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Michael F. Kanzer & Associates

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Estate Planning for Your Pets
Saturday, November 18th, 2017, 9:17 pm
When we start to make our estate plans, we often think about how we can take care of our children, parents, or other family members if we pass away. However, for many people, pets are just as much a part of the family as any other member. This means many of us want to include our animals in our estate plans.

Creating an estate plan for your pets ensures they end up in the right hands if something should happen to you. Let's take a look at how you can make proper arrangements for your pets care and safety.

Pets and Your Estate Plan

While you may view your pets as family, the state of New York sees them as property. This means that within your will, you need to describe what you would like to happen to them in the event of your passing just as you would with another asset or item.

Within your will, you want to be specific about who your pet will go to after you pass, especially if you have a rare or difficult to care for animal. If there are specific guidelines this individual must follow to properly take care of your pet, make sure they are outlined within your will.

You are also able to establish a trust for your pet. The money within this trust will be given to the individual responsible for caring for your animal to help them cover associated costs. A trust can be especially important if you have an exotic or difficult to care for animal.

The trust can also be used during times when you're unable to care for your pet, such as an illness or hospitalization. Setting up this trust can give someone the funds to care for your pet during this difficult time.

If you're interested in learning more about how to include your pet in your estate plan, contact the estate planning team at Michael F. Kanzer & Associates. Our Brooklyn Estate Planning attorneys can help you ensure your property, assets, and loved ones are well taken care of after you're gone.

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Bankruptcy FAQ Part II
Wednesday, November 15th, 2017, 9:06 pm
In our last post, we covered some of the most frequently asked questions our clients have when entering the bankruptcy process. Let's dive a bit deeper to consider some additional questions or concerns you may have before you file for bankruptcy.

What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 is a form of bankruptcy where you discharge your debts through liquidation. When you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the court will work with you to liquidate your property and assets to help pay off your debts. However, there are some items that are exempt from liquidation. The money you acquire in liquidation will be used to pay off your debts, with the remaining amounts being discharged.

What is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 13 is another form of bankruptcy where you set up a payment plan to help pay off your debts over a period of time, typically three or five years. When you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you do not need to liquidate your assets. However, you do need to stick to the payment plan the court creates. After the duration of your payment plan is complete, the remaining debt will be discharged.

When is filing for bankruptcy the wrong decision?

Filing for bankruptcy isn't right for everyone. If you have less than $10,000 in debt or the majority of your debts are not dischargeable, filing probably isn't the best choice for you. Bankruptcy is also not the right decision if you do not trust that you can keep the debt off after filing.

How can I begin the bankruptcy process?

If you would like to file for bankruptcy, you must first go through a credit counseling session within 180 of your filing. In order to submit your bankruptcy filing, you must also prove that you completed the session with an approved agency. For help finding a credit counseling session, contact the bankruptcy attorneys at Michael F. Kanzer & Associates.

You shouldn't try to file for bankruptcy alone. If you have additional questions about the process or you'd like to speak with an attorney about getting started, contact the Michael F. Kanzer & Associates Brooklyn bankruptcy attorney's office at 718.769.7200.

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What Trusts Are All About
Wednesday, October 18th, 2017, 6:21 pmedit this entry.
Many people believe they do not need a trust unless they are extremely wealthy. While this may have been the case in the past, establishing a trust is a great way to guarantee your family members are taken care of when you pass away. As a way to bypass many of the challenges a typical will presents, a trust is a great addition to many individual's estate plans.
If you're looking to improve your estate plan, here is everything you need to know about trusts.
Benefits of Establishing a Trust
There are a number of benefits to establishing a trust. Here are a few:
1. Avoid Probate
The probate process can be costly and time-consuming. However, it is a key part of most estate transfer processes. In order to bypass probate, you can establish a trust. A trust does not follow the same probate process, so individuals are able to access your assets without needing to wait.
2. Considers Minors
If you wish to leave your assets to a minor, you're not able to do so through a traditional estate plan. Establishing a trust can hold your assets for a minor until that individual is old enough to collect. You can also use a trust to hold assets or funds until the individual is more financially responsible.
3. Distribution Protection
Because a trust does not follow the same probate process as a typical estate plan, the court cannot interfere. Establishing a trust can give you peace of mind knowing that your assets and property will fall into the right hands after you pass.
4. Protects Multiple Heirs
If you have a complicated family, a trust can ensure that each of your heirs is protected and taken care of. For blended families, multiple marriages, or if you wish to leave assets to an individual that may not be in direct line, you can create a trust to guarantee each individual gets the belongings you want.
For help creating a trust that places your assets where you want them to go, contact the estate planning team at Micheal F. Kanzer & Associates, P.C. Our Brooklyn office can be reached at 718.769.7200.

