Requiem for Stan Lee: Superhero of the Superheroes

As a former collector of Bronze-Age Marvel comic books, I was sad to hear of the passing of Stan Lee. As the creator or co-creator of so many comic book characters – the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Spider Man, Iron Man, the Avengers, the Uncanny X-Men, Doctor Strange, the list goes on – Lee is one of the most meaningful entertainment influencers of our era. True, Lee owed a great debt to his prolific co-creators (and arguably more talented artists), such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but even though Lee’s style often promoted himself instead of Marvel and anyone else that made Marvel Comics the cultural juggernaut it has become, everyone from once-teenage comic collectors, to Disney executives

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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

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A Funeral Fit for a Queen / King: Aretha Franklin v. John McCain

At the risk of sounding disrespectful (as opposed to actually being disrespectful, which I can also be at times), please allow me to be honest: We have all been to festive and frightening weddings, jovial and pathetic birthdays, and good and bad funerals. But instead of me brooding over how I never received a meal at my sister’s wedding eight years ago, let’s focus on what really matters: The people who spoke up, and what they said. John McCain’s funeral hosted a well-groomed, thoroughly vetted procession of speakers, guests and attendees. His eulogy by his daughter was heartfelt and appropriate for an American hero. He was even clear about who should and should not attend his funeral (while President Trump’s

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8 Steps to Transfer Your Coop to a Revocable Trust

Coops are a pain in the neck to transfer, especially if you pass away and your Coop is being transferred by your Will: The Coop does not like accepting payments from non-tenants (because they don’t want to create an excuse for undesired tenancy outside of the proprietary lease and interview process), so months of unpaid fees and late charges begin to stack up waiting for the Surrogate’s Court to admit the deceased-owners Will to Probate. So, it should come as no surprise that someone thought “Hey, if I can transfer my Coop shares using a Revocable Trust, I can save a lot of time and family frustration.” And they were correct: If your Coop is owned by your Revocable Trust,

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How the Probate Court Screws You if You are Old (OR: How to Screw Over Your Family if You Are Disinherited in the Will): Personal Service and New York Surrogate’s Court

Many people have a horror story, how Probating your family member’s Will took years, was a pain in the neck, and Aunt Mildred’s lawyer was to blame. And this is often at least partially true: New York Probates can have unusual complexities that will blindside an unsuspecting attorney. In my last blog I gave several reasons why the Court itself is usually to blame. Now I would like to focus on one way the system itself is faulty: New York’s Surrogate’s Court requires personal service on the next-of-kin.   When a person dies and their Will is being submitted to New York’s Surrogate’s Court it must include (among other things) an original Death Certificate, a Petition requesting the Court to

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No One Likes Your Uncle Marvin: Isolated Aging Men

Many of us have an aging male friend or family member who is unmarried and has no children. This man, also known as your “Uncle Marvin”, is getting older, lives alone, and is probably financially prepared for the remainder of his life. But he may be completely unprepared for the legal consequences of his aging.   Unlike his female counterparts, such as your Aunt May, Uncle Marvin and his male contemporaries are more likely to be emotionally isolated from other family members and socially separated from his community. In addition, our society still erroneously views men as competent, stoic loners who don’t require or desire our involvement with their lives. Even our health care and aging mechanisms are geared toward

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Your Brother is Taking Your (Parent’s) Money

  My grandmother used to counsel her friends with young children by sharing the phrase “Small children, small problems; big children, big problems…”   Some siblings work a lot, take pride in their independence, and save their hard-earned money. And some siblings have bad luck, are victims of financial predators or our legal system (divorce, criminal “justice” matters, etc.), or they may just be lazy. While the stars perfectly aligned for the former children, the latter child gets stuck in a perpetual rut, parents or other family members start financing his lifestyle, and sibling bitterness boils.   Down-on-their-luck children drain family assets, become increasingly disinterested in working, and cause fraternal discontent and animosity. Parental assets that could one day pass

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Legal Documents You Should Share With Your Family

When you pass away certain information dies with you, such as where you keep your legal documents and what the contents of those documents are. Keep in mind written documents matter: The basis of our lives is run by contracts. But if those contracts cannot be found your wishes and desires could be confounded. Here are some suggestions regarding sharing and not sharing certain legal documents:   Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements should always, always, ALWAYS be shared with multiple family members. These are not recorded anywhere, so if you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse mysteriously lose your copies you need to contact your former attorneys. And remember: Attorneys in New York only have an obligation to hold onto legal work product for

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Testamentary Trusts: The Good and the Bad

A testamentary trust is not applicable until (1) you pass away, (2) your will is successfully admitted to probate, and (3) the trustee establishes a trust account with funds delivered by the will’s executor. But what kind of property should you have distributed via these trusts? The advice of many estate planning attorneys is to transfer as little as possible by will: Probate requires: a good deal of paperwork notice to a potentially large number of familial and beneficial parties, a court clerk approval of submission of the will, the court’s over-all approval, etc. Probate also has a sliding scale for court filing fees, is a public affair, and takes a good deal of time to administer. Meanwhile, transferring property

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Doing Separate Finances Right

Today, more spouses and unmarried cohabitants maintain separate finances. This is probably due to a number of factors, including increased salaries for women and an increase in second marriages and relationships with children from a previous relationship. While these arrangements may work amongst couples during life, they present significant estate planning challenges upon the death of one or the other. How much should the surviving partner get (which could conceivably be left to a future partner) and how much should the children get (to the detriment of the partner)? There is no easy answer. The majority of clients in this position have very concrete opinions about what they want, which makes my life far easier: I’m not a fan of

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