A very common issue that arises during the course of estate administration concerns assets that a decedent transfers close to the time of death. These transfers can be in the form of outright gifts or the creation of ownership rights such as a joint tenancy or through a beneficiary designation. For example, a situation may exist where a decedent transfers to another person as an outright gift funds from a bank account. Likewise, the decedent may add a person’s name to a bank account or change a beneficiary designation on an insurance policy or retirement account.

All of these events appear on their surface to be improper especially when the transfer occurs right before a person dies and, in particular, when the transferor is aged and/or suffering from a medical or psychological condition which may impair their judgment. Continue reading

Estate planning in New York is essential to the proper administration of a decedent’s estate.  Creating an estate plan that includes a Last Will, Living Will, Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney and possibly a Living Trust can facilitate the process by which assets are passed to family and friends and advance directives regarding health care can be carried out.

When engaging in the planning process it is essential that the technical and statutory requirements and estate rules are adhered to so that the papers and documents created are effective. When a Last Will is prepared and executed in a manner that is subject to dispute, a decedent’s estate can be the subject of a long and complicated Will Contest. Estate litigation is not uncommon when planning documents are unclear and confusing or are not completed according to the standards required by law. Continue reading

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has talked about many different aspects of estate settlement.  An estate fiduciary such as an Executor or Administrator has a fiduciary obligation to identify, locate and collect estate assets.

In numerous instances, the decedent may have been involved in business or other transactions where his ownership interest in assets may be unclear or complicated by other factors. Likewise, third parties may be in physical possession of assets that are claimed to be owned by an estate but might have been the subject of a gift. Regardless of the situation, the estate fiduciary must determine the true owner of the asset and use all reasonable efforts to collect the asset on behalf of the estate. A recent case decided by Brooklyn Surrogate Diana Johnson on April 21, 2015 entitled Estate of Elberg, provides insight into the problems that an estate executor may face in recovering estate items. Continue reading

A Probate Proceeding is just one of the many types of proceedings that can be commenced in the New York Surrogate’s Court. Other types of matters include Administration, Kinship and Accounting Proceedings.

Each type of matter has its own particular set of rules and procedures which are typically found in the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law and the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act. Continue reading

When dealing with matters concerning an incapacitated person, one of the primary concerns is finding the resources to pay for the living expenses and care of the individual. New York Guardianship Lawyers must always determine the type of assets, income and benefits that are available. Incapacity can take many forms and the nature of a disability will be reflected in the expenses incurred. For example, an individual may have been the victim of an accident or stroke and need 24 hour nursing home care. On the other hand, a person may have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and may be able to live at home with their family.

In situations where care expenses are extensive, personal resources may be unavailable or may have been exhausted. Also, it is possible that as a result of Elder Law Planning and Estate Planning, a person may have transferred assets to others many years before the onset of a disability. Where assets are limited, it is common that government benefits such as Medicaid and Social Security would be available to pay for the cost of care. Continue reading

There are countless articles and advisory papers that have been written in which people are urged to prepare an Estate Plan. The use of advanced planning documents such as a Last Will, Living Will, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy and Living Trust allow a person to specify the manner in which assets are to be managed and tranferred and substituted decision making can be established.

As discussed in many posts in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog, where these planning papers do not exist, the disposition of a person’s estate is left up to the inheritance provisions of State law relating to intestacy. Continue reading

A New York Guardianship Proceeding is commenced by the filing of a petition.  Mental Hygiene Law (MHL) Section 81.08 sets forth the requirements of the petition.  MHL Section 81.06 designates the persons who may file the proceeding which includes family members as well as any other person who has concerns regarding the alleged incapacitated person (AIP).  The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has described the Guardianship process in numerous earlier posts.

It is very common that Guardianship proceedings involve litigation where family members compete for appointment so that they can control the finances and personal needs of the AIP. Continue reading

Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law (MHL) contains the provisions regarding the appointment of a Guardian for property management and personal needs for a person who is found to be incapacitated.  The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has discussed in earlier posts the procedure to obtain the appointment of a Guardian.  Typically the proceeding is commenced by the filing of a petition with the Court along with a proposed Order to Show Cause.  MHL Section 81.08 sets forth the information to be included in the petition.  This information includes the name and address of the alleged incapacitated person’s (AIP) closest next of kin who are also given notice regarding the commencement of the Court case.

In some cases, a relative or other interested person may file a cross-petition with the Court in which they oppose the appointment of a Guardian or ask the Court to appoint the cross-petitioner as the Guardian rather than the original petitioner. Continue reading

Executors and Administrators appointed by the Surrogate’s Court have many duties and responsibilities. New York Estate Lawyers who represent fiduciaries typically assist their clients in connection with determining and paying estate liabilities. These liabilities can be in the form of debts and claims owed by the decedent such as unpaid credit card bills, mortgages or other monetary obligations. Additionally, the decedent may have owed past due income taxes or taxes that are to become due relating to the decedent’s final income tax return.

Regardless of the nature of the debt or obligation, the estate fiduciary must find and pay the monies that are due or risk becoming personally liable if all estate assets are paid out before all creditors are satisfied. Continue reading

Estate attorneys in New York are familiar with statutes that provide for the distribution of estate assets to a person’s next of kin. These persons are known as distributees.  Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 4-1.1 entitled “Descent and distribution of a decedent’s estate” provides the order of priority to the individuals who may assert inheritance rights.

As discussed in earlier posts in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog, kinship issues can arise in both probate and intestate administration proceedings in the Surrogate’s Court. However, proof of kinship is more commonly an issue where there is no Last Will and potential distributees are asserting rights to inherit the assets of the decedent’s intestate estate. Continue reading

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