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Why Estate Planning Is Important to Reflect A Person’s Intentions

Estate planning in New York can be provided through a number of different documents.  First and foremost, a Last Will and Testament sets forth the various provisions that a testator desires regarding the disposition of his estate.  Another important estate planning device is a Revocable Living Trust.  This type of trust allows a person to place assets in the trust during life and then have them distributed in a certain manner upon death.  The essential element of such a trust is that it is revocable and the creator can modify it or revoke it.

Looking at the various estate planning tools, the overriding element is that a person who creates these documents is able to direct the disposition of assets after death.  Thus, a person’s desires and intentions can be memorialized and carried out by his fiduciaries such as Executors and Trustees.

Since these documents reflect a person’s intentions, it is important that the person creating them make his desires clearly known.  Estate lawyers assist their clients so that there is no ambiguity regarding the names of beneficiaries and the assets or interests in the estate that are to be distributed.  The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published many articles regarding Wills and planning an estate.  When issues arise regarding the validity or meaning of a Will, estate litigation in the Surrogate’s Court can arise.

A recent Manhattan estate case decided by Manhattan Surrogate Nora Anderson reflects the importance of carrying out a decedent’s intentions regarding a disposition in a Last Will.

In Matter of Rodecker, decided on October 29, 2018, a decedent had created a Testamentary Trust in a Will that left a remainder interest to a charity known as the Swedish Hospital.  Unfortunately, at the time the distribution to the hospital was to be made, the hospital no longer pursued the purposes that the decedent intended when he created the Will.

The Court was able to utilize the principals of Cy Pres relief as provided in Estates, Powers and Trusts Law section 8-1.1 entitled “Disposition of property for charitable purposes“.   The Cy Pres doctrine authorizes the Court to modify a disposition designated for a charity when the charitable purpose has become impossible or impractical.  As a result, the Court in Rodecker allowed the Trustee to distribute the trust funds to the Brooklyn Hospital Center instead of the Swedish Hospital.  The Court found that such a change would more properly reflect the decedent’s intentions at the time he created his Will.

Estate Planning and the settlement of an estate can involve complex issues regarding Will preparation and interpretation.  If you have a question or issue regarding an estate or a Will call me now for a free review.  I have represented clients in these matters for over 35 years throughout New York and in the Surrogate’s Courts.

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 Kings County and Queens County.   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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