Better Call Saul: Is the Show an Accurate Representation of Lawyers in Real Life?

Netflix logo on a TV

Saul Goodman, Attorney at Law, has long been people’s favorite on-screen lawyer—maybe only rivaled by the good old Denny Crane and Tom Hagen. The protagonist of the Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul, Saul is a quirky, witty, and level-headed on-screen lawyer.

As a fictional character representing a real-life profession, would Saul Goodman stand the test of time?

Most Accurate Legal Show on Television?

Viewers have been smitten with the on-screen portrayal of this attorney and his forays into “elder law”—and, later, with criminal law. But how accurate is this show, as far as the portrayal of lawyers is concerned?

a judge’s gavel

Surprisingly, Better Call Saul has been called the most accurate legal show on television. Real lawyers did sit down to watch the show and gave it an A- for realism. We at the Law Offices of Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C. are inclined to agree. It’s a pretty great show for the following reasons.

Realistic Court Life

The courts in Better Call Saul aren’t the romanticized, glamorized, theatrical scenes for sensational drama. They’re monotonous, daunting, and quite frankly, kind of boring—as they are in real life. We also get to see Saul struggle in public courts as a public defender, surviving pay cheque to pay cheque. It isn’t easy being a lawyer and dealing with public courts—and Better Call Saul does an excellent job of depicting that.

Realistic Jury-Working

Part of what makes Saul Goodman so good is his prowess with convincing anyone with his words. Saul opens his defense with the masterful working of the jury: starting with the bad, and quickly leaving them behind. His focus is on depicting his clients as humans capable of erring—and capable of learning from their mistakes. Real-life attorneys, too, do focus on humanizing their clients.

Realistic Elder Law

In the show, Saul Goodman starts off as someone who helps seniors make their wills—kind of like a probate lawyer, just not as extensive in scope. While his dealings with these seniors are fun and, at times, hilarious, the whole Sandpiper case is also very realistically portrayed. For those who haven’t seen the show, Sandpiper is a large senior care facility overcharging its clients without their knowledge. When Saul finds out he turns it into a case of fraud, and is able to pursue it—over several seasons. And that’s what makes it accurate. Legal negotiations take a long time to work out—it’s a bureaucratic process. Life doesn’t work like Primal Fear courtrooms and back alleys.

Looking for a Real-Life Lawyer Working Elder Law?

If you’ve been interested in family law, elder law, or probate services after watching this excellent show, you can reach out to us at the Law Offices of Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. online. We offer Family Law Services Queens, Family Law Services Brooklyn and in other areas of New York.

And don’t worry about the dividing of your estates, chalking up of your will, or answering your beneficiaries. Like Saul Goodman so often says: ‘s all good, man. Better Call Us!


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 Overview of the Probate Process in New York

An estate lawyer in Brooklyn helping a client write her last will.

In New York, probate is necessary for assets solely owned by the deceased and haven’t been legally bequeathed to a designated beneficiary. This means that if the property owner passes away without a written will, the probate court will distribute the estate according to the state laws. However, if the property holder leaves behind a will that stands uncontested, the probate has a limited role to play.

What Are Probate And Non-Probate Assets?

Assets that can go through probate include solely-owned bank accounts, vehicles, antiques, cash, art pieces, and jewelry. On the other hand, non-probate assets include:

  • Any bank accounts with named beneficiaries.
  • Retirement accounts.
  • Life insurance policies with named beneficiaries.
  • Jointly held real estate.
  • Assets held in a trust.

Probate may also not be necessary if:

  • The total value of the estate is not big.
  • The estate only comprises non-probate assets.
  • The deceased left behind an estate plan to avoid probate.

A deceased individual’s last will.

