3 Key Reasons You Should Create an Estate Plans for Your Future

When we talk about estate planning, many people immediately associate it with the ultra-rich. However, contrary to popular belief, anyone can benefit from having an estate plan no matter what their net worth is. According to Forbes, only 42% of the adults in the United States currently have an estate plan such as a living trust or a will.

A note on paper with a fountain pen

While end-of-life planning can be depressing and seem morbid, it is essential to protect you, your assets, and your loved ones after you die. If you haven’t started drafting your estate planning documents yet, consider the following reasons why it is essential to talk to an estate law attorney as soon as possible to get the process started:

Avoid Complications

If a person dies without an estate plan, the matter of distribution of assets is passed on to the courts who handle everything from the distribution of the property, the dissolution of the business, and the guardianship of the children. The process is known as probate, and it can get seriously complicated and expensive. By preparing the documentation in advance, you can save your family and loved ones from numerous complications and legal issues after your death.

A parent walking with their child on a beach

Keep Your Children from Ending Up in Child Protective Services

It might be unpleasant to think about your death, but it is essential to take some time and consider what would happen to your children if you suddenly died. Where will they end up? Who will take care of them?

If you don’t have an estate plan that clearly mentions a guardian that you have chosen, your children will end up with Child Protective Services, while the courts decide the best candidate to be their legal guardians. The process can take a long time, and your kids could end up with someone who would be your last choice for a guardian. Staying with protective services for a long time can also have a negative emotional impact on your child during a very vulnerable time in their life.

Avoid Disputes

Not everyone cares about what happens to their wealth and assets after they have passed. However, not leaving an estate plan can result in huge disputes between family members regarding who gets what. This can create strong feelings of ill will between relatives and even break up families. By planning your estate documents, you save your family from making difficult decisions and eliminate the risk of any disputes by making the decision for them.

Get Legal Advice from Leading Estate Lawyers In New York

One of the best ways to avoid complications with your estate after your death is to hire an experienced estate lawyer to draw up the correct documents for you.

Ledwidge & Associates P.C. offers the services of leading estate law attorney Queens, estate law attorney Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island, and the Bronx. We can help you protect your assets from exorbitant inheritance tax and ensure that your loved ones will be well taken care of through living wills and detailed estate planning documents.

Schedule a free case evaluation by calling us at 718-276-6656 and let us help you plan for your future!

Estate Planning: 3 Of The Most Common Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

Almost 50% of U.S citizens over the age of 55 don’t have a will, which is surprising when you consider that this crucial document allows you to achieve in death what you’ve devoted your entire life to—taking care of those you love.drafting a will

This can be a huge problem for heirs, since the legal process of dividing an estate – known as probate – can take a huge financial and emotional toll if there’s no will in place.

With that being said, just creating a will isn’t enough to safeguard your assets, prevent family disputes, and protect your final wishes. You also have to ensure that the will you create is legally sound and binding.

Avoiding the following common mistakes is a good way to start.

Planning Just For Death

If your will only addresses the fate of your assets when you die, it’s not complete. A truly comprehensive will also address what happens while you’re still alive. This means it should contain legally-binding, detailed instructions that designate and guide caregivers if you can no longer make sound legal decisions because of Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other health conditions.

Therefore, you should create financial and healthcare powers of attorney that can grant individuals the authority to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf.

Ignoring Beneficiaries

A will represents just one of the ways in which properties and assets are divided after death. Beneficiary designations on insurance policies and financial accounts are another way, and the latter generally trumps the former.

For instance, if you want to bequeath all your property and assets to your new girlfriend, but your children are the designated beneficiaries on all your accounts, the statements in your will won’t count for anything.

Addressing Only Your Physical Assets

Forgetting about digital assets, such as email accounts, social media accounts, and online banking credentials, is a common mistake people make in the digital age. Some digital assets, such as particular photos, may hold some sentimental or financial value. Others, such as login credentials, can be abused if they fall into the wrong hands.

If you have an online presence, it’s vital that you bequeath your digital property and information in your will.

Ledwidge & Associates, P.C., is a leading legal firm that assists clients across New York with estate planning, Family Law Services Queens, Family Law Services Brooklyn, divorce, and probate law. If you require our services, get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation.

Common Probate Issues

A probate lawyer in New York helping a client with the estate planning process.

According to Forbes, the COVID-19 crisis has forced US citizens to consider estate planning more seriously. As the crisis’s volatility continues to impact our everyday lives, wealth transfer has become more common.

