Frequently Asked Questions

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At Finkel & Fernandez, LLP., our co-founding partners, Fern J. Finkel and Julie Stoil Fernandez, bring decades of experience in elder law, estate planning and special needs planning and advocacy to our clients.

Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance): Most people do not pay a monthly Part A premium because they or their spouse paid Medicare taxes while working. For those who must buy Part A, the monthly premium will be a maximum of $458.00 per month. In most cases, if you choose to buy Part A, you must also have Medicare Part B, and pay monthly premiums for both.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance): Most beneficiaries will pay a $144.60 per month premium in 2020. Those beneficiaries for whom the Social Security Administration currently withholds their Part B premium, and have incomes of $87,000 or less [$174,000 or less for joint filers] will pay $144.60 in 2020. If your income is above $87,000 [single] or $174,000 [married filing joint], then your Medicare Part B premium may be higher than $144.60 per month.

Part A: [Inpatient hospital, skilled nursing facility, and some home health care benefits] During each benefit period, Medicare will pay all Part A covered costs minus the Medicare Part A 2020 deductible of $1,408.00 for a hospital stay of 1-60 days. For hospital stay days 61 – 90, the coinsurance rate/deductible will be $352.00 per day. For days 91-150 of a hospital stay, the coinsurance rate/deductible will be $704.00 per day [lifetime reserve days]. For admission in a skilled nursing facility for skilled nursing care or rehabilitation, the deductible is $176.00 per day for days 21 through 100 each benefit period, with no deductible for days 1-20.

Part B: [Medicare eligible physician services, outpatient hospital services, limited home health services, durable medical equipment]. The deductible in 2020 will be $198.00 per year, with a coinsurance payment of 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for services [after you meet the $198.00 deductible].
October 15 through December 7 is the open enrollment to change your Medicare Part D or Medicare Supplement Plan. You can also enroll three months prior to your beginning Medicare coverage date as well as during special enrollment periods given changes in your employment status.

Both a will and a trust are estate planning tools. The main difference between the two is that a will goes into effect only after you die, while a trust can come into effect after you die or it can be created to take effect during your, or another beneficiaries lifetime.

A will directs who is to receive your property after you die. A will covers only property which is titled in your name alone at your death, and not property held in joint tenancy or in a trust, unless otherwise designated. A will allows you to appoint one [or more] legal representative, known as an “executor or executrix”, to carry out your directions.

A trust, on the other hand, allows you to appoint one or more trustees [persons or an institution, often a bank or financial management firm] to distribute trust property during life, at death or thereafter. A trust is a legal arrangement where the trustee[s] hold legal title to property for the trust beneficiary. Only property that has been transferred to the trust, and is therefore titled in the name of the trust, will be controlled by the terms of the trust.

Another significant difference between a will and a trust is that a will passes through probate after your death. The surrogates court oversees the probate of the will, ensures its validity, and ensures that the property is distributed according to the terms of the will. A will becomes a part of the public record in the County Clerk’s office.

By contrast, a trust not established through a will passes outside of probate, in most cases without any court oversight, saving time and expense, and therefore remains private.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both wills and trusts, and together, both can work to create a complete estate plan.
No: Even with a properly executed Last Will and Testament , in reality much of your property may pass outside of probate. Knowing how your accounts are titled is vital to having a comprehensive estate plan. The titling of accounts, and beneficiary designations, are supreme to what you direct in your Last Will and Testament.
Bank accounts, brokerage accounts, investments accounts, real estate holdings, and other assets held as “joint owners with right of survivorship” will create automatic ownership in the joint owner[s] at the death of the co-owner. Your ownership interest in assets you own as “tenants in common” will pass under your will unless otherwise designated.

If you are a disabled person under age 65 receiving Medicaid and or Supplemental Security [SSI] benefits and you are about to receive a personal injury award, you may lose both Medicaid and SSI benefits unless the settlement proceeds are properly protected by a Special Needs Trust. A First Party/Payback Special Needs Trust [SNT] is established by a parent, grandparent, guardian or the Court and is funded with the settlement proceeds so that you, the disabled person, can continue receiving the monthly [SSI] allowance and or Medicaid health insurance benefits going forward. It is important to know that this type of SNT requires a pay back to Medicaid after the trust beneficiary dies or the trust otherwise terminates. The payback is only for the medical costs that Medicaid has actually paid, without interest, and only to the extent that there are any funds remaining in the trust at that time.

