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Will Challenge

Saturday, May 18, 2019

How Can I Become an Administrator or an Executor of an Estate?


Probate or Administration: In New York, if the decedent had a Will and had assets that did not pass by operation of law (such as joint property with rights of survivorship or accounts with beneficiary designations), then the Will must be "probated" and an Executor must be appointed. If the decedent did not have a Will and had assets that did not pass by operation by law, then an Administrator must be appointed.

Who can file a Petition: In order to bring a petition of Probate or Administration to court, you must have standing. If the decedent had a Will, then the nominated Executor will be the one filing the petition. If there is no Will, then SCPA 1001 determines who has priority in becoming the Administrator of the Estate.

Read more . . .


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Adoption Ends Inheritance Rights of Biological Family


Once a person is adopted (either as a child or as an adult) all inheritance rights of the biological family of the decedent are terminated.


In the past, prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage, many partners in same-sex relationships adopted each other, to create a legal recognition of the relationship. Adoption also happens often during second marriages, when one biological parent has either died or abandoned the child. Adoption also frequently happens now by grandparents adopting their own grandchildren, whom they are raising full time, because the biological parents are either in jail or addicted to drugs.


When adoption happens, all past biological relationship is terminated for the purpose of inheritance.


Read more . . .


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Presumption of Revocation of Lost Will is Not Easy to Overcome


You must be very careful to store your Will properly, otherwise, if it cannot be found, the court is likely to consider it revoked and your assets will be distributed in accordance with intestacy rules.


In recent case In Re Scollan (2018), in which a valid Will could not be found, the court ruled that a presumption of revocation of the Will was not overcome.


There is a strong presumption that a Will known to be in the decedent's possession that cannot be located after the decedent's death was destroyed by the decedent with the intent to revoke. The retention of a copy of the Will by the decedent's attorney, decedent's statements regarding testamentary intentions, and suspicion that the Will was fraudulently destroyed (without supporting facts and circumstances) are not sufficient to overcome the presumption.


If you are afraid that your Will is at risk of being lost or destroyed (due to memory issues, the behavior of omitted beneficiaries, or any other reason), then your Will should be stored either in your attorney's office, a safe deposit box, or with a trusted friend.


Read more . . .


Saturday, March 23, 2019

7 Tips for Keeping Trusts Flexible in a Rapidly Changing World

One hundred years ago there were no commercial airplanes, women couldn't vote, the average family had 5 children, divorce was rare, children born outside of marriage had no inheritance rights, and surrogacy was virtually unheard of. In 2019 we have same-sex marriage, flexible gender identity, assisted reproductive technologies, digital assets, cryptocurrencies and an epidemic of lonely seniors. What will our society be like in 20 years?  The pace of change is increasing, so while you draft your documents today, make sure that these documents are sufficiently flexible to adapt to our unknown future.  


Read more . . .


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes That Everyone Can Learn From

James Gandolfini: No Need to Pay Extra Taxes

The actor and producer most renowned for his role as mafia boss Tony Soprano left only 20% of the estate to his wife. The remainder was left to his children, friends, and relatives. Since his estate was above the estate tax threshold, the result was that approximately 55% of the estate's money went to pay the taxes and fees! 

He could have avoided this onerous payment. It would have been done by gifting assets during life, leaving more money to his wife directly (there is an unlimited marital deduction for a US citizen spouse) or by setting up a specialized trust which gave income for life to his spouse but left her with no control to dispose of the assets upon her death. 

Either way, with proper planning, millions of taxes could have been avoided. 


Read more . . .


Thursday, January 3, 2019

CryptoWills: What They Are and How They Work


More than 50% of the adults in the US do not have a Will. Most assume that that they do not have enough assets to bother with one, or that they will write one when they are older. Yet dying without a Will results is going to result in the person’s assets being divided in accordance with the state’s laws rather than the person’s own wishes. As a result, not having a Will leads to delays, expenses, and family battles, not to mention hours of headaches and paperwork..


Read more . . .


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Was your aunt unduly influenced by her neighbor when she transferred her house to him?


Issue of undue influence comes up often in the context of contested probate proceedings. A relative dies, and when the heirs start going through the estate of the dearly beloved, it turns out that there is not much left. Apparently 3 months before her death the aunt transferred her $2MM Manhattan apartment to a next door neighbor. And she named that same neighbor as a beneficiary on her $1MM IRA account and on her $500K life insurance policy. The question then arises – were these transfers made out of free will or were these the result of undue influence?

Undue influence requires a finding that a person was restrained from acting independently, or was constrained to do that which was against her free will and desire.
Read more . . .


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Spell the name of the Witness to Your Will


In New York, every Will must be witnessed by at least two witnesses. When the Will gets probated in Surrogate Court, the names of the Witnesses must be listed on the Probate Petition. Therefore, the Executor of the Will has a real problem when the signatures of the Witnesses are illegible and no other information about them is available.

When the Witnesses were the Testator’s friends, it may be possible to figure out their names based on familiarity with the Testator. Even then, there are usually other problems that arise when the Testator executed his Will without a lawyer.
Read more . . .


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Revising Your Will Based on Changes in Law and Changes in Facts


It is important to revisit your documents at least once every 5 years. As the tax law changes constantly, the documents created in the past may no longer be the most efficient ones. As your family situation changes, your Will may become completely outdated.

Changes in Law

In the past, estate tax threshold used to be $1MM. Anything above that amount would be taxed at 40%.
Read more . . .


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Second Marriages: Causes of Family Strife!

When spouses divorce, there are often children left from first marriage. When one of the spouses remarries, he should be very careful that the children from the first marriage do not get disinherited.

The second spouse, who is often much younger and less financially secure, may exert pressure on her husband to provide for her in the event of his death.  The second spouse may have new children, whom the father sees on a daily basis. Simultaneously, the remarried husband may not see the children from first marriage as often (due to geography or ill-feelings from both sides).


Read more . . .


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Update your estate documents – or face unpleasant surprises!

In a recent case that I saw, a woman lived together with a man for approximately 10 years. She loved him very much and wrote a Will, leaving all of her assets to him. They never married.

Eventually, the couple separated. After a couple of years, the woman began dating another man.


Read more . . .


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