Sep 24, 2017

Funnyman Jerry Lewis' will no laughing matter for children from first marriage

Jerry Lewis died of heart failure in August at age 91. Throughout the years the comedian gave generously of time and money to “Jerry’s Kids,” children coping with muscular dystrophy. However, Lewis did not show the same generosity to his biological children from his first marriage: He cut them out of his estate. His 2012 will, now public record, states: “I have intentionally excluded Gary Lewis, Ronald Lewis, Anthony Joseph Lewis, Christopher Joseph Lewis, Scott Anthony Lewis, and Joseph Christopher Lewis and their descendants as beneficiaries of my estate, it being my intention that they shall receive no benefits hereunder.” 

Joseph, the youngest, committed suicide in 2009. The surviving sons, all with his first wife, Patti Palmer, are now in their 50s.  Lewis married Palmer in 1944, a few years before his star rose meteorically as a result of his partnership with Dean Martin. The 36-year marriage reportedly was not smooth; Lewis admitted he had often been unfaithful. His relationship with his children was apparently not much better. When Joseph died, the sons reportedly blamed their father. Gary told the Daily Mail: “Jerry Lewis is a mean and evil person. He was never loving and caring toward me or my brothers.” Gary maintained that his brother had died, in part, of a broken heart, and that the tragedy might have been averted if his father had reached out to him.

Also disinherited: Suzan Minoret, born in 1952 and allegedly the product of an affair. Lewis never confirmed or denied fatherhood. Minoret is currently homeless and living in Philadelphia.  

According to the will, Lewis’ current wife SanDee Pitnick, who he married in 1983, will get everything. Their adopted daughter, Danielle, is next in line. She was her father’s manager and their relationship was very different from the one Lewis had with his sons. In an interview with Inside Edition, Lewis spoke of his pride in Danielle and his close bond with her. “I don’t have to do anything for her to love me. She loves me already,” he told the interviewer.

There are varying estimates of Lewis’ estate. The cash seems shockingly low, perhaps $2 million, including a house in Las Vegas. But there is supposedly also a Lewis Family Trust. Since Lewis owned his most famous films, there could very well be movie rights flowing through the trust that could be very lucrative for Pitnick and Danielle in the future.

Sep 15, 2017

Reverse Mortgage Borrowers Face New Rules Effective October 2, 2017

The Trump Administration has rolled out new rules for federally backed HECM (Home Equity Conversion Mortgage) reverse mortgages.  The new rules go into effect October 2, 2017 and will affect new borrowers only. A reverse mortgage allows a person age 62 and over to borrow against his/her home’s equity without having to pay back the loan until the borrower moves, passes away or sells. Many seniors with equity in their homes turn to reverse mortgages to generate needed cash in retirement.

For the typical borrower, the new rules increase the upfront cost of the loan while decreasing the amount of funds available. The main changes are:

  • The initial mortgage insurance premium for all borrowers will be 2%. Prior to the new rule, borrowers tapping less than 60% of home equity in the first year paid an initial premium of .5%, and those borrowing more than 60% paid 2.5%.
  • For all borrowers, the ongoing annual premium will drop  from 1.25% to .5% of the outstanding mortgage balance.
  • The amount that borrowers may access, while still pegged to age and ongoing interest rates, will decline for most. At current interest rates, the average borrower will be able to tap about 58% of the value of the home, down from 64%.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, these changes are needed to ensure the continued viability of the federal reverse mortgage program. Last year, the economic value of the program was negative $7.7 billion. Without these changes, a bailout from Congress would have been necessary.

Seniors should exercise caution when considering a reverse mortgage. Without sufficient information, a reverse mortgage can place a borrower in significant financial peril. Read more about deceptive reverse mortgage advertising here.

Read more about the October 2 changes to the HECM program here. 

Read HUD information on federally backed reverse mortgages here.

Sep 12, 2017

"Elder Orphans" Need to Plan

The future of America's "elder orphans" is getting increasing attention as we live longer, many of us without the support of a spouse, children, or other close relatives. The 2012 U.S. Census reveals that about  one third of adults ages 45 to 63 are single, a 50% increase from 1980. About 19% of women ages 40-44 have no children, as compared to 10% in 1980. More women than men are likely to stay, or become single. About 80% of women are single after age 85.

Elder orphans obviously face many challenges, not the least of which is who will care for them as they age. Maria Torroella Carney, Chief of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center and North Shore University Hospital in New York, has been speaking out on the issue. She suggests those at risk of aging without a spouse and children should start thinking about lifestyle changes that address these challenges. Some of her suggestions appearing in a USA Today article are:
  • Identify an individual who can help make health care decisions for you. It could be a friend or a family member. Have a health care surrogate drawn up for you.
  • Think about where you will be living. Can you get to stores and activities if you can no longer drive?
  • Check out delivery services for medicines, groceries, etc.
  • Check out resources such as recreational facilities, classes and senior centers so that you can be socially active.
  • Think about relocating to be near those who can be supportive.
  • Consider “mending fences” with estranged family members, and reaching out to more distant relatives to establish relationships.