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Bankruptcy FAQ Part 1
Monday, October 16th, 2017, 6:18 pm
If you're considering filing for bankruptcy, you probably have more than a few questions. The bankruptcy process can be difficult and confusing, so it is important to fully understand what bankruptcy looks like before you file.
To help you develop a better understanding of what it means to file for bankruptcy, we've answered a few of your most frequently asked questions.
What is bankruptcy?
If you find that you're drowning in debt and unable to pay your bills, filing for bankruptcy can help you get a fresh start financially. By filing for bankruptcy, you can get help from the court to eliminate some of your debts, helping you get back on your feet. Filing for bankruptcy will also get creditors off your back, allowing you to catch a much-needed breath.
Who should file for bankruptcy?
Filing for bankruptcy should not be done lightly. Bankruptcy is usually viewed as a last resort, so you'll want to weigh all your other options first before making your decision. However, if you're unable to find another alternative for getting out of debt, bankruptcy may be right for you.
How can bankruptcy help me?
If you're facing your car or home being taken away or your wages being garnished, filing for bankruptcy can force creditors to stop coming after you. Filing for bankruptcy can also help you discharge some of your debts, giving you a financial break so you can get back on your feet.
What won't bankruptcy do for me?
Bankruptcy should not be viewed as a means to get free items or discharge bills you don't want to pay. Filing for bankruptcy can have long-term consequences to your credit score and borrowing abilities, meaning a bankruptcy filing is not easily ignored or wiped away. Additionally, filing for bankruptcy will not erase all your expenses. If you owe child support, alimony, or have secured loans, bankruptcy cannot help.
If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, you want to work with an expert attorney. To help you understand whether or not filing is right for you, contact the legal team at Michael F. Kanzer & Associates.

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What to Ask a Brooklyn Estate Planning Attorney
Tuesday, August 15th, 2017, 1:55 am
Creating an estate plan is challenging. Not only is it difficult to think about your own death, but it can also be confusing to identify what you truly want to happen with your possessions and assets. Without the right estate planning attorney, the process is even more complicated.

Before hiring an estate planning attorney, you'll want to ask them a series of questions to get to know them and their experience a bit better. Let's check out some of the most important questions you should be asking.

1. What experience do you have with estate planning?

When it comes to your family's future, you want to be sure you're putting your trust in the right hands. Ask what experience the attorney has in estate planning to get a better understanding of how many individuals they have helped through the estate planning process.

2. How long does the process take?

Creating an estate plan usually doesn't have a clear timeline. While you may not be in a rush to get it finished, you also don't want to drag the process out too long. Speak with estate planning attorneys about how long the process usually takes them.

3. What is your update and maintenance process like?

An estate plan needs to be updated consistently. As your family grows, you take on new assets, or you sell property off, you want to make sure your estate plan accurately reflects what you own and who it should be given to after you pass. Ask estate planning attorneys what their standard process is for updating estate plans or wills.

4. Can you help me create a revocable living trust?

In most cases, you will need to have a revocable living trust in place before you die to ensure your estate plan can be carried out correctly. This means you'll want the assistance of an estate planning attorney to walk you through this process. Make sure they're able to help you with this step before you hire the firm.

If you're in search of an attorney to help you create your New York estate plan, contact the Brooklyn office of Michael F. Kanzer and Associates.

