Articles Tagged with albany estate plan

A last will and testament is a very important document detailing the final wishes of a deceased person and New York probate courts give great deference to the language contained in a deceased individual’s decrees. One of the limited ways interested parties to an estate can challenge the directives contained in a last will and testament is to claim the deceased was not of sound mind and body at the time the document was executed, due to the undue influence of an individual attempting to take advantage of the situation and enrich himself or herself.

New York’s Surrogate Courts have very limited instances in which someone can contest the deceased’s wishes to disperse his or her property to the beneficiaries of the estate and asserting undue influence is often one of the most difficult to prove. The petitioner must prove to the court the testator somehow could not escape the influence of someone with a close, personal relationship to the deceased.

Additionally, the individual petitioning the court to invalidate the will must be an interested party, meaning he or she must have a legal claim to the deceased’s estate as a relative, usually a spouse or child. Under New York inheritance laws, spouses and children are typically granted a certain share or proportion of the estate and are therefore given standing to interject as an interested party.

A person planning their estate for the first time is confronted with a lot of uncomfortable questions that they most likely have never had to address. There are medical decisions to be made, executors and trustees to be chosen and appointed, burial instructions to spell out, and perhaps most importantly for some, deciding who will inherit from you when you pass on. This question can often be a prickly subject amongst families, with spouses disagreeing and children being angered by the ultimate decisions.

Someone Will Always Be Upset

There are many different strategies that testators, those preparing their will, employ in deciding who will inherit from their estate and how much they will be inheriting. Many parents are often uncomfortable with leaving their children unequal amounts of inheritance. Often testators believe that if they leave an unequal amount amongst the children that it may indicate that they loved or preferred one child over the others.


This blog explored the generic topic of intellectual property in estate planning in the recent past, which is worth reading for a discussion on the larger topic. Estate planning for the artist or even the art collector is certainly related but worthy of its own discussion. With respect to intellectual property, copyrights are provided to protect in an original work of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, which can be replicated, perceived or communicated. To put that in plain english, the law protects those an artist who creates new forms of expression in established media, whether it be paintings, sculpture (including welded sculptures), photography, writing literature, screenplays or plays, music and even choreography. Artists such as Christo certainly make classification of art more difficult, but that is probably the point of the art. What happens, however, when an artist or art collector passes away and they have a substantial amount of artwork. Transferring a recording of a song is not the same as transferring the copyright to that song. Transfer of intellectual property must be in writing.


Trusts can be used as a useful tool in your estate plan to accomplish a variety of goals. One example is establishing a split-interest charitable trust. These charitable trusts are an irrevocable trust established for a charitable purpose of your choosing, while at the same time featuring a benefit to a non-charitable trust beneficiary. In addition to tax benefits received under federal law, charitable trusts offer the person establishing the trust, also known as the “settlor,” a controlled process to effectuate their gift to a selected charity. Examples of charitable trusts include a charitable remainder annuity trust (CRAT), charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT), and a charitable lead trust (CLT).


Establishing a charitable remainder annuity trust includes the transfer of property to a trust that first distributes a fixed annuitized portion of the trust property to non-charitable trust beneficiaries, followed by a distribution of the remainder to the tax-exempt charity selected by the settlor. Similar to the charitable remainder annuity trust, a charitable remainder unitrust also includes the transfer of property to a trust that first distributes an annuitized portion of the trust property to non-charitable trust beneficiaries, followed by a distribution of the remainder to the tax-exempt trust beneficiary; however, the amount of the annuity fluctuates with the value of the trust assets. A charitable lead trust differs from the charitable remainder annuity trust and charitable remainder unitrust in that the settlor will designate that the charitable beneficiary will first received a distribution of trust assets at least annually for a set period of time, after which the non-charitable trust beneficiary will receive the remainder of trust property. Each of these three split-interest charitable trusts offer dual benefit to a designated charitable purpose and the settlor’s non-charitable trust beneficiary.

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