The attorneys at Cona Elder Law, a leading estate planning and elder law firm based in Melville, are finding that eight out of ten clients with existing trusts haven’t properly or adequately funded their irrevocable trusts, rendering the asset protection plan or estate tax plan meaningless.
To help resolve this growing problem, Cona Elder Law recently launched a new Trust Assistance Program (TAP) headed up by attorney Lynn Kay, Esq. as part of the firm’s full service, holistic approach to client services.
Many people believe that after an attorney drafts a trust and the clients sign the document, they don’t need to do anything else. Generally, attorneys are not walking their clients through the often complex process of funding the trust or, at the very least, reminding people that the task is not completed until the trust is funded.
“Most of our clients are confused about the mechanics of a trust,” says Jennifer Cona, Esq., managing partner, Cona Elder Law. “They don’t realize that almost any asset can be held in a trust, such as bank accounts, brokerage accounts, real property, insurance policies, annuities and stocks. The process can be as simple as re-titling financial accounts or executing a new deed.”
There are many issues that come up with trust funding like getting co-op board approval to title co-ops in the name of a trust. Cona Elder Law has worked with several boards and their attorneys to analyze co-op bylaws and see if trust ownership is permissible. “That is one of the greatest challenges we face in getting trusts funded with a client’s home,” explains Lynn.
Cona Elder Law works closely with clients’ financial advisors to determine what assets to place in the trust. “With the help of an advisor or money manager, we can review the clients’ income, expenses, life style, etc. to determine the amount of assets that should remain outside of the trust and the amount to be transferred into the trust,” says Cona.
There is no additional fee to the client for this service. Cona Elder Law has put in place procedures to coordinate with financial advisors, insurance companies, annuity companies and banks to ensure the proper funding and completion of the trust schedule of holdings.
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Cona Elder Law is recognized as a leading elder law and estate planning firm on Long Island. The firm was ranked the #1 Elder Law firm by Long Island Business News in 2012. The firm provides creative advocacy and cutting edge planning strategies and has been featured in many publications including: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, L.I. Business News, Kiplinger’s, Reader's Digest and many others. Cona Elder Law attorneys are frequent contributors to Newsday’s Act II “Ask the Expert” column and have appeared as guests on WNBC-TV, CNN-fn, News 12, News 55, Channel 21 "Act II With Newsday" and many radio stations including WOR, WCBS AM and WFAN.