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New York Guardianship cases, like those in other states, control issues regarding persons who are incapacitated within the jurisdiction of the local State Court. Mental Hygiene Law (“MHL”) 81.05 provides that a Guardianship proceeding shall be commenced in the county where the person alleged to be incapacitated (AIP) resides or is physically located. Generally, if an AIP or a person who has been found to be incapacitated (IP) physically moves to another state, a proceeding in the new state needs to be commenced for a guardianship appointment. Since Guardianship appointment jurisdiction has historically been local, families have faced tremendous hardship and confusion when an AIP or IP moves or is taken from state to state.

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog recently discussed a new law contained in Article 83 of the MHL that allows New York to participate with other states in transferring or accepting out of state guardianships. Thus, under the new law, a New York Court may accept a proceeding for a guardian that is transferred from another state. See MHL 83.33. Continue reading →

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In New York it is very common that a person will own a cooperative or condominium apartment. The rights to the apartment may be part of a decedent’s administration estate where the decedent was the sole owner of the unit. In cases where the unit is held jointly, the ownership interest would pass automatically to the joint owner.

When a cooperative or condominium unit becomes a part of the estate, the Executor or Administrator is responsible for maintaining and disposing of the unit. Thus, monthly common charges and maintenance must be paid. Additionally, the unit may be subject to other issues. For example, the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman recently died in February 2014. At the time of his death the actor owned a condominium unit in the West Village. As reported at NYdailynews.com in an article by Barbara Ross on June 5, 2014, another unit owner sued the late actor’s estate alleging that a flood from the actor’s apartment caused extensive damage to their unit. Continue reading →

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A Guardian appointed under Article 81 of the New York Mental Hygiene Law (“MHL”) has many duties and responsibilities. As discussed in earlier posts in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog, an appointment can be for a Property Management Guardian and for a Personal Needs Guardian. Property Management guardian powers are set forth in MHL Section 81.21 and the personal needs powers are found in MHL Section 81.22.

Generally, when an incapacitated person dies, the authority of a Guardian ends. However, the administration responsibilities of a Guardian may continue in many forms depending upon the circumstances of the Guardianship.   MHL Section 81.44 entitled “Proceedings upon the death of incapacitated person” sets out a number of rules. According to the statute a “statement of death” must be sent by the Guardian to the Court Examiner and to the estate personal representative. This representative would be an Executor or Administrator. Additionally, the Guardian must file a final account with the Court within 150 days after the death of the incapacitated person. Continue reading →

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The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has provided a number of posts concerning the rights of a person’s next of kin to inherit or have an interest in an estate. New York Estate Attorneys are aware that local statutes provide protections and rights to a decedent’s surviving spouse. For example, pursuant to Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (“EPTL”) Section 4-1.1 a surviving spouse can claim the amount of $50,000 plus one-half of an estate if there are also surviving issue. Additionally, under EPTL 5-1.1-A a spouse who is disinherited under a Will can claim a spousal share of generally one-third of the estate.

While in most instances there is no dispute as to whether a certain individual is actually the spouse of a decedent, there are many cases where the legal status of a spouse is called into question. When spousal rights are disputed, there is typically estate litigation to determine what rights, if any, a person claiming to be a spouse may be entitled to. A couple of recent cases demonstrate issues that a Court may be called upon to resolve. Continue reading →

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A Power of Attorney in New York is provided by the statutory provisions in Title 15 of the General Obligations Law (GOL Sec. 5-1501 et. seq).   A Power of Attorney (“POA”) can be a very useful estate planning document during life by providing a means by which a person can delegate property management authority to an agent to be used in the event of disability or incapacity.   Section 15-1501A of the GOL provides that a POA is considered to be durable and that it is not revoked or terminated if the principal becomes incapacitated.

There are numerous cases where an agent has abused his authority under a POA.   Article 81 Guardianship proceedings often involve issues regarding the validity and proper use of a POA.  Similarly, these types of issues can arise during the course of estate settlement. After an executor or administrator is appointed for a decedent’s estate the fiduciary may discover that someone improperly utilized a POA during the decedent’s lifetime.   When this occurs estate litigation is commenced by the fiduciary to recover the decedent’s assets that were wrongfully taken or transferred by the use of the POA. Continue reading →

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The preparation of a Last Will, Living Will, Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney and Living Trust involves a full understanding of a person’s property and financial interests.   A New York Estate Planning Lawyer generally obtains all such information from a client when formulating a plan. This process is very important whether a person’s affairs are simple or complex.

