Planning an Estate includes the preparation of a number of different documents. These can include a Last Will, Living Will and Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney and Living Trust. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has discussed the importance of estate planning in many articles.
A very important aspect in the preparation of planning documents is the necessity to clearly and precisely set forth the directions and provisions regarding the disposition of property. The primary and obvious reason for clarity is so the testator’s wishes can be easily carried out by the estate fiduciary. If the Last Will is clear as to the bequests and assets that the estate beneficiaries are to receive, the goals of estate planning can be easily achieved. Additionally, unambiguous provisions in estate planning papers can help avoid controversies among beneficiaries that result in Estate Litigation.When a Will is admitted to probate in the Surrogate’s Court, the executor is required to obtain direction from the Court if he is uncertain as to how to distribute the estate assets due to confusing language in a Last Will. A recent decision by Manhattan Surrogate Rita Mella dated July 12, 2016 in the Estate of Lane demonstrates the problems that can arise when language in a Will is confusing.
In Lane, the decedent left a Last Will in which the dispositive provisions were ambiguous. The estate had been administered by the Public Administrator who had filed a Final Account with the Court. As part of the accounting proceeding the Public Administrator requested that the Court construe the provisions in the Will and provide direction as to the proper distribution of the estate assets. After a full analysis of the Will provisions the Court provided the requested direction.
As can be seen from Lane, it is imperative to create estate planning papers that clearly and concisely set forth the testator’s plan for asset distribution. I have been involved in many accounting matters and other estate litigation proceedings where the terms and validity of a Last Will needed to be determined. I also work closely with my clients to provide documents that accurately reflect their wishes. If you have any questions regarding a probate proceeding or estate planning matter, call me now for a free discussion.
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 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: firstname.lastname@example.org, for an initial consultation.
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