2016-03-16 / Front Page

Vallone, Elder Law Hot Topic At Astoria Civic Association Meeting

By Thomas Cogan

At the Astoria Civic Association’s March meeting, the topic was elder law and estate planning.  Attorneys and Astoria Civic officers from left to right are:  Paul Hyl of the law firm, Genser Dubow; Tonio Sacco and Elias Fillas of Sacco & Fillas; Paul Vallone and Peter F. Vallone of Vallone & Vallone; Tony Meloni, ACA president; and Ed Babor, ACA board member. 
Photo D.A. LuhmannAt the Astoria Civic Association’s March meeting, the topic was elder law and estate planning. Attorneys and Astoria Civic officers from left to right are: Paul Hyl of the law firm, Genser Dubow; Tonio Sacco and Elias Fillas of Sacco & Fillas; Paul Vallone and Peter F. Vallone of Vallone & Vallone; Tony Meloni, ACA president; and Ed Babor, ACA board member. Photo D.A. LuhmannAt the March meeting of the Astoria Civic Association, the topic was elder law and the necessity of getting your finances and documents in order, for the sake of those family members and certain others involved who survive you when you die.  Executive Chairman and former Speaker of the City Council Peter Vallone introduced three attorneys who commented on specific matters such as contested estates and probate—terms to cause anxiety, which only proves that the time to take care of such business is always now.  There was also an event announcement, for the Judge Charles J. Vallone Dinner Dance in the spring, and a reading of the names of ACA officers for 2016-17.

The three attorneys introduced were Tonino Sacco and Elias Fillas, of Sacco and Fillas LLP and Paul Hyl, a partner in Genser Dubow Genser & Cana LLP.  Chairman Vallone called Sacco & Fillas the largest law practice in Queens dealing with elder law.  He said the largest demographic in New York right now is seniors, and it is expected to double in size in the next decade.  His son, City Councilman Paul Vallone, called Paul Hyl exceptionally informed in elder law and a lawyer who has taught much to other lawyers, himself included. 

The younger Vallone then had a few remarks about estate law, inescapably connected to elder law.  He said that disinheritance or no provided inheritance in a deceased one’s will is likely to lead to a court battle known as a contested estate.  Medicaid matters can also lead survivors to contest.  The time to take care of one’s will and inheritance concerns is always the present.  He also warned the audience at Riccardo’s on 24th Avenue to be mindful of what “power of attorney” means, since it has changed greatly and become more complicated in recent years.  (According to an elder law and estate planning guidebook issued to attendees by Genser Dubow, a durable power of attorney “is a legal document wherein a trusted family or friend may be appointed to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated.  Your appointed agent will have authority to handle banking matters, real estate transactions and other matters of a financial nature on your behalf.”  State law governing powers of attorney was amended significantly in 2009.)  Also complicated for some families is the matter of dividing the estate evenly, since as far as inheritance is concerned, one family member may be more needful than others.

When Hyl spoke, he turned immediately to nursing home care and home health care.  Both are likely to be financed by Medicaid, since payment through one’s own assets or long-term care insurance is greatly expensive, particularly for a nursing home.  Among difficult nursing home requirements is the demand for a “five-year lookback” to check an applicant’s assets to see if that person is hiding them in an attempt to become a Medicaid-financed nursing home resident, application for which must be made five years in advance.  There are ways to transfer assets quite legally and still get Medicaid financing, but for a nursing home, no transfers may be made after the admission application, lest there be a penalty of being denied Medicaid benefits, perhaps for as long as a full five years.   For Medicaid home care benefits, there is no five-year lookback, and the time between assets transfer and initiation of Medicaid benefits might be as brief as a month.  The prime fact about Medicaid, Hyl said, is that an applicant must have no money (though others may hold the applicant’s assets).

Paul Vallone came back to tell the attendees to have their documents in order, and if they’ve had them for five years or longer, give them a reassessment, even a do-over.  Tonio Sacco said to keep your documents close and your expected survivors informed, because if your documents cannot be found after your death, the estate is likely to go into probate.  At that point, the court holds it, all your relatives are informed of its status and contests can come from all over.  Elias Fillas warned of the hazard of keeping your documents in safety deposit.  If you the depositor dies, survivors could have a very hard time getting them from the bank.

There was a final bit of advice from the several attorneys, more wise than merely self-serving.  If an attorney helps you make your will, they said, there is a presumption that it is a legal document.

The roster of the ACA’s one-year term officers was largely unchanged.  President is Antonio Meloni; vice presidents are Rose Cavagnolo, Michael A. Serao, Ann Marrero and Donna A. Pagano-Delaney; treasurer is Jerry Kril (succeeding Serao); recording secretary is Rose Ann Alafogiannis; corresponding secretary is Brenda Anderle; and sergeant-at-arms is John F. Pelitteri. 

The Judge Charles J. Vallone scholarship dinner-dance is to be held Saturday, April 9 between 6:00 and 11:00 p.m.  The cocktail hour is from 6:00 to 7:00, with dinner following.  The Tony T. Orchestra will provide the dance music.  Michael and Shirley Della Vecchia, of Della Vecchia & Sons Inc., are this year’s honored guests. Tickets are $75.00 per person.

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