When you can contest a will

If someone wants to contest a will in New York, there must be one or more valid reasons for doing so. Simply disagreeing with the provisions of the will or believing that he or she should have inherited or inherited more is not sufficient. That person must be an “interested party” and must be able to prove that there are defects in the will or in the circumstances surrounding its creation.

Consumer Reports explains that an  interested party  is someone who is named in the will or someone who would inherit from the deceased person by virtue of state law had he or she died without having a will. Such people typically are family members, but anyone can qualify as an interested party, even if there is no relation to the decedent, if it can be proven that the person was named in a previous will.

In terms of the will itself, findlaw.com sets out  three things  that most states require that a will contain. These are the following:

  1. It must have at least one substantive provision, such as leaving a specific piece of property to a specific heir.
  2. It must appoint a personal representative, called an executor or executrix, to carry out the wishes of the decedent after his or her death.
  3. It must state that it is, in fact, the will of the testator; that is, the person who created it.

Most will contests, however, challenge the circumstances under which the decedent created the will. For instance, the decedent must have had the testamentary capacity to create the will at the time it was created. Persons younger than 18 years of age generally are not considered to have that capacity; nor is someone who was insane, senile, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the will was created. In addition, the testator must not have been under the undue influence of someone, such as a caregiver, who manipulated him or her.

Talking to beneficiaries about your estate plan

When it comes to estate planning, there are many different types of challenges that people encounter. Some have difficulty deciding whether to set up a trust or will, while others may be struggling with disagreements over how their loved one’s property is divided or allegations of breaching fiduciary duties. However, you may be unsure of how to talk to your loved ones about your estate plan. At Joseph A. Ledwidge, we are aware of the different reasons why this may be tricky.

On the one hand, you may be worried about how some of your beneficiaries will receive news that your assets are being distributed in a certain way. Or, you might be hesitant to even bring this discussion up in the first place due to family dysfunction, or other reasons. When setting up your estate plan, it is vital to make sure that your property is protected and will be split up according to your wishes. If possible, you may want to look into ways that you can reduce the likelihood of hard feelings or disputes among your loved ones. Unfortunately, this cannot always be avoided.

For some families, discussing relatively simple matters, such as what to prepare for dinner, can be difficult enough. However, it might be very helpful for you to set aside some time to go over these issues with your loved ones. If you navigate to our estate administration section, you will be able to gain access to more on creating an estate plan and similar considerations concerning this area of law.

Defending your position as executor of an estate

Being the executor of an estate is a dubious honor. On the one hand, someone you cared for and probably respected believed that you were trustworthy and intelligent enough to handle the estate. After all, it’s a complex process. On the other hand, it’s a lot of work and stress, often without any kind of extra compensation. Being an executor can strain or even destroy your familial relationships, especially if people in your family don’t think the last will or estate plan was fair to them.

You may think that your siblings or cousins will behave rationally, but money can bring out the worst in people. There’s a saying that blood is thicker than water , but money is thicker than blood. Many families have gotten torn apart by infighting over assets during the administration of an estate. If other heirs or family members want a bigger chunk of the assets, they could try dragging it into probate court and even challenging your position as executor.

Executor challenges exist for a reason

Some people simply let greed get the better of them, while others are just unable to fulfill duties. There are a million valid reasons why family members or heirs would want to challenge an executor. Perhaps the executor lives out of state and can’t come to handle things in a reasonable timeframe. Maybe the executor has done questionable things, like selling property for much less than market value to friends. It’s even possible that assets could come up missing.

When that happens, being able to challenge an executor can protect heirs against getting defrauded. New York probate courts can determine if the executor has failed to perform the duties of the position adequately. If that happens, a new executor or administrator could get appointed by the courts.

Being proactive protects your position

Although getting named executor may mean a lot of thankless work, it can also help you achieve closure. You may feel like you’re helping fulfill the last wishes of someone you loved, which can help with the grief process. The last thing you need is to face a challenge in court. Taking steps early on to protect yourself is the best option.

As soon as possible, release copies of the last will, estate plan or trust to heirs and family members. This way they can see you’re doing the right things. Make a list of assets and debts, and try to get fair prices for all assets. Make sure all financial transactions are handled through the estate’s checking account, which will provide a concrete record if needed in court. Be sure to keep receipts and records of everything from appraisals to tax payments.

Once you have settled all the estate’s debts and filed the final tax return for the deceased, you should send notice to heirs and beneficiaries. Once all the remaining assets have gotten divided, make a point of retaining the records. That way, in case someone complains at a later date, you can prove you followed protocol.

Long term care and estate planning

If you are going over estate planning matters, you may have various questions, such as which type of trust is ideal for you, who you will name as your estate’s executor, or how your assets will be distributed among beneficiaries. However, you may also want to consider the potential way that long term care could affect your estate and take steps to prevent problems from arising down the road. At the New York law firm of Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C., we know that people sometimes have a lot of uncertainties when it comes to these topics.

When thinking about the future of your estate, you should not overlook the possibility of long term care. In the event that such care is required, you should try to minimize the impact care will have on your estate and avoid significant estate shrinkage. Even if you have a high net worth, long term care can be costly. Although each case is unique, you may want to look into long term care insurance. However, this coverage can be very expensive, so it is essential to carefully go over all of your options before settling on any decisions.

With estate planning, you are able to prepare for unexpected events and have a plan in place that ensures your property is handled according to your wishes. On our firm’s estate administration page, you will be able to read more about some of the legal aspects of distributing assets among beneficiaries, probate, and other legal issues involving estate planning .

Looking into estate planning as an immigrant

If you have immigrated to the U.S., you may have a diverse range of questions and concerns. At Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C., we know that some immigrants face hurdles related to estate planning, while others are not sure their rights or how to work through estate matters as someone who is not a U.S. citizen. If you have immigrated to New York from another country for work, to live with family, or for any other purpose, it is essential to know your rights and familiarize yourself with your estate options.

Whether you are a permanent resident or a non-resident alien, you may have questions about estate taxes or wonder what will happen to your property in the event that you pass away. You may also be unsure of what will happen to property that you own in another country or how your property will be distributed to your loved ones. Whether you have invested a significant amount of capital or own real estate, there are many different reasons why you may want to look into estate planning.

By going over your options and doing your best to protect your assets and prepare, you may be able to make things easier for your loved ones and secure some peace of mind as well. With all estate planning matters, properly reviewing your circumstances is essential.

In our estate administration section, you will be able to read through more topics related to this area of law, from the probate process to trusts and wills.