A Quick Look at the Probate Process

Here is the process that follows:

  • The executor starts off the process by filing the probate petition. For this, they need a copy of the deceased’s death certificate and the original will. Both of these documents need to go to the Surrogate’s Court of the County, where the deceased individual last lived. The exact filing fee depends on the total size of the estate.
  • The next step is to itemize the inventory. The executor will collect the deceased’s physical and non-physical assets and appraise them as of the date of death.
  • The executor will also use the estate funds to pay any outstanding debts, liabilities, and taxes. If the estate doesn’t comprise enough cash, they might need to sell one of the assets.
  • The next step is to notify the distributees (legal heirs). The formal notice is called a citation, which also goes to the Surrogate’s Court. The estate is then distributed according to the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) and the Estates Powers and Trust Law (EPTL).

Seek Guidance from a Probate Attorney Brooklyn

Other than this, probate law also involves matter related to contesting a will, spousal rights, estate planning for blended families, and administration of a trust. If the process sounds overwhelming, try seeking help from a well-experienced probate attorney.

There is no better option in Brooklyn than The Law Offices of Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C. Joseph Ledwidge attorney himself has around 20 years of experience in dealing with complex estate matters.

Try us out. We also offer services in Queens, Manhattan, and Jamaica.

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.


Common Social Media Blunders to Avoid During Divorce Proceedings

Social media has been one of the most popular technological breakthroughs of the 21st century. Since 2004, it has grown steadily in popularity and number of users both. Social media platforms have now become a major source of information and news and provide a unique way to interact with people such as friends, family, customers, and more.

A smartphone screen with icons for popular social media platforms

According to statistics, there are over 3.5 billion social media users around the world. A huge percentage of the population in the United States is active on various social media platforms. However, not everyone uses social media as it has been intended, and many people end up making mistakes that cost them their jobs, reputation, and friends.

People going through divorces also make huge errors in judgment while using social media, and their blunders allow their ex to gather evidence that is used to manipulate the courts and get the better end of the deal.

Here are some of the most common social media errors made by people while getting a divorce:

Divulging Private Information

According to social media statistics, the average person spends up to 3 hours on various social media platforms every day. That is a long time, and it can be quite easy to slip up and start talking about the divorce and how the proceedings are going and what strategies you are using to make sure you get a good deal. However, this information can be used by the other party in court. Even if you are sharing information on private groups among trusted friends, there are plenty of ways your ex can get their hands on the conversations and comments. You should take a cue from celebrities and only make bland statements that offer no specific information.

Alt Text: Defamation law book and gavel on a table.

Talking About the Divorce or Disparaging Your Ex

During the divorce, emotions run quite high, and it can be tempting to blow off some steam by disparaging your ex on social media. That is a huge mistake and can be used in court to show your character and build a negative image of you as a toxic person. The information can also be used to file a defamation suit against you. Whatever you have gone through recently, no matter how badly your ex treated, it is best to refrain from commenting about it on social media.

Showing Off or Trying to Prove You’ve Moved On

Many people going through the divorce make bold statements on social media to prove that they have moved on, and they are in a better position than their ex. They make announcements of their good fortune, particularly if they have met someone new or just got a better job.

While its natural to want to share your happiness, statements like these can influence certain issues during the divorce, such as division of assets and child support.

They can also lead to claims of infidelity if you post that you are in a relationship, especially if the divorce hasn’t been finalized yet. It is usually best to err on the side of caution and avoid posting about your personal life on social media until the end of the divorce process.

Get Expert Legal advice from Leading Divorce Attorneys in New York

Don’t get lost in the complex legal labyrinth of divorce laws in New York! The law office of Ledwidge & Associates, P.C., offers the services of leading divorce attorneys in Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Long Island. They can help you protect your rights and provide both contested and uncontested divorce representation.

Schedule a free phone consultation today by calling us at 718-276-6656 and discuss your case with experienced divorce attorneys in New York!

Naming Beneficiaries on Life Insurance While Having a Trust in New York

Many people consider creating a trust either to complement their will or in place of a will. There can be several tax benefits to using a trust for certain types of assets, as well as avoiding hefty inheritance taxes and estate taxes.

If you are considering creating a trust in New York, there are several key things you need to know about naming beneficiaries on life insurance, 401(k)s, IRAs, and other such financial accounts with named beneficiaries.

