Articles Tagged with brooklyn estate planning lawyer

Many areas of the law are constantly changing based on a variety of factors. Estate planning is no exception, especially given that there are potential changes coming to the United States tax policy under the current administration. One of those potential changes is the elimination or restructuring of the estate tax. For individuals with trusts or considering establishing a trust as part of their comprehensive estate planning strategy, the elimination or restructuring of the estate tax may make people wonder how effective those trusts will be in achieving the goals behind their creation. Even with the potential for such changes, trusts are still an important tool when it comes to comprehensive estate planning that will continue to provide many important benefits like those below.

Avoiding Probate

With or without the estate tax in its current form, trusts can help you avoid the headaches that often come with probate. By creating specific types of trusts to handle various assets and properly assigning such assets to those trusts, you can avoid the need to probate those assets This can save time and money, and can help ensure that your assets are distributed in the way you see fit.

The number of Americans choosing to cohabitate in lieu of marriage is steadily increasing. While nontraditional approaches to relationships are becoming more common, the importance of traditional measures related to comprehensive estate planning remain just as important. In fact, for couples that cohabitate without entering a traditional marriage, comprehensive estate planning can be an integral part of ensuring your partner’s financial security and preserving assets the way you want. The National Law Review recently published an article highlighting the importance of estate planning for cohabitating couples and while the following important information is not an exhaustive list of considerations, it is a place for cohabitating couples to begin when approaching estate planning.

Real Property

If the home you share with your partner is not in both of your names, you are likely to run into complications if they pass away. Without a traditional marriage, intestate succession will not work in your favor when it comes to property. Without a Will in place that specifically leaves that home to you, you would need to vacate the home after the title holder’s death or purchase the home for fair market value. Neither of these scenarios are ideal, and they are likely contrary to the plans you and your partner had for any property you own in the event of one of your deaths.

Growing older and the inevitability of death are unpleasant topics for most people. Often equally unpleasant is the thought of being alive but being unable to make important decisions for yourself. Part of a comprehensive and effective estate planning strategy includes ensuring that you have planned for the possibility of future incapacity. Incapacity typically refers to the inability to make important medical and financial decisions, but proper planning for the possibility of such an occurrence can help make sure that should such circumstances arise, your designee will be adequately prepared to handle them. Failing to plan for incapacity can result in serious financial consequences and may inhibit your ability to distribute your assets as you see fit.

Perhaps the most important part of ensuring that you have adequately planned for the possibility of incapacity is working with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure all of your estate planning documents accurately reflect your wishes for them. An estate planning attorney can review your estate plan for accuracy as well as for compliance with the law, and can ensure that any steps you have taken to plan for incapacity will fulfill your goals. The following suggestions can help you plan for the possibility of incapacity and avoid the pitfalls that come from being unprepared.

Power of Attorney

Comprehensive estate planning is a responsible way to protect your assets. One of the primary ways you can utilize estate planning to protect your assets is by ensuring that your estate plan accurately reflects how you wish to have your assets distributed in the event of your death. Taking steps toward preventing individuals from contesting your Will is one way to help make sure that your estate will be distributed according to those wishes. A common approach many people take to contesting a Will is by claiming that the testator – or the person that created the Will – made decisions within the Will because of undue influence. While this claim is not always wholly unavoidable, there are steps that you can take to decrease the chances that such a claim will arise.

Understanding Undue Influence

There is nothing wrong with an individual asking for specific property or even a child encouraging a parent to leave specific things to them instead of their siblings. Courts do not typically view these actions as examples of undue influence, even when an individual is fervent about their desires. However, such requests move closer toward undue influence when the testator is in a compromised position such as being mentally or physically ill. For instance, if the child asking for property is the ailing parent’s caregiver, a court may find that repeated requests for certain assets could qualify as undue influence depending on the other circumstances surrounding the request and individuals involved.

Most individuals look forward to retirement for many years. The chance to enjoy the hard work you have put forth throughout your lifetime is appealing, and being able to do so without being tied down by work or other responsibilities often sweetens the potential possibilities that await you in retirement. For some people, retiring abroad is one of their life goals. Maybe they visited a place they simply fell in love with or maybe they want to take advantage of more favorable economic situations that can exist for some individuals in other countries. Whatever the reason for desiring a retirement abroad, there are some important estate planning considerations to keep in mind.

Double Taxation

If you remain a United States citizen, you will still be subject to U.S. taxes. That means you need to be aware of the tax policy in any country you might be considering retiring in outside of the United States. If the country you want to retire to will also impose taxes on you, you may end up paying double the taxes on your income and potentially on your assets. This can significantly reduce the size of your estate, in turn hindering your ability to leave as much of your assets as possible to your heirs. While you can renounce your U.S. citizenship, doing so carries a wide range of consequences. It may become more difficult to visit loved ones in the United States, and you may even be subject to the U.S. expatriation tax.

Creating an estate plan is an effective way to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes while minimizing hardships that could otherwise result for loved ones and friends. However, creating a comprehensive estate plan is often just the beginning and there are important reasons why you can and should revise your estate plan. A recent article from Forbes lists the following as important reasons to revise your estate plan:

Significant Changes in Value of Estate

A significant change in the value of your estate may be reason for you to reevaluate how you want your assets to be distributed. You may wish to increase the number of people you include as heirs or adjust the amount you have chosen to distribute. A significant change in the value of your estate should be accompanied by appropriate revisions to your estate plan.

The Durable Power of Attorney is a powerful estate planning tool that everyone should have. Properly drafted, a Durable Power of Attorney allows for the right person to be able to manage your affairs when you are physically or mentally unable to do so. However, a Durable Power of Attorney goes into effect once executed and generally grants someone else great power to make decisions for you and to enter into agreements on your behalf. Many people may be uncomfortable granting these powers to someone else while they are still capable of managing their own affairs. Is it possible to delay the effects of a Durable Power of Attorney?

What Is A Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that is used to delegate legal authority to another. The person who signs a Power of Attorney is called the Principal. The Power of Attorney gives legal authority to another person called the Agent or Attorney-in-Fact to make financial and legal decisions for the Principal. The authority that the Principal grants the Agent can be as broad or narrow as the Principal wishes. It is entirely dependent on what powers the documents grants the agent.

What’s In a Name Depends on Who You Are. It Could Be Hundreds of Millions According to the IRS

            There has been an ongoing battle in recent years between decedents’ estates and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). While it is only to be expected that the IRS attempt to collect as much as it can, their recent focus has turned to a rather contentious area in their quest for collections: intangibles. This category that includes property interests like computer software, patents, copyrights, publicity rights and literary, musical and artistic compositions can be difficult to put a price.

Most recently, the estate of former singer Whitney Houston has been fighting off an inexplicable valuation of Ms. Houston’s publicity rights, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Ms. Houston’s estate is just one of many in recent years, most notably, Michael Jackson, who are embroiled in heated tax claims over the valuation of certain assets, most contentiously the valuation of the celebrity’s public image. How exactly does the IRS come to the conclusion of the worth of the decedent’s image, and why are valuations of this intangible so hard to get right?

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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