We all know there is nothing more important than our families – more specifically how we protect those closest to us. Last Tuesday evening, October 12, I joined Jennifer Martin, Funeral Director at Schwartz Bros.-Jeffer Memorial Chapels and Parkside Memorial Chapels, a division of Dignity Memorial, for an informational seminar held at The Upper Crust restaurant on how to plan the final arrangements for loved ones. Those gathered, including couples, widows, and singles of varied ages, gathered to learn simple steps to plan ahead.

“Our community has been hit with so many tragic episodes, of recent, that I felt attending this colloquium might bring my wife and me some piece of mind,” related one Kew Gardens Hills resident.

“It makes me feel good to educate people, and this is one of my first post-COVID appearances,” said Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq., CELA, a widely recognized, certified elder law attorney. “We will cut our consult fee in half for the next week for those taking part in this program.”

Fatoullah, who has been very successful in estate planning, explained that elder law considerations are easy to pull off and should not be pushed off for when an emergency arises. He discussed New York Medicaid laws and its advantages for family members, including when it is best to sign up. Fatoullah was quick to note that there is currently no lookback period in effect and that one is not in play for community-based care. “We work hard to make the Medicaid application for home care,” said the noted lawyer. For nursing home care, there is a five-year lookback period. “Remember, if you have Medicaid, you can go to any nursing home in the area.” Regarding lookbacks, Fatoullah continued, “Now, you can preserve any amount of money. Next April, a 30-month lookback period is scheduled to be imposed.”

Other topics discussed were long-term care insurance and when it is best to act, especially regarding Medicaid planning. The costs were another hot topic, as well as when a lifetime policy should be drawn. Fatoullah chatted about the use of a Power of Attorney and how such a document can be abused. “Banks will not use a POA if it is messy looking.” He then mentioned the concern about a liability affidavit of full force and effect that is used to ensure an individual is alive.

When planning your estate, you are planning for your future and preserving your assets for the benefit of others. Doing so will reduce estate taxes, protect personal autonomy, and maintain financial independence. Fatoullah offered advice on creating a Living Will, Last Will and Testament, and the benefits it provides.

Ronald Fatoullah and Associates operates five branches, with one here in Queens and others in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Great Neck, and Cedarhurst.

“There is no obligation to make final arrangements, but it is best to start the conversation,” stated Scott Hoffer, Dignity Memorial Presenter. In articulating the celebration of life, Hoffer discussed the events that bring upon the most stressful experiences. “We plan for important events like weddings, college education, and retirement. We also insure ourselves against things that may happen, like a vehicle accident, a personal injury, or a medical emergency. Doesn’t it make sense to plan for the inevitable?” questioned Hoffer as he interacted with the audience.

“Planning can protect your loved ones from having to make important decisions during a stressful time. It also helps protect against second-guessing what you may have wanted and, of course, against the rising costs involved in final arrangements,” added Hoffer.

In discussing the various steps for a funeral and to show that one truly cares, Hoffer suggested that people should inform their loved ones of their wishes and to keep copies of planning documents in a safe filing cabinet at home with awareness of loved ones. He revealed that any legal, religious, or other healthcare information should also be retained similarly. “It is of utmost importance to provide you and your family with peace of mind and protect your loved ones from financial burden. Following these steps will ensure your arrangements reflect your wishes. It is a wise decision.”

Jennifer Martin took the podium to offer other advice. “It is best to pre-plan, especially with regard to funerals that include a burial in Israel and other similar trips.” Martin added, “At our funeral home, we look for ways to give back to the community from various kinds of donations, including the contribution of our sofas to families in need.”

A provider like Dignity Memorial offers some of the highest standards and guaranteed satisfaction in the industry. Amenities offered include protection when away from home, grief counsel, bereavement travel, post-funeral programs for loved ones, and communal education.

Credit is also due to Chastity De Oleo of Dignity Memorial for her efforts in organizing the program and to Angelo Ambrosino, Marketing Manager for Dignity.

By Shabsie Saphirstein