To begin with, there is a difference in how insurance policy beneficiaries can be named, depending on whether you want to create a revocable living trust or irrevocable living trust. In a revocable living trust, the grantor of the trust can continue to make changes and update the trust until their death. They also can draw distributions from the trust.

In an irrevocable living trust, once it is established, it cannot be updated, changed, altered, or modified without the beneficiary’s or beneficiaries’ permission. All rights and claims the grantor previously held to the assets moved into an irrevocable trust are given up.

Revocable Trusts and Naming Beneficiaries on Life Insurance

Business photo showcasing money that is being held by the trustees for the beneficiaries

If you want the proceeds from your life insurance to go directly into your revocable trust, then you need to update the policy to name the trust as your primary beneficiary. There is no need to add secondary beneficiaries since you have a trust.

On the other hand, let’s assume you wanted your wife to have access to the life insurance proceeds immediately, without having to wait for a distribution from your trust. Then you would want to name her as the primary beneficiary and your trust as the secondary beneficiary. This way, if your wife passes away before you do, then the proceeds go directly to your trust upon your death. 

Irrevocable Trusts and Naming Beneficiaries on Life Insurance

The process of naming beneficiaries on life insurance policies with irrevocable trusts is similar to that of revocable trusts. You could list your trust as the primary beneficiary. Then the person designated as the beneficiary of the trust would receive the proceeds from your life insurance.

You could also list a person as the primary beneficiary and the trust as the secondary beneficiary. If the primary beneficiary is still alive upon your death, then they receive the proceeds from the life insurance policy. If they are also dead, then the proceeds are transferred to the trust and the beneficiary of the irrevocable trust.

What About Naming Beneficiaries on Other Types of Accounts?

For any type of account where you name a beneficiary, like a 401(k), IRA, savings account, etc., you would want to list your trust as the primary beneficiary when you want the proceeds to be transferred directly into the trust.

Or, if you wanted all or some of the proceeds to go to a named beneficiary, then you would list them as the primary beneficiary or stipulate the percentage they would receive upon your death. You would list your trust as secondary or as a co-benefactor and what percentage should be transferred into the trust.

What if I Named Beneficiaries of My Life Insurance in My Will Too?

Senior couple planning their investments with financial advisor

The New York State Probate Process would ensure that the beneficiary or beneficiaries named in your insurance policy received the proceeds regardless of the beneficiaries you named in your will. If you named your trust as the beneficiary, then the trust would receive the proceeds.

For further questions about revocable and irrevocable trusts, naming life insurance beneficiaries, and naming beneficiaries on 401(k)s, IRAs, and other financial accounts in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Jamaica, or New York City, please feel free to contact New York probate attorney, Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. at 718-276-6656 today! 

Does New York State Probate Law Allow Vacating of a Probate Decree?

One question that can arise as a result of the will probate process in New York is whether New York State probate law allows for the vacating of a probate decree. The purpose of the probate process is so the probate (surrogate) court and the assigned judge can review the will to determine whether it is valid and ensure that the complex process is adhered to correctly.

Last Will and testament document with pen

During the probate process, there are specific things that must occur. Among those, the executor of the estate is named. Another thing that must occur is the next of kin must be contacted and given ample time to consider any objections to the will left by the deceased.

During the probate process, the court will issue a probate decree, along with testamentary letters. Yet, there are certain circumstances where, after the decree has been issued, specific parties may decide they want to seek a motion to vacate the probate decree.

What Does Vacating a Probate Decree Mean?

While vacating a decree is rare, it is still allowed under New York State probate law. There can be circumstances that arise after the probate decree was issued or other reasons that occur during the probate process.

To illustrate, let’s assume you were listed as a beneficiary on your uncle’s last will and testament. During the probate process, you were not notified by the executor that you were named in the will. You later discover from another relative that you were named in the will after the probate decree was issued by the court.

Since you were not properly informed by the executor, you could file a motion to have the probate decree vacated with help from a New York probate attorney. The court would then review the grounds for the motion and, if they agree, then the decree is vacated.

