn’t know where she was. She looked back across the street…the corridor, the hotel, the stores, the illogically meandering streets. She knew she was in Harvard Square, but she didn’t know which way was home.”

In the end, everything in the family changes. Youngest daughter, Lydia – with whom Alice had a strained relationship after Lydia rejected college and a traditional career path – chooses acting instead, becoming “the actress”. Eldest daughter, Anne, becomes “the mother” after she gives birth to twins. And Alice’s husband, John, also a Harvard professor, becomes “the man.”

Yes, this is a novel – but what makes it special is that it is written as if in Alice’s own voice. We read about her innermost feelings and growing frenzy as she struggles to remember words, faces and locations.

Still Alice allows us to bear witness to heartbreaking – and frightening – events that lead Alice, towards the end of the book, to tell her husband, “I remember I used to be very smart…I miss myself.”

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Posted by: BlogMaster | January 31, 2015

Save the dates: Elder Care Law Seminars by Beth Polner Abrahams

You and your family could be impacted by recent and upcoming changes to New York State Elder Care laws.

To help you stay up-to-date, Beth Polner Abrahams will present “Elder Care Law and What You Must Know” seminars this Spring at four Long Island school districts, as listed below. Please plan to attend at a location convenient to you and be sure to introduce yourself to Beth.

For details including whether a seminar is free or fee-based, please contact the sponsoring school district.

Beth will answer audience questions in a Q&A following the presentation.

Westbury Public Schools Adult Continuing Education
March 23, 2015 from 6:30 – 8:30pm
Westbury High School
1 Post Road, Old Westbury, NY
Call for info:  516-876-5102

Glen Cove High School Adult Education
March 24, 2015 from 7 – 9pm
Glen Cove High School
150 Dsoris Lane, Glen Cove, NY
Call for info: 516-801-7001

Uniondale Continuing Adult Education
March 30, 2015 – Time to be announced
Uniondale High School
933 Goodrich Street, Uniondale, NY
Call for info: 516-560-8891

Northport School District Continuing Education
April 20, 2015 from 7 – 9pm
Northport UFSD Office of Community Services
158 Laurel Avenue, Northport, NY
Call for info: 631-262-6650

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Posted by: BlogMaster | October 24, 2014

How Powerful is Your Financial Power of Attorney?

An important but difficult question to ask yourself: What happens if you become mentally infirm due to advanced age or disability, and you can no longer manage your own financial affairs?  

The answer: If you have not designated someone to have the legal authority to handle these matters when you are unable to, your bill paying, banking, taxes, business, support for family and/or dependents, investment decisions and more will be left unattended. Period.

The solution: Engage a qualified attorney to prepare a New York Statutory Power of Attorney for you before this happens.  In 2009 and 2010, the New York State Legislature changed the power of attorney law to protect you.  Please note that you cannot purchase this power of attorney document from a stationery store – and you do need a lawyer to prepare the document.  

The advantages: Legal protections are built into a properly written power of attorney

Legal protections: The authority of your power of attorney – known as your “agent” – to act on your behalf does not begin until you ask him or her, or until a medical professional – whether your treating doctor, nurse, social worker or other medical professional – determines that you lack the mental capacity to manage your affairs.  When it is time for your designated agent to act on your behalf, he or she must then sign the document in front of a notary public. 

The law also permits Medicaid and estate tax planning by your agent with a properly drafted power of attorney with the newest part of the document called the Statutory Gift Rider.   

Cost-effectiveness of taking action now: The legal fee for creating a properly prepared power of attorney is far less than the costly consequences of not preparing the document.  What happens if you become mentally infirm or disabled without a power of attorney? Your family will have to spend thousands of dollars for a legal guardianship proceeding in court – and this is surely not how you want them to spend their money.

Duration of the power of attorney document: The document you sign now will still be valid into the future because the law prevents financial institutions from saying it is ‘stale’ or ‘too old’ or ‘not our bank’s form.’ If you created a power of attorney at any time in the past, it’s still valid.

However, we advise a “legal check up” by a qualified attorney to review your existing document (and all of your estate planning documents) to make sure it still meets your legal needs now and in the future. 

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