New York Estate Planning Is Essential to Avoid Estate Settlement Disputes

New York Estate Settlement can be complicated by many different factors.  After a person dies a fiduciary such as an Executor or Administrator will be appointed to handle estate affairs.  The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has provided numerous posts discussing the procedure to appoint an estate fiduciary.  In short, where a decedent leaves a Last Will, the Will is submitted to the Surrogate’s Court for probate.  When the Will is admitted to probate an Executor is appointed who is responsible for estate settlement.

When a decedent does not have a Last Will he is deemed to have died intestate. An Administrator is appointed for intestate estates. Typically, the Administrator is one or more of the decedent’s next of kin called distributees.  The distributees, according to their relation to the decedent, have priority to be appointed as an Administrator.Once appointed, the estate fiduciary must collect the decedent’s assets, pay the decedent’s debts and estate expenses and, ultimately, distribute the net estate to the estate beneficiaries.  As New York Estate Lawyers know, these tasks are easier said than done.   This is especially so when the estate planning that was done during a decedent’s lifetime did not or could not fully determine the manner in which estate assets are to be distributed. In light of Will and Trust documents that may be ambiguous or subject to attack due to a decedent’s psychological or physical condition when the papers were prepared and executed, the post-death administrative process can be complex.

Probate attorneys are involved with estate litigation all the time in the form of Will Contests. Also, estate planning papers may be unclear as to the manner by which certain assets or estate rights are to be disposed of or otherwise handled. There are recent examples of estate complications that can result when pre-death planning of an estate is ineffective. In a post by Eriq Gardner in the Hollywood Reporter on January 14, 2016 entitled: ‘All in the Family’ Producer’s Death Sets Off Trust Battle Over Artwork’, the article describes a family battle over a piece of artwork. The decedent, Bud Yorkin, died in August 2015. He was the executive producer of the T.V. hits “All in the Family” and “Sanford and Son”.   Apparently, Mr. Yorkin had created a trust in which he left certain art work to his daughter. However, in the later years of his life, Mr. Yorkin, became ill and there occurred fifteen amendments to the trust the last of which deleted the paragraph which distributed the art work to his daughter. As reported, the daughter has now commenced legal proceedings to invalidate the amendment that changed her distributive right to the painting.

I have represented many clients in Will Contests and have also worked with clients to develop a solid estate plan. Problems often arise when the pre-death plan does not fully show that the provisions in a Will or Trust are not the result of undue influence or lack of testamentary capacity. Unfortunately, the surrounding circumstances when these documents are prepared and signed often lend themselves to an appearance of impropriety. Having trust and estate papers prepared by impartial estate planning lawyers and properly fully witnessed by third-parties in a professional setting are certainly steps that can help dispel any issues that may invalidate a document.

If you have any questions regarding a Will Contest, estate planning or probate call me for a free review of your issue.

An experienced New York trusts and estates lawyer can assist with guidance for proper Will preparation and execution.  New York Probate Attorney Jules Martin Haas, Esq. has been representing clients in New York in Trusts and Estates matters and Surrogate’s Court proceedings throughout the past 30 years in New York and Bronx and other counties.  If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about a New York estate matter, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 or email:, for an initial consultation.

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