Prior to funding the trust, all monies spent by Medicaid between injury and settlement on medical benefits [the amount of the “Medicaid lien”], but not on lost wages, pain and suffering, must be repaid. Then, the remaining settlement funds are placed into an approved payback SNT. By protecting the proceeds of a personal injury or malpractice settlement with an SNT, you, the beneficiary, retain your future Medicaid and SSI benefits. The SNT assets must only be used to supplement, not supplant, the benefits provided to you by Medicaid and SSI, must be for your sole use and benefit, and are reviewed by the Department of Social Services annually. Allowed SNT expenses include payments for your education, entertainment, medical providers who don’t accept Medicaid, travel, clothing, transportation, computers, technology, food, shelter, and many other items. If you are also receiving SSI benefits, payment for food and shelter will reduce your SSI benefits by up to one third of the benefit amount. There is no similar reduction for Medicaid.

To determine if you need a SNT you must make certain whether you get SSDI or SSI. If you are not certain, you should get written documentation by requesting a proof of income letter from the Social Security Administration. Unlike clients on SSI, clients who get Social Security Disability Income [SSDI] do not need a SNT when they obtain a personal injury or similar settlements to protect their SSDI benefits.

Social Security Disability Income [SSDI] is an entitlement program for workers who have paid into Social Security for at least 40 quarters [10 years]) and, unlike SSI, has no income limit. Monthly income payments from the SSDI program is based on a worker’s lifetime contributions to Social Security, and acts as an insurance benefit paid to medically qualified people regardless of financial need.

Social Security Disability Income [SSDI] beneficiaries, unlike SSI recipients, have no asset limit and can receive benefits, if eligible, regardless of the assets they own. All SSDI disabled workers can receive Medicare insurance after a 24 month waiting period.

Supplemental Security Income [SSI] is a public benefits program which limits income to $783 per month [2020 Federal level].

Supplemental Security Income [SSI] beneficiaries may not have cash assets and accounts greater than $2,000. All disabled people receiving SSI are eligible to receive Medicaid.
Geriatric Care Managers [GCMs] are elder care specialists who are typically licensed professional social workers, nurses or therapists. GCMs are trained to provide an objective, comprehensive assessment of the senior in his/her home environment in order to provide a plan of care in order to assist the person and family in improving the person’s safety, socialization, medical care, living situation, support network and quality of life. GCMS are trained to evaluate and assess the senior’s capabilities, functionality, home and social environments. The GCM’s goal is to create an individualized plan to address the needs of the particular person so as to enrich his/her life as well as to fill in any gaps in the senior’s ability to meet his/her needs and activities of daily living. An assessment of the person in their home environment is done, safety measures and changes recommended, programs and resources discussed, and a comprehensive plan devised to provide an understanding of what is required to help the senior remain as safe and independent as possible in the home environment, if possible. GCMs should be knowledgeable about the available community resources that address the social, financial and medical needs of the senior population and should be able to make appropriate referrals to fill the senior’s needs. After an initial assessment, GCMs can be hired to help arrange for any necessary services as well as to monitor on-going and often changing needs.
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Testimonials

Here is what our clients are saying

“She had full knowledge of my selected legal case and completed the work and case to my satisfaction. Highly Recommend!”
Jane Smith
New York, NY
“She had full knowledge of my selected legal case and completed the work and case to my satisfaction. Highly Recommend!”
John Doe
John Doe, Westchester NY
“She had full knowledge of my selected legal case and completed the work and case to my satisfaction. Highly Recommend!”
Maria Feliby,
Merrick, NY
Abby C. Zampardi, Associate Attorney
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Abby C. Zampardi

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Abby C. Zampardi has been with Finkel & Fernandez, LLP since 2015, assisting clients in the drafting of all advance directives and drafting petitions and motions for guardianship litigation.

Prior to becoming the associate attorney at Finkel & Fernandez, Abby worked in the Foreclosure Part of the Nassau County Supreme Court, specializing in preparing orders and other documentation to assist with the adjudication of foreclosure cases.

Abby received her Juris Doctor degree from The George Washington University School of Law in 2014 and is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey. She received her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science, summa cum laude, from Binghamton University in 2011.

Abby was a Notes Editor and the Technology Editor of the Public Contract Law Journal, a publication of The George Washington University Law School in conjunction with the Public Contract Law section of the American Bar Association.

