Court of jurisdiction for trust administration in New York

The court that will have jurisdiction over trust matters does not depend on where the testator of a will creating the trust was domiciled. Similarly, a lifetime trust does not depend on the domicile of the grantor if the contained real property and assets exist in New York.

When a trustee administers an estate, he or she will be responsible for paying the taxes, investing the assets wisely and distributing income and assets to the intended trust beneficiaries. New York’s trust laws make it clear that, for tax purposes, New York will consider the assets that are administered in New York and that exist in New York are subject to the local court’s jurisdiction.

The law also allows a surrogate court to act on behalf of the court having jurisdiction. For example, if a piece of real property exists in one county in New York and is owned by the trust, another county from where the administrator is working may operate as a surrogate for the court that does have jurisdiction. This is done to allow a uniform resolution of any litigation, assessments of taxes and monitoring of the administration of the trust.

Trust administration can be highly complicated, especially when the testator or grantor was domiciled in a different state or has assets owned by the trust within and outside of New York. To make certain the laws are carefully followed, people should be careful in their selection of a trustee to administer the estate. People may also want to discuss their options with an estate planning attorney. An attorney might be able to help his or her clients choose the best type of trust designed to meet their clients’ individual estate planning needs .

Wills and the probate process

Individuals in New York who are estate planning and preparing a will may wonder what is involved in the probate process. Every will must go through probate before assets are distributed to heirs.

Probate is a process that is intended to ensure that individuals involved in the estate are protected and that the wishes of the individual who prepared the will are carried out. An executor appointed by the deceased individual may oversee the probate process through the courts. If there is no executor, the courts will appoint an administrator for similar duties. Costs associated with probate include court fees, attorney fees and any administrator fees.

As part of the probate process, it is necessary to collect all the assets of the estate and pay off all the debts, settle disputes and distribute assets to heirs. Although probate is usually an uncontested process, on occasion, it might be contested. An individual might raise an objection if the will is improperly prepared or if there is reason to believe the deceased individual was improperly influenced by another or was not of sound mind at the time the will was prepared.

There are a few other considerations in the probate process. For example, it may be difficult to disinherit some family members such as a spouse.

Individuals who are preparing a will may wish to consult an attorney to assist in preparing a document likely to move more smoothly through probate . For example, an individual who specifically wishes to disinherit a family member may need to specifically mention this intention in the will. This will make the individual’s wishes clear to the court. An attorney may also be helpful in other aspects of estate planning such as preparing end-of-life documents.

Will of widow of DC Comics publisher contested by her son

A New York lawyer and a business manager have been accused of improperly influencing an elderly woman in an attempt to misappropriate a larger portion of her will. As the woman in question was the widow of the famous comic book publisher Jack Liebowitz, the proceedings have been of some public interest. The woman passed away on April 24, 2013.

The woman’s son has filed a suit in New York County Surrogate’s Court alleging a large number of misdeeds by her former associates, including elder abuse and fraud. His suit notes that her will was drafted and re-drafted on 28 occasions in the last 12 years of the woman’s life, and that the size of her bequest to the son shrank steadily with the passage of more and more wills while the amount left to the lawyer and the business manager grew dramatically. Both men now stand to inherit $1 million each from the will, and the widow’s gardener is bequeathed $1.5 million.

The men in question have filed papers with the court that dispute the charges against them. They allege that the woman, who was in failing health, commonly used her will as a tool to compel the people around her. The lawyer states that he prepared all the various drafts of the will in direct response to her current wishes. He also claims that his appointment as the executor of the will and the trustee of the estate, with nearly $1 million in fees paid to him and complete control over $30 million in charitable donations, was proper.

Litigation during the probate process often results when large sums of money are involved. It can be helpful for a potential beneficiary to seek the advice of an attorney who has experience in these matters.

Source: DNAinfo, “Widow of DC Comics Co-Founder Was Conned By Workers, Son Says”, James Fanelli, Jan. 5, 2015

Estate planning errors to avoid

Individuals in New York who are estate planning should keep in mind that there are a number of common errors that people make with their wills, trusts and other documents and accounts. One of these errors is making an estate plan and failing to return to it for revisions. Such changes as children, marriages, deaths and divorces may result in a needed update, so estate plans should be periodically reviewed.

Individuals may also need to consider how they disburse funds among their children. Trusts can be set up to attach conditions to funds disbursed to special needs children, or individuals may find that they want their children to be of a certain age before they are able to access their trust fund. Individuals should also be careful about whom they have chosen to be trustee. Hiring someone may be better than appointing a family member who may be put in an uncomfortable position.

A will has to go through a potentially expensive and time-consuming probate process, so individuals may find that they are better off establishing a revocable trust. However, a revocable trust must be funded once it is established.

While focusing on wills and trusts, it is important to keep in mind that life insurance policies and other accounts that have beneficiaries are separate from the wills and trusts. These need to be kept current as well. Finally, individuals should avoid DIY estate planning due to the complexity of the process.

An attorney may be helpful in estate planning and ensure that documents requiring precise legal language are accurate and up-to-date. Furthermore, an attorney may also be able to assist an individual in making the right decisions regarding the use of trusts, wills and other aspects of estate planning.

Source: CNBC, ” Trust bust: Steer clear of the 8 biggest estate-planning mistakes “, Barry Glassman, January 03, 2015

Estate planning tips for New York newlyweds

When two people get married, some estate planning actions should be taken as soon as possible. For instance, it may be worthwhile to put sizable assets into a trust and to ensure that the assets in the trust are properly titled. If the assets are not properly titled, they may have to go through the probate process.

An easy action that newlyweds can take is to change the beneficiaries on 401Ks and other accounts with beneficiaries attached to them. In the event that assets inside an IRA or health savings account are to be split between parties, a notarized acknowledgement may be necessary. It may also be a good idea to add a secondary beneficiary in the event that the original beneficiary passes on. In addition to updating beneficiaries, it may be worthwhile to update any wills that may be on file.

While talking about splitting assets in the event that one person passes away may be uncomfortable, it is easier when both parties focus on those who they care about. For instance, it may be worthwhile to figure out whether assets would go to a parent or to any children that the couple has or may have in the future. Adding a durable power of attorney and a medical directive to a will may also be beneficial.

Couples who are talking about their future together may wish to form a comprehensive estate plan. This may be made easier by talking to an estate-planning attorney. An attorney can help the couple talk about different estate planning options and help create legal documents. When created correctly, documents such as a living will or a trust may stand up to any legal challenges posed to them.

Source: The Motley Fool, ” Estate Planning for Newlyweds “, Anna Wroblewska , December 29, 2014