Articles Tagged with saratoga estate planning lawyer

Most people plan their estate believing that everyone they have left money or bequests to will survive them, such as when a parent specifies that money or property will be left to a child. But sometimes unexpected deaths happen and when it does, many people are left wondering what will happen to the property that they specified to go to the predeceased. It is a tricky situation, but thankfully New York law and proper estate planning precautions can address the problem.

New York “Anti-Lapse” Statutes

Common law followed in the past dictated that gifts to someone who was deceased was null and void. This is due to the fact that a dead person cannot own property. Since they cannot have property, they cannot inherit it. When someone left property to a person who had predeceased them, the bequest would be said to have lapsed. This would have unintended consequences, such as cutting out people who would have inherited the property if the bequest had not failed and others receiving more than the testator intended.


This blog previously discussed what happens if an heir passes away simultaneous with a testator and how the property that would otherwise go to the person who simultaneously passed away with testator ends up getting transferred. An obvious related question is what happens if an heir or beneficiary passes away prior to a testator? This blog also explored this issue in the past. It is now time to reexamine that issue in more detail and in light of the larger legal structure that the law provides for various contingencies that exist in the law regarding property passing via probate when some sort of mistake or event occurred that would otherwise leave the property unpassed to the next generation.

In both cases the law has default, fall back statutes to specifically address these sorts of scenarios. In the case of property or money left to an heir who predeceases a testator, if the property or money passes to siblings or children of the testator, New York’s anti-lapse statute controls and allows for that property or money to pass to that sibling or child’s heirs, almost as if the heir did not predecease the testator. If an heir passes away prior to distribution that bequest is considered to have “lapsed”. New York’s anti-lapse statute, as judged by its name, obviously prevents the lapse from occurring. In the absence of the anti-lapse statute, a bequest that fails to pass to the intended heir that heir predeceased the testator, the bequest becomes part of the larger estate, to be dealt with via other provisions in the will or otherwise dealt with through the application of the state’s intestacy statute. All states have anti-lapse statutes. In a sense the anti-lapse statute provides a substitute heir via statutory decree for the beneficiary who predeceased the testator.


It is known by many different names, depending on the state and the era. Most recently it made its appearance in news headlines with the name – intentional interference with expected inheritance, sometimes even shortened it IIEI. The United States Supreme Court referred to it as “a widely recognized” cause of action and as the “tort of interference with a gift or inheritance” in the Anna Nicole Smith case. Marshall v. Marshall, 547 U.S. 293, 296 (2006). The matter has surfaced in the news over at least the last century, most famously (perhaps infamously) in the Father Divine case in New York, in 1949. Latham v. Father Divine, 299 N.Y. 22 (1949).

The American Law Institute published the The Restatement of Torts (Second) of Torts in 1979.  That was the first time that the tort, known by many names, was formally recognized as such. Prior to this, the principal and concept was recognized but only in the most egregious of circumstances. There are several seminal cases that speak to the larger concept, one of which was the New York case dealing with Father Divine case noted above.


There are many reason why people decide to adopt an adult, but there is essentially only one legal effect: the adopted child is legally treated as if they were a biological child.  Most people would be right to think that the primary legal result is a creation of inheritance rights in the newly adopted adult.  There are, however, more rights attendant to being a child of some.  Some veterans have the right to have their children attend a military academy without concern for the state quota or be eligible for certain scholarships as well as other benefits.  A parent can add a child to their health insurance the age of 26, even if they are married.  


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