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What Not to Do When Considering Bankruptcy
Sunday, August 20th, 2017, 1:59 am
If you ever find yourself in a tight financial spot, you may discover that bankruptcy is the best option for you. As a solution to finding your way out of debilitating debt, bankruptcy has helped thousands of people regain control of their life. However, if you're considering filing for bankruptcy, there are a few things you'll want to avoid doing.

It can be easy to make mistakes when filing for bankruptcy. Let's check out a few of the biggest things you'll want to avoid if you find yourself considering bankruptcy.

Don't Use Credit Cards

Many people assume that once they file for bankruptcy, all charges on their credit cards will be wiped away. Unfortunately, continuing to use credit cards for luxuries, trips, clothing, and electronics will only dig you deeper into a financial hole. If the court feels like you're trying to take advantage of the bankruptcy process, you may still be on the hook for these expenses. As soon as you think bankruptcy may be in your future, stop using your credit cards.

Don't Transfer Property or Money

If you're about to file for bankruptcy, you may attempt to "protect" some of your assets by handing them off to a friend or family member. Unfortunately, this can also be perceived as trying to work your way around the bankruptcy process, potentially putting you in even more financial trouble. If you have assets you'd like to protect in the bankruptcy process, talk with your bankruptcy attorney about your options.

Don't Make Out of the Ordinary Deposits

If you're far in debt, you may have asked friends or family members for a bit of help paying off what you owe. While it's great if someone is willing to help you, a large deposit into your bank account could be suspicious to the bankruptcy process. Avoid making any out of the ordinary deposits when considering bankruptcy.

Always work with a trusted bankruptcy attorney when going through the bankruptcy process. For a free consultation about your New York City bankruptcy case, contact Michael F. Kanzer & Associates today.

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Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Overview for Brooklyn Residents
Sunday, July 16th, 2017, 1:33 am
Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be one of the best ways to get out of unmanageable debt, but it isn't an option for everyone. As a way to discharge your debt, Chapter 7 allows you to get out from under the weight of extremely high payments - but only if you properly qualify.
There are a number of rules you must comply with if you want to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you're considering this debt relief option, you'll want to know exactly what those rules and qualifications are.
Who is Eligible for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in New York?
As we mentioned, not everyone will qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In order for Chapter 7 to be a viable option for you, you need to make equal or below your state's median income. In the state of New York, that amount is around $55,000.
If you make more than the state minimum, you'll have to pass a "means test." The means test will look at your income and debts to determine whether or not you could realistically pay off your debts. If the bankruptcy court decides that you're unable to repay your debts with your current income, you may qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Who is Not Eligible for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
There are some other circumstances that may prevent you from being eligible for filing Chapter 7. For example, if you attempted to defraud creditors, you won't be able to discharge your debts through Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You will also not be able to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy if you do not attend credit counseling.
If you've filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the past, you may also be ineligible to discharge new debts. You are only eligible to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy once every eight years.
Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
If you're unsure of whether or not you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you'll want to talk with an experienced bankruptcy attorney. The Brooklyn bankruptcy lawyers at Michael F. Kanzer & Associates, P.C. can help you determine whether or not Chapter 7 bankruptcy is right for you. If you meet the qualifications, they can help you through the bankruptcy process to ensure you get out from the weight of your crushing debt.

