Estate Disputes Should Be Avoided But Sometimes Never End

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has reviewed many instances and issues regarding estate litigation, Will contests and disputes among heirs and beneficiaries. Sometimes controversies begin before a person dies when they become ill and incapacitated. Relatives and friends can abuse or breach fiduciary obligations in attempting to control a person’s finances before death. Guardianship Proceedings, which are provided by Article 81 of the New York Mental Hygiene Law, are just a rehearsal for the battles that occur concerning assets and Wills after death. Westchester and Manhattan Guardianship attorneys, as well as guardianship lawyers throughout New York, have seen these disputes time and again.

An example of such pre-death contests appeared with regard to the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor. As reported in an article in Estate of Denial by Andy and Danielle Mayorals dated June 25, 2011, pre-death fighting between Ms. Gabor’s husband (her ninth) and daughter revolved around each arranging for her to re-write her Last Will and the sale of her home and personal property.

Even after death occurs controversy regarding a decedent’s estate and affairs can go on for years. It was recently reported by Daniel Kreps in Amplifier on May 6, 2011 that the estate of the late rock and roll star, Jimi Hendrix, was commencing a lawsuit over the ownership of master recordings made during concerts in 1969. Jimi Hendrix died on
September 18, 1970.

Another pending lawsuit involving the ownership of rights to the musical legacy of country singer, Jim Reeves, was reported in an article by Anita Wadhwani in The Tennessean on November 2, 2011. Jim Reeves died in 1964. However, none of the above appear to rival the almost daily notoriety surrounding the death of Michael Jackson.

A recent article in the AARP Bulletin by John F. Wosik on October 19, 2011 entitled “A To-Do List for Estate Planning” provides a brief guide for some estate planning considerations that may help avoid disputes. Among the items discussed are:
(1) A “Health Care power of attorney” known as a Health Care Proxy in New York. This document will specify the persons who can make health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so yourself.
(2) A “Financial power of attorney“. This document will specify the persons who can make property management decisions for you when you are unavailable or unable to do so. The terms of the Power of Attorney can be limited and specifically defined according to your desires.
(3) “Wills and Trusts“. These documents provide the foundation of your instructions and reflect the manner in which you want your property disposed of after death. Additionally, proper estate planning through Will and Trust provisions may provide appropriate tax benefits.

Consulting a good New York Estate planning and Guardianship attorney may help avoid the Surrogate’s Court litigation that seems to forever encompass some estates. In view of the complexity of issues often involved in property and business ownership, breaches of fiduciary duty and beneficiary rights, disputes among family members and third parties are probably inevitable.

New York Probate Attorney Jules M. Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties resolve issues relating to guardianship intestate estates, estate planning, kinship and estate settlement. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.

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