Articles Tagged with bronx estate plan

Nobody likes thinking about serious illness, especially a serious illness that could lead to death. Unfortunately, such illnesses can cause massive financial difficulties for friends and loved ones which can in turn significantly deplete the assets you had been planning to leave to your heirs. The moral of the story is that, no matter your age, it is never too early to start planning for the potential need for end-of-life care. The following tips are adapted from a recent article on this topic found in USA Today, and they may provide you with some important concepts to consider when thinking about healthcare issues.

Be Explicit About Your Wishes

Telling people in passing how you hope to be cared for in case of serious illness is important, but it isn’t necessarily always enough. It is important to write down your wishes and be explicit about how you wish your health care to be handled. You should also work with your estate planning attorney to create documents such as health care proxy nominations and/or a living will that express your healthcare wishes in detail.

While comprehensive estate planning can certainly be a difficult process, there are some things that remain rather constant. Most parents will choose to leave the bulk of their estate to their surviving spouse and/or their children, with the surviving spouse typically leaving the remainder of the estate to children. However, it is not uncommon for individuals thinking about retirement and other aspects of estate planning to not have children and/or not be married. When those situations arise, many of those individuals find it challenging to determine how they would like to distribute their estate and to decide whom they should nominate to make important decisions. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you understand the myriad options available to you, and a recent article from CNBC can help you start exploring your options.

Shaping Your Will

According to the article, a 2016 survey indicated that 64 percent of Americans do not have a Will in place. While the survey did not focus on childless adults, it is safe to say that many of those individuals do not have a Will in place, either. When you die without leaving a Will, your state has a statute that determines to whom your estate will be distributed.

Typically, many people tend to think an estate plan only includes your Will. In today’s day and age, however, most people have a much more diversified estate plan than they realize. Your estate plan is far more than just your Will and includes things like trusts, investments, retirement accounts, and insurance policies. One of the challenges of comprehensive estate planning can be understanding how these assets work and to whom they should go to. Recently, Forbes explored the way several assets within a typical estate plan usually work and understanding this could be an important part of your estate planning decisions.

Wills and Trusts

Those selected to benefit from assets distributed through a Will may have to wait a little longer than if you were to use a trust or other vehicle to distribute such assets. Wills are required to go through the probate process to prove that they are valid and to make sure they comply with the law. Typically, assets within a Will cannot be touched until the probate process is complete. While the probate process in New York is easier than elsewhere, it can still be time-consuming especially for an individual that may need immediate access to the assets in your Will.

Most individuals recognize the importance of comprehensive estate planning, although they may still choose to avoid it. One important part of your estate plan is your power of attorney (“POA”). Basically, a POA is a document that nominates an individual to make legal decisions for you in the event that you are unable to do so for yourself. You can choose the extent of the decision-making power you vest in the individual you have chosen by working together with an experienced estate planning attorney to determine how to best represent your goals. However, it is important to be aware of some of the pitfalls that could weaken your POA. According to a recent article from Forbes, the following tips may help you do just that.

Use an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

Too many people decide to cut corners by using any number of online forms and legal information available for download. However, these forms are not tailored to a client’s individual needs, nor do they help you understand important aspects about making sure your POA and other estate planning documents meet the needs you have expressed. Designing your POA and other estate planning documents with an experienced estate planning attorney can help you make sure that your estate plan complies with the law. This can save you and your loved ones time, money, and stress down the line. With something as important as estate planning, you want to be sure that you

Once an individual decides to engage in comprehensive estate planning, several concerns may arise. One of those concerns often involves leaving a large sum of money to an heir that may be facing financial difficulty or may not yet have the ability to budget in a responsible manner. In such cases, individuals likely still want to make sure that the heir in question is financially provided for, but may have serious concerns over whether or not the heir is able to utilize an inheritance in a reasonable manner. In such cases, CNBC notes that increasingly popular IRA trusts might be the solution to helping you make sure that an heir’s inheritance accomplishes the goal you want it to meet.

Basics of an IRA Trust

An IRA, or individual retirement account, typically comes in one of two forms: a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. There are different tax structures in place for both types of accounts, but regardless of the type you choose these retirement accounts can often grow to include sizeable amounts of money over time. As these accounts grow, it is increasingly important for you to ensure that your comprehensive estate planning strategy makes the best use of them.

We have written several aspects about the role IRAs can play in your comprehensive estate planning strategy, as well as several concerns that accompany them. Here, we will address the two common choices facing non-spousal individuals listed as heirs for an IRA account that is not slated to go to a trust for that individual heir. These two choices are to take a lump sum withdrawal or to keep the account invested. Each of these may have different consequences for an individual heir that are important for everyone to keep in mind.

Lump Sum Withdrawal

Non-spousal IRA heirs have the option to elect to make a lump sum withdrawal of the assets within the IRA. Choosing this option could be beneficial on several levels, such as enabling the heir to make use of a large sum of money for important large purchases like a house or renovations. It could also enable them to pay off otherwise crippling debts. However, inheriting a large sum of money all at once can carry complications, some of which are determined by the amount within the IRA as well as the type of IRA.

