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Wills in New York are required to be executed in accordance with the statutory guidelines. Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) Section 3-2.1 entitled “Execution and attestation of wills; formal requirements”, sets forth very definite rules for Will authenticity. For example, a Will generally needs to be in writing and signed by the testator at the end of the document. There also must be two witnesses to the execution. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published many articles discussing the rules and other issues concerning the making and signing of Wills.

The Surrogate’s Court strictly adheres to the rules regarding Will execution. The Court wants to follow the statutory directions and be certain that the Will that is probated is authentic.  There are times when the original of a decedent’s Will cannot be located. This situation was discussed in a recent case decided by Manhattan Surrogate Nora Anderson on December 1, 2017 entitled Matter of Raleigh. In Raleigh the decedent signed his Will in an attorneys office in New Jersey. The original Will was then mailed to the attorney’s office in New York where the attorney put the Will in the client’s file and stored it with a storage company.  Continue reading

The appointment of a Guardian in New York is provided for in Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law (MHL). There are two areas in which a Guardian can be needed. A person who is found to be incapacitated may need a Guardian for personal needs. A personal needs Guardian will have the authority to make decisions regarding health care, living arrangements and other personal decisions regarding the AIP’s affairs.

A Guardian for property management has the power to collect and control the assets of the incapacitated person. These assets may include bank accounts, brokerage accounts and real estate. It is the Guardian’s duty to collect these assets or place these assets under the Guardian’s control and use them for the person’s best interests. Continue reading

When a Last Will is offered for probate, the Court needs to be provided with an array of additional information. One of the most important areas that the Court needs to know about is the identity of the decedent’s next of kin. These individuals are known as distributees. The Surrogate’s Court requires a complete list of distributees since these individuals must be provided with notice regarding the probate filing.

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published many articles regarding the probate of a Will and the notification of next of kin. The reason these persons must be notified is due to the fact that if the Will is found to be invalid, the decedent’s distributees would inherit the estate. Without a valid Will, the estate would be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. When a decedent’s distributees feel that a Will is not valid, they have a right to Object to the Will. These Objections result in a Will Contest and estate litigation in the Surrogate’s Court. Continue reading

The New York probate process is designed so that an Executor can be appointed to handle estate affairs. Until an estate Executor is granted letters testamentary by the Surrogate’s Court, no one has the legal authority to act on behalf of the decedent’s estate. Sometimes, preliminary letters testamentary can be obtained.

Obtaining a duly authorized fiduciary is important since such person can collect bank accounts, pay estate expenses and engage in other transactions to facilitate estate settlement.  Sometimes, the terms of a Will provide that a share of the estate is to be paid to a Trustee. This type of trust is called a testamentary trust. The terms of the trust are set forth in the Will provisions. In order for the transfer of assets from the estate to the trust to occur, a trustee must be appointed to handle the trust administration. Continue reading

Estate planning in New York involves the preparation of a number of documents including a Last Will and Testament. It is not unusual that during the course of a lifetime a person prepares and executes a series of Wills.

It is a common practice that a Will should be updated periodically. There are many reasons for such updates. It may be that early versions of a Will contain trust and guardianship provisions for a person’s minor children. Once the children have grown older there would no need for these provisions. In this regard, a person’s testamentary plan and intentions may change over time. A testator can change the dispositive provision of his Will as many times as desired. Sometimes the individuals named as beneficiaries may predecease the testator or need to be eliminated due to personal preferences. Continue reading

The gross estate of a decedent includes many different types of assets. There are assets such as bank accounts and real estate that were owned by the decedent in his name alone at the time of death. These assets would be subject to the control of an estate executor or administrator.

Other assets may pass outside of the administration estate by operation of law. For example, there may be items owned as joint tenants such as bank accounts or items such as life insurance where there is a designated beneficiary. In these cases the asset is owned immediately upon the decedent’s death by the joint owner or specified beneficiary. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has posted many articles discussing the various types of estate assets and the ownership issues that can be involved. In particular, the ownership of joint assets by a decedent tends to result in estate litigation. This especially so where there are questions as to the validity concerning the creation of the joint account or the manner in which a joint tenant accessed the decedent’s funds prior to death. Since the joint asset passes outside of the estate administration, the decedent’s Will beneficiaries or heirs at law if the decedent died intestate, cannot receive a share of the joint asset value. Continue reading

Last Wills are part of estate planning. The contents of the Will contains numerous provisions dealing with the distribution of estate assets. There can be pecuniary bequests which provide for a definite amount of money to be given to a beneficiary. There can also exist residuary provisions that direct the manner in which the balance of an estate is to be disposed of.

One of the most important provisions in a Will is the language that is concerned with the appointment of an Executor. The Executor is the person who is responsible for administering the probate estate. After a Will is admitted to probate, the Court issues letters testamentary to the nominated Executor. The nomination of an executor in a Will is essential. Continue reading

There are a number of different types of papers and considerations that are involved in estate planning. It is important that the documents appear clearly and express a person’s directions and intentions. An estate plan can include a Last Will and a Living Trust. Also, advance directives such as a health care proxy, living will and power of attorney can be put into effect.

Planning documents often include the use of a trust. A trust can be created in a Last Will. This type of trust is a testamentary trust. When a Will is admitted to probate, this trust becomes effective and the Surrogate’s Court appoints a testamentary trustee. Continue reading

One of the most important aspects when administering an estate is establishing the identity of a decedent’s next of kin. The persons comprising next of kin or heirs are commonly referred to in New York as “distributees”. Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) Section 103(14) defines a distributee as a person who would be entitled to receive part of a decedent’s property pursuant to the statutes regarding “descent and distribution”.

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published numerous posts regarding kinship. In a probate proceeding, distributees of a decedent must be ascertained and provided notice regarding the probate of the Last Will. This is because the distributees must be given the opportunity to Contest the Will. Continue reading

When a person prepares an Estate Plan and a Last Will and Testament one of the important decisions to be made concerns the selection of an Executor. A Last Will contains a provision in which the testator nominates an Executor. It is also important to nominate a successor or alternate Executor in case the primary nominee is unable to serve as a fiduciary. A Will may also contain a provision appointing testamentary trustees if the testator created a testamentary trust in the Will.

The person selected to act as the Executor can be anyone that the testator wants to be in charge of estate administration. The person selected is typically a family member or friend. There is no requirement that the Executor have any experience or expertise in handling estate matters or have any financial background. There is also no requirement that the Executor be living in New York. The fiduciary has the authority the obtain the services of professionals such as attorneys, accountants and investment advisors to help with the various tasks regarding settlement of the estate. Continue reading

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