Most of us write down our wills and think our job is done. We think that with some basic estate planning we’ve ensured that our possessions will be passed down safely after our demise.
But sadly, it’s not always that simple.
Statistics show that every year about 0.5 to 3 percent of wills are contested in the US. So even if your will is properly signed and witnessed, there is still a chance for it to be contested.
Here are a few of the most common reasons wills are contested.
The Will’s Creator Is Suspected to Have Been Influenced
Testamentary capacity is very essential when creating a will. This basically means that the person creating and signing the will needs to be an adult with normal mental capacity. This essentially implies that the creator needs to be old and sane enough to understand their actions and what the will implies.
The testator needs a thorough understanding of not only their own assets and the value of their estate but also the role their will plays in distributing it. Moreover, they need to understand who they’re signing off as beneficiaries, and so on.
If there’s any valid doubt on the deceased person’s mental capability to create the will in question, then the will can be contested.
The Will Is Incomplete
The will can be considered incomplete on two conditions. Firstly, if it has technical issues like an improper number of witnesses, missing signatures, or isn’t formatted correctly (based on the state’s laws).
But the will is also incomplete if it hasn’t been updated. After every major event in your life, your will needs to be re-evaluated and revised accordingly.
Getting married, divorced, having or adopting children, or acquiring a large amount of inheritance or real estate are all occasions that require you to update your will. Failing to do so can result in the will being contested after your death.
The Will Contains Fraudulent Terms
Wills are most often contested when there are doubts about how genuine they are or whether they’ve been tampered with in any way.
For instance, someone may have reason to believe that the signature on your will isn’t authentic. Or it may look like parts of the will have been crossed out or removed without authorization. Or perhaps, you’ve mistakenly added a faulty clause or an invalid request. There may even be evidence that points toward you being influenced by a family member while writing the will.
And even if your will is 100 percent genuine, at that point there’s little you can do, since you’re probably in a coffin.
So, to make sure your will is legally correct and as accurate as possible, you need an estate law attorney to help you out.
When an individual passes away without having a valid will in place, they’re deemed by the law to have died interstate—which means that the administration and distribution of their estate will be done in accordance with the legislation.
On the other hand, when you have a will, you can dictate the distribution of your estate and appoint an executor of choice who ensures your wishes are carried out.
Who Administers Your Estate When You Die Without A Will?
When an individual passes away interstate, and leave behind an estate that needs an administrator, an eligible person must has to apply with the Court for Letters of Administration. Whoever’s granted the Letters of Administration becomes the estate’s legal representative.
The following is a list of people who’re deemed eligible by the court to be an estate’s administrators:
- The spouse of the deceased
- The children of the deceased
- The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the deceased
- The parent or parents of the deceased
- The deceased’s siblings
- The grandparent or grandparents of the deceased
- The decease’s aunts and uncles
- The first cousins of the deceased
- Anyone else appointed by the court
When applying to become an estate’s administrator, each individual who has priority over the applicant has to be “cleared of the record.” For instance, if you’re the son/daughter of the deceased who’s applied for the letters of administration, the court will first ensure that the deceased didn’t have a spouse at the time of death.
If You Pass Away Without a Valid Will, Who Will Your Estate Go To?
The distribution of an interstate estate primarily depends upon the deceased’s circumstances. According to the Succession Act (Qld) of 1981, the estate of a deceased person will be bequeathed to their closest next of kin, with the spouse and the children getting first priority. If the deceased was married, but childless, then the spouse will inherit the entire estate.
If the deceased was married with children, then:
- If the estate’s worth is less than $150,000, then the spouse will inherit the entire estate
- If the estate’s worth exceeds $150,000 (excluding household goods), the spouse will inherit the $150,000 plus all the household goods, and 50% of the rest of the estate (if there’s one child), and 33% of the rest of the estate (if there are more than two children).
Ledwidge & Associates, P.C., is a leading legal firm that assists clients across New York with estate planning, Family Law Services Brooklyn and Family Law Attorney Queens, divorce, and probate law. If you require our services, get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation.
The will you make should ideally include details for how you would want all your assets to be settled and distributed amongst all your beneficiaries. People will add the different properties they own, the liquid money and valuables they have, and the money they expect to get to be distributed.
Most people would expect that money owed to you from your workplace would also end up in the same assets pile, but that’s not necessarily the case. The way your pension is moved around and if you’re able to pass it forward depends on a lot of different factors. Let’s have a look at what they are.
The Type of Pension
A major factor for whether you’ll be able to pass on your pension depends on what type of pension plan you have set up. Essentially there are two major types of pension plans that can be transferred to someone else.
You have the standard “Fixed Benefit” plan, which is a company-sponsored pension. This plan is a tax-free, company-sponsored fund that’s calculated on time served with the company and how much your salary was. The other option is a “Fixed Contribution” plan that relies on employees putting a bit of their own salary in a tax-free account, and the number is matched by their employer.
Who can Inherit a Pension?
