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May 2010 Archives

Tax Benefits and Drawbacks of Charitable Lead Trusts

There are many kinds of charitable trusts out there but New York estate planning lawyers don't talk much about the charitable lead trust.

While the charitable remainder trust is the more commonly used charitable trust, charitable lead trusts can have their benefits, too.

When Not to Consider a Revocable Living Trust

If you're thinking of having a NY estate attorney draft a revocable living trust for you, perhaps you need to consider certain factors before you make your decision. As I've written before, a revocable living trust isn't for everyone.

In an earlier post, I gave the basket analogy. I asked readers to think of the revocable living trust as a basket that is built to hold all your property. Drafting the trust was analogous to building the basket. Funding the trust was the same thing as filling the basket.

Sometimes, We Need Probate

Probate isn't always a bad thing. Although it sounds like a scary word and is often cited by NY estate attorneys in an attempt to have you plan your estate with the hopes of avoiding probate, it's not always the worst option. There are some cases where one would want their estate to be probated in Surrogate's Court.

Pay-on-Death Accounts: A Way to Get Around Probate

If you've talked to a NY estate attorney, you've likely heard that there are many ways to plan your estate to avoid probate. There's the revocable living trust, joint tenancy, and other trusts.

Now, how about the pay-on-death bank account? What is a pay-on-death bank account?

Life Insurance and the NY Estate Attorney

There are many financial planners out there who want to sell you life insurance. Many will say that it's one of the best estate planning tools you can have.

Whether or not it is a valuable estate planning tool depends on many things. As always, you should take the information provided by financial planners in stride and consult with a NY estate attorney if you are considering life insurance.

Name Your Estate as Beneficiary of Life Insurance?

One question that a NY estate attorney may be asked is whether or not a client should name their estate as the beneficiary of their life insurance policy.

Should you name your estate as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy?

No More Drama: Estate Planning is a Family Affair

An interesting article on ABC News spoke of the horrors of bad estate planning.

Or worse, the horrors of no estate planning.

Interestingly, while I've focused on the financial issues of estate planning in writing for this blog, I don't think I've ever really addressed the potential for family drama-- and how it can be avoided through proper estate planning.

No Will? Heirs Can Settle on Their Own

A FindLaw Answers user named misse2341 posted a question on FindLaw's Answer board on May 23. The question involved the death of the mother, where the mother left no will.

Although the issue is not specified as a New York specific issue, the question raises an interesting issue for New York probate lawyers.

What happens when a parent dies without a will and leaves behind a husband and children?

3 Reasons to Plan Your Estate

As this week begins, I would like to go back to the basic premise of this blog.

"Why on earth do I need to plan my estate?"

QTIP Trusts: Not Just for Millionaires

In a previous post, I talked about the AB trust, also known as the bypass trust.

Here's another trust used by NY estate attorneys to avoid estate tax. It's called the QTIP trust.

Recap of Posts: Healthcare Decisions

Today, I looked back at the New York Estate Planning News Blog and realized that I had approximately forty posts.

That's a lot of blog posts for one month.

I thought that this might be a good time to recap a series of my posts, in order of topic. And since I felt that incapacity planning and healthcare issues were topics that were largely misunderstood, I figured I would do justice to New York estate planning lawyers by re-posting and summarizing some of my healthcare related blog posts.

What is Probate?

You'll likely hear the word probate, but if you don't know what it means, then you won't understand the role of a New York probate lawyer.

Probate is essentially what goes on at Surrogate's Court.

It's what happens AFTER you die.

The Dying Wishes of J. Bruce Llewellyn

The tale of J. Bruce Llewellyn is surely being discussed by New York estate planning lawyers. It illustrates the necessity for a well drafted power of attorney and living will.

J. Bruce Llewellyn passed away earlier this year. The Harlem-born son of Jamaican immigrants was a well known man in social and entrepreneurial circles. With friends like Bill Cosby and Colin Powell, J. Bruce Llewellyn's final days were just as notable as the rest of his life.

