New York Guardianship Issues Can Affect Estate Litigation

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 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.

When family members have conflicting interests, particularly where the older person is infirm and has significant assets, there is a large potential for controversy during the life of the older person and then during estate settlement. Therefore, it is important at all of these stages to obtain advice and direction from a Guardianship attorney and also from a lawyer experienced with Estate Planning and estate matters. In his article, Mr. Kramer points out that it is important for the older person, as well as all other family members, to talk to each other in order to understand and plan for future events and disabilities.

I have represented many family members in Guardianship and Estate proceedings where there exists controversy regarding the ownership, transfer and inheritance of assets. Contested Wills and claims of undue influence and elder abuse are typically the result of poor planning and not understanding the appropriate manner to provide for asset disposition. The creation of plans that include Living Trusts, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxies and Last Wills and entrusting the administration of assets to the proper persons can go a long way to avoiding the problems shown in the above posts.

New York Guardianship Attorney Jules Martin Haas, Esq. has been representing clients in New York Guardianship Proceedings, Trusts and Estates matters and Surrogate’s Court proceedings throughout the past 30 years in New York, including Queens Guardianship and Nassau Guardianship. If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about a New York Guardianship or estate, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 or email:, for an initial consultation.

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