Unlike your other assets, it’s not as easy to just give the money you have in your pension account away to any living friend or family member through your will. Pensions often come with a lot of legal terms attached to them that dictate where the money can go. Many pension plans are for one person only and may actually be wasted if you pass away before you claim it.
If you have the sort of pension plan that would allow you to transfer it forward, you would still only be able to give it to either your spouse or child officially. You may want to review what yours allows with the help of a litigation lawyer or an estate law attorney.
Claiming your Funds
To add the funds to your will, you would need a combination of the right factors, which would include things like your company’s policies on transferring pensions, your type of pension plan, and if you’ve been working long enough to actually get the pension claim, among a few other things.
The whole process can still be quite messy and hard to figure out. Getting help from a professional from our team can make the whole process easier. With our experienced probate attorney Queens and probate attorney Brooklyn and estate law attorney in Queens, we can help with any issues that come up regarding your will.
Most people have their legacies, properties, and assets on their minds when drafting their Testament and Last Will. But several other things must be considered and specified in an estate plan.
For example, specifying what happens to your outstanding debts or those of a loved one after they pass away is crucial. If you owed a loan or debt in your lifetime, your family will be responsible for paying for it, depending on your estate’s size and value and the type of the loan.
Is it important to notify creditors?
After a person passes away, their estate executor is responsible for informing the person or institution that provided the debt. While the trust doesn’t mandate that the executors notify the creditors of the debtor’s passing away, doing so will allow the creditors to come forward within a shorter period, and the payment process will be smoother. Once the creditors are notified, they are given a specified period to claim their takings against the estate. Each creditor will be paid for their part from the estate’s proceeds.
If the deceased person didn’t create an estate plan during their lifetime, the probate court then assigns an administrator, who is typically from the immediate family or a close relative. Like a trustee or an executor, an administrator appointed by the court is also authorized to pay the deceased person’s debts from the estate’s takings.
What if two persons are responsible for debt?
In most mortgage cases, couples usually apply together. In this case, the surviving spouse or loan co-signer will be responsible for paying the debts. However, the probate court considers several factors before determining that the living partner should be paying for the joint debts. In some cases, selling the estate is enough to repay all the deceased’s outstanding debts, while in others, loan providers may settle on an amount lesser than the original debt.
A loved one’s death isn’t only emotionally turbulent, but it often also brings complicated financial and legal issues with it. An experienced and reliable probate attorney Queens or probate attorney Brooklyn can help you through each step of the process, from contesting and probating the will to removing an executor or administrator, ensuring complete protection of your rights.
If you’re looking for an experienced probate attorney in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, or other NYC areas, get in touch with the law office of Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. today!
As you prepare your will that details your intentions, it is essential to take time to consider who will be your executor of an estate in New York. The duties of an executor require taking care of many fiduciary tasks and functions to fully satisfy your intentions.
An executor can be any person of legal age able to carry out the required duties. You do not have to name a relative as your executor. You could name a business, your wills and estate lawyer, a business partner, or a friend. Ideally, you want to choose someone you can trust and rely on.
Duties of an Executor of Estate in New York
The executor you select also needs to understand their role and responsibilities to successfully carry out their duties. In general, they will be tasked with accounting for all of your assets, property, investments, financial accounts, and debts. They will also be responsible for filing your death certificate and will with the probate court in New York, called the New York Surrogate Court.
The probate process is required to ensure the will is legally binding, as well as to address any potential issues where one or more beneficiaries may attempt to contest the will. Most executors do seek assistance from a qualified probate lawyer to ensure all legal obligations are met.
Probating the will is just one duty of an executor. The executor will need to safeguard all assets until such time they are to be liquidated and/or distributed to beneficiaries. If the deceased owned a business, then the executor is required to oversee its operations.
Additionally, they will inventory and appraise all assets to establish their value. Prior to distributing the estate to the beneficiaries, the executor must satisfy all debts claimed by creditors, as well as income and estate taxes.
Furthermore, the executor should take steps to protect the interests of the beneficiaries. This could require keeping accounting records and other financial reports to show that the assets have been protected.
Executors Have to Manage Various Obligations
As you can imagine, the duties of an executor can be rather complex. They have to manage various obligations, depending on the size and complexity of the estate.
For instance, they may need to collect rental income from rental properties. They might be required to make investments to keep assets from depreciating. They could have to take over running a business, as well as related business duties like making operational decisions.
In addition, they have to maintain all physical property in its current condition. This can require performing maintenance and repairs as needed. To better manage these various obligations, executors can seek outside help from accountants, lawyers, maintenance technicians, and other professionals as needed.
Executors May Have to Deal with Conflicts
Aside from managing the estate of the deceased and carrying out their intentions, many executors have to deal with conflicts from relatives, friends, and beneficiaries who dispute the will or disagree about how assets should be divided.
Understanding the role and responsibilities of an executor of an estate in New York is essential to select the right person. It is highly recommended you inform the person you name as executor so they can also review what duties and responsibilities they will need to perform.
For further assistance in preparing your will and selecting an executor or obtaining help with the probate process in New York, please feel free to contact Joseph A. Ledwidge PC at 718-276-6656 today!
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