Articles Tagged with new york inheritance lawyer

What happens if someone who intentionally causes a death is due to inherit from the person who died? Is the wrongdoer still able to profit from his or her actions?

In general, the answer would be negative. New York passed a statute known as the “Son of Sam” Law which essentially prevents a criminal from profiting from their crimes. This state law overlaps with a long-ago established common law principle known as the “slayer rule” which more directly affects inheritance issues, preventing someone convicted of causing a death to then profit by inheriting from the deceased person.

These rules are not new. But sometimes unique cases pop up which are hard to fit perfectly into the older rules, usually sparking legal challenges.

Proper Inheritance planning requires much more than simply filing in the blanks on standardized forms. That is why experienced New York estate planning attorneys are essential advisors when local community members are evaluating their long-term financial preparations. Proper planning of these affairs requires consideration of unique family dynamics and an ability to anticipate potential issues before they actually arise. Anticipating possible conflict and accounting for it ahead of time is one of the main benefits that local residents can derive from creating and updating their New York estate plan.

For example, local families often have concerns about the effect that a second marriage will have on their inheritance plans. Many emotions are at play when a parent remarries after a divorce or the death of a spouse. As a CNN story this weekend explained, adult children commonly express apprehension when a parent re-enters the dating pool or indicates a wish to get remarried. Financial concerns are occasionally the cause of that trepidation. One woman who lost her father several years ago explained, “I want my mom to be happy, but how do I know that her suitors don’t have ulterior motives? I’m concerned that she’ll jump into another marriage and her second husband will take advantage of her financially.”

Conversations between loved ones about these issues are frequently thorny and often result in strained family relationships. On one hand, as the article author notes, a parent is free to use their finances as they see fit. After all, an inheritance is not an entitlement but a gift. However, adult children need not stand by if a parent is genuinely making damaging financial decisions or is legitimately being taken advantage of–elder financial exploitation is a common problem. Therefore, in these situations an experienced, trained professional can often provide a crucial perspective to balance the competing concerns.

This weekend the New York Times reported on the sad legal battles of 94-year-old actress and Broadway star, Celeste Holm. Ms. Holm gained famed as a leading film actress in the 1940s, starring in All About Eve and winning an Oscar for her performance in Gentleman’s Agreement. Now, however, Ms. Holm is making headlines for her 5-year legal battle with her sons over her estate. The story notes the potential for drama surrounded a New York inheritance and, as the author writes, is “a cautionary tale for families trying to manage one of our age’s emblematic conflicts, between elderly parents who want to live autonomously and adult children who want to protect them.”

The trouble for the family began when Ms. Holm (then 87 years old) began dating a man who was 46 years younger. When the man moved into Ms. Holm’s large Central Park West apartment her two sons became worried that the relationship would have ramifications on their inheritance. Shortly after, Ms. Holm’s son transferred her investments and apartment into limited partnerships and then arranged for the partnerships to be held in an irrevocable trust, naming himself as the trustee. The trust was scheduled to pay Ms. Holm $300,000 a year to cover her expenses.

These living trusts are popular legal entities than help families transfer assets at death while avoiding the time and expense of probate proceedings. However, it is imperative that the decisions are made in good-faith with the consent of those involved. That is where Ms. Holm’s family situation went awry. Following a family meltdown over the relationship with the younger man, Ms. Holm sued her son to overturn the irrevocable trust. The legal battle eventually lasted five years and consumed millions of dollars–taken from the very estate that was at issue. The two parties eventually settled, but the expenses of the fight had placed Ms. Holm in a tough financial situation. Ms. Holm and her now-husband remain in debt and they are unsure if they will be forced to move out of their apartment.
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