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Our lawyers recently heard of a divorced individual who passed away and left two children below the age of 18 years. When the person passed away, the individual had no will in place. As a result, it was uncertain who the deceased individual wanted to appoint as a personal representative of the estate. 

Remember, a person passes away without appointing a personal representative, New York law dictates who can apply to be appointed as a personal representative. Because the deceased individuals were below the age of 18, they could not apply to the court for appointment as personal representatives. 

The surviving family filed the appropriate paperwork with probate court hoping for the nomination of a conservator for each child. After the court-appointed conservators, the conservators selected a personal representative for the estate. The person chosen by the conservators then filed paperwork requesting the appointment of a personal representative. This person then gathered all of the deceased parent’s assets, paid the deceased person’s creditor claims, and then divided and transferred the remaining assets to each minor child’s conservator. These conservators must hold assets for the children until the children reach eighteen years of age. This case took a long time to resolve and involved substantial costs. Besides court fees, accounts, conservators, and lawyers also had to be paid. 

If you receive an inheritance but are also married, the person who passed on an inheritance to you likely intended only to benefit from these funds. If you end up getting divorced, you’re probably left wondering how you can guard the inheritance. Most assets gained by a couple during a marriage are viewed as marital assets, but there are exceptions to this. 

Some exceptions to marital property in New York include bequests from the estate of a deceased relative, gifts made to the individual by a non-spouse, and certain types of compensation for personal injuries. Divorce can make how this property is handled complex. 

While assets inherited by only one spouse often are not subject to property division during the divorce process, courts have the authority to split inherited amounts if it is determined that not separating these assets would create hardships for the other spouse for children who are the product of the union. This article reviews some of the helpful steps that you or a loved one can follow to make sure that inheritance is protected.

The difference between children born during a marriage and those born outside of marriage might seem insignificant, but this issue can become a substantial one for people who are navigating estate planning issues. 

In a recent case, Hollywood producer Steve Bing passed away with two illegitimate children. Steve’s father had created various trusts for the benefit of future grandchildren in 1980. Before Steve’s death, some litigation had occurred involving trusts. The dispute arising from the trusts addressed the meaning of the word, “grandchild”, as it was used in the trust’s tools. The trustee had taken on the view that “grandchild” did not include grandchildren born out of wedlock who had not lived as regular members of their natural parent while minors. Steve Bing had not resided with his children as regular members of his household. 

This case raises issues common to many jurisdictions in respect to definitions used in trusts as well as other estate planning tools. 

The year 2021 began with President Biden assuming his role in office. Democrats now control the House as well as the senate. As a result, many people are anticipating what changes the left has in store. While the introduction of tax changes has been discussed, it’s still too early to anticipate what will happen. The Covid-19 pandemic, however, will likely postpone estate planning changes. Given the changes that likely lie ahead, it’s important to do what you can to stay ahead of what might be coming.

Estate Tax Exemption Level

One anticipated change is that the estate tax exemption will drop to $5 million or lower. This change would lead to people utilizing various unique estate planning strategies. Some people have voiced the concern that if they pass away up to the current estate tax exemption of $11.7 million and later pass away when the exemption has been lowered to $5 million, they will owe estate tax on the lower amount as well as whatever assets are still found in their estate. The Treasury has provided directions as well as stated that they will not claw back gifts made before 2021, which afforded taxpayers the option to decrease their federal estate by transferring assets immediately and then drawing appreciation.

Second marriages can help individuals cope with the pain associated with losing a spouse through death or divorce. If other beneficiaries are involved, you should consider what will happen to your assets after you pass away. You cannot guarantee that everyone in a blended family will be happy with the arrangements associated with your second marriage. Fortunately, however, it’s possible to avoid some mistakes so your family does not lose out on receiving an inheritance. With adequate estate planning, you can also make sure that your former spouse does not receive an inheritance if you do not intend so.  To better prepare your estate if you’re in a second marriage, this article reviews several estate planning tips that you should consider utilizing. 

