An interview with David A. Kubikian, Esq. from Herzog Law Firm about the history of Herzog Law Firm and how they are celebrating their 75th anniversary.

Let’s start at the beginning. Tell us how Herzog Law Firm got started and where you are located.

75 years ago, Jake Herzog returned home after serving in World War II, decided to start his own law firm, and officially opened the Herzog Law Firm doors in 1946. With a core value of providing exceptional legal services to its clients, the firm has evolved through the years as has the community it has served. Since then, Herzog has used a client-centered approach to help guide clients of all types from individuals and families to businesses and corporations. As a full-service law firm, we can handle everything from estate planning, elder law, and family law to commercial litigation, real estate law, corporate law, and more.

Our flagship office is now located in Albany, in the Corporate Woods Office Park at 7 Southwoods Boulevard. To be more accessible and to better serve the Capital Region area, we also have offices in Saratoga Springs, Clifton Park, and Kingston.

How has Herzog Law Firm evolved over its 75 years of existence?

About 30 years ago, we developed a niche area of practice centered around Estate Planning, Elder Law, and Estate Administration. We continued to grow over the years in this area because of our client-centered approach.  We know how difficult estate planning can be and we do everything we can to make it easier on our clients.  We make a point to get to know them and their families while preparing and implementing a plan that addresses their individual needs and circumstances. We are committed to preserving and protecting the assets clients have acquired during their lifetime.

Since we opened our doors, the average person’s life expectancy has increased by 15 years. That fact along with changes in tax laws and long-term care programs has made estate and long-term care planning a more important part of life. Today, Herzog Law Firm’s Estate Planning and Long-Term Care Planning practice is one of the area’s largest. But it’s not our only focus, our goal is to be able to handle an array of legal matters for our clients, their children, and their parents.

Why is it so important to have an estate plan?

We get a version of this question all the time.  The simple answer is that your estate planning documents will make sure that your wishes are carried out when the inevitable happens. It can also act as a safety net to help preserve the value of your assets and make it easier for your heirs.

Some people are intimidated by the idea of creating an estate plan.  But, it’s really just a way to put your wishes down on paper in a way that they can be followed.   A basic estate plan includes documents to help answer questions like: Who gets what? When do they get it? How do they get it? Who has Power of Attorney? The answers to questions like these are what helps your adviser craft a plan for you and your family.   The ironic part is that people have life insurance because they know they won’t live forever but they fail to create an estate plan which deals with the inevitable as well.

People today seem to spend more time planning a family vacation or choosing their next car than they do on estate planning. Estate Planning is obviously not as fun as either of those activities, but it’s time well spent. Without a plan in place, settling your estate could have a long-term and costly impact on your loved ones, even if you don’t have an expensive home, a large portfolio or valuable personal items to hand down.

The top reasons for having an estate plan are:

1. Choosing Beneficiaries (e.g., your loved ones – typically spouse & children)

One of the most important parts of estate planning is choosing your beneficiaries. In fact, that is the whole purpose of having an estate plan.  Who gets what when you are gone.  Without an estate plan, that choice may be made by the laws of New York.   Those laws do not take into account your wishes or your relationships.  They certainly won’t take into account wishes to leave assets to people who are not close family members like a friend, charities, or other good causes.

2. Protects Young Children

If you are a parent of a young child, it’s especially important to plan for the unthinkable to protect them if both parents die before they turn 18? Who would you want to care for them that will love them like you do? It’s important to officially name a guardian(s) because, without a will that states your choice, the courts will step in to decide who will raise your children.

3. Protects Assets in case of Long Term Care Needs

The biggest threat to your estate plan is not necessarily infighting but instead is how big the size of your pie is. That is, what do your beneficiaries actually receive?  Long-term care costs in the latter stages of life may reduce your hard-earned assets in devastating ways and a proper plan is needed to prevent losing everything when long-term care needs strike.

4. Protects the Estate from Potential Taxes

Essential to estate planning is transferring assets to heirs with an eye toward creating the smallest possible tax burden for them. Estate Planning can help you reduce the amount of federal and state estate taxes, state inheritance taxes and possibly even reduce the amount of income tax beneficiaries might have to pay. Without a plan, Uncle Sam could end up receiving the lion’s share of your estate.

5. Protects the Family from Fighting

We’ve all heard the stories– a parent dies and the war between the family members begins. Stopping fights before they start is another great reason to have an estate plan. You can choose who you want to control your finances and assets if you become mentally incapacitated and/or after you die.

You can also detail how your estate will be divided among heirs. For example, you can arrange for a child with health problems or to set up a trust for one who might be better off not inheriting a lump sum. Or perhaps you want to leave more to the child who did most of the work of caring for you in your later years or less to the one who you had to bail out financially over the years.

6. When should someone consider a trust when making an estate plan?

There is no specific time that someone should consider a trust.  There are many types of trusts – -too many to name here so just like getting a dental cleaning or a physical at a Doctor’s office, it would be a good idea to meet with a estate planning attorney to see what types of documents, trust or otherwise, can help you reach your goals.

That being said, most of our clients who are interested in trusts are looking for one that will protect their assets just in case they have future long-term care needs.  Its commonly referred to as Medicaid Asset Protection.  The idea is to make sure your assets pass as per your plan while avoiding Probate (time-consuming and expensive Court-supervised administration of one’s estate) and protecting assets from being included in devastating Medicaid look-back periods, all while keeping control of your assets.  As you can imaging, the devil is in the details.   For these types of trusts, a common age that people will start the conversation is in their late fifties and up.

7. Enough legal questions, how are you planning to celebrate your 75th year?

We have thought long and hard about the right way to celebrate.  COVID put an end to any discussions about a party and we’re OK with that because we really wanted to focus on helping our communities and have planned various activities throughout the anniversary year to engage our employees, the community, and our clients.

We are supporting a number of area non-profits; in particular, the Alzheimer’s Association, as the presenting sponsor and with teams participating in several of their Walk to End Alzheimer’s events. We are also supporting local community senior centers including the Colonie Senior Center, Saratoga Senior Center, and Queensbury Senior Center.  Last but definitely not least, we are hosting a blood drive at our Albany office on August 25th and at our Kingston office on August 26th.