Small Estates May Go Through Simplified Probate

While New York estate planning lawyers and New York probate attorneys do reiterate the benefits of proper estate planning as a tool to avoid probate in Surrogate's Court, not every estate needs to worry about probate.

If an estate consists of personal property valued at less than $20,000, New York laws allow for simplified probate. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that your New York probate attorney is off the hook. But it could mean significantly less legal fees.

Organ Donor Bill Could Flip the Rules

A new organ donor bill is the making in the New York State legislature. And this bill could mean more complicated estate planning issues for New York estate planning lawyers.

The bill, supported by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, is highly controversial. It aims to implement a system of presumed consent. Essentially, under a system of presumed consent, organ donations would be presumed unless someone opted-out.

Do You Really Need a Revocable Living Trust? Maybe Not

You've likely heard New York estate planning lawyers praise the benefits of the revocable living trust but is it right for you?

I get asked this question all the time and the truth is that it's hard to say, with certainty, that a revocable living trust is a "must-have" for each and every person who walks into the office of a New York estate planning attorney.

A Primer on Charitable Giving

New York is a city for the arts and often, a huge philanthropy hub.

As such, New York estate planning lawyers know how to prepare a variety of charitable giving tools within the estate plans.

The Bypass Trust: How to Avoid Estate Tax

I've touched briefly on bypass trusts before. Since it's a tool commonly used by even the most basic of New York estate planning lawyers, I thought I would elaborate on it once again.

While I can't really go into much detail in a small blog post, I'll write this blog post in list form, so that I can demystify the topic for the average Joe or Jane.

Small Businesses Speak Out on Estate Tax Debacle

There is some moving and shaking going on at Capitol Hill regarding estate tax.

Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark) is speaking out. And she is speaking loud and clear as the voice for small business owners.

When the Deceased Leaves Debts Behind

The death of a loved one can be a difficult time. Many New York estate planning lawyers and New York probate lawyers face a bulk of questions regarding the assets of the deceased. And while much of the work of a New York estate planning lawyer centers around pre-death planning, there are often issues of planning that emerge after death.

For example, what happens if the deceased left enormous debts to pay? It's highly probable that the deceased left credit card debts.

What Artists Can Learn From the Widows of Jazz Legends

Jazz lovers will find this article interesting.

But New York estate planning lawyers might find it interesting for a different reason.

The article speaks of the intellectual property issues that the widows of jazz musicians may deal with. These issues usually assume the form of licensing and royalties that the widows may come to face after the death of the musician.

Estate Tax Could Come Back Retroactively

Lena Horne passed away in New York City this week.

And with the estate tax limbo, her heirs might be left with a shocking estate tax bill, come next year.

But wait, you say. The estate tax is repealed this year! Estates of those deceased this year avoid paying estate tax.

Or do they?

Drafting a Living Will Is Important

Remember Terry Schaivo? New York estate planning attorneys certainly do.

Terry Schaivo's case was a famously prominent case reflecting the issues that happen when there is no clear directive on end of life decisions.

I've already talked about the living will in this blog. But it's one of those things that can often go ignored.

Butler Inherits $8.4M from Actress's Will

The butler did it.

Well, this time, he did. Inherit, that is.

The late actress Ruth Ford, wife of Hollywood legend Zachary Scott, left an $8.4 million estate to her Nepalese butler.

Avoiding Probate With Joint Tenancy

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Probate isn't a scary concept for most New York probate attorneys. But it can be a scary word for many non-lawyers.

Generally, if you think about it, the idea of having to go through a lengthy legal process is scary for anyone who is unfamiliar with it. The concept of facing a judge and dividing assets-- that's enough to scare anyone away from Surrogate's Court.

The Black Widow: Killing for Inheritance

New York estate planning lawyers likely know about New York's slayer rule.

But for the uninitiated, here's a little story to ponder.

A woman in Oregon allegedly killed her husband. The woman, Liysa Northon, was accused of shooting her husband, Christopher James Northon, in the head while the couple was on a camping trip.