Essentially, once a decree is vacated, it is no longer valid. The probate process is reset, and the process returns to the point before the decree was issued.

Judge Holding Documents

Another case where one may wish to file a motion to vacate a probate decree is if they believe the will is not valid. For instance, in the Matter of Estate of Thompson, the New York Surrogate Court received a request from beneficiaries of an earlier named will for a motion to vacate the probate decrees on the most recent will submitted during the probate process.

The parties believed that the earlier will from 2008 was valid and the one written in 2016 was not valid. They further felt the deceased’s 2016 will was written at a time when the now-deceased was suffering from a serious illness and incapable of making genuine decisions. The court did grant the motion to vacate the probate decree.

This allowed the parties time to present further information to challenge the 2016 will’s validity. Upon review by the court, it was discovered that there were a combination of different factors that led the court to conclude there were doubts about the authenticity of the 2016 will.1

Vacating a probate decree in New York is just as complex of a process as probating a will. If you believe you have grounds to file a motion to request a vacating of a decree in New York City, Queens, Manhattan Brooklyn, or Jamaica, NY, please feel free to contact probate attorney Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C. at 718-276-6656 to schedule a consultation appointment today. 



What Are the Pros and Cons of No-Fault Divorce in New York?

Since 2010, getting a divorce in NY was made easier when New York enacted no-fault divorce laws. A no-fault divorce is where one party can file for divorce if they are no longer happy in the marriage. They are not required to prove grounds for wanting the divorce, just that their marriage has broken down and there is no chance of a reconciliation.

Young couple is drifting apart after breakup

Pros of the New York No-Fault Divorce Process

There are several advantages provided by the New York no-fault divorce process.

  1. There is no need to prove that one party caused the breakdown in the marriage through adultery, domestic abuse, or other such reasons. If one person is behaving in such a manner, the other party can easily get out of the marriage without having to provide evidence of such treatment in court.
  2. The wait time to get a divorce is faster. In New York, you can file for divorce and obtain it in a matter of months, once you have met the 6-month minimum waiting period demonstrating the marriage cannot be salvaged.
  3. The costs to get a divorce can be less in amicable situations. When both parties want out of the marriage, there is not a lengthy trial over the disposition of marital assets, child custody, and other such issues.
  4. A couples’ reasons for divorce can remain private and do not have to become public knowledge. With no-fault divorces, the only reason one has to give for the divorce is that the marriage has failed and there will be no reconciliation.
  5. Parties can better focus on negotiating and reaching a settlement. To receive a divorce decree, a divorce settlement has to be reached that details how marital assets and the marital home will be divided, as well as child custody and access, and spousal support where applicable. Instead of wasting energy on arguing about who was at fault for the divorce, the couple can better put their energies toward reaching an agreement as soon as possible.
  6. It is better for minor children when their parents were in an unhealthy marriage. Children do not have to feel trapped and on edge when one parent is argumentative toward the other. Rather, once the parents are separated, a no-fault divorce helps create a healthier and stable environment for the children.

Kid daughter feeling upset while parents fighting at background

Cons of the New York No-Fault Divorce Process

There are a few cons related to the New York no-fault divorce process one should know:

  1. It is easier to get out of a marriage. It is not uncommon for one person to just want to be free from the other, and a no-fault divorce allows them to exit the marriage even when the other party doesn’t want to get divorced.
  2. When one person has behaved poorly, it does not require the other party to inform the court of their behavior. While the court will take into account what is best for minor children, they are not interested in adultery and other such issues any longer. This may leave some people feeling the other party is getting “off-the-hook” too easily.
  3. In contentious situations, the divorce process can be much longer and tedious. If one party refuses to negotiate to reach the divorce settlement and wants to litigate everything in court, it will take longer to finalize the divorce.

While there are a few cons to the no-fault divorce process in New York, the pros far outweigh them. To find out more about getting a divorce in NY, including Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Jamaica, and NYC, contact Joseph A. Ledwidge PC at 718-276-6656 to schedule a consultation today!

