Most people plan their estate believing that everyone they have left money or bequests to will survive them, such as when a parent specifies that money or property will be left to a child. But sometimes unexpected deaths happen and when it does, many people are left wondering what will happen to the property that they specified to go to the predeceased. It is a tricky situation, but thankfully New York law and proper estate planning precautions can address the problem.

New York “Anti-Lapse” Statutes

Common law followed in the past dictated that gifts to someone who was deceased was null and void. This is due to the fact that a dead person cannot own property. Since they cannot have property, they cannot inherit it. When someone left property to a person who had predeceased them, the bequest would be said to have lapsed. This would have unintended consequences, such as cutting out people who would have inherited the property if the bequest had not failed and others receiving more than the testator intended.

It is not a common situation but it does happen. After you pass, your will is entered into probate and your beneficiaries are notified of your bequests but there is a problem: they do not want it. They refuse to take ownership of the property you have left them and in doing so have thrown a wrench in your well laid estate plan.

No Claim to the Bequest

When a beneficiary turns down a bequest this is known legally as a “disclaimer.” There is no requirement under a law that a person who is left assets or property under a will must take it. You cannot force property onto someone else. If a person disclaims a bequest, the person is treated as if they had predeceased the testator and the property will pass onto another beneficiary.

You are always told that you can leave whatever assets you want in your will to whomever you want. After all it is your last will and testament. Your will represents your final wishes and they are to be carried out to the letter. You may be shocked to learn that in some cases under New York law that your will can actually be disregarded almost in its entirety, and that special case comes into play if you do not leave anything to your spouse.

Sacred Institution, Sacred Inheritance Rights

Marriage holds a special place in society and the laws of New York not only reflect that distinctive position but also protects the institution of marriage. Under New York’s Estate Powers and Trusts law section 5-1.1, a surviving spouse has the right to collect assets from a deceased spouse’s estate if the deceased spouse’s will either does not provide for the surviving spouse or does not give enough to the surviving spouse. It does not matter if the will has bequeathed those assets to someone else; the surviving spouse’s rights to the property trumps all others.

There are many ways to pass on your assets without having to go through probate. Any account or policy with a beneficiary designation, payable on death clauses or joint ownership with rights of survivorship will not be considered to be a part of a probate estate. Those assets will pass to the person designated or the other joint owner at the time of your death. Despite being handy estate planning tools that help assure that the assets in question are never out of reach or frozen, many people fail to understand the nuances and rights associated with such designations and it is this failure that can frustrate and cause unintended consequences when dealing with a person’s estate.

Only After You Pass

Many people are familiar with a beneficiary designation on a life insurance policy. After you pass, the insurance company gives the money from the policy directly to your beneficiary avoiding probate. Similar to a beneficiary designation is what is called the payable on death clause (POD). At the time of your death, your designated beneficiary can claim the assets in the account by showing a death certificate, similar to claiming a life insurance policy. The designated beneficiary has no claim to the assets in the account while you are alive and cannot withdraw or otherwise dispose of them.

People are taught to hang onto important documents. Every person is instructed to hold onto deeds, mortgages, bank records and tax returns in a safe place where no one else can access them lest important information fall into the wrong hands. But wills, which might be the most important document a person can have, should not be held onto after a new one has been executed, and while it may be a good idea to keep it in a safe place, hiding it like the other documents may have unintended consequences.

Written Revocation

There are many ways to revoke an old will and it is always a good idea to do so if you have drafted a new one. The easiest and most common way to revoke a will is to draft a new one and have an explicit clause that revokes any previous wills and codicils that you have executed. Because your new will is dated later than the previous wills, the revocation will be effective.

Minnesota Judge Shows No Urgency To The Detriment Of The Estate

Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide has announced that there will be no quick decisions in who will be inheriting from the late superstar according to USA Today. The probate judge in charge of the legal proceedings surrounding Prince’s estate has further indicated that due to the complexity of the case, the multiple claims and questions of parentage, the judge may forward his eventual decision to an appellate court of immediate review, a process that will only drag out the proceedings even longer.