# 1 – You Don’t Have to Treat All Heirs Equally

Most spouses do not marry while they are in equal financial positions. This is even more true for second marriages. If your new spouse moves into your residence, you might want your children to receive proceeds when your home is sold instead of your new spouse. Remember, in these situations, there is no established order that your assets must pass on equally to your children. There are various reasons why you might decide to treat your children unequally including children with disabilities, children who suffer from gambling conditions, or various other factors. 

Understandably, many clients want to appoint children or grandchildren to receive their assets. Appointing a minor beneficiary directly to an account, however, can present its fair share of challenges. Unfortunately, clients often assume that the estate planning process is complete after they sign a will and trust. These individuals often then name the same individual named in their estate planning documents as the direct beneficiaries of their accounts. Remember, if a designated beneficiary is a minor at the time of an account owner’s death, several undesirable results can occur. This article reviews just some of the most important reasons why you should be careful when appointing a minor beneficiary. 

Problems with Naming a Minor

Some substantial reasons exist to dissuade you from naming a minor as the beneficiary of your estate. The most substantial of these problems include the following:

In the recent Texas of Marshall v. Marshall, a beneficiary initiated legal action against a trustee as well as five co-trustees of two trusts addressing claims that they had breached fiduciary duties. After the original lawsuit was filed in Texas, the trustee filed a petition seeking declaratory relief and requesting that the court declare the co-trustees were sufficiently appointed. The beneficiary obtained a temporary injunction preventing the co-trustees from receiving compensation as well as disposing of trust assets or participating in litigation.

The court of appeals reversed the litigation on the grounds that permitting the lawsuit to continue did not constitute a miscarriage of justice. The court of appeals also reversed other aspects of the temporary injunction on the grounds that there was no evidence to support that irreparable harm would occur otherwise.

The Role of Co-Trustees

Many people were forced to think about how to adequately manage their estates in 2020. While a will and last testament was for many years the most common estate planning, trusts have grown in popularity. As part of a will, a person must specify how his or her properties should be distributed after that individual passes away, while family trusts are established for either a specific individual or a group of people who are not specifically named. This article reviews some valuable details you should understand in deciding whether a will, a trust, or both a will and trust are right for you.

Critical Differences between Trusts and Wills

While the critical differences with trusts and wills teal with the time when the assets are transferred, some of the  other vital differences between trusts and wills include the following:

As we proceed into 2021 and emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, many fundamental aspects of daily living have been challenged. Among many lessons people learned from the pandemic, one of the most critical ones is the importance of asset protection. Private placement life insurance provides individuals with the opportunity to allocate alternative investments in a tax-efficient manner while creating efficient strategies that do not exist with other life insurance options. Various factors make it an ideal time to consider using private placement life insurance including high lifetime exemptions and attractive federal estate and income tax rates. This article reviews some critical details that you should consider about deciding whether private placement life insurance is right for you.

 How Private Placement Life Insurance Functions

Private placement life insurance trusts are a special type of life insurance that has a high cash value compared to a low death benefit. To minimize fees, the life insurance aspect is kept as affordable as possible, which permits the cash value of the policy to drive death benefits. The purpose behind private placement life insurance trusts is to amass a substantial cash value within a life insurance policy to take advantage of the tax-free handling of income as well as gains from the underlying investments in the policy. 

One of the most important elder law decisions is picking the best nursing home. While this decision is often financially motivated, it’s also critical to find a facility that offers the best possible care to fit your needs. Unfortunately, not all nursing homes are capable of meeting everyone’s needs. To help process best, Medicare has implemented a five-star rating system.

The Separate Nursing Home Ratings

Not all nursing homes meet Medicare standards. After an in-depth review of a nursing home, Medicare assigns facilities with a rating based on a one to five scale with one being the worst and five being the best. Five-star ratings for nursing homes are based on the following separate categories:

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