Giving to charity is an important aspect of many estates. Those wishing to give gifts in a tax efficient manner should consider the positives and negatives of certain types of gifts. Many people who are wishing to help reduce estate taxes should consider spreading gifts throughout their lifetime.

Lifetime Gifting

In most cases, it is better to give money to loved ones while you are still alive than to wait until you pass away. Currently, a person can give up to $14,000 each to any number of other persons in a single year without incurring a taxable gift. This $14,000 annual exclusion is beneficial to you and to the recipient who typically does not owe taxes on the gift and does not have to report it unless it is from a foreign source. Any gift over the $14,000 exclusion must be reported on a Gift Tax Return and spouses splitting gifts must always file this Gift Tax Return even when no taxable gift is incurred. It is also possible to make unlimited payments directly to medical providers or educational institutions on behalf of others for qualified expenses though incurring a taxable gift. This can be a bit of a loophole.

As was outlined in the most recent blog posting, if you compare the costs and benefits of creating a will now versus passing away intestate, there is no doubt that the benefit is huge and the cost is small.  It is thus high time to explore New York’s intestacy laws in detail.  It is important to note that intestacy laws are important not only because they instruct a probate Judge on how the estate must be divided but it also tells the probate Court what is not permitted as well as what is neither required nor prohibited; in other words the parties can agree to certain final dispositions.  The specific statute that defines intestacy and the outlines the specific requirements that a Court must adhere to is found at New York Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) Section 4-1.1.  

Family Law and intestacy laws are one of the few areas of the law that recognizes and codifies a different treatment of the sexes, insofar EPTL Section 4-1.2 requires that a child conceived outside of marriage (so called and grossly titled “illegitimate” children) must have an acknowledgement of paternity by their father or a finding by a Court that the children in issue are indeed the children of the deceased man before those children can inherit as a child of the deceased.  Not so with mothers, since, except in the case of children mistakenly switched following birth, there is no doubt that children are the issue of their mother.

The technical legal term when a person passes intestate is that their estate is administered and a person who passes with a will, called testate, has their will probated.  Within the universe of individuals who are material to the probate Court are children, spouses and siblings.  Adopted children at treated the same as biological children although unadopted stepchildren are not considered children as far as the intestacy law is concerned.  New York has adoption proceedings and recognizes adult adoptions to legally redefine this relationship.  Divorced spouses are immaterial, although separated spouse are still considered spouses as far as the law is concerned.  


There is little question that Federal Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. If there is neither original jurisdiction, meaning a question of federal law or rights that arise as a result of federal legislation nor complete diversity of the parties, meaning that all of the defendants domicile in a different jurisdiction from the plaintiffs home state, then there is no jurisdiction for a federal Court to preside over a case. In all matters of diversity jurisdiction, the matter has to involve  at least $75,000 in property or damages. Certainly at least some probate cases fit into the requirements of diversity jurisdiction. Yet, there is generally a federal Court hands off approach to dealing with probate cases, known as the probate exception to federal jurisdiction.

A famous case from 1946 in the United States Supreme Court held that a federal Court can adjudicate various suits against a decedents estate, so long as they do not assume general jurisdiction over the probate proceeding itself or assume control over the property that is properly in the hands of the state probate Court. Markham v. Allen, 326 U.S. 490, 494 (1946). The meets and bounds of this holding have caused volumes of case law and law journal articles. It was not until 2006 with the celebrity, Anna Nicole Smith case that came before the United States Supreme Court that the Court expounded on the federal probate exception in any meaningful regards. Specifically the Supreme Court held that when one court is adjudicating a claim over a specific piece of property (or in the case of an estate, a bundle of property rights) a second court will not assume jurisdiction over the same property.

Think about this, you were born to your mother and father. At a wee young age your mother and father separated and your mother raised you. Nothing unusual there. Say then your mother later married another man and he started to raise you as his own; while your stepfather may have always been known as a stepfather, he still loved you and treated you as his own without distinction as to his own biological children. Then at a certain point your stepfather moves to adopt you. Adoption can be a lengthy process, with a mandatory minimum three month waiting period. During that process your stepfather passes away intestate. You are not legally his child so there are no inheritance rights; so what do you do?

Perhaps you seek various government benefits that you would be entitled to if you were adopted, such as Social Security benefits if you are still a minor, benefits through the Veterans Administration, et cetera. This scenario is entirely plausible and actually happened in the case of Matter of Mazzeo, 466 N.Y.759 (A.D. 3rd Dept 1983). Mazzeo shows some of the problems that goes beyond what was outlined above, in that in Mazzeo after the necessary parties filed the adoption petition for an adult adoption, the stepmother (Rose Mazzeo, hereafter Mrs. Mazzeo) passed away intestate and her niece filed for letters of administration, claiming that under New York’s intestacy statute, Mrs. Mazzeo’s only surviving heirs were her five nieces. The stepson (Joseph Mazzeo, hereafter Mr. Mazzeo) opposed this move and claimed that he was equitably entitled to be considered the child of the deceased. The New York Appellate Court agreed with Mr. Mazzeo and found that under principles of equity, or, fundamental fairness, an adoption should be construed for purposes of considering Mr. Mazzeo as the heir to Mrs. Mazzeo.


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