The judge’s decision to take it slow comes despite urgings by the claimants to come to a speedy resolution. The claimants have good reason for hoping to close out the probate estate and settling matters: every day that the estate is in probate, the estate is losing money. While the probate proceedings are going on, Prince’s assets are effectively frozen. For an estate as big as Prince’s that includes quite a lot.

The Benefits of Planning

The loss of a loved one is difficult enough without having to plan and pay for a funeral. With a little foresight, you can save your loved ones from unnecessary stress. While death is an eventuality, few people seem to want to plan for it. Everyday 7,195 Americans die leaving family and loved ones to pick up the pieces. One of the easiest ways to reduce the stress on your loved ones is to provide funeral instructions.These instructions may include: how you would like your remains to be treated (cremation or traditional burial), how you would like your organs to be treated (medical donation, scientific donation or traditional burial), what type of memorial service you would like, and what type of grave marker you would like.

By planning now, you can help to reduce some of the pain and stress associated with the loss of a loved one. Your family will be able to mourn without having to worry about making important funeral plans.

No one wants to find themselves the occupant of a nursing home and yet that is where many people will end up in their autumn years of life. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 1.4 million people resided in nursing homes in 2014. A sadly common aspect of life in a nursing home is the possibility of elder abuse. Elder abuse is a topic that few people wish to discuss despite being an issue that merits discussion. Many nursing homes around the country have taken to arbitration agreements as an attempt to limit their liability when it comes to elder abuse. Here’s what you need to know before committing yourself or someone you love to a nursing home with an arbitration agreement.

No Universal Protections

Many states have laws in place to protect elderly residents of nursing homes, even including a right to attorneys’ fees for successful plaintiffs and a recovery for pain and suffering of nursing home clients that survives their death. Such an example of this is the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act in California. The act is designed to protect its elderly citizens residing in nursing homes from physical and financial abuse, providing special legal remedies and damages for senior citizens in nursing homes.

Special needs trusts are helpful estate planning tools that allow family members to leave behind assets to loved ones with special needs without risking the beneficiary’s ability to receive Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid benefits. Without a special needs trust, any extra income that they receive such as an inheritance may inadvertently disqualify them from receiving public benefits or cause the inheritance to be seized to pay for those benefits. With a special needs trust, the beneficiary gets the best of both worlds, with the trust funds being used to pay for a wide range of necessities like clothing, education and medical bills.

However many special needs trusts may inadvertently, either due to poor wording or mismanagement, cause themselves to not be considered by the government to be special needs trusts. When this happens, the intent of the trust is frustrated and the assets of the trust may disqualify the beneficiary from public benefits under the United States government means test.

The primary issue that often arises with a special needs trust is that the trust is not recognized as a special needs trust and is instead labeled as a support trust. A support trust is similar to a special needs trust in that it gives support to the special needs beneficiary. However, when determining eligibility under the means tests, public agencies will consider the assets of a support trust to be attributable to the special needs beneficiary. This means that the support trust may disqualify the beneficiary from qualifying for the benefits they need.

It seems that Muhammad Ali’s estate is destined for trouble, similar to other celebrity estates that we have covered on this blog recently. It is unknown if the boxing legend died with a will, but even if he did, a will contest may be likely. Forbes reports that Mr. Ali died with an estate worth in between $50 and $80 million, had nine recognized children, four different marriages, and struggled with a debilitating disease that affects the mind. These are the circumstances that set the stage for a drawn out estate contest.

Troublesome Children

The large amount of children Mr. Ali had, as well as his four marriages, makes the number of people who may have an interest in contesting Mr. Ali’s estate quite high. One child in particular, Muhammad Ali Jr., has been estranged from his father since Mr. Ali’s fourth and final marriage in 1986 and has been cut off from the family fortune ever since. Ali Jr. in particular blames Mr. Ali’s fourth wife for driving him and his father apart.

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