2017-03-15 / Front Page

Astoria Civic Association Meeting Talks Taxes, Elder Care

By Thomas Cogan

The Astoria Civic Association uses the month before the income tax deadline for its meeting on wills and elder care.  Its March meeting at Riccardo’s by the Bridge on 24th Avenue was largely run by City Councilman Paul Vallone, chairman of the council’s committee on aging.  He again introduced two elder law and inheritance attorneys who spoke last year:   Tonio Sacco of Sacco & Fillas in Astoria and Paul Hyl, who has a law firm in Nassau County, in Garden City.  Paul Vallone called Hyl an expert on elder matters and Sacco an expert on contested wills and intestate persons, who die without leaving a will.
Paul Vallone said the city office that interests him the most, the Department for the Aging (DFTA) is currently lacking in sufficient funding and he frequently has to bother Mayor Bill de Blasio about sending a little money the agency’s way, though usually without great success.  He believes DFTA should be able to tend better to such critical matters as elder abuse, which he called a worsening crime in New York.  
He said also that the power of attorney is needed by all elderly persons who are attempting to keep their finances and documents safe and sound.  It is necessary to have two persons standing in for the elderly person, if she or he is somehow unable to handle these matters alone.  One official source, the law firm of Genser Dubow, says that what is called a durable power of attorney “is a legal document wherein a trusted family [member] 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.”
In addition, there is the gifting function, which allows someone to obtain your bank documents for you if you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to get them yourself.  Obviously that person must be someone highly trustworthy to you.  (At the same time, Vallone advised, bank documents might not be best kept in a safety deposit box, since the aged and infirm depositor could die.  Then, relatives and trusted associates might have great trouble getting to those documents if the bank erects a wall of resistance.
Paul Hyl said half the country’s population living past 70 will need long-term care.  He added, to make matters clear, that that would necessitate Medicaid, not Medicare.  The latter is for everyone of a certain age, from a retired laborer to a billionaire, but Medicaid is for the financially-pressed, as many seniors needing long-term care are likely to be, whether they are in nursing homes or receiving home health care.  He spoke of the “five-year lookback,” a compulsory waiting period for those going into a nursing home.  The looking back is the review of things in one’s name that should be moved out of it.  (It does not apply to home health care.)   A homeowner would likely put her or his home into a trust and retain right of residency.  But it’s all a matter of timing.  At what point, Hyl asked, does anyone decide to assume residency in a nursing home five years hence and undertake the five-year lookback?
The attorneys, and everybody on the dais at Riccardo’s agreed that having a will is essential and keeping it current, with a look at it every five to ten years, is vital.  Dying without leaving a will, or dying intestate, might not affect the decedent but can be disruptive to survivors.  The decedent’s wishes cannot be taken into account because they were never formally stated in a will, and the protests of survivors that they know what the decedent intended are meaningless.  Having a will leads to consideration of a “living will,” which pertains to illness, particularly serious illness.  The familiar “do not resuscitate” order, which refuses life support machinery in favor of the natural, unimpeded course of death, is valid in New York state only through inclusion in a living will, Paul Vallone said.
Elder law and wills are very large topics, so seeking attorneys practiced in them is essential for anyone who has questions.


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