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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
Okay, maybe we went a little overboard with the NOW, but you do need a probate lawyer—sooner better than later. One day you will need your estates, assets, and other particulars to be sorted out.
Imagine not taking the right step at the right time for your posthumous affairs and all potential candidates end up fighting among themselves. But this isn’t Game of Thrones—and you have probate lawyers who can help you with the entire legal process.
What a Probate Lawyer Does
As a legal representative who has been licensed by the state to advise you on your legal particulars, probate lawyers can smoothen out an otherwise drawn-out process. If you die without a will, this complicates things for a probate lawyer.
Whether you need help with securing and assessing states or writing your will, a probate lawyer is there for you. Seniors usually find it hard to deal with the hassles involved in a legal process. There’s too much paperwork and jargon to deal with. A probate lawyer means you don’t need to worry about these trifles now. You can go about your affairs while your lawyer will take care of the more complicated matters.
Everything We Take Care Of
If you think helping you write your will is the only thing probate lawyers help you with, think again. There’s a lot more that goes into the process, including:
- File your will with the relevant local court
- Procure appraisals for your property and other assets
- File tax returns for deceased clients
- Identify and determine beneficiaries
- Help resolve any disputes related to your assets
Overall, a process that is otherwise difficult and even bitter for you becomes easier. You don’t have to worry about ensuring you’re making the right choices and not meting out anyone any wrongs. It’s the lawyer’s job now.
Creditors, Beneficiaries, and Others
The beneficiaries will have questions. In the rare off-chance that everyone gets along (and people rarely do), you might have an easier time. Most of these cases, however, require legal counsel to make the process easier.
Usually, beneficiaries are often concerned about things that, if resolved now, won’t become an obstacle later on. Your lawyer can keep these beneficiaries in the loop by regularly sending them letters and emails. Any questions that they have can be sorted out right now. If you are sending these communications yourself (as many clients opt to do), you can ask your probate lawyer to go over them for you.
Where Can You Find a Probate Lawyer?
Where else but right here? Reach out to our associates at the Law Offices of Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. You can plan a consultation with a Probate lawyer Brooklyn, Probate lawyer Queens in person if you’re in New York. We operate in the Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island, and Bronx areas.
When you’re planning your estate, your goal should be to spare your family and legal heirs the hassle as much as you can. The probate court proceedings could be very extensive, costly, and complicated. If you’re based in New York, here’s when you can avoid probate:
If you jointly owned property with your deceased spouse, the probate process won’t apply if you had ‘rights of survivorship.’ In this case, the surviving spouse automatically becomes the owner after one of the owners passes away. However, you still might need to present some paperwork to the court to prove that the surviving owner now holds the property.
- Joint tenancy: You’re called a joint tenant if you and your partner (married or not) own an equal share of the property. Joint tenancy applies to real estate, bank accounts, valuables, and vehicles.
- Tenancy by the entirety: Unlike joint tenancy, this form of ownership is only applicable to married couples if their real estate is co-owned.
A POD designation (payable-on-death designation) applies to bank accounts, certificates of deposits, and savings accounts in New York. Under this system, you have full control and full rights over the money in your accounts until your death. After your death, the same right passes on to the beneficiary automatically without going through the court proceedings.
Transfer-on-death or TOD applies to your securities and financial assets. You can register your brokerage accounts, bonds, and stocks in a TOD form in New York. You also need to name a beneficiary in the same form. The designated beneficiary will automatically inherit your financial investments after your death. Instead of going through the probate proceedings, the beneficiary will directly deal with the brokerage company.
According to the state law of New York, TOD deeds don’t apply to vehicles or real estate.
Any assets placed in a living trust don’t need to go through probate. You can hold almost any asset in a living trust, including bank accounts, real estate, and vehicles. All you need to do is create a trust document, assign a successor trustee, and transfer your estate ownership to the trust. After this point, the property’s ownership will be controlled in terms of the trust. After your death, the successor trustee can transfer the assets to the trust beneficiaries without court proceedings.
The Law Offices of Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C. helps families simplify the probate process in Brooklyn, Queens, and Jamaica. Joseph Ledwidge attorney has around 20 years of experience in dealing with the most complicated probate cases.
Speak with us for a free consultation.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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