The Benefits of Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts

Estate planning is a lot more than a simple will or a revocable living trust.

But any NY estate attorney would probably tell you that.

Here's an interesting article from SmartMoney.

What is Surrogate's Court?

Surrogate's Court is where a New York probate attorney spends much of his or her time.

It's essentially the court where matters' relating to wills and trusts are handled. This may range from the simple probate of an estate to complex trust litigation.

Although a New York probate lawyer is not mandatory in order to appear in Surrogate's Court, the procedure can be lengthy. As such, it does become advisable to retain a New York probate lawyer.

Keiko Aoki, the Benihana Widow, Fights in Surrogate's Court

I don't know if it's fair to assume that all New York estate planning lawyers or New York probate lawyers have heard of Benihana.

I guess you'd have to be a connoisseur of Japanese cuisine.

The founder, Rocky Aoki, passed away a few years ago. But his estate is still facing issues at New York Surrogate's Court.

Client Purgatory: Death but no Taxes?

Client purgatory. Now that's a unique way for New York estate planners to refer to the estate tax lapse of 2010.

When I first read that reference, on, I thought to myself "hey, why didn't I think of that ?"

Thomas W. Lamont: The Warren Buffet of the Great Depression

Here's an old article I dug up from the archives.

It's dated March 1, 1948. And it talks about the largest bequest ever made to Harvard University.

The bequest was made by New York born Thomas William Lamont Jr. New York estate planning lawyers may likely know that name, as Thomas W. Lamont was an instrumental figure in New York, particularly in the Great Depression era. He was head of J.P. Morgan Chase during the Great Depression. During his lifetime, he made many substantial donations.

Planning for a Second Marriage

A few days ago, I heard the tale of a man with a unique estate planning dilemma.

Well, it wasn't so unique, given that he hasn't been the only person I've met with a similar situation. In fact, I wouldn't doubt that most New York estate planning lawyers have seen this issue time and time again.  

The 1982 Tylenol Case: Simultaneous Death and Life Insurance Proceeds

The recent Tylenol recall reminds many New York estate planning lawyers of the life insurance litigation that took place after the 1982 Tylenol recall.

A brief primer on the 1982 Tylenol Murders: An unknown culprit placed cyanide in several Tylenol bottles and placed the bottles back on the shelves. As a result, seven people died from ingesting cyanide-laced Tylenol pills.

What is a Revocable Living Trust?

What is a revocable living trust?

You've likely heard a NY estate attorney throw out this word a few times. It's the new "will", if you may.

But what does it mean?

Dementia: Planning for Incapacity

I came across an interesting blog post on the Los Angeles Times. The post didn't discuss estate planning, per se. But it did present some issues of interest to New York estate planning lawyers.

Recent research has shown that married adults who care for a spouse with dementia are much more likely to develop dementia themselves. These findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The Special Needs Trust: Caring for the Disabled

New York estate attorneys are good at understanding many issues involving family dynamics.

But sometimes, the issues are deep and personal. And at that time, a New York estate planning lawyer will have to wear two hats-- one as the legal advisor and one as a sympathetic ear.

Estate, Not Heirs, Liable for Tax

Who is responsible for paying estate tax?

New York estate planning attorneys will likely tell you that it's the estate of the deceased that is responsible.

The issue is moot this year, in a manner of speaking. As many New York estate planning lawyers will tell you, estate tax is non-existent this year.

The Estate That Keeps Giving: MJ's Estate and Cirque du Soleil

Here's an interesting story that presents an interesting question to New York estate planning lawyers:

How do you plan for an estate that just keeps giving?


Photo by Maryam K. Ansari

Estate Valuation: How Much Are You Worth?

Have you thought about what your net-worth is really valued at?

It's an important question. And while you might not think it would hold any relevance to a NY estate attorney, it is actually very important to consider.

The valuation of your property and your assets at the time you draft a will or trust may not always be necessary. But it does make things much easier for your New York estate planning attorney. It lays out, in fine detail, what you own and exactly how much you own.