Before you get down to business and start writing your will, here are a few problems that you might face in New York:

Will Contests

A will contest is a legal effort made to invalidate a will. Anyone can contest a will if it’s believed to be procured by fraud or forgery. You can also challenge a will if you have reasonable grounds to believe that the testator lacked the mental capacity to write a will or was made to sign it under duress. A will can also be invalidated if it’s outdated, and a more recent version of it exists or if it isn’t compliant with the state laws.

However, you can’t contest a will just because you don’t like its provisions and terms. Other than that, you also must be directly affected by its outcome to challenge it. A legal heir or a beneficiary can only contest the will. After a will is successfully contested, the court invalidates the entire will, instead of a single provision.

In either case, it’s not easy to contest a will because the entire process also translates into court expenses. Only an experienced probate attorney can simplify the process for you.

There Is No Written Will

This shouldn’t surprise you. 68% of Americans currently don’t have a written will. Dying ‘intestate’ will only complicate the matters for their surviving descendants. According to the state laws, when someone dies without a will, the court decides how the estate will be distributed.

When a New York resident dies without a will and no children, the surviving spouse usually inherits the estate. If there are more legal heirs, the surviving spouse only gets $50,000, and the rest is divided among the descendants. If there is no spouse, the entire estate is inherited by the descendants.

This is a problem because you might not want your estate to pass on to your surviving spouse, especially if you’re not on good terms. A large number of Americans prefer leaving their estate to charities. Your wishes will only be honored if you have a written will.

A deceased individual’s last will

The Executor Isn’t Carrying out Their Duties Well

An executor is the individual chosen to oversee the probate and honor the deceased’s wishes. Your chosen executor can step down from the role or choose not to have a say in how the estate is distributed. This usually happens when they take upon the duty without realizing the gravity of the responsibilities and pull out later. In this case, the court will check if you name a successor executor. If there isn’t one, the judge will appoint an estate administrator to carry out the probate duties.

With the right probe representations, none of these problems are too big. If you’re based in Brooklyn, Manhattan, or Queens, The Law Offices of Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C. can help you out! Joseph Ledwidge Attorney  has around 20 years of experience in helping clients deal with complicated probate cases. Reach out for a free consultation.

An Estate Planning Checklist for Beginners

A house in Brooklyn passed on to a beneficiary through a probate

Preparing for the end of your life sounds challenging, but it’s something that you should do, notwithstanding. Having a well-thought-out will is not just essential for seniors but for the youth too. Life is uncertain. The best you can do for your children is to plan your estate carefully and intelligently.

Let’s cover the basics of estate planning:

Make a list of your belongings.

To get started with your estate planning, you need to begin to itemize your inventory or belongings. This may take a few days. Grab a paper and pen and start looking around for all the tangible and intangible assets you own. After you’ve enlisted the assets, you should also mention their estimated market value, date of purchase, purchase price, appraisal and valuation reports, and the number of years it’s been with you.

Your tangible assets may include real estate, property, homes, precious metals, ornaments, jewelry, antique collectibles, trading cards, cars, motorcycles, and boats. Intangible assets mostly comprise your investments, receivables, and bank accounts. Common examples of intangible assets include retirement plans (IRAs), savings accounts, mutual funds, stocks, bonds, certificates of deposits, treasury bills, and business ownership. When you’re enlisting these items, write down account details and the company/institution where your investments are held.

Consider Your Family’s Needs.

Your estate planning will also revolve around some important family decisions. If your children are still young, you need to name a guardian and backup guardian (if the primary guardian doesn’t survive). This will ensure that your children are taken care of and help avoid costly court fights. You don’t need to assume that your immediate relatives will share your child-rearing goals. Document your childcare-related wishes as explicitly as you can.

If you’ve remarried and don’t name a guardian, the child’s custody automatically goes to the surviving biological parent. If you’re not on good terms with your ex-spouse and don’t want this to happen, specify it in the will.

A probate courthouse

Review the Beneficiaries.

When you’re writing your will, don’t leave any beneficiary sections blank. In this case, when the will goes through probate, the assets will be distributed according to the estate laws. We also recommend contingent beneficiaries that get the property if the primary beneficiary dies before you do.

If you’ve remarried, you might want to update the beneficiary list. Let’s say your ex-spouse is still a beneficiary on your life insurance policy; your current spouse will not get a penny from the policy payout. The same goes for your retirement account. Keep track of and update the beneficiary designations as needed.

The last step is to select an estate executor who will in charge of administering the last testament. Choose someone competent, responsible, and possesses good decision-making ability. Your spouse isn’t always the best choice, especially if losing you takes a toll on their emotional well-being.