Elder advocate and author Carol Marak, herself aging without a spouse, partner or children, has put together a virtual community for elder orphans. Her Facebook support group welcomes what Marak calls the "solo ager" - individuals over age 55 without a spouse, and who do not receive any support from offspring. In a recent interview on National Public Radio's Here and Now, Marak says the Facebook group involves people "...mostly just sharing what they're feeling each day. We discuss transportation options, emotional things that might be affecting us, how we are feeling about not having children — although most of us are grateful to not have children, because we have members who have been really estranged from their families, which is hard. So, it's just a great place to come and feel accepted, and find friendship and connection. What's so wonderful is that when you start a discussion, you're always going to have someone participate. And you can also pull it offline if you wish, and private message someone, and then take it from there. Many of us are breaking off and starting our own face-to-face groups, which is really, I think, the next step for all of us." 

As of September 2017, the group had 6,357 members. You can listen to Marak's radio interview here.

The Karp Law Firm Offices Have Re-Opened

Sept. 12, 2017

We hope you and yours came through Hurricane Irma safely!

The Karp Law Firm Offices Are Now Open
Palm Beach Gardens - Boynton Beach - Port St. Lucie

We will be seeing everyone with a scheduled appointment. Phones and email are operational.

Please contact us if:
  • You wish to schedule an appointment at any of our offices.
  • You rescheduled your appointment due to the hurricane and would like an appointment sooner than the rescheduled date.

Palm Beach Gardens (561) 625-1100
Boynton Beach (561) 752-4550
Port St. Lucie (772) 343-8411

Thank you for your patience! 

The Attorneys & Staff of The Karp Law Firm

Sep 7, 2017


To ensure the safety or our clients and staff
The Karp Law Firm Offices will be CLOSED
Friday, September 8 and Monday, September 11

After the storm passes we will evaluate the situation. 
We hope to re-open on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

To protect the integrity of our office systems, our computers and phone system will be down during the storm. We will have limited ability to send and receive phone calls and emails. If you need to get in touch with us, try using this temporary email address, which we hope (but cannot guarantee) will be operational:

Thank you for your patience, and stay safe!

The Attorneys and Staff of The Karp Law Firm

Sep 4, 2017

Social Workers, Case Managers Attend Karp Law Firm Professional Workshops

In August the Karp Law Firm sponsored Breakfast Workshops for social workers and case managers. Over 100 professionals enjoyed breakfast, networked, and learned about changes in Medicaid and V.A. Benefits from speakers, Florida Bar Certified Elder Law Attorneys Joseph Karp and Genny Bernstein.

Thank you to the beautiful facilities who hosted these events: The Brennity at Tradition in Port St. Lucie; HarborChase in Palm Beach Gardens; and Allegro in Boynton Beach.

L-R: Kolette Koch, HarborChase Director of Life Enrichment; Attorney Genny Bernstein; Karp Law Firm Case Manager Deeanna Farrington; Irv Seldin of Visiting Angels; and Keven Carroll, HarborChase Marketing Director  

Karp Law Firm staff greet arrivals at HarborChase. L-R: Assistant Case Manager Zamara Rosete; Attorney Jonathan Karp; Firm Administrator Audrey Yeager; Attorney Joseph Karp

Attorney Joseph Karp speaks at The Brennity

Sep 3, 2017

MyRA retirement savings program now terminated

The Obama Administration introduced the myRA program in 2014. Designed to help low- to middle-income earners with no workplace retirement plans begin saving for retirement, the myRA program was open to married couples and individuals with adjusted gross incomes up to $191,000 and $129,000, respectively. The no-fee accounts were a type of Roth IRA that could be opened with as little as $25, and were backed up by Treasury Bonds.

Now, the Trump Administration is discontinuing the program, citing insufficient participation. According to the Treasury Department, 30,000 accounts were established since 2015, with investments totaling $34 million. With total administrative costs at $10 million annually, the program is considered too costly to continue.

At this point, those with existing myRA accounts can close their accounts, paying income taxes on any earnings. Or, they can roll over their accounts into a traditional Roth IRA. The Treasury Department has instructions on how to proceed. Click here for more information.

Aug 22, 2017

Luxe Living for Seniors a New Trend

While the majority of Americans worry about having enough money just to last their lifetime, there's a vastly smaller group with a different set of concerns: Ultra-wealthy seniors who live in luxurious surroundings, and want to keep it that way. It's that group that's starting to catch the eye of developers.

Enter a new housing market: upscale, boutique-style living that goes above and beyond the traditional senior living community in furnishings and services. Not surprisingly, Manhattan is where the new trend is getting its start.

For example, Bloomberg reports that Maplewood Senior Living, which owns assisted living properties nationwide, has invested with Omega Healthcare Investors to build luxury housing for aging individuals on 93rd Street and Second Avenue, on Manhattan’s east side. Assisted living, enhanced care and memory care units will be available. With high-end finishes and furnishings throughout, the 23-story building will have a doorman, movie theater, salon, spa, heated indoor swimming pool, library, and a skypark indoor garden on the 16th floor. Maplewood's own farm will supply food, so the property's various dining venues will provide farm-to-table gourmet fare. Staff, who will not wear clinical-looking clothing, will be able to arrange for Broadway tickets and restaurant reservations. The building is set to open in 2019.

