HoganWillig

We Practice Law for Your Peace of Mind

Digital Estate Plan Facebook Tool

Author: Krystal Chapin


April 17th, 2015

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the importance of securing your digital assets in your estate plan. This week, I stumbled upon a new Facebook feature that will further help you preserve your digital assets. Legacy Contact is the new Facebook function that allows users of the social network to authorize another person to access and modify their accounts after they pass away. This gives the chosen individual the ability to update your profile picture, write a post to be displayed on the memorialized page, and download an archive of your photos, posts, and profile information for safe keeping. Your Legacy Contact is even given permission to permanently delete your account, if that is your wish.

Though the idea seems somewhat morbid, this new system makes it much easier for family members or friends to take care of your Facebook account. These types of accounts often feature some of our most sentimental and important pictures, videos, letters, and memories.  Ultimately, this tool is for the people you care about in your life to be able to cherish your memory. Your passing will be hard on everyone, but giving loved ones the ability to memorialize your account or delete it may help bring them closure. Below are the steps on how to set up this feature.

  1. Log in to your Facebook account
  2. Go to your Account Settings > Security > Legacy Contact
  3. Type in the name of the individual you would like to designate as your Legacy Contact
  4. At this time, you will have the option to send a message to this person alerting them that they have been selected. If you decide to forego the message, they will be notified by Facebook once the company becomes aware of your passing.
  5. Lastly, select whether your will grant permission for your Legacy Contact to archive your data and if you wish to have your account deleted.

At HoganWillig, we understand the concerns our clients may have regarding their own care, as well as the special worries clients have when they are overseeing the care of a loved one. Our Estate Planning & Elder Law team utilizes a comprehensive approach to meet the individualized needs of our clients. We work with a variety of resources, legal tools and techniques to meet the goals and objectives of our clients and their families. Call us to speak with one of our knowledgeable staff members today at 716-636-7600.

Getting Government Payments for Children with Disabilities

Author: Robin Friedman


April 14th, 2015

Parents who have children with disabilities face a myriad of legal, medical and financial issues.  There are a host of government programs which can provide assistance in a variety of forms including housing and medical coverage.  Two programs, Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Social Security Income(SSI), provide cash.

In order to obtain the proper benefits, applicants need to understand three core differences between the programs:

  1. SSDI is an insurance-base program whereas SSI is means-tested.

Two criteria need to be met in order to obtain eligibility in either program.  For both programs, one criteria is that an applicant must demonstrate that he or she is classified as disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA). To do so, among several factors, it must be shown that an applicant’s impairment renders him or her unable to work at a job in which he or she can earn $1,070 or more per month. (This figure, set in 2014, is adjusted periodically by the SSA).

The second criteria is different for each program.  To attain SSDI, the applicant must have worked for ten(10) years.  If he or she has done so, eligibility should be granted regardless of any other factor.

For SSI, though, the work history is irrelevant.  SSI is designed to meet the needs of the elderly and blind, as well as disabled, to insure that they can pay for food and shelter.  To be eligible, one’s income has to be meager, if non-existent, and resources (i.e. liquid assets) cannot exceed a small amount (typically $2,000).

  1. Each program provides different access to healthcare.

If an individual receives SSDI, he or she is generally eligible for Medicare after two years. Medicare is a federal health insurance program that covers routine hospital services and most but not all primary care.

If a person receives SSI, he or she typically qualifies for Medicaid benefits immediately. Unlike Medicare, Medicaid usually pays for all primary care for its recipients.

  1. The amount of cash benefits can vary.

The SSDI payment is based on the earning record of the recipient. The SSI payment is a flat $733.00 per month (augmented by a small supplement by most states).

In short, it is possible to receive both SSDI and SSI.  If an individual’s SSDI payment is less than the SSI amount, SSI will supplement the difference.  So, for example, if a recipient gets SSDI in the amount of $533.00 per month, SSI will pay $200.00 per month to get the overall payment to $733.00.  On the other hand, if the SSDI payment is more than $733.00, that will be the only benefit received.

If you have any questions, please call us at 636-7600,

File Tax Returns on Time

Author: Linda Grear


April 13th, 2015

If you owe more taxes than you can afford to pay when you file your tax returns, don’t fail to take action. Make sure to file the tax returns on time. That way, you can avoid a penalty for filing late. Here are some tips if you are unable to pay all your taxes by the due date:

  • File on time and pay as much as you can.  You should file the tax return on time to avoid a late filing penalty. Pay as much as you can with your tax return.  The more you can pay, the less interest and late payment penalty charges you will owe.
  • Pay online with IRS Direct Pay.  IRS Direct Pay is an electronic payment option available from the Internal Revenue Service. It allows you to schedule payments online from your checking or savings account with no additional fee and with an immediate payment confirmation. It is quicker than mailing in a check or money order. To make a payment or to find out about other payment options, visit IRS.gov/payments.
  • Pay the rest of your tax as soon as you can.  The interest and fees charged by a bank or credit card company may be less than the interest and penalties charged for late payment of tax. You may want to take a loan or use a credit card to pay the tax balance.
  • Use the Online Payment Agreement tool.  You don’t need to wait for the IRS to send you a bill to ask for an installment agreement. You can use the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov. You can even set up a direct debit installment agreement so you
  • If you pay with a direct debit plan, you won’t have to write a check and mail it on time each month. That means avoiding more penalties for late payments. If you cannot use the IRS.gov tool, you can file Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request instead. You can view, download, and print the form on IRS.gov/forms anytime.
  • DO NOT ignore a tax bill.  If you get a bill, don’t ignore it. The Internal Revenue Service may take collection action if you ignore the bill. Contact the IRS right away to talk about your options. If you face a financial hardship, the IRS will work with you.

