Articles

Linda M. Toga’s monthly column, Legally Speaking, has been published by the Times-Beacon Record newspapers since 2009. Prior to that, she was featured in Newsday's Ask the Expert column a number of times. We invite you to browse the list of articles below or use the search options to the right to select articles based on areas of practice and/or keywords to find columns of interest to you. Note: The articles are for informational purposes only. All rights are reserved.
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Some Implications of a Life Estate

The Facts: My father has decided to gift his house to me and my brother and to retain a life estate for himself. This is part of his Medicaid planning. The Question: What are the advantages and disadvantages of making this transfer? The Answer: The advantages of putting the house in your names now is […]

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Will My Brother Still Inherit?

The Facts: My mother died recently. She and my brother, who is my only sibling, had not spoken to each other in over a decade. In her Will, my mother disinherited my brother. On the beneficiary designation form for her IRA, my mother named my father, who predeceased my mother, as the sole beneficiary. She […]

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Who Can Dispute the Will?

The Facts: My sister died recently. In her Will she left 50% of her estate to friends and 50% of her estate to a charity. I feel she should have left her estate to her family. The Question: As her sibling, can I contest the probate of her Will? The Answer: Whether you can contest […]

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Vacation Planning and Estate Planning

It is that time of year when many people make vacation plans that involve flying or driving long distances or engaging in activities that are risker than their day to day activities. Whatever their vacation plans may include, being in a different environment, coupled with the risks associated with travel and the possibility that something […]

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Help With A Property Dispute

The Facts: I bought my boyhood home from my parents when they moved into a 55 and over community. The house was built by my parents in the 1980’s. Despite the fact that the driveway is in the same location now as it was when the house was first built, my neighbor brought over a […]

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Changes to New York’s Estate Tax Law

The Facts: I heard that the New York’s estate tax laws changed and that the value of an estate that can pass estate tax-free was increased. The Question: Is that true? If so, what is the current NYS estate tax exemption? The Answer: Fortunately for New Yorkers, the tax laws have changed and the tax […]

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Divorce and Life Insurance Beneficiaries

The Facts: When I got married in 2000 my wife named me as the beneficiary on her life insurance policy. We were divorced two years ago. Our divorce settlement provides that my ex-spouse is required to continue paying her life insurance premiums and is prohibited from removing me as the beneficiary. I was told that […]

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Can My Mother’s Estate Be Passed Directly to My Children?

The Facts: My mother recently died. In her Will she left her entire estate to me. If I had died before my mother, her estate would have passed to my children in equal shares. I would like my inheritance from my mother to pass to my children. The Question: Is there a way I can […]

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Your ‘To Do’ List Should Include Updating Your Will

We all know that time flies by and that important things are sometimes put on the back burner as we rush around taking care of our day to day responsibilities. We have also all heard heartbreaking stories about people who had every intention of revising their estate plans but, failed to take the necessary steps […]

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What Should I Look For When Retaining An Attorney?

My husband and I are buying our first house and we want to make sure our attorney works in our best interest. What should we look for when retaining an attorney? When choosing an attorney you want to be sure that the attorney has experience with residential real estate transactions.  The less real estate experience […]

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Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common: Which is Right for Me?

There are a number of ways in which individuals can take title to property. People who are not married to each other can own real property as tenants-in-common (TIC) or as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Co-owners who are TIC each own a share of the real property and have the right to sell […]

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Is Probate Always Necessary?

Depending on the type of assets owned by a person at the time of their death, and the value of those assets, probate may not be required, even if the person died with a  Will. If the only assets the decedent had in her own name are valued at less than $30,000 and do not […]

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Can My Adopted Child Claim a Share of His Birth Father’s Estate?

Recently a client contacted me with a question about her  adoptive son’s right to claim a share of his birth father’s estate. She was under the impression that the adoption relieved the father of all obligations to the child and wanted to know if she was correct. Generally an adopted child does not have the […]

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Do I Really Have to pay That Back?

Estate planning clients often ask me how loans they have made to friends and family members should be addressed in their Wills. Since a private loan is simply an agreement between individuals, there is no right or wrong way to deal with loans when the lender dies.  The intent of the parties as expressed in […]

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And the Cut Crystal Goes To…

Go to http://roelresources.com/and-the-cut-crystal-goes-to/ to see my recent article on ways to distribute your assets and avoid fighting.   Happy reading!   Linda M. Toga of The Law Offices of Linda M. Toga, P.C. is an East Setauket, New York attorney with a general law practice focusing on estate planning, real estate, marital planning, small business […]

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Estate Planning With a Trust and Life Estate

The Facts: My father is planning on putting his house into an irrevocable trust and naming me as trustee. He will be naming my sister and me as beneficiaries of the trust. The Questions: Can my father sell his house once it is in the trust? If my father goes into a nursing home, can […]

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Long Term Care Insurance

Clients frequently ask me why they should invest in long term care insurance (“LTC insurance”). There are many reasons, not the least of which is that few people are anxious to deplete their savings, borrow against retirement accounts and  life insurance or sell off assets simply to cover their healthcare needs. LTC insurance offers a […]

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Misconceptions about Estate Planning

Copy and paste the following links into your browser to view 2  informative videos featuring Linda M. Toga addressing common misconceptions about estate planning.  

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Here’s to the Older Americans in my LIfe….