How to Remove an Executor: Removing an Executor of an Estate in New York

An executor of an estate has an important role to oversee the last will and testament of the deceased person who wrote the will. Often, the testator, the person who wrote the will, names an executor during the will and estate planning process.

Sometimes, the testator will have asked the person named as executor if they want to perform the duties and responsibilities this role requires. Other times, the named executor may have no idea they were given this task.

Regardless of whether executor knew ahead of time or after the death of the testator, as long as they are able to carry out the required duties, then they are not easily removed. These duties include, but may not be limited to:

  • Inventory All Assets
  • Maintain the Value of All Assets
  • Keep Accounting and Other Business Records
  • Probate the Will in Surrogate Court
  • Pay All Creditors with a Claim on the Estate
  • Pay All Income and Estate Taxes
  • Distribute the Remaining Assets to Beneficiaries

In addition, they must provide reports and documentation as requested by the New York Surrogate Court, which is also called the New York Probate Court. The executor has to also obtain permission from the court to perform various duties like liquidating assets to pay debts or distributing certain assets or money immediately to surviving spouse and minor children.

Furthermore, beneficiaries may request the executor provide detailed records and share updates about the status of the probate process. The executor has to comply with these requests in a timely manner.

Scales, clipboard, and gavel in front of man and woman

Who Can Be An Executor of an Estate in New York?

 To qualify as an executor, the minimum requirements required by law are:

  • 18 Years of Age or Older
  • No Felony Convictions
  • A United States Citizen or Legal Living Resident of New York
  • Not Incapacitated or Not Adjudicated

Executors should also be good at math and communications since they will need to prepare a variety of financial records, reports, and communicate with the court and the beneficiaries. Sometimes the testator will name a trust company, financial institution, or law firm as the executor of their will, which is also acceptable.

Valid Reasons for Removing an Executor of a Will in New York

The New York Surrogate Court has created a Procedure Act which details the valid reason for removing an executor from a will in Section 711. These reasons include:

  1. Executor Misconduct: If the executor behaves in such a negative or poor manner where he should no longer be the executor like filing for bankruptcy.
  2. Mismanagement or Wasting of Estate Assets: The executor is not managing or maintaining the assets as required.
  3. Convicted of a Felony: The executor has been convicted and found guilty of a felony in the past.
  4. Stealing Estate Assets: The executor has been stealing money and other assets from the estate.
  5. Substance Abuse: The executor has a substance abuse problem that is affecting their ability to perform their duties.
  6. Lacks Mental Ability/Capacity: The executor is not of sound mind or lacks the mental ability/capacity to carry out their duties.
  7. Misleads/Lying to the Surrogate Court: The executor is not being honest with the court in some manner like lying about the current value of the estate’s assets.
  8. Failure to Comply with a Court Order: The executor does not perform duties ordered by the Court.
  9. Not Eligible: The executor is not eligible to be an executor of a will in New York like they have not yet turned 18 years of age.
  10. Contingency Requirement Met: Once the executor fulfills his duties, which is called a contingency, the executor must stop being the executor.
  11. Fails to File Change of Address: If the executor moves and fails to notify the court of their new address, they could be removed.
  12. Becomes Disqualified: An executor was initially qualified, but some event has occurred which now makes them disqualified to continue as the executor like developing a substance abuse problem.
  13. Removes Assets/Property from New York: The executor is removing assets and property from New York without the court’s permission or beneficiary waivers.
  14. Unfit to Perform Executor Duties: There is some issue about the moral standing of the executor which makes them unfit. The court will determine this reason on a case-by-case basis.
  15. Failure to File Records/Documentation: The executor is not providing the required records and documentation to the court and/or beneficiaries in a timely manner.
  16. Violates the Terms of a Testamentary Trust: The will included a testamentary trust and the executor is violating the terms of that trust.

Removing an Executor from Probate Processes Is Not Easy

As you can imagine, the above reasons are in place to make it difficult to easily remove an executor from probate processes and required duties. Many of the reasons are often subjective in nature, which means the court handles them on a case-by-case basis. The court may not agree with the person who requests the removal of the executor.