To find out more about the  Internal Revenue Service collection process, check out the IRS website at :  IRS.gov.

For more information, please HoganWillig at (716)636-7600. HoganWillig is located at 2410 North Forest Road in Amherst, New York 14068, with additional offices in Buffalo, Lancaster, and Lockport.

Special Enrollment: Circumstances Which Allow You To Change Your Health Care Benefits

Author: Krystal Chapin


April 10th, 2015

Healthcare enrollment season has come and gone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your benefit choices are set in stone. There is a special enrollment period that is offered year-round. In order to participate in this special enrollment, one must undergo an eligible, major life change (i.e., having a child, marriage). This means that up to 60 days from when this life event occurs, you can change your coverage elections. Below are a few examples of life events that qualify a change in enrollment.

  • Once you turn 26, you can no longer be covered by your parent’s insurance policy. It is important to begin researching plans well before this birthday in order to be sure you do not miss the short, 60-day window.
  • A change in marital status also constitutes an eligible life change. Whether you are recently married, divorced, or widowed, you qualify for the special enrollment period.
  • If you welcomed a baby into the world this year, it’s likely that you’ll have to change or increase your healthcare coverage.
  • A change in employment allows you to also change your healthcare plan. A big decision to be made is where you enroll in an employer-based coverage plan or a marketplace plan. Since companies typically cover part or all of your premium, employer-based coverage often makes the most sense. However, be sure to shop around to see if you can find something more affordable on your own.

Be sure to review your healthcare plan each year, before the enrollment period ends on February 15th. It is important to review your plan, before you a automatically re-enrolled, to make sure it suits you and your family’s needs.

Big Brother is Watching You

Author: Robin Friedman


April 7th, 2015

If you are an avid user of social media, or even just an American born since 1980, chances are your web footprint is everywhere.  Many social media sites such as Facebook have elaborate ‘private policies’ filled with legal jargon, and make a point of informing consumers that they are committed to protecting privacy.  But people should be aware that that such privacy policies are not intended to help out consumers, rather they are intended solely to protect the sites themselves.  Most social media sites’ privacy policies are used to inform consumers which of  their private information they are collecting and giving or not giving out.  Once you click the accept button, you agree to this privacy policy.

In reality, it’s more of an agreement where the consumer is giving away rights to privacy.

On some level we as 21st century consumers need to accept that loss of privacy as part of the deal if we want to remain active on the internet.  In fact I often find it ironic for anyone to say they want to protect their privacy yet remain on Facebook or other social media sites—it simply can’t be done.  The smarter method would be to control your information.  Try to limit personal indentifying information, and realize that everything you put out there might be seen by somebody—whether it be employers, friends or companies that want to sell you something.  Social media websites are businesses- they are out there to make money.  It is not against the law for them to collect this information, so it is up to you as the consumer what you are putting out there for the taking.

The bottom line is that we as consumers need to be smart as to what we put out on social media sites, as there is no real privacy on the internet.

When to file for divorce

Author: Robin Friedman


April 3rd, 2015

When to file for divorce is a question only you can answer(except, unfortunately, if your spouse files first, then you will be thrust into a divorce, even if you aren’t or weren’t ready for it). A good lawyer or friend or therapist will not tell you that you must file.  All they can do is tell you what they advise or what they think may happen if and when you file.  And no one knows for certain what will happen.  So what should you do? Be prepared.  Read, learn and consult.

Divorce is never easy.  Though some cases are shorter and simpler than others, they always involve emotions across the spectrum and it may be hard to think rationally when you are going through the process.  So learn as much as you can, think about the consequences of acting hastily, and then, after you have consulted and read and learned, be sure to make decisions you are comfortable with.  It is your life and you will live with the results, so think things through, get as much advise as you can, and perhaps do your best to try, if at all possible, to act rationally, not emotionally, even though the emotions can be overwhelming.

At HoganWillig we pride ourselves on having the ability to handle complex family law matters without losing site of the smaller, emotionally-fraught details that often mean the most, at the end of the day, to the people we represent.  Call us at 636-7600 to schedule a consultation.

Post Winter Home Tips

Author: Robin Friedman


March 31st, 2015

Winter and real estate don’t exactly go hand in hand. Most Western New Yorkers, especially homeowners, know firsthand how hard winter can be on a home. Ice, snow, wind and freezing temperatures can wreak havoc on your property.

Without taking the proper steps to protect your house from the effects of winter, you could be left facing unpleasant and possibly expensive home damages-damages, which may not be covered by your home owner insurance policy.

As winter (finally) begins to fade away and the snow starts to melt, it’s vital to keep flood prevention top of mind. Melting snow can cause major water damage.

Tips to prevent spring thaw flooding and damage

  • Clear the snow around the perimeter of your home’s foundation, especially any snow that has piled around your basement windows.
  • Remove obstructions that will prevent melting snow from draining safely away from your house.
  • Install a sewer backwater valve to minimize the chance of water entering the house through your basement floor drain.
  • Clear debris from your gutters and downspouts.
  • Just to play on the safe side, move valuable items kept in your basement to a higher floor during major thaws.

We can’t always win against Mother Nature but these few suggestions can help mitigate damages.

At HoganWillig, we are well known for the quality of our legal services. Contact us at 636-7600 with any questions you may have.

HoganWillig

We Practice Law for Your Peace of Mind