If the process sounds complicated, we recommend seeking help from a well-qualified estate and probate lawyer. If you’re based in Brooklyn, Queens, or Manhattan, and are looking for Queens Probate lawyer or Brooklyn Probate lawyer there is no better option than the law office of Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. We have over 20 years of experience in handling complex probate cases. You can contact online or give us a call at 347-395-4799 to arrange a consultation with an experienced New York probate attorney.

 

Deceased Relative Debts: Who Is Responsible?

A loved one’s death is a significant loss that, if you are responsible in some way for their wills and estates, can also leave you with the job of sorting out their final accounts. Many have discovered debts in their loved one’s name, which need to be repaid. Yet who is responsible for a deceased person’s debt? You might be surprised to learn that there is more than one answer.

What Is an Estate, and Why Is It Important?

An estate comprises everything of value that a person owns at the time they pass away. Generally speaking, any bills left behind after a loved one’s death must be paid from their estate. This can be done by selling their assets to raise money for the debts or be as simple as writing creditors a check from their bank account. What’s left after these payments can then be distributed via the probate process.

If there isn’t enough in a person’s estate to cover their debts, it may simply be that creditors don’t get paid. However, this only applies to certain kinds of debt. Other kinds can end up the responsibility of family members. Let’s take a closer look at these different debt types and what debts are forgiven at death.

Closeup of credit card

Money Owed on Credit Cards

If your loved one has a balance pending on one or more credit cards and had a joint account with someone, that person will have to pay the debt. However, should there be no assets left in a loved one’s estate to pay these bills, creditors will not receive any money. This is because credit card debt is unsecured, meaning that the lender has no rights to claim assets for the purpose of debt repayment.

However, there are many ways around this. For example, a credit card company can send your loved one’s account to a collection agency, which may hound you with phone calls to try to get you to pay them. As well, they can order a lien to be placed on your loved one’s assets until you pay them, which can make it impossible for you to pay any other debts.

A credit card company may also try to sue you for the money owed, which can lead to garnished wages.

Money Owed on a Mortgage

If your loved one co-owned their home with another person, or if the house will be inherited by a specific individual, the co-owner or devisee (a person to whom real estate is left by the terms of a will) will be responsible for the remainder of the mortgage payments. In the event that your loved one was the only one who owned the home, their estate is responsible for paying this secured debt.

Money Owed on Home Equity Loans

Another secured debt, an outstanding amount left on a home equity loan must be repaid. If the lender wants the full amount owing right away, the house may have to be sold if there are insufficient funds in the estate. However, anyone who is inheriting the home can ask the lender about the possibility of taking responsibility for these payments.

Money Owed on a Vehicle

If you are responsible for your loved one’s estate, you will have to pay any outstanding car loans from that estate if there are sufficient funds to do so. Like mortgages, car loans are secured debts. That being said, if the loan cannot be paid for, the asset—which is the vehicle—becomes the collateral and can thus be seized following the placement of a lien on it by the lender.

Should a friend or family member inherit the vehicle, it will be their responsibility to continue paying the loan. Otherwise, they run the same risk of repossession.

Graduation cap on top of bundles of cash

Other Loans that Are Owed

If your loved one had a student loan that was granted privately from a family member, that debt should be repaid by their estate. Once again, if there was joint ownership of the loan via a co-signer, then the co-signer is responsible. As well, because student loans are unsecured, a lender may have no choice but to go unpaid. As far as what debts are forgiven at death, other lenders may dissolve loans immediately following notification that the person has passed away.

Common Issues That Are Completely Avoidable

There are many things that can go awry when trying to settle a loved one’s outstanding debts, even if they obtained estate planning services. However, none of these is impossible to rectify.

Pay Old Debts First

Before accepting any money, beneficiaries must pay any old or outstanding debts left by their loved one. In some cases, a beneficiary can be faced with some unwelcome surprises in the form of hidden debts.

In New York State, it is assumed that creditors will do their due diligence to collect money owed, so it is not mandatory to post a notice to creditors in your local newspaper. The statute of limitations on debt after death states that creditors have six years from the date an executor was appointed to make their claim.1 Creditors who don’t do so have their claims rendered invalid.

Never Speak to Creditors

Another common issue has to do with speaking to creditors or collection agencies. Among the tactics they will use to try to recover their money, members of these organizations will resort to feigned empathy and a friendly and conversational tone to try to coerce repayment.

