Hey, Mom & Dad: No One Wants Your Stuff

No one wants your stuff after you die. Your restored love seat from 1894, your 3rd generation silverware and fine china dining set, your mud-stained Jimi Hendrix t-shirt from the Monterey Pop Festival, these cherished items that gave you cherished memories and a sense of purpose on this planet are little more than garbage and a hinderance in the eye of other people. So why is it some people go to such great lengths to leave certain items of personal property to specific individuals? Case in point: I met with a couple who squabbled amongst one-another how to split up the family artwork. These people were not art collectors, they were average Joes and Janes who on a whim bought stuff

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Wills: What Do Executors Get Paid in New York?

When your Will is probated your Executor is entitled to receive a commission for their work. And while you can define what that commission is in your Will, most people choose New York’s statutory guideline for that commission (the concern is that if the fee is too low no one will want to be Executor, since you can’t force someone to do the job). In New York, that statute is created by the Surrogate’s Court Procedures Act, Section 2307, and it has a lot of juicy details that differentiate it from other state’s more-streamlined statutory commissions: Keep in mind that any assets which pass through a living trust, a joint account, or assets passing by “operation of law” (such as

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When Should I NOT Act as Mom’s Executor?

When your mom passes away with a valid Will and property being transferred by that Will, the Will is submitted to the Court who appoints an estate representative to wrap up her final affairs. This person or company – almost always named in the Will – is known as the Executor, and has the ability to do everything that your mom could do during her life: Collect her assets, pay creditors, review all of mom’s financial records and statements, file income tax returns, order her medical records, distribute her property as mom’s Will states, and even clean out mom’s closet (which she likely neglected to do before she died since, you know, she’s now dead). We say an Executor “steps

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Unsigned Wills Are Meaningless (and Photocopies are Not Much Better)

I like to remind people that the laws regarding modern U.S. Wills, not only predate the founding of the U.S., but actually predate European discovery of the Western Hemisphere. In Olde England in the city of York having a signed, witnessed piece of paper instructing how you wanted your property to be distributed after your death was often the only way to ensure your desires were fulfilled. Original paper mattered back then – there were no other recording devices or accounts with beneficiary designations – and witnesses would later attest to the fact they had seen you sign said paper instead of someone else. And original, signed paper still matters for several legal documents today, including your Will. The issue

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Your Wills & Trusts Should Require Your Children to Have Prenups

After you die there are way too many evil forces that can take a swipe at gifts to your children. Credit card companies may receive unpaid debts from your transfers to your children; the street level dope dealer may have his next good run with your child as his primary client; even the government may take much of the funds if your child becomes disabled. But for some reason, nothing annoys a parent more than knowing their soon-to-be-ex-son-in-law Chad is going to get a hold of your bequest to your daughter Becky (and now your son Bryce too, if that’s how he rolls, since greed has no sexual preference). All Wills and Trusts should have substance abuse provisions, spendthrift provisions

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Codicils and Trust Amendments May Burn Your Estate

Hiring an attorney has been obnoxiously expensive since the first time a guy’s donkey backing into another guy’s mud version of today’s tiny houses: You tend to want a person or document that best insures you are going to get things done your way, but good results cost a lot of money. So, it is not surprising that people prefer to change their Wills using Codicils and Trust Amendments instead of redrafting the entire original document. I have concluded this is often a mistake and now believe clients should spring for the costs of redrafting their entire document. Codicils are quick changes to existing Wills, and only modify the portions they are intended to change (and maintain the remaining contents

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The ONLY 5 Times You Should Leave Your Will with Your Lawyer

Ah, lawyers. That smarmy, cash-grabbing group of wordy professionals who somehow legitimately charge you in 15-minute intervals for one text message. And if you thought their tricks ended when you are dead, you would be wrong: Attorneys even know how to ensure they wring out one last retainer after you expire. When a person has their Will done with an attorney it becomes an excuse for the lawyer to say, “After all your thought and money, don’t you think it makes sense for me to hold onto your Will in case your family can find it when you die?” What the attorney was NOT telling you is that when you do expire they get the first chance at charging your

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4 Reasons Your Online Will is Turdy

In the world of legal documents, sometimes having nothing is better than having something. If you pass away without a Will you would hardly be the first person – thousands of people die in the United States every day without having a Will – so there are default statutes that dictate how your estate shall be distributed. True, often times these default laws do not entirely fulfill your post-mortem desires, but they may be better than drafting a faulty document from an online web site, executing it incorrectly, or drafting in ambiguities that now require extra court interpretation (and attorney costs) when you do pass away. My advice: Work with an attorney to draft your Will, even if it’s a

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