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Estate Planning Mistakes Happen to the Rich and Famous

20200522-Estate-Planning-300x200Estate planning in New York is important to preserve assets and insure a proper distribution after death.  The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published many articles concerning planning an estate.  These articles have included discussions about Last Wills, Living Trusts, Health Care Proxies, Living Wills and Powers of Attorney.  It would seem that preparing a plan is fundamental.  There are also many articles in the Blog concerning Article 81 Guardianships.

Many individuals assume that if they are not considered to be wealthy that engaging in estate planning is a waste of time.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, as we have seen, even individuals who accumulate a fortune sometimes fail to adequately provide any planning.  As a result, their estates and families suffer tremendous post-death consequences.

A recent post at Kiplinger.com entitled “Prince’s Estate is a Royal Mess:  5 Ways You Can do Better”, dated February 5, 2022 and written by Jack R. Hales, Jr., J.D., describes the problems faced by the late pop star’s estate.  Apparently, Prince did not have a Will.  In New York, if you do not have a Will, the distribution of your assets is controlled by the laws of intestacy.  An intestate estate is distributed to a decedent’s next of kin in the order of priority set forth in Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 4-1.1 entitled “Descent and distribution of a decedent’s estate.”  As pointed out in the article, a Will allows a person to determine their testamentary plan.  Additional considerations include dealing with minor children and the creation of trusts.  Of course, creating a Will allows a testator to specifically identify particular aspects of estate distribution and create detailed directions to deal with these matters.

One very important point made by the author is to be certain that a Will is prepared and executed properly.  Do it yourself Wills may present problems.  If a Will is not executed according to EPTL 3-2.1, “Execution and attestation of wills; formal requirements,” a Will contest may result and a Will may be found to be invalid.  The probate process may be delayed and result in extra estate costs.

Another very significant consideration talked about in the article is that a person preparing a Will should have complete information as to the identity of the assets owned and the value of the assets.  An important aspect of this knowledge, as pointed out in my earlier Blog articles, is that some assets may pass to others automatically upon death.  These types of assets include joint property and items such as life insurance which have designated beneficiaries.  Therefore, a Will should be structured to deal with assets that a person owns which do not pass outside of the Will and by operation of law.

Knowing the value of assets and the estate as a whole is also essential.  The estate may be subject to Federal and State estate taxes.  Thus, an estimate of values and possible tax liability is important to understand.  There may be estate tax planning opportunities available if a possible estate tax is expected.  Also, if estate taxes need to be paid, consideration should be given as to which resources or funds are available to the estate to pay these taxes.  Estate tax payments are typically due nine (9) months after a decedent’s death.  As pointed out in the article, Prince’s heirs were likely to have to sell valuable assets to raise the funds to pay the estate tax.

Estate planning and probating a Will, administering an estate and settling an estate can be very challenging.  It is important to consider many different factors and issues and to obtain professional guidance.  I have helped clients with estate plans and estate and Surrogate’s Court matters for over four decades.  Call Me Now for a free confidential review of your issue.  We offer reasonable and flexible fee arrangements and personal representation.

New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 40 years resolve issues relating to guardianship and probate and estate settlement throughout New York City including the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Nassau and Suffolk County.  If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial free consultation.

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