I bet I know your next question. Here's the answer: Units start at $12,000 per month. 

Manhattan's midtown area, at Lexington Avenue and 56th Street, is also getting an upscale property for seniors. Welltower Inc. and Hines' 16-story project will feature luxury apartments with 10-foot ceilings. The developers are consulting with designers to produce an environment that is as safety-conscious as it is sumptuous. Carpet and wall colors and patterns will not be too contrasting or confusing. Handrails will be integrated with hallway wainscotting. During the day, hallway lighting will have a blueish cast to promote wakefulness; in the evening, it will have a yellow tint to promote sleep. Bloomberg reports that rent for some units will exceed $20,000 per month.

Can you afford this kind of lifestyle but don't want to move to New York? Not to worry. Similar projects are being eyed for Miami, Los Angeles and London.

Aug 20, 2017

Forgotten about a financial asset? How to reclaim it

Even the most frugal and diligent among us can forget about fragments of our financial lives as the years pile up, we move from home to home, paperwork accumulates and gets misplaced or thrown out. These forgotten fragments may include bank accounts of various types, mature savings bonds no longer gaining interest, brokerage accounts, insurance proceeds, etc. 

Once an asset has been dormant for a period of time, the financial institution is required to turn it over to the state. According to a recent article in Kiplingers, state treasuries and other agencies hold $40 billion in unclaimed property! And the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association reports that in 2011, states took in $5.8 billion in unclaimed property, and paid out $2 billion.

In Florida, a bank will consider your account dormant if there has been no activity for five years. Activity includes deposits, withdrawals, or communication of any type with the institution. For accounts opened after October 1, 1990, the bank is required to contact your beneficiary as the dormancy deadline approaches. If there is no beneficiary or the beneficiary cannot be reached, the institution must try contacting the owner within 180 days after the account becomes dormant. If there is no response, the asset is turned over to the  Florida Bureau of Unclaimed Property. (Other states have similar procedures, although dormancy periods may vary from state to state.)

But don't despair. Once turned over to the state, you can find your unclaimed property through a variety of search engines. Check these resources to see if you have any "lost" assets:

If you think you have lost or misplaced a savings bond, here’s a form you can fill out:

Obviously, it’s delightful to find "lost" money - but better not to lose it in the first place! Here are some tips for making sure you keep track of what you have. You will notice these practices are identical to good estate planning practices: 
  • Keep records up to date.
  • Make sure your beneficiary designations are up to date. 
  • Let key family members know what your assets are, and where they are. 
  • When you change your address, notify your financial institutions. 
  • If your name changes due to divorce or marriage, notify your financial institutions and your employer. 
  • Consolidate accounts. One reason assets get forgotten is because there are just too many of them. When possible, consider consolidating them so they are easier to track.

Aug 14, 2017

Estate of Star Wars' Carrie Fisher goes to probate

Carrie Fisher, daughter of late actress Debbie Reynolds and crooner Eddie Fisher, died from a heart attack on December 27 at age 60. When her mother died the following day, many were not surprised: Fisher and Reynolds had an exceptionally close, albeit conflicted, relationship.

Fisher shot to stardom as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars film, going on to continued success as an actress and writer. She amassed considerable wealth along the way, and leaves an estate estimated at $25 million to her only child, daughter Billie Lourd, 25.

Fisher's estate plan includes a living trust naming Lourd as sole beneficiary. However, not all of Fisher's assets were in the trust at the time of her death. The current trustee, attorney Dennis King, said Fisher was under the impression that her prior attorney, now deceased, had taken care of all the funding. Apparently, he did not. On February 28 King petitioned the court to have Fisher's non-trust assets placed in the trust. He later withdrew the request and last week, he filed Fisher's will with the Los Angeles Superior Court to begin probate of the non-trust assets.

The non-trust assets will also pass to Lourd. Those assets are said to be worth about  $7 million and include jewelry; a life insurance policy with Transamerica Occidental; a 2016 Tesla S car that currently sells for around $100,000; bank accounts; ownership in Carrie Fisher Properties and Carrie Fisher Online, both limited liability corporations; and all the proceeds from her mother's books, trademarks, copyrights, etc. Lourd will also get the proceeds from the sale of the house Fisher shared with Reynolds, now on the market and said to be worth about $18 million.

TMZ reports that Fisher also owned a large amount of Star Wars memorabilia. Much of it, along with some other personal items, will be auctioned in September 2017. Proceeds will go to Debbie Reynolds' pet charities: The Jed Foundation and The Thalians. Both organizations provide support to those with mental illness.

Unlike a trust, a will must be filed with the Probate Court, and is public record. Below, unfortunately somewhat fuzzy, is Fisher's last will and testament, as published on the Daily Mail website.

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