How can a staple lead to contesting a will?

You have carefully worked to legally construct your will. You have followed all the New York laws and filed your will properly. You have been exact with your wording and informed your family of your will’s contents in the hopes of avoiding anyone contesting it. With all this done, you probably think you can rest easy knowing your wishes will be carried out exactly as you have stated in your will with no problem. 

However, one move, which could occur before or even after you die, could put everything at risk. What is it? Removing the staple you used to secure all the pages of your will.

It is true. According to the New York State Unified Court System, removing the staple from a will could push it right in probate and lead to will contests . It allows for objections because it is altering the document. Any alteration provides a chance for someone to say the will is no longer in its original state. They could claim other changes were made as well. 

If you have removed the staple for any reason, such as to make copies, you must submit a notarized affidavit explaining why you removed the staple. It must also state where the document has been and that no changes have been made to the document. Failing to do this opens up the chance of the will being stuck in probate until it can be determined that no changes were made except the removal of the staple. This information is for education and is not for legal advice. 

Uses for a durable financial power of attorney

As you consider how to ensure your wishes are known clearly and your financial affairs remain secure, it is often wise to consider assigning durable financial power of attorney to a person you trust.

Durable financial power of attorney grants a specific person the rights and authority to have access to your finances and make financial decisions on your behalf. It is easy to see how delicately you must consider who should have this power, especially if you have a considerable estate or a number of ongoing payments that you must keep up on a regular basis.

If you assign such power to an unscrupulous person, you may wake up some day to find your assets drained, for instance. On the other hand, a well meaning person without the proper organization and understanding of financial affairs may not manage your financial matters effectively, and may cause larger messes than he or she avoids.

The role of a financial agent

A person who holds financial power of attorney for you does the work of keeping your financial world in order. This may include:

  • Paying recurring expenses and bills
  • Paying ongoing debts
  • Paying tax burdens
  • Investing and managing assets
  • Hiring individuals to perform specific services or represent you
  • Collecting and managing income and benefits
  • Considering and purchasing insurance

These are only broad categories of responsibilities a person may perform for you. Depending on the nature of your finances and length of time that person holds financial power of attorney for you, these duties may grow complex and time-consuming.

How durable should you make the assignment?

A person with durable financial power of attorney does not retain these privileges after you pass away. In fact, you may establish a financial power of attorney and remove it later on if your state improves and you may once again handle your own financial affairs.

In broad strokes, your power of attorney goes into effect when you sign it, unless you specifically wish otherwise and write the appropriate provision into the assignment. This is often referred to as a “springing” assignment, which only goes into effect when you suffer incapacitation.

Navigating tricky legal areas

When it comes to estate planning, security and efficiency are all in the details. Be mindful to understand the estate planning documents you choose to use and address your entire estate plan from time to time to ensure that you don’t miss out on important benefits and protections .

Can you include personal mementos in your estate plan?

As you begin to work on your estate plan in New York, you may have many questions. This includes learning about what can be included in your plan and how to legally express who gets what when you die. One thing you may wonder about specifically is if you can include items that have no monetary value or little monetary value but that are sentimental in your plan.

According to the New York Times, you can and should include the little items along with your pricey assets in your estate plan . Anything that your heirs may argue over should be included in your plan to ensure your wishes are followed. For example, if you have an old painting of an ancestor that is not worth much money but that has been handed down from generation to generation that you want to ensure stays in the family, you can appoint who gets it in your plan. This ensures that is it clear who you want to have the painting.

You should consider doing this if you have specific items that you fear your loved ones may argue over. This is something that happens a lot and can lead to riffs in the family. Simply telling someone who should get what often does not work out. By placing your wishes in a legal document, you can ensure that your sentimental items are properly distributed when you pass away. It will also help give you peace of mind that items will go to the right people. This information is for education and is not legal advice. 

 

What are the steps in probate?

There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstands about probate in New York. It is often put out there that probate is this long, drawn-out process that is complicated to get through, but that is not always the reality. The process is often a formality needed to ensure the legal transfer of assets. 

According to New York Life, the county in which you live will begin the  probate proceedings. Your family should then produce your will. If you did not have a will, then one of your close family members will act as the administrator of your estate in front of the court. The court may also appoint someone to the role. 

A document must be filed to start the process and the administrator must appear in court. It is important to note that once probate starts, the will and the estate become public information. This means anyone can get access to it. 

Once the process starts, your estate is assessed and inventoried. The next step is paying the debts you owe. Finally, the process wraps up with transferring remaining assets to your family. There may be waiting periods involved, which can make the process longer, and any disagreements will draw things out as well. 

However, the process usually can be quite easy and quick if your family and others do not disagree with the distribution of your assets and handling of your estate. Typically, the smaller your estate, the faster probate goes. This information is for education only and is not intended to be legal advice. 

Is it possible to keep your estate out of probate court?

Having your will contested and it ending up in a New York probate court can be problematic for your loved ones. Probate can be a long process. It also may cause financial hardships for your loved ones who need the money and other assets you left behind. You may be able to avoid having your will go to probate by doing a few things when you are planning your estate.

According to The Motley Fool, there are a couple steps you can take now to set up your  will so it cannot be contested. The first is to set beneficiaries on all applicable accounts. You can do this with your retirement, banking and other similar financial accounts. When you set a beneficiary, that person receives access to the account when you die. It is automatic and easy to set up. 

For other types of assets, such as a car or property, you can set up joint ownership. This is where both your name and the person who you want to receive the property are on the title or deed as equal owners. While you are still alive, this means you will both have ownership, but when you die, it automatically transfers to the other owner. Joint ownership is a good way to stop people from fighting over your assets. 

Taking small steps to set up your assets so they cannot be contested can make it much easier for your will to be settled and avoid the hassles of probate. This information is for education and is not intended as legal advice. 

Why are estate plans so important?

It is the start of a new year. For many people in Jamaica, it means the opportunity to start over and do things differently. For you, it is a prime time to stop procrastinating on estate planning. According to Forbes, a little more than half of all individuals who are between the ages of 55 and 64 do not have  estate plans . With each passing year, you grow older. Though you have many good years left in your life, a solid estate plan ensures you will be well cared for.

Helps prevent mismanagement

Estate planning requires you to use a variety of legal documents to protect yourself and estate against financial and medical mismanagement. You will need an estate executor and other trusted individuals to ensure the seamless transfer of your estate and to keep your loved ones from creating conflict that lowers your estate’s value.

Protects estate’s value

You should also consider your long-term care needs. Many people forget to structure their estate plans so they qualify for government benefits that can help ease the financial burden of long-term care and preserve their loved ones’ inheritances. 

Once your cognitive abilities, motor skills and health start to decline, you could end up in a situation where one of your relatives file for guardianship of you. Guardianship means you lose the right to make decisions for yourself and your affairs without having to go through someone else for approval. Estate planning documents that can help you to avoid the loss of control and privacy include a financial and health care power of attorney and trusts.