Many people figure that once their estate planning documents are executed the estate planning process has ended. From the client’s perspective, several consultations have been attended and a lot of hours have gone into ordering beneficiary designation forms, real estate documents, and the like (unless the client went to an estate chop shop, in which case almost no time has been spent and the significance of the affair has not been realized). From the old school estate attorney’s perspective, the only financially significant moments of the process are during the drafting/execution phase, and entering Probate upon the client’s death, so follow-up appointments are viewed as a waste of time. I find this viewpoint to be both unfortunate and potentially hazardous to client and
Category: You & Your Estate Lawyer
NEVER Videotape You Executing Your Will
I must apologize for my prolonged absence from blogging: I lost my proofreading and Blogging Accountability Partner Alix Purcell due to her successes. I shall attempt to continue this part of our journey in her absence as best I can. I have heard of some attorneys videotaping clients executing their wills, and I have in fact once been a witness to another attorney executing a will while recording the execution of the document. Attorneys think recording the testator’s actions (thereby supposedly proving his or her mental capacity at the time of execution) will make it clear to a court that the person “knew what they were doing” (executing a will) at that time (a key requirement for a valid will).
Why Are Manhattan Estate Attorney’s Fees So High?
Lawyers are not cheap. Unless you hire someone from Legal Aid, you have to pay dearly for many types of attorneys. This is due to several factors: Greed, the horrible legal process we call the “Unified Court System” (a fancy-yet-inaccurate title), and the extreme difficulty New York places on small businesses being successful. First: Greed! Remember that most clients only participate in one or two Probates in their lives: Your second surviving parent and your spouse (if he / she predeceases you). You sell more cars than that in your life, and you probably did not know whether you got a great deal or not; Probate can be a MAJOR money moment, and due to the limited experience
When Should I (and Shouldn’t I) Have My Attorney Hold On to My Original Will?
An original will is a powerful legal document: It is almost always required to start a Probate proceeding, meaning that several estate plans could be confounded in its absence. This makes a will a very important document. The cynic in me gets extremely perturbed when I see an attorney presume possession of his client’s original will. This attorney is forcing the family to come back to him when the decedent dies, thereby getting a “second bite of the apple” by being in the best position to do the Probate. I have heard of 70 year old attorneys holding onto a 30 year old client’s original will, then the dying or going out of business before reuniting his client and
When to Begin Medicaid Planning
I have several prospective clients approach me to discuss Medicaid planning. They have typically just finished handling their own parent’s age-related issues (dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, etc.), and want their younger relatives to avoid the same kind of emotional turmoil and financial commitments when they age. Medicaid compliance requires a person to relinquish either assets or control over those assets, but many people in their 60s are just not ready to part with either of these. A large percentage of these individuals are not even retired and have yet to enjoy the best years of their lives in which they have the physical, mental, and emotional capacity to enjoy their free time. In many cases, their knee-jerk response is based on
Tell Your Estate Attorney About All of Your Assets
Some people are naturally secretive about their finances. People either feel judge by the level of their assets if they believe they don’t have enough, or they don’t trust anyone enough to say where all of their assets are. And so stock certificates are held in file cabinets, cash is stuffed in loose books, funds are held overseas, and random banks and passbooks hold small account balances. My message to you: Secrecy may cost you dearly when you pass away. Whenever you earn interest, the IRS receives a 1099 from the financial institution. When I have a recently deceased client whom I suspect has withheld account information (despite my urgings to let me know during her lifetime) I ask the
Give It Back! New York Turnover Proceedings
When a person passes away many people have a tendency of ransacking the decedent’s home and absconding with property. Co-Signers run to the bank to empty the safe deposit box (which they are NOT allowed to do in New York), people with access to the house take all types of personal belongings (so you know, the door locks should be changed immediately), and some people illegally use the decedent’s credit cards. Other people will accumulate mail containing financial information, then act as they see fit. Other times people will have an incapacitated person sign a Power of Attorney or blank checks, or even forge the signature. When that person dies the property that was supposed to go to one person goes to
Asking Your Attorney About “Wise” Investments
Attorneys have a reputation for “killing” more deals than they enable. In my experience this is a true statement: Several clients make haphazard investment decisions, such as signing contracts with “silent partners,” getting involved with high risk investments (my least-favorite: forwarding money for an independent film), or getting their feet wet with a new sure-thing-get-rich-quick scheme (i.e. flipping a home or entry into the rental real estate market). Several attorneys can share horror stories of clients break their backs and banks on these ventures. But the question that should arise is often overlooked by the client: Does the attorney actually have any qualifications or experience to condone or dismiss the investment cost? By their nature, most lawyers are good with
PROBATE: Beware the Court Clerk!
For those of you that missed it, my March 26th blog post spoke of the importance of being exceedingly nice to court clerks while initiating the Probate process. The clerk is (a) extremely knowledgeable as to how Probate works, (b) the gatekeeper and only individual who can begin the proceeding, and (c) a human being with feelings. As such, treat them with respect. That is not what this blog post shall cover. Clerks, like all people, are human beings and human beings are fallible. You have to understand and accept this fact, or your visits to the Surrogate’s Court will end in you wanting to drown your bad mood at the nearest Happy Hour. I have had clerks tell me
PROBATE: Be Nice to the Court Clerk!
When a person passes away, New York requires the Will and other paperwork be filed with a law clerk, in the Surrogate’s Court in the County in which the Probate Proceeding will be held. And while the Surrogate’s Court Procedures Act explains how such legal matters are supposed to proceed, each county is somewhat different as to how these requirements should be met. While these differences may frustrate an attorney unfamiliar with a certain county’s requirements, it tends to drive “Pro Se” participants (I.e. the “Do It Yourselfers” who are not attorneys) to the brink of insanity. And when people act irrationally, the administering clerk will likely transform from helpful to defensive. I was in one of these courts today