Beneficiaries Often Treat An Inheritance As A Windfall And Spend It As Such

You spend your entire life working hard, accumulating wealth and you want to pass it onto your children, to provide for them and their families after you have passed. But will they appreciate your life’s earnings or will they blow through it without a second thought? Unfortunately, more likely than not any inheritance that you leave behind will most likely be spent much faster than it was earned, and the statistics are alarming.

“From shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations” the old saying goes and the research shows that the sentiment is true. One third of people who received an inheritance had negative savings within two years. Even if the wealth does last past the first generation to receive it, 70 percent of inheritances are completely gone by the end of the second generation.

An Often Overlooked Power in Durable Power of Attorney Documents

Your elderly mother lives and intends to continue residing in Florida. You live in New York. She becomes mentally incapacitated and you move her in with you to take good care of her. You are her agent as designated by her Durable Power of Attorney documents and you manage and handle all of her affairs like taking her to the doctor and getting her the attention she needs but you start to run into some problems when you attempt to enroll her in your state’s Medicare program and other entitlement programs. The power of attorney documents do not give you the power to establish her domicile. Even though your mother resides in New York now she still is domiciled in Florida and only qualifies for assistance in Florida.

How do you establish a new domicile and what is a domicile? Traditionally, establishing a new domicile is easy. Wherever you consider home, the place you intend to indefinitely stay, is your domicile. Proof of being domiciled in a certain state typically includes where your primary residence is, where you vote and where your family and children live. This is different from where your residence is. You can have multiple residences but only one domicile.

Nearly 55% of American adults die without a will or estate planning documents. This lack of planning can cause years of stress and heartache for your surviving family members and heirs. If you die without an estate plan in place, your family may be subject to:

  • Attorney expenses and court costs,
  • Wasted time and frustration, and

Art pieces and collectibles can often be difficult to price. After all, the best and easiest way to price an item is to see what other items like it have sold for. But in these cases, art and collections can be one of a kind and have no comparison. When this happens it can be a headache for a person planning their estate to account for the value of aesthetic beauty and rarity of their art. In this uncertainty though, there is room to maneuver to your advantage when it comes to planning out your estate.

Valuing Your Art

In the United States, if you are attempting to transfer a work of art valued over $50,000, the IRS goes through a process by which it independently evaluates the items. It is the IRS Art Advisory Panel who will have the final say when it comes to evaluating the value of your art, but this does not mean that they will not accept outside opinions. Traditionally art is valued by experts who work in the field, often those with very special niches, sometimes even down the individual artist. When an independent expert values your art, you can submit that assessment to the IRS for consideration.

Many people believe that estate planning is primarily a tool to minimize taxes by the state and ensure that your assets are passed on to the people you want them to go to. However, an important part of estate planning is ensuring that when you are incapacitated that your wishes will be respected and that you are taken care of when you cannot adequately express your wishes or provide for yourself. But how exactly is that decision made in New York? Who decides when you are incapacitated and when you will need someone else to make your decisions for you?

Your Living Will or Healthcare Directive Can Dictate The Terms of Your Incapacity

The best option for setting forth standards to decide when you are incapacitated is making sure that you are the one dictating the terms of your own incapacity. This can be accomplished through your living will, also known as a healthcare directive. Your living will traditionally acts to provide those making your healthcare decisions with your wishes as to how you would like to be treated in medical situations where you cannot give consent.

Pets Are Often An Overlooked Concern in Estate Planning

Despite their ubiquitous presence across the United States, few people consider the needs of their pets in their estate plan. People tend to be so concerned with providing for their children and making sure that their assets are protected from taxes that they forget about the members of their family that are always there for them.

When you consider providing for your pet after you are gone, it is important to have all of the necessary information. If you are putting together an estate plan that addresses the issue of taking care of your pets, keep the following in mind.

You have finally done it; you took the necessary and important step to sit down and put together an estate plan with a qualified New York estate planning attorney. You have all of the necessary documents you need to move forward confident into the future about how your assets will be managed and distributed. You have gotten over the biggest hurdle that a majority of Americans never address but now you are faced with a trivial but important matter: where do I keep my estate plan?

Location, Location, Location

Where you store your estate plan matters. As we have written about before, failure to locate the documents in your estate plan at the necessary time could end up with them being treated as if they did not exist at all. Having your wishes written down somewhere that no one knows about does no one any good. Estate planning documents like wills serve an important evidentiary purpose for the courts as they are written proof of your final wishes. No court will probate a will that you cannot find and no hospital or financial institution is going to respect a Power of Attorney if they cannot see and examine the documents themselves.

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.

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