Articles Posted in Blended Families Estate Planning

A Living Trust is an estate planning vehicle that helps you avoid probate by transferring property to the people and charities of your choice. The assets are held in the trust’s name and not in the name of the individual. For this reason, it is important to appropriately name the trust.

The Importance of a Name

Trust names are important to consider because in order for a trust to legally hold the assets or property, the trust has to be identifiable by its formal name. This name must be distinct and separate from your name.

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.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. left behind a legacy of peace and understanding, but he may have been surprised by the legacy that his estate is forging. Last Friday, a Fulton County Superior Court Judge declined to make a ruling in a dispute over two items left behind by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, his Bible and his Nobel Peace Prize. Fox News reports that the case over these two items is likely to go to trial, with King’s estate, controlled by his two sons, against their sister, Bernice. This is only one of many lawsuits that have crept up in years past over the legacy of Dr. King.

Managing Estate Assets and Legacies

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s estate is not technically what many would consider an estate in the traditional sense. It is not a probate estate, with his assets being liquidated according to his will. Rather, Dr. King’s estate is the for-profit Martin Luther King Jr. Estate Inc. with his three surviving children being the sole shareholders and directors. As the sole shareholders and directors, his three children control Dr. King’s name, image, likeness and his possessions.

As the new year opens it is a good time to review all of your legal estate planning decisions and tweak any previous documents that you think need to be modified. This requires us to get back to the basics of estate planning . For those scenarios that deal with what happens to you in an emergency situation, you have an advanced medical directive, with some level of specificity but not too much. The term advanced medical directive is an umbrella term that encompasses several types of legally significant documents. One of them is a living will. Your living will tells the medical professionals who are treating you, what your wishes are in advance for any number of medical situations.

HEALTH CARE PROXY

Underneath the umbrella term of advanced medical directive, there is also the health care proxy. The health care proxy allows for you to appoint a trusted person to act as a decision maker for those scenarios that are not contemplated in your living will and if you are unable to make any medical decisions by yourself. Medical conditions change, different doctors have varying opinions as to the best course of treatment or even over the correct diagnosis. Having a health care proxy will have someone stand in for you to make the best decision under the circumstances. You can limit the authority that you give to the person or only permit the health care proxy go into effect after certain conditions or triggers occur.

VALUABLE ASSET

        A residential lease in New York City or any desirable locale can provide many benefits.  Some people wait years to get into a rent stabilized apartment.  There is even a Seinfeld episode where Elaine quips that some people scan the obituaries to see if someone in a rent stabilized apartment has passed away.  It is a common occurrence for many people to live decades and raise generations of families in their rent controlled rental unit.  Many cities have their own laws dealing with how to inherit these leases.  New York Real Property Actions and Proceedings §236 law deals permits an estate to inherit the lease of a deceased person and New York Estate Powers and Trusts Laws §13-1.1(a)(1) also holds that a lease is an asset of an estate.  In addition, many local laws housing and regulations also mandate how and when a lease may be inherited.  New York City ended its Rent Control laws in 1971, yet still has approximately 38,000 rental units listed under the old Rent Control laws, as once the lease is under the Rent Control law it remains until it is no longer.  Going forward New York leases are generally covered by Rent Stabilization laws, also covered by the same laws dealing with succession of a residential lease.  Rental units under the rent stabilization laws are the most common type of residential lease.  These leases will remain for so time due to the right to succeed these leases by other family members or even friends.  Most particularly, New York Code, Rules and Regulations §2532.5(b) allows for family members to succeed the lease.  Landlords have been known to fight like the devil to regain possession of these rentals, sometimes offering cold hard cash, from $40,000 on the low end to $17,000,000 on the high end.

HOW TO INHERIT OR SUCCEED – COHABITATION

INHERITANCE RIGHTS  AND OTHER RIGHTS

There are many reason why people decide to adopt an adult, but there is essentially only one legal effect: the adopted child is legally treated as if they were a biological child.  Most people would be right to think that the primary legal result is a creation of inheritance rights in the newly adopted adult.  There are, however, more rights attendant to being a child of some.  Some veterans have the right to have their children attend a military academy without concern for the state quota or be eligible for certain scholarships as well as other benefits.  A parent can add a child to their health insurance the age of 26, even if they are married.  

REASONS FOR ADULT ADOPTION

A JDSupra post from last month offers a helpful reminder of the changing legal landscape for New York same sex couples who are married.

As virtually everyone knows, in late June the U.S. Supreme Court declared the main portion of the federal law known as the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) unconstitutional. The crux of the particular case, Windsor v. United States, related to the estate tax. Windsor, a New York resident, was forced to pay over $350,000 in estate taxes following the death of her wife, Thea Spyer. The couple’s marriage was legally recognized in New York, but the federal government treated the pair as strangers.

Estate Planning Options

The more complex a family arrangement, the more tailored estate plan is likely needed. For local residents this often takes the form of second or third marriages, with children and different step-relatives. The “default” rules may not be good at accounting for these various relationships and balancing the unique needs of wishes of each family member. Yet, even in the most extreme cases, an estate planning attorney is able to craft the best possible arrangements, provided participants are open and honest about their situation.

But, things can get particularly sticky when there are secret relationships or other family dynamics that are not incorporated into a plan.

Mistress & Children Fight for Inheritance

It is often argued that estate planning is necessary to prevent family feuding in the aftermath of a passing. Disagreements about “who gets what,” how to handle funeral issues, and other concerns are known to tear friends and family apart. Being explicit about one’s wishes ahead of time–and letting relatives know early on–is the ideal way to avoid surprises and present the best opportunity for disputes to be squelched.

But proper planning does more than prevent feuding after a passing; it can also prevent it before one’s death. That is because disagreements about caring for aging relatives is often a bone of contention. Arguments about who is going to make decisions on their behalf, what type of long-term care will be pursued, and similar concerns can cause ruined relationships just as much as any inheritance dispute. All of this makes it imperative for local community members to visit with an NY estate planning lawyer early on to ensure legal documentation is in place so that there is no uncertainty about how any of these issues are to be decided. Considering the prevalence of cognitive brain issues (i.e. Alzheimer’s and dementia), prudent planning requires these matters be handled as soon as possible.

Celebrity Example

The more assets that are at stake following a passing, the higher the risk that others might pursue all available means to get a piece of the pie–even if it completely contravenes the original wishes of the former owner. Estate planning fills the gap by closing as many opportunities for subsequent legal challenge as possible. Sadly, in many cases, even when some planning is done ahead of time, outsiders may attempt to find any loophole possible to upset the original plan.

That seems to be what happened with the estate of music legend James Brown. Brown died over four years ago from heart failure, but the final resolution of his assets remains in limbo with a potentially long future ahead. That is because the Huffington Post is now reporting that the state’s supreme court recently rejected a compromise that was two years earlier between various parties.

The Backstory

Contact Information