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Estate attorneys in New York are familiar with statutes that provide for the distribution of estate assets to a person’s next of kin. These persons are known as distributees.  Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 4-1.1 entitled “Descent and distribution of a decedent’s estate” provides the order of priority to the individuals who may assert inheritance rights.

As discussed in earlier posts in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog, kinship issues can arise in both probate and intestate administration proceedings in the Surrogate’s Court. However, proof of kinship is more commonly an issue where there is no Last Will and potential distributees are asserting rights to inherit the assets of the decedent’s intestate estate. Continue reading →

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Estate Attorneys in New York are familiar with the use of a Durable Power of Attorney to assist with various activities. Sometimes a power is signed by a principal to assist with a specific transaction such as the sale or purchase of real estate. The power may be needed because the principal is unavailable to attend a closing of title because he is out of town.

In many other situations, a principal may name an agent in the context of estate planning and provide the agent with very broad powers to act in a number of different areas including real estate transactions, business operating transactions and banking transactions.  New York General Obligations Law Section 5-1501 and subsequent statutory sections comprise “The Statutory Short Form and Other Powers of Attorney For Financial and Estate Planning”. As has been discussed in earlier posts in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog, the power of attorney law was recently revised in an attempt to eliminate the misuse of the agent’s authority and prevent financial abuse. There have been and continue to be many instances where an agent improperly uses the power to obtain economic or other advantages. Continue reading →

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The rights of a surviving spouse to inherit from a decedent have been referred to in numerous articles in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog. When a person dies without a Last Will, a surviving spouse is provided by Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) Section 4-1.1 with at least a fifty percent (50%) share of the estate. When a decedent leaves a Last Will, the general rule is that a surviving spouse cannot be entirely disinherited. EPTL 5-1.1-A entitled “Right of Election of Surviving Spouse” provides that a spouse is to obtain a share of assets equal to approximately one-third of a decedent’s net estate. Thus, if a spouse is omitted from a Will or disinherited in whole or part, the spouse can elect to receive estate assets equal at least to the statutorily required minimum.

It should be noted that inheritance by a spouse is given this protection while other family members do not receive these rights. Even children can be entirely disinherited. Also, the estate tax laws recognize the importance of spousal transfers. The Federal and New York estate tax rules allow a 100% marital deduction for all assets passing from a decedent to a spouse. Continue reading →

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One of the first and sometimes most difficult tasks faced by an Executor or Administrator of an estate is to identify, protect and collect the assets of a decedent’s estate. There is a fiduciary obligation to perform these activities so that the estate beneficiaries’ interests are safeguarded. The fiduciary has very broad powers to find and collect assets. Usually, a Last Will enumerates the authority to collect assets. However, whether there is an Executor or Administrator, the Estate laws give these powers as well. For example, Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) Section 11-1.1, entitled “Fiduciaries’ powers” states at paragraph (b)(5)(A) that a fiduciary has the authority with respect to property “To take possession of, collect the rents from and manage the same.”

While the authority granted may be broad, it is not always easy to identify and collect a decedent’s assets. Very often a person fails to maintain organized and complete records regarding bank accounts, stock ownership and business affairs. Moreover, the decedent may have been secretive during life and did not share all of his financial information with family members or professional advisors such an attorney or an accountant. In these cases, the fiduciary has to act like a detective and investigate all possible information regarding potential estate assets. Continue reading →

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A very common complaint that New York Estate Lawyers hear is that an estate beneficiary has not received his share of a decedent’s estate. Typically, the beneficiary, who may be a legatee under a Last Will or a distributee in an intestate administration, has been waiting for years to receive a payment. Sometimes all efforts to contact or receive a response from the Executor or Administrator have failed.