Man and woman in front of judge

However, if you have sufficient evidence to support one or more of the qualifying reasons for removing an executor from probate processes, then it is possible to get them disqualified. To be successful in your endeavors, you will want to get help from a qualified New York wills and estate lawyer to present your evidence to the Surrogate Court.

Reasons Why Beneficiaries Try to Remove an Executor

The reasons why beneficiaries sometimes attempt to remove an executor from a will do not always align with the legal reasons as defined in Section 711 of the New York Surrogate Court’s Procedure Act. Some of the more common ones include:

  • The executor is not a relative.
  • The executor is a family member who dislikes me.
  • The executor is too young.
  • The executor doesn’t live in New York.
  • The executor is too old.
  • The testator made last-minute verbal changes to their will that the executor is refusing to follow.
  • The executor is my step-mother/step-father.
  • The executor has problems managing money.
  • The executor once stole from me, so they will steal from the estate.
  • The executor is not returning my phone calls or emails.
  • The executor owed the testator money and never paid it back.
  • The executor seems untrustworthy.
  • The executor has no experience managing finances.
  • I know the deceased person’s intentions, and they wanted me to handle their estate, not the executor.
  • The executor manipulated the testator to change their will and cut out many of the beneficiaries before they died.
  • The executor is playing favorites with our brother because we are siblings and ignoring me and my sister.
Two men arguing with two women

Even though one might have personal reasons for removing an executor, the court is not going to remove them as long as they are fulfilling their duties and there is no supporting evidence to indicate otherwise.

How Do You Change the Executor of a Will?

If the testator is still alive, they simply have to speak to their wills and estate planning lawyer and have their will updated with a new executor. Sometimes, the original executor may no longer be fit to perform the duties and responsibilities required.

Other times, there could be personal issues, where the testator and named executor are no longer on speaking terms. Depending on when the will was originally written, the original named executor could have died before the testator.

Ideally, one should review their will, named executor, and beneficiaries once every few years to see if any changes or updates are needed. Keeping a will updated can also help avoid disputes by surviving family and friends later when the will is probated in court.

Removing an executor of a will after the testator has died can be more difficult. The person or persons who want to remove the executor must first be able to prove to the Surrogate Court in New York that they are not fit to serve as executor based on one of the allowed grounds as detailed in Section 711 of the New York Surrogate’s Procedure Act.

However, as long as your reasons for wanting to remove the executor from the will align with one or more of the ones in Section 711, then there is a higher probability the court will remove the executor.

Since removing an executor from an estate in New York can be complex, you do need to get help and assistance from a qualified New York probate lawyer. If the executor is removed, keep in mind, the court will decide who will be assigned as the new executor of the estate, not you or the other beneficiaries.

To find out if you have grounds to remove an executor from an estate in New York, or to change or update the executor with a review of your will and estate planning process, please feel free to contact Joseph A. Ledwidge PC at 718-276-6656 today!



Planning a Destination Wedding? How to Make Sure Your Marriage Is Legal in the U.S.

It’s not hard to see why destination weddings are so popular. Getting married abroad is romantic and adventurous. It’s a chance to live out your wedding fantasy—whether it’s getting married like royalty in a medieval castle or barefoot on a white sand beach.

A destination wedding is a vacation and a wedding rolled into one, with your most cherished friends and family members present.

Wedding couple holding hands on a beach.

There’s a lot more to planning a destination wedding than booking a venue and making travel arrangements, though. If you plan to tie the knot in another country, you need to make sure you understand and comply with the rules and requirements of that country and your own. A family law attorney can help.

Here are some important things to know about getting married overseas.

The U.S. doesn’t recognize all marriages performed abroad.

Marriage is a declaration of love, but it’s also a legally binding agreement. Laws vary by country.

In general, marriages that abide by the laws of the country where you get married are considered legally valid in the U.S.—but not always. You’ll need to check with the attorney general’s office in the state where you live to determine whether your marriage abroad will be recognized. The attorney general’s office will tell you which steps you’ll need to take to make your marriage valid.

