AGING IN NEW YORK


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Elder Law Attorney Ronald Fatoullah, Esq., Protecting and preserving your assets

 

If one of the first life lessons learned as a youth is to “respect your elders” elder law attorney Ronald Fatoullah, Esq., has taken that advice to a new level.

Among his many credits, Mr. Fatoullah has been named one of the New York Area’s “Best Lawyers” by his peers for eight consecutive years in the fields of elder law and trusts and estates. He is a recipient of the “Rose Kryzak Senior Leadership Award” for outstanding services to the citizen community and he is one of the first attorneys in New York State to be awarded certification as an elder attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation. Although widely recognized for his numerous honors, Fatoullah measures his success not in awards given or profits made, but by the number of clients his firm has helped.

Ronald Fatoullah is the founder and managing partner of Ronald Fatoullah & Associates, a successful law firm concentrating in the areas of elder law estate planning, Medicaid eligibility, preparation of wills and trusts (including pet trusts), special needs planning, guardianships, Veteran’s planning, and planning for same sex couples. Fatoullah’s longevity in the field of protecting senior citizens and estates has made him one of the most respected attorneys in New York.

“This is an area of law that’s so specialized, you can’t just dabble in it,” said Fatoullah. “With elder law and estate planning, laws and rules change so fast, you always have to be one step ahead of the game.”

For example, one of these new changes provides that from January 1, 2011 – January 1, 2013, the estate and gift tax exclusion has been increased from $1 million to $5 million. That means that individuals can gift up to $5 million to their heirs without gift or estate tax ramifications. This gives individuals an opportunity to do asset protection planning without being taxed. It is unsure whether or not this tax break will be extended, which is why Fatoullah strongly recommends that his clients take advantage of this and plan as soon as possible.

“There is a window of opportunity right now for people to gift their assets away. Assets can even be transferred to trusts. Many people see these gift and estate tax levels staying at $5 million, but with the economy in its current state, I wouldn’t be surprised if these levels went back down to one million.”

On the elder law side, the rules are getting much stricter. With Medicaid and public benefits becoming increasingly hard to attain, Fatoullah and his staff simplify the process for their clients.

“We handle everything from A – Z in terms of protecting assets. We prepare and submit the entire Medicaid application package to ensure that our clients receive the home care or nursing home care that they require. There isn’t enough money on the federal, state or city levels and federal, state and city entitlements are being severely cut back. There are often complications that arise during the Medicaid application process. We will work on a case until we have resolved all the issues. Sometimes it takes great creativity to find the right solution. It’s akin to performing magic. We’ve had tremendous success.”

While many believe that estate planning is only for those aged 60 or older, the earlier one plans, the greater the protection. According to Fatoullah, the average cost of one month in a nursing home in the New York City area can range from $10,000 to $14,000 or more. With an asset protection plan, all of one’s assets can be protected and can be used to enhance the individual’s quality of life. Although early planning is preferred, planning can also be done at last minute.
“Formulating an asset protection plan for our clients, means that while mom might be in a nursing home, the assets that have been protected can be used to privately pay for an attendant to make sure that she’s well taken care of. We just don’t protect assets; we make sure that our clients are protected on a personal level as well.”
“We have clients of all ages, and we’ve heard it all,” said Fatoullah. “Some of our clients are superstitious. I have heard a client say ‘if I sign a will or start planning for my estate, my children will start fighting.’ However, once individuals get their affairs in order, they feel better. They know their family will be taken care of and they no longer have to worry about it.”

Along with the preparation of a will, Fatoullah strongly encourages the use of revocable and irrevocable living trusts, powers of attorney, health care proxies and living wills. Life estate planning was used extensively until just a few weeks ago. A life estate refers to the transfer of the home or condo to an individual’s children (or a third party) while retaining the right to use and occupy the home for the rest of their lives. Last month, New York State changed the law and now Medicaid can be reimbursed for any monies it has spent on an individual from the value of the life estate at the time of death. Therefore, Fatoullah said “we will now use asset protection living trusts to preserve the home.”

This is a serious change in the law and one that the elder law community considers unconstitutional and a “taking” without due process notice. Although this will be litigated, for now, it is the law.

“We work as a team,” said Fatoullah. “When we are retained to handle a matter, we typically conduct a strategy session where attorneys and paralegals at the firm will strategize, share ideas and be creative, so we can provide the best results for our clients.”

One of the attorneys at the firm speaks Hebrew, another, Mandarin, Cantonese and other dialects to better serve the growing population of Queens. When it comes to continued inspiration, Fatoullah draws on his previous experience in the social work field and his pursuit to positively affect people’s lives.

“Doing well as an attorney is not enough without also doing some good,” said Fatoullah.

Through elder law, estate and special needs planning, the firm has helped thousands of people. The staff is experienced, compassionate and they are constantly widening their knowledge and sharpening their skills.

Adding to his list of achievements, Fatoullah is the current Legal Committee chair of the Alzheimer’s Association Long Island Chapter and will be honored at their 28th annual gala later this month. His contributing articles can be found in many daily newspapers such as – The New York Times, Newsday, the New York Law Journal, The Wall Street Journal and The Queens Courier. He is a co-author of the CPA’s Guide to Long-Term Care” published by the American Institute of CPA’s. He is also the recipient of AARP’s Building Bridges award for the positive changes he has made in the lives of older Americans.

Ronald Fatoullah & Associates has offices conveniently located in Forest Hills, Great Neck, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Cedarhurst. He has just relocated his Great Neck location, and after seeing his new office, one thing remains clear: Ronald Fatoullah shows no signs of slowing down.

The firm can be reached at 718-261-1700, 516-466-4422 or toll free at 1-877-ELDERLAW or 1-877-ESTATES. The firm can also be found online atwww.elderlaw-newyork.com or www.fatoullahlaw.com.