New York Estate Planning Lawyers encounter many different issues that can have an effect on an estate plan and a decedent's estate. Post death concerns are often resolved in proceedings in the Manhattan Surrogate's Court, Queens Surrogate's Court or the Surrogate's Court in New York's many other counties. It is astounding, even to Long Island Estate attorneys and other probate lawyers, as to the many peculiar problems faced by estate fiduciaries.
For example, in a recent case decided by Manhattan Surrogate Nora Anderson on October 19, 2012 and reported in the New York Law Journal on October 16, 2012 entitled Matter of Ray, the Court was asked to declare a potential heir as deceased due to the heir's long absence. New York Estates Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) Section 2-1.7 allows a Court to provide a presumption that a person is deceased after a three year absence. Based upon the demonstration of a diligent search and the potential heir's long absence and other evidence, the Court ruled that the potential heir was presumed to have died and the sole surviving heir was then able to administer the decedent's estate.
In another recent case decided by Manhattan Surrogate Kristen Booth Glenn on October 18, 2012 and reported in the New York Law Journal on October 26, 2012, entitled Accounting by Matseoane, the Court dismissed objections to an Administrator's accounting that were filed by a creditor of the decedent. The problem is this proceeding was that the creditor's alleged claim against the decedent's estate had been discharged by the decedent during her lifetime in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Not only did the Court dismiss the claim, it found that the creditor and the creditor's attorney acted improperly and were subject to Court sanctions.
As a New York Trust and Estates attorney, I am aware that having a properly planned estate can avoid many of the problems that arise during estate administration. The fundamental implementation of a Last Will may avoid issues regarding intestate succession and proof of kinship. However, it is not surprising that the lack of attention to proper planning can result in problems regarding estate settlement. However, even individuals with large estates and the monetary resources to obtain counseling regarding probate and succession issues often fail to properly plan their post death dispositions. A recent article appearing in Forbes by Erik Carter on October 17, 2012 entitled "What We Can Learn From Celebrity Estate planning Gone Wrong", chronicles some of the mistakes made by the rich and famous. For example, the article reports about the late classic folk and rock star Sonny Bono who failed to prepare a Last Will but fathered an out-of-wedlock child who claimed a share of his estate. Even the late former Supreme Court Justice Warren Berger cost his estate hundreds of thousands of dollars due to poor planning.
Estate Administration and Estate Planning requires time and thought and the assistance of professionals such as attorneys, accountants and financial advisors. An individual who neglects to create a proper plan with consideration for post death issues runs the risk that their family and beneficiaries will suffer the consequence of unnecessary cost and delay in wrapping up post-death affairs.