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has had numerous posts discussing the need for a person to understand the nature of the assets owned in order for an estate plan to be properly prepared.   For example, a Last Will typically controls the disposition of assets that are owned by a person in his name alone. However, assets that are owned jointly with another person such as a joint bank account or assets where there is a designated beneficiary such as a life insurance policy, are transferred upon death to the named joint owner or beneficiary and are not controlled by a Last Will. Therefore, it is imperative to know which assets a Last Will can control for a plan to be properly formulated. Continue reading →

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Controversies are not uncommon during the course of administering an estate. New York estate lawyers are familiar with the Surrogate’s Court procedures involved with such matters. Executors and Administrators have the fiduciary obligation to protect the interests of the estate in connection with all disputes regarding the decedent. A few recent cases highlight the different types of lawsuits that an estate may be involved with.

Matter of Elena Duke Benedict  involved the determination of the validity of a claim against an estate.  In this matter, trustees of certain trusts created by the decedent asserted that the decedent’s estate owed the trusts monies that were borrowed from the trusts by the decedent during her lifetime. The claim was based upon promissory notes that were signed by the decedent. Although the executor opposed the claim, in a decision dated May 8, 2014 Westchester Surrogate Anthony Scarpino found that the claim was valid and enforceable against the estate. Continue reading →

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The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has provided many posts regarding the interaction between Article 81 Guardianship proceedings and the settlement of a decedent’s estate. In many cases the disputes and Guardianship litigation that occur while a person is alive are a preview and introduction to the Will contests and estate litigation that occur after death. For example, a recent post in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by Jennifer S. Mann dated May 12, 2014 entitled Family of Former ‘Wizard of Oz’ Munchkin Battles his Former Caretaker in Court over Estate describes the family’s attempt to recover the life savings of a wizard of oz actor from the actor’s caretaker. The actor had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and the family claimed that the caretaker took economic advantage and depleted his estate. In this situation, the family may have needed to have a Guardian appointed while the actor was still alive to protect him from financial abuse.

Another recent post discusses the situation involving Casey Kasem who was famous for playing the “American Top 40” recordings. Jerry Lynn in a post at CNBC.com on May 19, 2014 entitled What we can learn from Casey Kasem’s disappearance, talks about the need for advance planning in such situations, particularly where there is a second marriage. The author talks about the need for advance directives such as a power of attorney and health care proxy, as well as the tension created between a new or second spouse and the children from a prior marriage. Continue reading →

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The Surrogate’s Courts in New York are located in the various counties. Thus, there is a Manhattan Surrogate’s Court, a Queens Surrogate’s Court and so on. Typically, the county where a decedent had his domicile (i.e., primary home) will be the location where the estate proceedings are to be filed. For example, if a person had their primary home in Brooklyn, the proceedings concerning estate administration or the probate of a Will is to be in Kings County Surrogate’s Court.

Estate attorneys are familiar with the procedures and issues regarding estate settlement. The Court is accessible to resolve many of the issues relating to a decedent. Controversies arise in estate litigation concerning the decedent’s interests in business such as small corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies. The Surrogate generally is the judge who can resolve these disputes since their outcome relates to and affects the decedent’s estate. Additionally, a person may die and be subject to various claims of creditors. The Court can resolve controversies regarding these claims in the estate accounting proceeding or in separate proceedings.   Article 18 of the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (“SCPA”) is entitled “Claims; Payment of Debts and Funeral Expenses.” The sections in Article 18 deal with the presentation and determination of the validity of claims against a decedent. Continue reading →

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A Power of Attorney is a document that can be both useful and misused. New York General Obligations Law (“GOL”) section 5-1501 and the sections of the law that follow set forth the basic provisions regarding the Power. Paragraph 2(j) of Section 5-1501 defines the Power of Attorney as “a written document . . . .by which a principal with capacity designates an agent to act on his or her behalf.

A New York Estate Lawyer is familiar with the use of the Power in estate and advanced planning. When the principal appoints an agent, the appointed party is given the various powers or authority that are specified in the Power. In the event the principal becomes incapacitated or unable to handle his property management functions the Power enables his agent to act on his behalf. The existence of a valid Power may obriate the need for an Article 81 Guardianship proceeding.

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