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).
If you are an executor or have a loved one whose estate is ripe for disputes among beneficiaries, the prospect of going through probate may not sit well with you. After all, the notion of heirs and other beneficiaries fighting over pieces of a person’s estate is not exactly the best way to honor a person’s memory. Indeed, it may not be as extreme as some celebrity family fights (e.g. Robin Williams’ family, Casey Kasum, George Michael), but having to fend off greedy people through probate is something to be avoided.
In our last post, we highlighted a few signs that a will could be forged. Forgeries are a critical legal basis for will contests. If a will is found to be forged, it could be held to be invalid because the forgery does not accurately or legally express the testator’s true intentions.
It is natural to be skeptical about a will that distributes property in an unconscionable manner. If an elderly loved one inexplicably leaves a majority of their estate to someone they hardly know, a new advisor with a sketchy past or a new, significantly younger flame, challenging a will in this context should be expected.
The probate process in New York is geared to be an orderly process in which the assets of a person who has recently passed away may be legally transferred to the person’s beneficiaries. While this process should be simple, it oftentimes is not. Essentially, disputes may arise over who actually is entitled to these assets, as well as whether other entities may have their legal claims against the deceased satisfied by making a claim against the estate.
It may be a bittersweet feeling to be chosen as a person’s executor. This largely means that you have garnered the respect and trust of the person (and their family) whose estate you are tasked to divide according to the person’s wishes. But like the old adage “with great power comes great responsibility,” there are a number of questions that an executor may have. For example, are there expenses that could (or will) reduce the estate’s value for tax purposes? Additionally, are there expenses that are tax deductible?
It is not surprising that little fanfare was made over the death of notorious cult leader Charles Manson when he passed away in October. After all, he was the personification of evil in America ever since he and several others were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in a number of murders in 1969.
For most people (and retailers), Thanksgiving is the gateway to the holiday season. This means that many gatherings involving family and friends will take place between now and the New Year. As we have noted in prior posts, family gatherings are prime opportunities to discuss estate planning.