How to Write Your Own Eulogy

Only you can tell your story from your point of view. So, it comes as a surprise that many people have no written recounting of their life. In addition, it is sometimes easier to keep certain thoughts and feelings secret until you have passed away, but if you have taken no steps to memorialize how you want to deal with your loose ends, your unfinished business will remain unfinished.   Remember the difference between a Eulogy and an Obituary: An Obituary is often an objective, somewhat-cold fact-based notice of your death; a Eulogy is a speech at your funeral meant to paint a picture of who you really were.   A good Eulogy contains the following chapters:   Origin: When

Read More

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

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

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

Read More

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

Read More

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

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

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

5 Times You DON’T Pay a Deceased Person’s Credit Card Bill

The weeks immediately following a family member’s death is tense, emotional and stressful; many people rush to handle the departed person’s affairs. This includes paying the deceased person’s debts, since every credit card company comes out of the woodwork the moment the card is cancelled by the survivors. However, many family members pay these bills even though they had no responsibility to do so.   Here are 5 instances when you should NOT pay a deceased person’s debts:   Retirement Plans: Remember that your retirement plans are protected from most creditors, including credit cards. If the decedent died with only retirement plan assets remaining in his name, tell this to the credit card company and don’t pay them anything.  

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.