Preserving Your Legacy (Part 1)

What is your background and what inspired you to enter Estate Planning?
I really did want to be a lawyer from the age of eight. I have been working in the legal industry for over 20 years, in every possible position: file clerk, paralegal, law clerk, General Counsel of a corporation, and now a law firm partner. Originally, I only wanted to be a corporate attorney. However, over time, I realized that my talents and experience would be better utilized in elder law and estate planning. Elder Law is fascinating as you work with many different people and their families; you really learn something new every day. It is relevant to everyone and becomes increasingly important over time.

Which Trusts & Estates organizations do you belong to?

I am a former Secretary of the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on the Legal Problems of the Aging (Elder Law). I am also a current member of Elder Law and Trusts & Estates committees in several Bar Associations in New York and New Jersey.

What services and benefits can your clients enjoy?
My clients receive a thorough explanation of mechanisms behind any proposed legal work. I also keep them informed as to progress, every step of the way. As their attorney, I am never out of reach. My office tries to answer all calls and return any we missed within 24 hours. It’s important to me that clients should never feel lost or abandoned.
About 65-75% of our work is dedicated to probate, trusts and estate planning law. The rest is Medicaid Planning and Guardianships.
Being fluent in English and Russian is quite rare (and comes in handy more than you’d think). Being bilingual helps when we handle international matters for clients all over the world.
I am alsohappy to present on estate planning and asset protection for professionals or anyone interested in a particular subject. Recently, I presented at a center for autistic children in Brooklyn to educate the parents about planning for their special needs children’s future. In these situations in particular, it is never too early to begin planning.
The planning we do impacts not only the current clients but generations to come.
In short, we go the extra mile. A client should expect honesty, integrity, and fast service.

What questions should potential clients ask before hiring a trust and estate attorney?

“What do you think I should do?” The client should be as candid as possible. Estate planning is all about the client, their family and their relationships. But an estate-planning attorney should also take into account the client’s hopes, dreams, aspirations and goals. Estate planning is a marathon, not a sprint. As families grow and change, paradigms shift, relationships break up and new ones form. Therefore, the client must think ahead, address major life changes and check them against their current estate plan, if they already have something in place. The plan that was perfect ten years ago might need a tweak or even a complete overhaul!
Other questions for the client to ask are: Would I be disinheriting anyone? Is someone going to contest the will? Do I or any of my estate’s beneficiaries receive public benefits? Are there persons with special needs in my life that would be affected upon my death? Do I want to plan for my beloved pets? Do I own property in another state or country? Who are my beneficiaries, and who are their successors, (should the original beneficiaries predecease me)? Should I leave anything to charity? The questions really depend deeply on the client’s personal situation that needs to be explored with the help of their attorney.
(to be continued…)
Vlad Portnoy , Esq. is an attorney specializing in Trusts & Estates, including Asset Protection; Business Succession and Planning; and Probate and Administration of Estates. Vlad also deals with Elder Law, including Medicaid and Disability Planning; Guardianships for persons deemed mentally incapacitated; and Special Needs Planning for disabled individuals. Vlad is licensed to practice in New York, New Jersey and the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. Formerly a corporate in-house attorney, Mr. Portnoy switched gears over eight years ago to concentrate on Estate Planning and Elder Law. Mr. Portnoy is a Partner with Beinhaker Law Firm LLC.
tel: 212.920.6371 I fax: 212.920.6378

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