In earlier posts, it has been discussed that a fiduciary must account for his actions. The accounting that is provided to estate or trust beneficiaries includes a list of all assets and income received, all expenditures that have been paid and all expenses or claims that are still outstanding. Continue reading →

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When a person dies intestate (without a Last Will), his estate is distributed according to the laws of intestacy. New York estate lawyers know that Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 4-1.1 provides the list of relatives who have priority to receive a share of the decedent’s estate. Many articles appear in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog discussing intestate inheritance issues.

At the top of the list of those entitled to inherit pursuant to EPTL 4-1.1 is a decedent’s spouse and children. However, there are circumstances where a spouse’s right might be extinguished through disqualification. Some of these situations have been discussed in earlier posts. EPTL 5-1.2 is entitled “Disqualification as surviving spouse”. Under this section a spouse may be disqualified to received a share in a number of circumstances such as intestacy and asserting a right to elect against a Will. Continue reading →

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The probate process in New York can be very complex. When a person dies and leaves a Last Will and Testament it is necessary to probate the decedent’s Will to have an Executor appointed to administer the estate. There have been many articles published in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog providing information regarding probate issues.

The presentation of a petition to the Surrogate’s Court which seeks probate of a Will essentially asks the Court to validate the Will and appoint an Executor. The Court issues Letters Testamentary to the appointed Executor. Continue reading →

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The Surrogate’s Courts in New York are familiar to most persons as the Court where Wills can be probated and Executors and Administrators appointed to handle estate affairs. While it is accurate that the primary issues presented to the Court are the appointment of estate fiduciaries, there are a plethora of issues that are involved in estate administration that require Court intervention.

A New York City Estate Lawyer is familiar with the many provisions in the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law and the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act that provide for accessibility to the Surrogate to determine issues regarding estate affairs. For example, SCPA 2103 is entitled “Proceeding by fiduciary to discover property withheld or obtain information”. This provision allows a fiduciary to commence a Court proceeding against a third party to recover the decedent’s property that is being withheld from the estate.  SCPA 2105 allows a proceeding to be filed to compel a fiduciary to deliver property that is claimed by a third party. Continue reading →

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The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has discussed in earlier posts the variety of issues concerning the transfer of a decedent’s assets. One of the most common and valuable estate assets is the decedent’s home. A person’s home can be in the nature of real property such as a single family home. However, New Yorkers are very familiar with living in the setting of an apartment in a high-rise building. Apartments can be as valuable and the subject of controversy as separate residential realty. A decedent may have been living in a cooperative apartment or even in a residential building where he was the tenant in a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled unit. These different forms of property rights can present unique problems to be resolved during estate settlement.

In the case of a cooperative apartment, the decedent’s interests may have been bequeathed in a Last Will to family members or may need to be sold to a third party purchaser.  In each instance, the general rule in a cooperative building is that a transfer of the Unit cannot occur without approval of the cooperative board of directors.  In many cases, such approval is not  easily obtained since the cooperative board is given broad discretion to approve or disapprove of the transfer. Continue reading →

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A New York estate lawyer is familiar with the numerous problems that can arise regarding the administration of a decedent’s estate. Sometimes these matters are the result of actions or relationships that the decedent was involved with prior to death. The estate executor or administrator has a fiduciary obligation to resolve these disputes. Assets of the decedent must be protected and creditors claims must be satisfied or disposed of.

A recent post at hollywoodreporter.com on February 9, 2015 by Austin Siegemund-Braka reports about another chapter in the settlement of the estate of the late pop star Michael Jackson. The post, entitled “Hollywood Docket: Michael Jackson’s Ex-Manager Revives Neverland Ranch Dispute”, relates the details regarding a claim by the pop-star’s manager for unpaid commissions earned during Michael Jackson’s lifetime as well as a claim for a fee for securing a loan on Michael Jackson’s Neverland property to prevent its foreclosure. The estate executors opposed the claims and both parties had filed lawsuits in 2012 that were put on hold pending other related proceedings. The Court has now lifted the stay to allow the issue regarding the Neverland loan to move forward. Continue reading →

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