May is Older Americans Month.  Since 1963 when President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May to be “Senior Citizens Month”, May has been the month in which communities across the nation acknowledge the important contributions older Americans have made and continue to make to our country.  In 1980 President Jimmy Carter changed the designation to “Older […]

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Separation and Estate Planning

I’ve met with a number of clients lately who have been separated from their spouses for many years but, who, for some reason, never obtained a divorce. All are under the impression that the long separation effectively cut off any rights their spouse may have to their estates. Unfortunately, they are mistaken. In New York […]

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There are Always Strings Attached….

Thinking about putting your children’s name on the deed to your house? Think again. Although giving your children your house and reserving for yourself a life estate may seem like an excellent strategy to avoid probate, there are significant downsides. The most obvious is the loss of control. Once you put your children’s names on […]

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Is it Time to Revise Your Will?

Recently I was reminded of how important it is to update your Will when circumstances change. A client came to see me about probating her husband’s Will. Unfortunately, her husband had signed the Will before he met my client and did not take the time to revise it.  Since he did not have any children […]

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Do I Need to File a Gift Tax Return?

This time of year I frequently hear from clients who made gifts to family members asking if they need to file a gift tax return.  Gifting can play an important role in an estate plan as a means to avoid estate tax. However, there are limits as to the value of gifts that can pass […]

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Have You Looked at Your Life Insurance Policy Lately?

I cannot stress enough the importance of updating the beneficiary designation on your life insurance policy.  So many people simply forget to change the designated beneficiary when they experience a death, marriage, divorce or other major life event.  As a result, the insured’s intended beneficiaries have to fight for what the insured would have wanted […]

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Calculating an Executor’s Commissions

There seems to be a great deal of confusion about the commissions that may be paid to the executor of an estate. Clients frequently ask me if they should specify in their Will the total commission that should be paid  to the executor or if it is better to have the commissions determined by the […]

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Should I Retain a Buyer’s Agent?

Facts: We are thinking about buying our first home. A number of people told us we should engage a buyer’s agent to assist us. Question: Is that really necessary? Answer: Although having a buyer’s agent is not “necessary,” there are many good reasons for engaging a buyer’s agent. Buyer’s agents are defined in the NYS […]

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How to Start a Small Businesss in NY

Facts: A friend of mine recently started his own business and is now running into all sorts of trouble since he did not properly file documents with the state or local governments or obtain the proper approvals. Question: Is there some trick to opening a new business in New York? Answer: There are no tricks […]

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What is the Role of the Executor in Settling an Estate?

The Facts: Some people who have been named as executors told me their jobs were quite simple while others complained about all the time and effort it takes to administer an estate. The Question: What are the responsibilities of an executor and why does the complexity of the process vary so much? The Answer: The […]

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A Healthcare Proxy is Not Enough

The Facts: I thought that the only legal document I would need in the event of a medical emergency was a healthcare proxy. However a friend told me that a power of attorney (“POA”) can play a critical role in a medical emergency. The Question: Is this true? The Answer: Absolutely! While the person you […]

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What if I Don’t Want My Inheritance?

The Issue: My mother recently died.  In her Will she left her entire estate to me. If I had died before my mother, her estate would have passed to my children in equal shares. I would like my inheritance from my mother to pass to my children.  Is there a way I can accomplish that? If […]

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Will or Beneficiary Form: Which Controls?

The Facts: I was told that the money in the joint account I have with my son and the money in my IRA will not be distributed according to my Will when I die. The Question: Is that correct? The Answer: Yes, that is correct. Many people mistakenly believe that, following their death, the provisions in their Will […]

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Is the State Holding Your Money?

The Facts: After my mother died, I found the passbook for a savings account she had at a local bank. I contacted the bank and was advised that the account was closed and that the funds in the account were transferred to the state a few years before my mother’s death. The Questions: Can a bank simply […]

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Does Making Annual Gifts Impact on Medicaid Eligibility?

The Facts: I have been making gifts of $13,000 per year to my children for some time. I was told that as long as I did not give any of my children more than $13,000 a year, I would not be penalized when I applied for Medicaid benefits. A friend of mine who also gave gifts […]

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Is it Time for a Guardian?

The Facts: My lifelong friend Mary recently suffered a massive stroke. She has lost the ability to speak, cannot walk and cannot handle her affairs due to the cognitive impairment caused by the stroke. Mary is currently living in a nursing home. A few years ago Mary had her attorney prepare a Will as well as […]

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Who is Required to Get Notice of the Probate of My Will?

The Facts: My father died 2 years ago. My mother is receiving hospice care. In her Will my mother leaves her estate to me and my sister. Her Will provides that my estranged brother who has not been seen or heard from by anyone in the family for over a decade is not to receive anything. […]

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Do I Need a Certified Deed?

The Facts: I recently received a letter from a company suggesting that I should have a certified copy of my deed. The company offered to get the deed for me for about $85. The Question: Is this a scan? The Answer: Yes, it is a scam and one that is quite lucrative for the company making the offer. […]

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Should the House be Put in an Irrevocable Trust?

The Facts: My elderly father is putting his house into an irrevocable trust and naming me and my brother as beneficiaries of the trust. The Questions: If my father decides to move out of his house, will we be able to sell the house while my father is still alive? Would it be better if my father […]

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Remarrying? It May Be Time to Revise Your Will

The Facts: I am divorced and getting married for the second time. I have two children. The woman I am marrying, Sally, is a widow with two children. All of the children are grown and living independently. We are both fairly well off and each have some investments as well as IRAs. Sally and I are […]

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Children’s Inheritance When a Parent Dies

The Facts: I was married for 20 years and have two sons ages 19 and 13. I am now divorced and my ex-husband has remarried. Despite the settlement papers we signed in connection with our divorce, my ex never paid child support or contributed to my sons’ education expenses and has not been part of my […]

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