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Queens Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Setting up a special needs trust

When it comes to estate planning, you may have a number of choices to consider. However, it is important to assess your individual situation and move forward with a plan that will work out best for your circumstance. For example, if you are disabled, or your loved one has a disability, you may want to look into a special needs trust. At Joseph A. Ledwidge, we know how confusing estate issues can be for people in Jamaica, and all across New York.

Special needs trusts can be advantageous for a variety of reasons. If you are disabled and have assets that interfere with your ability to receive government benefits, a special needs trust could allow you to remain eligible for these benefits. However, it is essential to carefully examine your different options before making a decision.

What happens to a person's debts after they pass away?

If you are toiling in debt or a loved one is dealing with similar circumstances, a pressing question may be: “what happens to my debt when I pass away?” One would think that the debt would be extinguished with the person as they pass away. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as some creditors will go to great lengths to collect on debt they are owed.

In fact, it is fairly common for creditors to come calling for payment from those who have passed away; especially if the person has an insurance policy or assets that could be sold to pay off debt. But most importantly, creditors are allowed under state law to collect their debts from a valid estate.

Ensuring your will is valid

if you are preparing to create a will, you could have a myriad of uncertainties and may be stressed out. However, you could find peace of mind and put your concerns to ease by making sure that you work through the process of setting up a will appropriately. At Joseph A. Ledwidge, our New York law firm knows how important it is for people who draft wills to make sure that the wills are valid.

When creating a will, you should always keep an eye out for fraud and you should also know what constitutes undue influence. Your will may be disputed if fraud is suspected, such as a person lying to you so that you include them in your will. Undue influence consists of someone forcing a person to include something for them in the will, which otherwise would not have happened. People who are thinking about setting up a will should also make sure they have the mental capacity to do so. Furthermore, you may want to look into having witnesses who can testify that your mind was sound when you set up your will.

The consequences of not having an estate plan

From busy schedules to anxiety about death and simply failing to understand the importance of a will or trust, there are many reasons why people do not have estate plans. However, this could lead to a number of consequences later on. If you live in Jamaica, New York, or another U.S. city, it is essential to understand why estate plans are so crucial and you may want to create one as soon as possible. At Joseph A. Ledwidge, we also know how helpful estate plans can be for people who are younger.

By failing to have an estate plan, you or your loved ones may encounter various challenges. While some people feel uneasy about their own death, it may be even more challenging for them to think of the difficulties their family members may face if they pass away with no estate plan. However, these hardships can be avoided or minimized by simply planning ahead. In fact, many people find peace of mind after working through these matters.

Handling your responsibilities as a trustee

If you have been named a trustee, you may be facing numerous hurdles. On the one hand, you may be struggling with unbearable emotional pain due to the loss of a loved one. However, you may also be unsure of your responsibilities or how to handle some trust-related issues. At Joseph A. Ledwidge, we know how challenging this can be for trustees and entire families in Jamaica, and all across the state of New York. By recognizing and carefully managing your responsibilities, you may avoid certain complications.

As a trustee, you will have numerous fiduciary duties. You should be aware of these duties and make sure you handle them correctly. For example, you may be responsible for distributing assets among beneficiaries, valuing the trust’s assets and taking care of tax-related matters. Sometimes, these responsibilities can be difficult, such as instances where families disagree on the way that a trust’s assets are split up. However, it is crucial to uphold the wishes of the trustor and try to take steps to prevent or minimize any conflict.

Your will matters: What happens if you die without a will?

Your will is the one document that can explain everything you want to see happen with your estate after you pass away. Anyone can die at any time, and that's why so many people insist that it's important to have a will early in life. When you don't have a will, it's harder to know what will happen to your assets and who will end up benefiting from them.

In cases where a father or mother married to one another passes away, there's little contest as to who should receive the assets of the family home. In these cases, the surviving spouse often receives the entire estate, except for in the case that a child or children are from previous marriages or relationships. In those cases, the surviving spouse gets up to half the estate, and the rest is doled out to the children.

Managing your responsibilities as a trustee

From being named a trustee by a loved one who is drafting his or her trust to disagreements that come up during the probate process, there are a number of ways that trustees find themselves involved in an estate. After the trustor passes away, however, trustees play an especially important role. If you have been named a trustee, it is vital to be fully aware of your responsibilities. At the New York law offices of Joseph A. Ledwidge, we understand the concerns and stress that trustees may have, especially for those who are not very familiar with trusts or the probate process.

As a trustee, you may have various duties, such as taking care of the trust's assets and distributing them among beneficiaries. However, there are other responsibilities you may have, such as filing taxes and trying to work through a disagreement with beneficiaries. Regardless of the unique circumstances you find yourself in as a trustee, successfully navigating the entire process and doing your best to avoid complications is paramount.

Preparing yourself for the probate process

If you lost a beloved member of your family recently, or are worried that a loved one will soon pass away, you may be emotionally distraught. Depending on the circumstances of your situation, you may find yourself anticipating the probate process, which can make things even more difficult if you have no idea of what could lie ahead. At the New York law offices of Joseph A. Ledwidge, we can understand the challenges that people who are dealing with this may often encounter. However, you may be able to relieve some of your worries and work towards a more favorable outcome if you thoroughly prepare for probate.

If you are named the executor of your family member's estate, you will have a significant responsibility and it is imperative to make sure that you handle all issues correctly. From notifying beneficiaries to filing paperwork and even filing taxes, you may have to work through a number of complicated tasks. To make things even tougher, you could find yourself involved in a bitter dispute. Not only can disputes tear entire families apart, but they can generate an incredible amount of stress and uncertainty.

Estate planning for each stage of life

Let’s face it. It’s not easy to think about estate planning when you’re young. There are so many other things to worry about (like how to pay for college, filing taxes, or even what to cook the family for dinner.) Despite the daily concerns that seem to run our lives, planning for the future can be very beneficial in ways that you may not realize until later in life.

As such, there are things that everyone can do in each stage of their lives to prepare for the future. This post will highlight a few. 

Executors, wills and warning signs

If you have been named as an estate's beneficiary, you may have an assortment of questions related to wills. At Joseph A. Ledwidge, our law firm knows that it can be difficult for beneficiaries to have a firm grasp of their rights, especially for those who are not very familiar with the relevant laws related to an estate. Unfortunately, in Jamaica, and in other New York cities, executors do not always act in good faith. As a result, beneficiaries should keep an eye out for any red flags that an executor is not remaining honest with regard to his or her fiduciary duties.

There are many ways that executors violate their fiduciary duties, some of which can be difficult to spot. On the one hand, it can be easy to tell if an executor fails to appear in court or has not paid the estate's bills in a long time. However, it can be more difficult to pinpoint other problems, such as an executor making things unnecessarily complicated or retaining assets from the estate which were supposed to be distributed among beneficiaries.