Angry Brothers Agree to Settle (Mom’s Estate)

You never know how close you are to your family until you have to share an inheritance with them. I am wrapping-up a case where my client’s mother died, leaving a Will that equally-distributed her real estate between her two somewhat-acrimonious sons. Usually this apartment would be sold, proceeds disbursed, and everyone would go their separate way. However, my client’s brother insisted that he could make them more money if he improved the real estate. His brother (my client) was not so hip on this idea – none of them had any real estate investing experience – but through sheer force, perseverance and presumption his brother had his own son move in (which he did – with a few kewl

Read More

5 Reasons UTMA Accounts Are Bad

Parents and grandparents sometimes look for easy ways to give money to younger family members. The challenge arises when the recipient is a minor (minors cannot own property in their own name until 18, with some exceptions) and when the donor wants to minimize legal fees. A Uniform Transfer to Minors Act [“UTMA”] account, which leaves funds to the child when he/she turns 21, used to be viewed as an appropriate way to leave funds to a minor now that would be paid out later when he/she reached a more mature age. UTMAs are inexpensive: You only need to set up the account at a financial institution, name an adult custodian for the account, and let the custodian buy a

Read More

When a Trust Beneficiary Doesn’t Have a Copy of Their Trust

The last few generations have seen an immense growth in wealth that can be transferred to family members. They have also seen an increase in the types of temptations available to those family members: More drugs, more frivolous items to spend on, more high-risk business opportunities that don’t pan out. So wealthy family members leave these bequests using trusts, so the funds may be protected from the beneficiary, for the beneficiary. But what happens when a beneficiary can’t find their copy of the trust, and what rights does that beneficiary have over those funds?   I see this problem at least once per week: The beneficiary’s parent / grandparent / uncle left them funds in a trust, but the beneficiary

Read More

What and When Should I Tell My Kids?

Parents who have gone through the estate planning process typically ask what information they should share with their children and when. The answer requires balancing many factors, but can be boiled down to a simple concept: Take responsibility and own up to your decisions, and don’t leave it to your kids to fight about it. First, if a child has been left out of a Will or is receiving less money than other siblings you may want to tell them so, and why. Clearly this is not a universal approach, but taking responsibility and informing them up-front allows the child to reconcile this fact. This will also help minimize your other children having to deal with the dispossessed child’s bitterness

Read More

College Kids in Trouble! Draft Your Child’s Health Care Proxy

Ah, the Ivory Tower, where high school kids aspire to escape to, and parents best hope for 4 years of peace and quiet. But with independence comes responsibility: Travel, driving, concerts, and protests. And drinking. Lots of drinking. And then comes a horrible injury or hospital admittance, followed by a parental realization: You are not allowed access to your adult child’s health care information, and cannot make decisions regarding their health care.   In most states, the age of majority is 18, and once he or she moves out of his or her parent’s residence they are considered an adult with all of the privacy rights that inure to adults.   The only individual who, by default, has access to

Read More

Second Wives: Reapers of Sorrow, Destroyers of Family Wealth!

In a world where our assets are constantly under threat from usurious taxes, government largess, financial predators and rapacious offspring, there is still NO worse threat to intergenerational family wealth than a second wife.   People get married the first time for any one of a number of reasons: Family pressure, filling a void, the urge to have children, an inexplicable desire to emulate the lives of Al and Peg Bundy and passion.  But these first marriages often end, sometimes with children left in their wake, and are replaced by a second marriage based on love, devotion and emotional security.   In these second (or third) marriages, often one spouse tends to be significantly older and more financially secure than

Read More

“Don’t Forget About BoBo: Pet Trust for Your Animal Companion”

One of my dearest aging clients have a dog named Bo Bo. Bo Bo is a true companion to this couple: They are in their 90s and have outlived many of their friends, the husband is more mobile than his wife and likes to get physical activity by walking Bo Bo, and the dog is absolutely in love with them. Bo Bo also smells bad, barks at the littlest disturbance, is a manic that constantly jumps on visitors, (and gets slobber and fur on my suit, which needs to be dry cleaned after every single visit) and is begrudgingly tolerated (at best) by anyone other than my clients. Unfortunately,  when my clients pass to the eternal human boneyard, Bo Bo’s

Read More

3 Ways An Irrevocable Trust Really Isn’t Irrevocable?

As I have discussed in the past, https://www.investopedia.com/advisor-network/articles/only-3-reasons-why-you-should-have-irrevocable-trust/ there are three reasons to create irrevocable trusts. The word “Irrevocable” usually implies no ability to change, and most people believe that a Trustee is required to adhere to the language contained in the irrevocable trust, even though times and circumstances may have changed. Nonetheless, in many circumstances, irrevocable trusts may actually be legally changed, modified or revoked in New York State. ALL PARTIES AGREE TO MODIFY: The first circumstance exists when the Grantor of the Trust is still alive, wants to make a change and ALL the beneficiaries of the Trust agree with the proposed change. In this case, an amendment of the Trust or a revocation can be done –

Read More

5 Reasons to Avoid Giving Small Gifts in Your Will

If you have immediate family members whom you love,  it is assumed you will leave most of your estate to them. In this case, leaving a few hundred dollars to a distant niece or friend is rightly viewed as an unnecessary sign of respect and kindness. But beware: The amount of time, legal fees and other costs associated with giving a $1,000 bequest in your Will can cost as much as leaving a $50,000 to that beneficiary. In fact, leaving small gifts to people using your Will is a sure way to increase your legal fees in New York, oftentimes incurring more expenses to send the gift than the amount of the gift itself:   Cost of Mailing Notice (Required):

Read More

3 Times Your Retirement Plan is Not Protected from Creditors

Many people know that IRAs and 401(k) plans have creditor protection. However, most people do not know the limits of that creditor protection. It may come as an unwelcome surprise, but if someone is suing you: (1) if you owe money to the IRS or to an ex-spouse, (2) if your retirement plan is of a certain type, or (3) if your beneficiaries are under creditor attack, your retirement funds may not be protected at all.   First, if you owe tax dollars to the IRS, or are late on alimony or child support payments, your retirement plan is almost never a safe haven. The IRS, an ex-spouse, and minor children act as “super creditor” against your retirement plans. Ex-spouses

Read More

DISCLAIMER: Attorney Advertising. Please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.