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UFT retirees have access to free legal assistance

New York Teacher

A UFT retiree had bought his granddaughter a $900 dress for a dance recital and arranged to resell it for $600, but he found out the dress was ruined when he picked it up from the dry cleaner. The business at first refused to compensate the member, but it changed its tune when the retiree contacted the law firm that administers the UFT Welfare Fund Retiree Legal Plan with Elder Law Supplement.

A lawyer from the firm wrote a letter to the dry cleaner on behalf of the retiree. The retiree received a $600 check from the business shortly thereafter.

“The owner of that business knows that the average person is not going to hire a lawyer for hundreds of dollars an hour to go fight with a dry cleaner,” said Steven Kramer, a senior associate attorney at Feldman, Kramer and Monaco, the plan administrator.

In addition to having legal letters written on a UFT retiree’s behalf, the Retiree Legal Plan provides access to attorneys who can give advice, answer questions, review documents, prepare a will and more. Telephone advice and consultations are unlimited. All Retired Teachers Chapter members are automatically enrolled in the plan.

Retirees are entitled to two legal security packages a year that include forms for a health care proxy, a living will, durable power of attorney and a last will and testament. Spouses, registered domestic partners, parents and in-laws, and grandparents and in-laws are also included in the benefit.

The Elder Law Supplement covers health and estate planning services to help retirees and their family members maximize their eligibility for nursing home and home health care coverage while preserving assets.

The law firm often gets calls from retirees about home health care, Kramer said. New York is particularly generous with this type of benefit compared to other states because it looks to see if any assets have been transferred for less than fair market value only within the past month. But the state is likely to lengthen this “lookback period” at some point, potentially by 2025, so retirees should take advantage of the current law, he said.

“Everybody protects their cell phone, but their home is worth a lot more,” he said. “Protect your legacy.”

Another issue that retirees should attend to is updating their power of attorney form, Kramer said. New York State issued a new form in 2021. While the old form is still valid, it could cause a delay in a crisis if the recipient is not familiar with the older form and forwards it to their legal department for review, Kramer said. The law firm will draft a new power of attorney form and have it witnessed and notarized for free.

The Retiree Legal Plan sends out a newsletter three times a year and holds annual benefit update meetings to inform retirees of any changes in the plan and relevant laws. The booklet detailing the Retiree Legal Plan’s coverage that is sent to members when they retire is also updated and sent out every five years.

Visit uft.org/retiree-legal-plan for more details on the Retiree Legal Plan.

The legal plan’s national office is in Suffolk County on Long Island. Long Island and New York City residents can reach the law firm at 631-231-1450. Other New York State residents should call 800-832-5182. Outside New York State, call 800-292-8063. For Florida residents, there are two phone numbers: 954-424-1200 or 800-654-1945.

Related Topics: Retired Teachers