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!

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!

 

When Is Probate Not Necessary In New York?

A trustee signing a living trust and helping a property holder avoid probate

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:

Joint Ownership

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.

The last will of an individual

Payable-On-Death

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

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.

Living Trust

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.

 

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.

 

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. 

Source:

  1. https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/almID/1535443189NY4297D201/?slreturn=20200117142820

For What Reasons Do I Need a Probate Attorney in New York?

In New York, when a loved one dies, their estate, including all bank accounts, investments, assets, and real estate must go through the New York probate process. This process will occur whether the loved one left a will or died without one.

Sometimes the probate process is still needed if a trust was not properly created. The process can vary and be rather complex depending on several different factors, such as:

• Is the will clearly written with the intentions of the deceased?
• When was the will last updated?
• What is the current marital status of the deceased?
• If there were recent updates, were they made by a person of sound body and mind?

Even when the deceased makes their intentions very clear about their wishes for after their death, it does not always alleviate potential tension and disagreements between surviving family members.

family giving their last goodbyes at the cemetery

To address certain issues and concerns, it is highly recommended to seek assistance and guidance from a qualified probate attorney. Whether you are the executor of the estate or concerned your loved one’s wishes are not being carried out, having an attorney on your side can be beneficial.

Other reasons why you need a probate attorney in New York include:

1. Submitting contracts during probate that are legally binding and valid.

For instance, a parent leaves their vacation home to their four children. Two of the children have no interest in the home, while the other two want to share it equally. A contract would be needed to sell the interest in the vacation home to the children who want to retain the home.

2. Addressing conflict and contesting of the will.

Sometimes surviving family members can contest the will or create conflict between siblings and other relatives. Conflict is especially common in situations where the deceased was married multiple times and had children with each marriage.

Another case where conflict can arise is when someone believes they should be entitled to more than they were left. For instance, the deceased verbally promised them a certain possession or an amount of money. Yet, when the will is reviewed, those details are not documented anywhere.

3. Making the New York probate process easier.

The probate process requires a review of the court to ensure everything is in order and the will is valid. Additionally, the probate process addresses specific issues, such as:

• Assigning an executor if one is not named in the will or trust.
• Ensuring proper appraisal of all assets in the estate.
• Paying any outstanding creditors.
• Collecting on any debts owed to the estate.
• Filing the will or trust with the probate petition with the appropriate court in New York.
• Ensuring assets and wealth are distributed correctly to the right beneficiaries, charities, and legatees.

Furthermore, having an attorney is vital if a loved one did not leave a will or trust or their intentions are not clear. It is equally beneficial to hire a probate attorney in New York when a loved one died without a will or trust to ensure proper distribution of their estate.

4. Providing assistance to create a legally binding and sound will or trust.

Young couple and insurance agent going through paperwork on a meeting

Taking the time to create a will or trust can help avoid conflict, make your intentions clear, and provide detailed instructions on how you want your estate distributed after your death. Obtaining help from a qualified probate lawyer ensures your loved ones will not have to guess what you wanted and can prevent most conflict.

For assistance in creating a will or trust, or representation during the New York probate process, please feel free to contact Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C. at 718-276-6656 today!