Some countries have a residency requirement.

Some countries require you to establish legal residence for a specific number of days or months in order to get married there. Let’s look at France as an example.

French law requires that you 1) reside in the country for at least 40 days in order to have a legal marriage ceremony or 2) have family ties in France that you can prove, such as a parent(s) who lives in the country. In either case, you must provide documentation, including:

  • Passport
  • Recently issued birth certificate (must have been issued less than six months prior to marriage date in the U.S. or less than three months prior to marriage date in France)
  • Proof of address (e.g., rental agreement, utility bill)
  • Proof of nationality
  • Proof of divorce/death certificate if previously married
  • Information about witnesses (of a civil marriage ceremony)
  • Certificat de Coutume from U.S. embassy

To get married in France you must have a civil ceremony in a town hall (mairie), after which you can have your own secular or religious ceremony.

If you don’t want to become a resident and don’t have a parent living in France, you’ll need a special dispensation (exception) to get married in the country, but these are rarely issued.

Another option is to get married in the U.S. (at your local city hall, for example), and then have a symbolic ceremony in France with all the bells and whistles.

There’s more to it than this, but you get the idea—there’s a lot to figure out when planning a wedding abroad.

Wedded couple in front of large mansion.

Some countries require an affidavit proving you’re eligible to get married.

This document attests that previous legal relationships (e.g., marriages) have ended, either through divorce or death. Divorce and death certificates must be translated into the local language and authenticated.

No agency or organization in the U.S. issues this kind of document, so you must obtain it at an American embassy or at your regional consulate office (the diplomatic office for the country where you want to get married).

An embassy or consulate office will not attest to your marital status, but they will notarize the document with your statement of eligibility to get married; most countries will accept a notarized document from an embassy or consulate office.

Some countries require blood tests.

Premarital blood tests check for things like venereal disease, genetic diseases, and rubella. Some countries, including Mexico and Haiti, require both partners to get premarital blood tests. It’s possible to be denied a marriage license if you or your partner test positive for certain diseases, depending on where you want to get married. Or, you may be required to disclose the test results to your partner.

Blood tests are also required in a few places in the U.S., including Montana, New York, and the District of Columbia. 

Bride and groom kneeling in front of priest at church.

Laws vary by country for religious ceremonies.

In most countries, a local official (civil or religious) performs marriage ceremonies. If you plan to have a religious marriage in another country, you may have to obtain specific documents to get married there.  

For example, in Spain, nonresidents are eligible to be married in a Catholic church only if they obtain a nihil obstat. It’s basically a clearance document stating that the bishop of the couple’s home church gives the okay for the couple to marry at a Catholic church overseas.

You may need parental consent.

The legal age to get married varies by country. As a general rule, most people under age 18 must have a written statement of consent signed by a parent(s) before a notary public. Some countries also require that you get the statement authenticated at a consular office for the country where you want to get married.

There’s more than meets the eye when planning a destination wedding. Marriage is a contract of sorts, and each country has different requirements. If you have your heart set on a wedding abroad, make sure you understand the rules and requirements for obtaining a marriage license in the country where you plan to have your wedding. It’s a good idea to have a plan B (and C) in case the red tape becomes too cumbersome in your first country of choice.

Get Legal Help Planning Your Marriage Abroad

Your wedding is too important to leave to chance. The last thing you want is to discover your marriage isn’t legally valid once you return from your honeymoon. The experienced family law attorneys at Joseph A. Ledwidge P.C. can help you understand the legalities of getting married abroad.

We can guide you through the process to ensure your paperwork is filed accurately and documents are properly translated. Most importantly, we can give you peace of mind during the already stressful process of planning the perfect destination wedding.

Contact us online or by phone at 718-276-6656 to arrange a no-obligation consultation with an experienced New York family law attorney. We serve clients throughout the New York metro area including Queens, NY, Jamaica, NY, and Brooklyn, NY.