The Need To Prepare A New York Estate Plan Is Seen From Recent Celebrity Estates

An estate plan in New York is very important to establish the disposition of assets. Documents that may be included in estate and advanced planning include a Last Will, Living Will, Health Care Proxy, Durable Power of Attorney and Living Trust. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has discussed these papers in many earlier articles.

Recently, there have been a number of celebrity cases where advanced planning and estate issues have made headlines. One such case involves Sumner Redstone who was the head of Viacom which owns CBS. Mr. Redstone’s capacity to handle his affairs was called into question and his former companion began a lawsuit to enforce the provisions of his healthcare directive after she was prevented from executing her authority under the document. In an article in on April 27, 2016 by Ashley Cullins entitled “Judge Rules Sumner Redstone Trial Will Be Public”, it was reported that a trial regarding the companion’s lawsuit is set to begin later this month. As reported by Ms. Cullins, the trial judge has ruled that the trial will be open to the public. The Court is also set to decide whether Mr. Redstone must give testimony.In New York, the typical proceeding to determine whether a person requires a Guardian is controlled by Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law (“MHL”).  Pursuant to MHL Section 81.11(c) the person alleged to be incapacitated must be present at the hearing unless the person is totally unable to participate or cannot meaningfully participate in the hearing.

Another recent case involves the death of the pop star Prince who, it seems, died without leaving a Last Will. In New York when a person dies without a Will he is deemed to have died intestate. A recent post in the on April 27, 2016 by Ashley Cullins entitled “Prince’s Estate: No Will Could Mean Chaos, Tax Bills and Lawsuits, say Experts”, explains some of the issues surrounding Prince’s estate problems. As reported, it seems that Minnesota law, like New York, determines who is to inherit Prince’s estate if there is no Last Will. Apparently, Prince’s sister and half-siblings would be Prince’s closest next of kin and would each receive an equal share of his estate.

I have represented many clients in connection with intestate estates. Where the decedent fails to leave a Last Will there is no opportunity for the decedent to express his intentions as to the manner of distribution of the estate assets. Also, the decedent cannot choose the person who is to be in charge of estate administration in the form of an Executor. Intestate estate distributions and administration are completely determined by state statutes.

Estate lawyers appreciate the need for proper planning and the execution of documents that express a person’s desires regarding their care and the disposition of assets in the event of incapacity or death. While the creation of these papers cannot guarantee there will not be disputes such as Will Contests and estate litigation or guardianship litigation, their existence at least provides a fundamental expression of intent and validity. Personally selected fiduciaries also are provided with a guide to make personal or property decisions depending upon the existing circumstances. If you have a question or issue regarding Guardianship or Estate Settlement or Probate call me for a free discussion.

An experienced New York trusts and estates lawyer can assist with guidance for proper Will preparation and execution and Will contests. 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 Suffolk and Nassau 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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