However, you are not obligated to speak to any creditor regarding your loved one’s debts. The best thing to do is to never make any commitment for payment and to end the conversation as quickly as possible.

Man looking at phone

Taking Personal Responsibility for a Loved One’s Debt

“Are beneficiaries responsible for a deceased person’s debt?” is a very common question. Unfortunately, some have ended up paying for their loved one’s debt from their own pocket after having a conversation with a creditor.

Although creditors are legally permitted to contact the relatives of a loved one to get the contact information for the person responsible for paying their debts, they are not legally permitted to try to coerce you into paying the debt yourself. None of your loved one’s beneficiaries is responsible for the personal payment of their outstanding debt.

The above is true even if your loved one’s estate is insolvent or contains more debt than assets. If this is the case, you may not receive an inheritance, but you won’t be responsible for debt repayment, either.

Any money that is in the estate will be used to pay for funeral expenses, secured loans, preferential debts (social insurance and tax contributions) and credit cards or personal loans, in that order.

Deceased Relative Debts Can Be a Complicated Process

Even if you do your homework and your loved one left detailed instructions, you can still encounter unexpected problems with settling their debts. The worst thing about going through this process is that you are already feeling emotionally vulnerable and overwhelmed by what needs to be done, and creditors are perfectly willing to take full advantage of this.

You also need to ensure that your loved one’s wishes are followed exactly as they requested, as this can also lead to liability on your part. Having an estate lawyer on your side, you can communicate to creditors that, despite your grief, you will not be taken advantage of. You can also ensure that your attempts to execute their wishes are well within legal boundaries.

However, you need to ensure that the person chosen to represent you is well-versed in New York State probate law. When it comes to your loved one, there is simply no replacement for an attorney who has the right amount of knowledge and experience in probate law.

The lawyers at Joseph A. Ledwidge, PC have 32 collective years of experience in probate and estate administration law. No matter the legal issue surrounding your loved one’s estate, we are well-prepared to represent your interests. At our firm, your result matters. Discover the benefits of working with attorneys who understand your cost and time concerns as you deal with your loss. Contact us today to arrange your consultation.

Source:

1. https://statelaws.findlaw.com/new-york-law/new-york-civil-statute-of-limitations-laws.html

Why millennials need estate planning

 

 

It is not uncommon for a person in their 20s or 30s to think that a will or a trust is only something that people in their parents’ or even their grandparents’ generations need. The truth, however, is far from this. While most people die later in life, accidents can happen at any time and a person may become disabled at a young age and unable to take care of their obligations or affairs even if they are still alive. An estate plan is simply smart insurance in a way.

NerdWallet notes that as more millennials become parents, the need for them to  engage in estate planning grows. A clearly identified plan including named guardians for what will happen to their children should they die is something every parent should have. This is not a decision to be taken lightly. Simply saying that a grandparent will raise a child is not enough. A plan should also identify financial support for the to-be guardian.

ThinkAdvisor encourages millennials to give consideration to what might happen if they were to be involved in a tragic accident. Who would be able to  make medical decisions on their behalf if they could not do it for themselves? This is another thing that can be identified in a good estate plan.

Documenting online identity and login information should also be done so that the appropriate person or persons would have access to these accounts in the event of a death. Beneficiaries for work-sponsored 401K plans and life insurance policies should also be updated and reviewed regularly.

 

 

 

Estate planning and health issues

When it comes to setting up an estate plan, health issues may play a role in various ways. For example, someone may be prompted to set up an estate plan specifically because of health challenges they are going through, which have made them realize that it is important to be prepared for unexpected problems that may be life-threatening. Moreover, other people may want to prepare for health issues that leave them unable to take care of themselves.

There are a number of options for those who want to ensure that they are cared for in the event they become incapacitated, and many people have benefit from setting up a health care proxy, also known as a durable power of attorney for healthcare. By doing so, you can appoint someone who you trust to make key medical decisions for you in the event that you are no longer able to make these decisions yourself. There may be other ways you can prepare for these potential challenges as well, such as making revisions to your will.

Ultimately,  health issues can be incredibly overwhelming and disruptive, so it is imperative to be prepared. When it comes to estate planning, you should not only be taking into consideration your finances and those you love, but other important aspects of your life as well, such as your health. By preparing yourself for issues that could arise in the future, you may be able to rest easier at night knowing that you are ready for unexpected problems.

Taking time to grieve after the death of a relative

The immediate period after the passing of a relative is not easy and can mix heartbreak and confusion. You might feel you have to start quickly on all of your plans to handle the estate of your loved one. However, you should not feel pressured to swiftly carry out your New York estate plan. There is only one step to worry about off the bat.