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When to Update Your Estate Planning Documents in New York
Thursday, July 13th, 2017, 1:23 am
Many people believe that once their will has been created, they no longer need to worry about it. They simply lock it in a safe, storing it away without ever thinking about it again. Unfortunately, just having a will doesn't mean your assets and property are properly protected. There are certain life changes you may undergo that would cause you to need to change your plan.
But what could happen that would cause you to change your will? Let's take a look at a few of the most common situations that could call for a change.
Your family has grown. Whether you've recently gotten married or you've had a child, you want to ensure those individuals are properly included in your will. Edit your plan anytime each time you have a child.
Your family has gotten smaller. Unfortunately, divorce or death are both situations where your family can get a bit smaller. If the individuals listed in your will are no longer applicable, you'll want to make edits to ensure your assets get in the right hands.
You come into significant new assets. If you inherit a significant amount of cash, create a successful business, or otherwise come into a lot of cash or assets, you'll want to make a revision of your will. Make sure all your assets, cash and property are accounted for.
Your children reach adult age. If you have minor children, you likely have it stated in your will who should retain custody of them if you should pass away before they're able to legally take care of themselves. Once they reach the age of 18, you'll want to change this.
A significant amount of time has passed. If you haven't taken a look at your will in quite some time, it may just be time for a revisit and refresh. Schedule time every few years to go through your will and make any relevant changes.
A Brooklyn estate planning attorney can help you navigate the many changes that may call for a will change. For assistance creating or updating your will, contact the Brooklyn estate planning attorneys at Michael F. Kanzer & Associates, P.C.

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New York Estate Taxes, The New York Death Tax

If you own an estate in the state of New York, you need to be aware of the many taxes your estate may face after you pass away. Currently, you do not owe any federal tax on your estate unless your estate is over $5.49 million.

Unfortunately, this does not mean you're completely exempt from any taxes. You may still owe estate taxes on your New York property.

As of April 1, 2017, if your estate is worth more than $5.25 million, you may owe estate taxes. This number is set to rise in January of 2019. In 2019, the estate tax exemption will be equivalent to the federal tax amount and will continue to rise with the federal exemption amount from then on.

Understanding New York Estate Tax
Unlike other states, New York does not only tax you on the amount of the estate over the exemption amount. If the total amount of your estate is above the exemption amount, you will be taxed on the entire estate. This is frequently called the New York estate tax "cliff."

However, if you're leaving an estate behind for your spouse, you will not need to pay state or federal estate tax on the amount, even if it exceeds the exemption limit.

Finding the Value of Your Estate
When trying to find the value of your estate to know whether or not you're above the exemption amounts, you'll want to include a variety of assets and property. Things like real estate, vehicles, life insurance policies, retirement funds, and bank accounts all need to be counted in your estate.

Anything that you own at the time of your death will be considered part of your estate, even if it is in a living trust or has a beneficiary.

Talking to an estate planning attorney can help you structure your estate so that you and your family owe as little tax as possible. For help protecting your estate and creating a plan for your property and assets after you pass, contact the expert New York estate planning attorneys at Michael F. Kanzer & Associates.

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Discharging Certain Debts Through Bankruptcy in Brooklyn

There are many different terms thrown around when dealing with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. One of the most common terms you'll probably hear throughout the process is a "debt discharge." Let's take a look at a few of the most common questions surrounding a debt discharge.

What does a "discharge in bankruptcy" mean?

When a debt is discharged through bankruptcy, it means that the debtor is no longer required to pay that money back. A debt that has been discharged can no longer be collected on by your creditors, meaning debt collectors can no longer harass you for money related to that debt.

When is a debt discharged?

In order to have a debt legally discharged, there are a few different pathways you can take. First, with Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can get debts not covered after liquidation discharged from your account. Debts can also be discharged under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but not until the payment plan created under the bankruptcy process has been completed. However, not all debts can be discharged. Secured debts will not be discharged under any kind of bankruptcy.

What debts can be discharged?

Certain debts cannot be eliminated through discharge. Some of those debts include tax-related debts, fines and penalties owed to the government, spousal support, alimony and child support, government-funded education loans, and debts related to personal injury cases.

However, some of these debts are dischargeable under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan. Settlements from divorce and certain tax obligation debts can be discharged under Chapter 13 but not Chapter 7.

Can a debt discharge be revoked?

Although revoking a discharge is not common practice with bankruptcy, it can happen. A discharge is usually revoked if the court finds out that information was hidden from them or that certain documents were not provided during the original bankruptcy hearing. If the discharge was obtained fraudulently, it may be revoked.

It's important to always be upfront about your debts throughout the bankruptcy process. For assistance with your bankruptcy and to determine which debts may be able to be discharged, contact the expert bankruptcy attorneys at Michael F. Kanzer & Associates.
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