Abby is a member of the New York State Bar Association and the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association.

Testimonials

Here is what our clients are saying

“She had full knowledge of my selected legal case and completed the work and case to my satisfaction. Highly Recommend!”
Jane Smith
New York, NY
“She had full knowledge of my selected legal case and completed the work and case to my satisfaction. Highly Recommend!”
John Doe
John Doe, Westchester NY
“She had full knowledge of my selected legal case and completed the work and case to my satisfaction. Highly Recommend!”
Maria Feliby,
Merrick, NY
Fern J. Finkel, Esq., Partner
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Fern J. Finkel, Esq.

Partner

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Fern J. Finkel, Esq. is a co-founding partner at Finkel & Fernandez, LLP, concentrating in elder law, estate planning, asset protection, benefits and guardianships. She has been in private practice since 1990. Fern brings a wealth of experience and compassion to her clients. She is known for her skillful analysis of financial and personal circumstances and for providing practical planning to enable seniors and disabled clients to remain independent through advance directives, asset protection, benefits planning and trusts.

Fern graduated with honors from New York University College of Business and Public Administration in 1981. She received her Juris Doctor Degree from Boston University School of Law in 1984. She has been recognized as a New York Super Lawyers selectee in the field of Elder Law in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Fern has been selected by the Courts, as well as by family members, to serve as the appointed Guardian and/or Trustee for many individuals in need of personal needs and property management. She represents clients in all aspects of guardianship proceedings and has been appointed as Counsel and as Court Evaluator by the New York State Supreme Court in countless cases. She has helped thousands of seniors through her extensive community outreach and pro bono services on behalf of the indigent elderly of New York City. Fern spearheaded the Legal Education and Assistance Project, known as LEAP, at the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project. LEAP’s mission is to train and support pro bono attorneys in providing community outreach and education on all aspects of advance planning to seniors, with the goal of maximizing their independence and ability to remain at home long term.

Fern is the Treasurer of the New York State Bar Association Elder Law and Special Needs Section, Vice President of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) New York Chapter, Chair of the Brooklyn Bar Association Foundation Law Committee, Co-Facilitator of the Working Model of Guardianship – WINGS (Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders), a Founder of the Touro Center Aging and Longevity Institute Guardianship Certificate Program, a Special Master of the Appellate Division Second Department Mandatory Civil Appeals Mediation Program, and Vice Chair of the Brooklyn Bar Association Elder Law Committee. She served for years as a volunteer certified mediator with Safe Horizons for community disputes, PINS cases and custody matters, as well as with the United States District Court, Eastern District.

Fern lectures for various Bar Associations and Continuing Legal Education providers on topics including the Role of the Guardian, Role of the Court Evaluator, Role of the Attorney for the AIP, Advance Directives, Medicaid and Asset Protection, Aging in Place, Supplemental Needs Trusts and Guardianships. She is a mentor attorney at the Brooklyn Law School HELP (Helping Elders Through Litigation and Policy) Clinic, the Touro Law School Externship Program, and the New York Law School Elder Law Clinic. Fern serves on the Committees on Character and Fitness for the Second Judicial Department.

Fern has received numerous awards for her pro bono service including: Selection as a 2019 “Champions of Justice: Women in Leadership in Law and Administration of Justice” Honoree by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle the 2013 Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project Building Bridges Award, the 2013 Brooklyn Bar Association Distinguished Service Award, the 2009 Brooklyn Bar Association Distinguished Service Award, the 2004 Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York Hanna S. Cohn Pro Bono Award, the 2003 New York State Bar Association Pro Bono Award for the Second Judicial District, the 1999 Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project Pro Bono Award, the 1996 Brooklyn Bar Association Frieda S. Nisnewitz Award for Pro Bono Service, and an Award of Merit from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children 1997.

Fern was previously an Associate Attorney at the law firm of Damashek, Godosky and Gentile, where she litigated medical malpractice and personal injury cases.

Testimonials

Here is what our clients are saying

“She had full knowledge of my selected legal case and completed the work and case to my satisfaction. Highly Recommend!”
Jane Smith
New York, NY
“She had full knowledge of my selected legal case and completed the work and case to my satisfaction. Highly Recommend!”
John Doe
John Doe, Westchester NY
“She had full knowledge of my selected legal case and completed the work and case to my satisfaction. Highly Recommend!”
Maria Feliby,
Merrick, NY
Julie Stoil Fernandez, Esq., Partner
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Julie Stoil Fernandez, Esq.

