Articles Posted in Estate Planning

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A dispute involving the family of the late Gil Scott-Heron, a Grammy award-winning musician and poet, entails numerous allegations of illegal actions in an effort to seize control of his multimillion dollar estate.

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While most family estate disputes in Great Neck don’t involve famous singer-songwriters, bitter accusations can quickly dissolve relationships, as well as any chance of peacefully resolving the issues at hand. This is why it is important to have a New York family law attorney at your side.

In this case, reports the

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Fortune Magazine recently published an article about hidden traps that a person can run into while preparing their will.

And while it’s possible that an individual can put together a will on their own, this isn’t necessarily the best idea. First of all, a person who isn’t trained in New York estate planning won’t know the ways to best avoid taxes, handle complexities of leaving assets and setting up an executor and how to best protect your legacy.
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As our New York Will And Estate Lawyers reported recently, a survey found that 60 percent of Americans believe that having a will in place or planning an estate is important, yet they don’t do it themselves.

Let’s face it — planning out your demise isn’t the best of times. But it’s a necessary step for any adult, especially one with minor children. Even if a person doesn’t have millions of dollars to leave behind, they have assets. A house, car, collectibles, even old keepsakes that mean something to family members. Proper documentation will lay out where those assets will go. Having a properly planned estate can give you peace of mind — and make it easier on the family when you pass.

And for those with children, a will is critical. While New York intestate laws will make sure a child or children end up with family, it may not be the best scenario. Plus, there’s the issue of where life insurance money or assets will go to make sure the child is taken care of financially. These are complex issues.

The article by Fortune Magazine states that an improperly filed will can lead to a person disinheriting their beneficiaries from a big portion of an estate. A 401(k) plan automatically goes to the spouse’s survivor, even if the account was started before the two got married. In some situations, 401(k) money can be moved to someone else with a spouse’s waiver.

Another issue is an IRA account. A will may not be able to address who gets an IRA account at the time of death, as whoever was named as a beneficiary at the time the IRA was started may end up collecting, even if it’s an ex from decades ago. This can lead to estate litigation in New York and contested wills.

Reviewing these documents, at the time you decide to consult with a Great Neck Estate Planning Lawyer, can go a long way toward avoiding confusion and frustration at the time of your death. Leaving these matters unchecked can cause in-fighting and lead to bitterness among your beneficiaries, something most people wouldn’t want to have happen.

Clearly, these matters are complex. This area of law has many requirements and must be handled with extreme care. As they say, the only guarantees in life are death and taxes and no one knows when death will happen. So, it would be prudent for you to put together these documents as soon as possible and plan for your family’s benefit. And if there are changes in the future, a lawyer can go back over these documents and figure out the best ways to keep them updated.
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Trouble British singer Amy Winehouse’s passing brought much news media attention to her use of drugs, including the song she wrote about not attending rehab.

But what has been lost in the news coverage is her smart estate planning before her death. And as a 27-year-old, it’s important to note that anyone — rich or middle class — should lay out documents that tell what should happen to their assets when they die. A will should be laid out now rather than waiting so your family can avoid a New York contested will upon death.
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According to a recent U.S. News & World Report article, Winehouse’s assets topped $16 million and she has a will in place that directed her assets to her parents and brother rather than her ex-husband, who is in prison. Many consider the ex-husband the man who introduced her to hard drugs. But the English legal system favors ex-spouses in probate matters.

As the New York Business Litigation Attorney Blog reported this summer, a survey found that 60 percent of Americans believe that all adults should have a will or estate planning documents in place. But the survey also found that only 44 percent of those surveyed followed their own advice.

The media have reported on celebrities who have left their estates in shambles, but it can happen just as easily to the everyday citizen. Regardless of how much money a person has or what they have left to leave to surviving relatives, these documents are critical.

The U.S. News & World Report article provides five strategies to help avoid financial stress:

Write a will: A recent AARP survey found than a third of Americans over 50 don’t have a will, living trust or power of attorney in place. There are many valuables a person can leave to survivors, from a retirement account, house, nice car or collectibles that should be put down on paper. It should be updated once every couple years.

Create a trust: A living trust may help people avoid New York estate tax as well as federal taxes that can take a huge chunk of value out of a person’s assets.

Specify funeral preferences: One of the most contested issues of dealing with a family member’s death is how to distribute their remains and it can cause turmoil. A will is a good place to lay out the preferences, which can vary greatly in costs.

Get help online: Web-based help is available for estate planning, but many websites lack all the specific pieces that a New York Estate Planning Lawyer can ensure are handled. Having something is better than nothing, but it may not be complete. Consulting an experienced lawyer can be done economically and is the best option.

Work with a pro: A New York Will and Trust Lawyer can advise the best way to set up a living will or trust and help determine who should be executor of the estate.

While planning for death is no one’s idea of a great day, it is essential. For parents, it is even more essential. These documents should lay out where minor children upon death of the parents should go and for adult children, what they will inherit. Left undetermined, these issues can cause strife and turmoil that can linger for years.
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A new study found that a majority of Americans recognize the importance of setting up a will or estate planning, yet few have the necessary documents in place, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Planning a will or establishing a trust is an important step for anyone, regardless of age. People tend to think that putting together a will or planning a trust or estate is a far-off duty, one that can be put off. But death can happen at any time and people must prepare to divide their assets among surviving family members so they aren’t forced to squabble about it after you die. If not handled properly in life, survivors may turn to a contested will in New York to straighten things out. That can be contentious and cause hurt feelings and anger in a family that can be settled with proper planning.
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According to the survey, 60 percent of Americans surveyed believe all adults should have a will or estate planning documents in place, yet only 44 percent reported they have that paperwork readied. Yet more than one third — about 36 percent — with minor children don’t believe that wills or estate plans are among the most important documents to have on hand. Rather, they believe that birth certificates (76 percent) and titles and deeds for property and vehicles (70 percent) are more critical.

