Most people who create their estate plans do so with the thought that siblings or other loved ones will come together and share in the gifts and assets that were left behind. Such optimism is noble, but it does not always work out this way. While siblings and competing loved ones may appear to have love and compassion for one another, things may change quickly after a matriarch or patriarch passes away.
Estate planning is an exercise to ensure that our personal property is distributed to our heirs and beneficiaries in the way we see fit. For a myriad of reasons, this may be difficult for those choosing to leave property and assets to loved ones. At the same time, beneficiaries may have vastly different ideas about what they should be entitled to even though a will may have been drafted.
As estate administration attorneys, it is very interesting to see what family members learn about someone after they pass away. Perhaps there are long-standing, clandestine relationships or personal achievements the deceased was too humble to share. Regardless of the family secrets that come out when a loved one passes away, insurance information should not be one of them.
Estate planning in 2016 is not like how other generations planned how their assets would be distributed when they passed away. Indeed, people still establish wills and different forms of trusts, but with so many people having digital assets (i.e. email accounts, social media data and electronically stored information) it is important to know what to do with these assets when a person passes away.
With tax season in full swing, it is not just tax payers who are concerned about filing taxes. The confusion over how to complete tax forms may not go away for executors tasked with administering an estate. Obscure and dense tax forms can be vexing; especially for those who do not regularly deal with them.
If there are two things that remain constant through generations, they are the certainties of debt and death. Everyone has debt at some point in their lives, and everyone has an end to their life. Those who are up in age may be concerned about the amount of debt they have and whether they can pay it off before leaving this life. Additionally, they don’t want to be a financial burden on their families and don’t have the mental health or emotional stamina to deal with creditors.
Cameras on smartphones arguably changed the world. As a new form of communication, we can send an infinite number of pictures to show what we mean beyond the spoken word. We can also take and send videos of fun, tragic and even intimate moments. We can also record events that have particular legal significance.
If you have learned that you have been named an executor to a loved one’s estate, congratulations. Being an executor means that the person who wrote their will saw you as someone who is responsible enough to wind up their affairs and distribute their property accordingly. Indeed, being an executor is an honor of sorts, but it is not necessarily an easy job; especially with large estates that have a large number of beneficiaries.
If a loved one’s will is poised to enter probate and you discover that a substantial amount of money has been left for the care of a family pet, it probably is not a misprint or a basis to challenge the will due to lack of capacity. Instead it is likely evidence of a growing trend.
To bring a successful will contest, it is important to know the basic requirements for a will to pass probate in New York state. Essentially, a valid will must exhibit mental capacity by the testator (the person making the will), testamentary intent (exhibited by the intent to make the document their expression of how they want their property distributed), and testamentary capacity (aged 18 or older).