The first step you should take as soon as possible is to secure the tangible property of your loved one. You want to make sure that the tangible assets your relative owned will not go missing before it is time to distribute them to whoever is listed in your relative’s will, or, if there is no will, through whatever means your relative planned. There are times when assets may vanish if someone else has access to them.

Agingcare.com explains that after this step, you can take the time to grieve . The financial matters of your relative’s estate will not require immediate attention. However, if your loved one was issued a Social Security check after passing away, you will have to go through the proper procedures listed on the Social Security Administration’s website to return it.

Also make sure that, if your relative made a will, you file the will for probate as soon as you can. This will help prevent delays with the probate process and keep you from feeling stressed out. On top of your grief, you do not need to worry about your estate plan taking longer to carry out than it has to.

You should also plan on seeing an attorney, but you do not have to make an immediate visit. An article on Caring.com points out that the period following the death of a loved one is very emotional and you may  carry those feelings with you into the attorney’s office. Waiting a while can help clear your mind and let you address estate issues with your attorney in a calmer manner.

The financial responsibilities of serving as an estate executor

Losing someone you love is difficult, especially if you were close with that person. The situation can become even more complicated if the deceased party asked you to serve as the executor of their estate or the trustee for their trust.

That means that not only do you have to deal with grief, but you also have to handle the complex financial and legal responsibilities of administering an estate. The first step toward fulfilling your obligations to your deceased loved one is familiarizing yourself with your responsibilities as the trustee or executor .

It is your job to tie up loose ends after someone dies

An executor helps address all outstanding issues in someone’s legal and financial life after their physical life is over. You will handle the financial and legal details related to their passing and the liquidation of their assets.

Typically, you will have some financial and legal obligations to fulfill prior to disbursing the assets from the estate. Often, these responsibilities include:

  • paying bills
  • paying taxes
  • closing accounts
  • assessing liabilities and debts
  • locating assets
  • locating beneficiaries and heirs
  • serving notice
  • handling any probate proceedings

Obviously, there are many complicated steps involved in estate administration. As soon as you assume your mantle of authority, you should review the last will. Whether you go over it with your own attorney or the attorney who drafted it, it’s important to understand the request and obligations outlined in the last will or estate plan. From there, you will want to secure all important financial documentation related to the estate, ranging from outstanding bills to text documents.

You must pay debts before you disperse anything to other people

No matter the emotional significance of a valuable asset, you do not have the right to disperse anything from the estate until all outstanding debts and obligations of the deceased get paid in full. That is why reviewing financial documentation is critical.

Once you understand what obligations the testator left to you, you can quickly handle them and move on to locating and organizing assets for heirs and beneficiaries. Anytime you disburse funds, whether it is to a child of the deceased or a creditor, make sure that you have accurate records and receipts. If someone chooses to challenge your role in the future, that documentation can prove that you performed your fiduciary duty with care and diligence.

If you are uncertain about the right steps to take, it is best to refer to the advice of an experienced estate administration attorney in Jamaica. In some cases, you could be held legally or financially responsible for mistakes you make in good faith while dealing with an estate. The best way to avoid any such liability is to carefully comply with the terms of the will and with the law.

Putting homes in trusts

Many people in the New York City area rent their primary residence. However, for those who own their homes, these parcels of real estate are often among the largest single-item assets in their portfolios. This, combined with the fact that property values are high in the area, has the potential to cause a considerable amount of loss in the probate process.

The way most people avoid this loss is by using trusts. As mentioned on CNN, this type of ownership has the potential to avoid the probate process entirely . Trusts are legally distant from the person who establishes them, and many are not dissolved upon that person’s death. Rather, those who use these financial tools typically plan ahead so that certain heirs gain access to the funds and assets held within.

Trusts seem more complex on paper than they often are in reality. The most commonly used trusts are rather simple in terms of function. They are official stores of wealth that one may transfer assets to, modify the terms of and withdraw from if one has certain prescribed funding, modification and beneficiary privileges. Per FindLaw: People often name themselves as beneficiaries of their trusts, a title they schedule to pass to their children  under certain conditions.

The FindLaw resource also mentions the fact that those who felt burdened by trust paperwork in the past may find the processes surrounding funding and deed paperwork more streamlined now. Even so, performing these tasks is often not as straightforward as it might be for other types of simple ownership structures, such as brokerage or banking accounts. However, there are many ways that an estate planner might address this complexity, potentially allowing a higher percentage of an estate to weather probate without diminishing.