While 75 percent of parents with children in the household understand that a court will decide who the children’s legal guardian becomes if there is no will at the time of both parents’ deaths, shockingly only 39 percent have any estate planning documents in place.

“The 2011 EZLaw Wills & Estate Planning survey shows parents may not be taking the necessary steps to ensure their wishes for the care of their children and estate are followed in the event that both parents were to pass, for example due to an accident,” said David Palmieri, vice president and managing director of Marketing and Consumer Solutions at LexisNexis.

Some of the common reasons given for not making a will or estate planning a priority vary. About 37 percent of those surveyed cited a focus on “essentials,” such as paying bills and buying groceries, as the top reason for not planning for their assets. Other reasons include:

  • Not necessary (18 percent)
  • Too complicated to deal with right now (16 percent)
  • Too expensive (14 percent)
  • Belief that their spouse and children will automatically receive any assets they have (13 percent)
  • Too time consuming (6 percent)

Americans 18-34 years old are more likely to report they are more concerned with their health (64 percent), having money to retire (52 percent) and maintaining their weight (51 percent) rather than protecting their financial assets (44 percent). One in five Americans in that age range believe that wills are less important because people live longer, healthier lives.
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CNN recently reported that a Queens woman left nearly all of her life savings to Family Radio and its owner Harold Camping, shunning her family in the process.

Trust and Estate Lawyers have seen many times where a loved one dies and family members are left frustrated and angry because the loved one has left their money to an outside business or organization. In some cases, outside influences on an elderly person can be an avenue for estate fraud and contested wills in New York City. Whether trying to set up a trust and estate or seeking a court challenge after a will has been produced, our firm has decades of experience in these areas of law.
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The Queens woman left nearly her entire estate — about $300,000 — to the group that failed to predict that Jesus would return to Earth on May 21. According to Camping, the radio station’s founder, the event would be marked by a massive earthquake, where believers would be sent to heaven and non-believers would be left to toil on the land for five months until the complete end of the world. But, as most have noted, his prediction didn’t come true. He now has said his calculations were off and Oct. 21 is the new correct judgment day.

His group of followers spent months buying billboard advertisements worldwide, driving around the United States in RVs and buses warning people of the judgment day and telling of the endtimes on his radio station.

The woman’s relatives are upset not because their aunt left them $25,000 each compared to the money sent to the non-profit group, but that had she been alive to witness the failed prediction, she might not have given all her money to the group. The California-based organization is almost entirely funded by donations and brought in $18 million in contributions in 2009, alone, CNN reported.

The woman, who died in May 2010, would listen to the radio station all day, her relatives said, and it comforted her listening to the promises of heaven. But the relatives, who called Camping “crazy” are just upset that he has gotten so much money while other family members are struggling to get by.

Contesting a will in New York is a complex process and many factors must be taken into consideration before making such a move. The best advice is to consult with a trust and estate lawyer who can advice you on the best course of action.

For a will to be contested successfully, you must have proper legal standing and a genuine belief that there was something wrong in the documentation or the preparation of the will, such as:

While you need legal standing to contest a will, you also need a reason to do so. That means you must have the genuine belief that something was seriously wrong in the way the will was executed. Reasons to contest a will include might include such factors as your belief that:

  • A mistake was made in writing the will
  • The testator – the person whose will is in dispute – was coerced or unduly influenced by someone else
  • Fraud has taken place
  • The testator wasn’t mentally capable of making decisions and conducting business when they executed the will

If any of these factors are present, you may have a case to contest a will. If you are in that position, call our firm today so we can help.
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Huguette Clark inherited what some estimate to be a $3 billion fortune from her father and now that the reclusive heiress has died and the handling of her fortune is the subject of a criminal investigation, it’s possible that survivors could contest her will.

Clark was 104 when she passed away at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, where she spent most of her recent years, The New York Times reports.

Clark spent many years away from outsiders and much of the last few decades she lived in hospitals despite owning a 42-room apartment on Fifth Avenue, an oceanfront estate in Santa Barbara, California and a country manor in New Canaan, Connecticut.
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It’s possible now that Clark has died survivors could contest her will. While she had no children, half great-nieces and nephews as well as others who descended from her father’s first marriage are still alive as well as descendants of her mother’s siblings. Estate and contested will lawyers have decades of experience handling this type of law. While most don’t want to think about the death of a loved one, it is inevitable and requires planning.

Clark’s odd lifestyle, including an ongoing investigation into her accountant and lawyer, make the story fascinating to the public. MSNBC.com, which did an extensive series into the circumstances of her fortune, reported recently that no funeral service was held and her attorney banned family members from her entombment.

The Times’ obituary points out that last August, the Manhattan district attorney’s office began investigating the handling of her finances, which are managed by an attorney and accountant for more than a decade. Before death, Clark gave the attorney’s granddaughter a $10,000 dollhouse and donated $1.5 million to the attorney’s daughter and family in Israel. The estate’s handlers told the media they have handled her finances as she wished.

The elderly are especially susceptible to estate fraud. That’s why estate litigation in New York can be so important. Disputes regularly crop up after the death of a loved one, especially one who is wealthy. Contesting a will over suspected fraud requires a dedicated team of attorneys. If keeping family issues out of the public eye is an option, that will be our first priority. But while many of these disputes can be handled without court interference, some can’t.
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