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Julie Stoil Fernandez, Esq. a co-founding partner of Finkel & Fernandez, LLP is a highly experienced attorney who has been fighting for the safety and welfare of seniors and persons with disabilities since 1993.

Before beginning her legal career, Julie worked as a counselor for homeless men and women and, later, ran a 500-bed emergency overnight shelter for homeless men, forging close bonds with those in need of protection. Seeking to have greater impact, Julie attended law school at Northeastern University and graduated in 1992.

Immediately following law school, Julie worked at Manhattan Psychiatric Center on Ward’s Island in New York City for Mental Hygiene Legal Service, Appellate Division First Judicial Department, representing psychiatric patients in mental hygiene law retention hearings and treatment over objection proceedings in state and private psychiatric hospitals. Her representation included children institutionalized on Ward’s Island, and insanity acquittees at Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center.

Julie Stoil Fernandez, Esq., Partner and ShirleyNext, Ms. Stoil started a solo elder law practice in Park Slope, Brooklyn which she continued for 15 years, providing guardianship representation, mental health advocacy and estate probate and administration. She also has since 1993, been appointed by judges in the New York State Supreme Court in all counties in New York City as Court Evaluator in Guardianship proceedings and as a Guardian and Trustee for persons adjudicated incapacitated. In 2015, she co-founded Finkel and Fernandez with Fern J. Finkel.

Julie is skilled at analyzing issues which arise when a person’s legal capacity is in question. She is quick to grasp complex fact patterns and excels at predicting the likelihood of success of a case. She creatively addresses emergencies which often arise while litigants are waiting to be heard on a guardianship matter and effectively negotiates agreements between oppositional family members in contested cases. She is a fierce advocate for her clients and, when litigation is necessary, Julie brings her extensive experience and passion to the cause.

Julie has assisted thousands of clients – protecting housing benefits; individual liberties and patients’ rights in institutional settings and the community; and through litigation, advocacy and special needs planning. Julie also is certified as an Elder Law, Family and Divorce Mediator and offers mediation services to parties who seek workable solutions to conflicts without litigation – an often-preferred method when addressing issues of mental illness and treatment compliance.

Julie is Co-Chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Elder Law and Special Needs Section’s Mental Health Committee, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and the Brooklyn Bar Association where she is a member of the Elder Law Committee. She has been selected as a Super Lawyer in both 2019 and 2020.

Both Fern and Julie serve as mentor attorneys to students from New York Law School’s Elder Law Clinic, Touro Law School’s Elder Law Externship Program and the Brooklyn Law School’s Helping Elders Through Litigation and Policy (HELP) Clinic.

Julie has written several elder law articles and she lectures in continuing legal education programs and in the community, providing guidance on using advance directives to help seniors age in place and retain independence.

Julie received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1985 and received her Juris Doctor degree in 1992 from Northeastern University School of Law. She was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1993.

Testimonials about Julie Stoil Fernandez

Here is what our clients are saying

“Five stars for Julie Stoil Fernandez and Finkel & Fernandez. I hired Julie to help me get authority to remove a dangerous family member from my mother's home, when my mother, due to Dementia, was no longer able to say she wanted the family member removed. Julie worked diligently, and tirelessly during this very lengthy process. Julie was always encouraging and confident that we would prevail, and we did!!”
-Michele S.
“I first hired Julie in 2004, when my partner suffered a stroke and needed the appointment of a guardian in Queens County. It was a hotly contested matter with one of the parties even getting violent in the courthouse. Julie worked tirelessly with great patience to assist in resolving the legal and personal issues. Her dedication to her clients is extraordinary. She followed up on every detail until the Guardians were in place and we were enrolled in all the proper rehabilitation programs. Later, my partner regained his capacity and Julie assisted us in terminating the guardianship. Finkel & Fernandez then assisted us in preparing our advanced directives last year and making sure my partner’s funds were protected from predatory family members.”
-Eileen M.

In The News

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Op-Ed: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Examples of abuse and predation are prevalent in Queens. Every day scammers and schemers target senior citizens as well as younger people with impaired cognition. Individuals who fail to plan for their own potential impairments diminished capabilities also face future consequences. But the financial and emotional damage they incur are avoidable with the help of an attorney.

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