A decedent’s estate is subject to the terms of written documents and estate laws. The primary paper that controls an estate is a Last Will. A duly executed Will that is admitted to probate provides the manner in which the estate is to be distributed.
A Will may contain bequests of specific property or amounts of money. There can also be dispositions of shares or percentages of an estate to estate beneficiaries. The provisions in a Will are determined in the estate plan that is adopted.
It should be noted that a Will is not the only writing that can affect the disposition of an estate. For example, a person may have entered into a pre-nuptial agreement with a spouse. Such an agreement may contain terms that limit or even eliminate a surviving spouse’s right to share in decedent’s estate or to act as an Executor or Trustee. When a pre-nuptial agreement is entered into by the parties there are many factors that must be considered that relate to the disposition of assets in the event of divorce or death. Very often such agreements are utilized in second marriage situations so that assets can be reserved for children or family members from a prior marriage.
Similar to pre-nuptial agreements are post-nuptial agreements, particularly agreements and Court judgments that are the result of a divorce. These papers are very important to consider in connection with planning an estate and also settling a decedent’s affairs after death. Divorce settlements and judgments often contain certain property dispositions that are binding upon an estate. There may be child support obligations that can result in a claim or requirements that the decedent maintain certain life insurance or other benefits for an ex-spouse or children.
In addition to the potential requirements that such agreements may impose on estate assets, there may be estate litigation concerning the validity or interpretation of other writings.
A recent Manhattan estate case decided by Manhattan Surrogate Rita Mella on October 12, 2018 entitled Matter of Pozsonyi, involved the need to determine the meaning of “net estate” that was used in the decedent’s marital separation agreements. In Pozsonyi, the interpretation of this term was important to know since it controlled the amount of assets that were to be distributed to the decedent’s former spouse from the decedent’s estate.
I have represented clients in matters concerning the probate and administration of estates where documents such as pre or post marital rights affected estate administration. Call me now for a free discussion if you have a question or concern regarding estate settlement and marital or other agreements.
New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to probate and estate settlement throughout New York City including Brooklyn and Manhattan. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.