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June 2010 Archives

Michael Jackson's Father Withdraws His Bid For An Estate Stipend

ABC News reports that Michael Jackson's father Joe Jackson has dropped his bid for an estate stipend from his late son's massive estate. Joe Jackson has turned his focus on a wrongful death lawsuit against Michael Jackson's former physician Dr. Conrad Murray instead. Back in November 2009, Joe Jackson filed a request for a $15,000 monthly estate stipend in order to pay for his living expenses.

According to MSN, while Joe Jackson has dropped this request for a stipend for the time being, the filing indicates that the door is open for a renewal of the request for a stipend later if needed.

Why A NY Estate Attorney Would Caution Against A DIY Will

We have covered the importance of using a New York estate planning lawyer in order to protect your loved ones and your assets in this blog before. But what if you could just use a DIY will? After all, you would not have to deal with the hassle of finding a NY estate attorney and paying the legal fees. You would also have the peace of mind of knowing that your last wishes will be known not only to your family, but to your local Surrogate's Court.

While this may seem tempting, just remember that each individual and their estates are all different. For example, if you will have a large estate with an estimated value into the millions, you may need to talk to a NY estate attorney about how to use certain estate planning tools to avoid the much hated estate tax. If you have been married multiple times and have children from different spouses, you will also need to meet with a New York estate planning lawyer.

Gail Posner and Her Son's Battle With Her Estate Continues

The plot around the eccentric Gail Posner and her estate thickens. Associated Press reports that Gail Posner's son Bret Carr is contesting her will based on grounds of undue influence by his late mother's employees.

While we have written about Gail Posner before, but Associated Press now reports that Bret Carr's attorney Bruce Katzen is claiming that Gail Posner's father, the late Victor Posner set up irrevocable trust accounts for his grandchildren worth close to $100 million. However, Bret Carr is now claiming that his mother made changes before her own death in order to prevent him from receiving anything. Under her current will, she left him $1 million.

Estate Tax Proposal By Sen. Bernie Sanders Spares New Yorkers

The New York Post reports that Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind-VT), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (Dem-RI) and Tom Harkin (Dem-IA) have an estate tax proposal that will spare many New Yorkers who may have hit the federal estate tax if the threshold for the tax started at $1 million. 

A NY estate attorney can tell you that if that was the case, more than 10.000 New Yorkers would see their estates affected by the estate tax thanks to high real estate values on New York properties. We have written how a lot of these New Yorkers feel that they are more middle class than upper class and were worried about leaving less for their heirs as a result. 

What Happens If A Loved One Dies Without A Will In NY?

There are plenty of New Yorkers who don't realize that they may need a NY estate attorney until it is too late. Perhaps a little primer on what happens when you die without a will is necessary for New Yorkers.

New York's Surrogate's Courts state that if you pass away without a will, it is called dying "intestate" in the state of New York. When someone dies intestate, that person's assets get distributed among surviving members of the decedents family according to New York Estates, Powers and Trusts Law.

The Michael Jackson Estate Fights Back Its Liabilities

The Michael Jackson estate has been facing major financial hurdles head on. The Wall Street Journal reports that based on an estimated $200 million that the late pop singer earned after his death, his estate has been able to pay off millions of dollars worth of debt on the estate; including avoiding a foreclosure on a home in Los Angeles where his mother Katherine now lives.

Some of the biggest producers of income for the estate have been from royalties and advances from the likes of Sony. Sony Pictures paid $60 million for the rights to the documentary This Is It on the late pop singer. Royalties from the music publishing company called Mijac has also brought in some revenue into the estate.

Currently, the main beneficiaries of his estate are his three children and his mother. His mother is acting as a guardian for the children.

Life Insurance In NY: Why Talking To NY Estate Attorney Can Help

We have written about how people can get into trouble with life insurance, but what about why people get life insurance in the first place?

A NY estate attorney can tell you that the reasons will vary from person to person. Luckily, if you are thinking about getting life insurance in NY, there are resources you can use. NY State offers a resource center for New Yorkers in order to help them assess the right coverage, the right company, and the right price.

Stranger Originated Life Insurance Policies Questioned

There seems to be a crackdown on a life insurance practice that is called stranger originated life insurance. It is so controversial; it is already banned in New Hampshire. Under House Bill 660 in a provision known as the "Life Settlements Act," stranger originated life insurance (also known as STOLI) is now illegal. If you have specific questions about STOLI, it may be best to ask a NY estate attorney, but here are the basics of what a STOLI is.

STOLI involves three parties. There is the broker or agent ("stranger") who approaches a customer (typically a high net worth elderly individual) to purchase an expensive life insurance policy. After waiting a certain amount of time, the insured customer then sells the policy to a group of investors. Once the sale is made, the insured receives a percentage of the value of the policy. The investors continue to pay the life insurance premiums and cash out when the original owner passes away.

Your Legacy: What Do You Want Leave Behind?

While a lot of posts in this blog have been dedicated to explaining certain types of estate planning tools in order to minimize taxes and avoid probate, this post is about how you can plan your estate in order to make a difference in the lives of others.

A NY estate attorney can tell you that a well crafted estate often includes aspects that are not necessarily tied down to preservation of wealth. Forbes columnist Liz Davidson gives some of the other elements involved in estate planning.

Out of State, Out of Mind: Trusts In Other States

It may pay to ask your NY estate attorney about setting up your trust in a different state. The Wall Street Journal reports that there are seven states that provide major incentives for setting up trusts there. Some of the states who have recently tweaked their trust laws are Alaska, Delaware, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Wyoming.

These states are claiming that their laws will help non residents protect their assets and avoid taxes. However, there are experts who say that individuals need to be informed and wary. Richard Nenno, a managing director and trust counsel at Wilmington Trust Co. was quoted as saying, "There's a whole lot of trash talking going on. It makes it difficult for people to cut through to what really matters." 

Trusts: What You Need To Know

There is a stereotype that trust funds are for the wealthy; hence the term "trust fund kid" to describe a spoiled rich child. But there is a medley of reasons that individuals can use trusts and why are they are useful. You can discuss the specifics of trusts with a NY estate attorney, but here are the basics.

A trust can be used instead of a will, or in addition to a will in order to help distribute and manage property during the life of the grantor and trustee.

Here is the general gist of trusts:

Bulk of Gail Posner's Estate Goes To The Dogs

In an estate battle that reminds any NY estate attorney of the Leona Helmsley estate, USA Today reports that Miami heiress Gail Posner has passed away and reportedly left a substantial portion of her estate to her beloved Conchita the Chihuahua and two other dogs. The Wall Street Journal reports that when Gail Posner passed away in March, she left approximately $3 million dollars for her three dogs in a trust fund along with the right of the dogs to live in her $8.3 million mansion in Miami Beach.

A New York estate planning lawyer will tell you it is eerily similar to New York's "Queen of Mean" Leona Helmsley's estate which stood to bequeath $12 million to her dog aptly named "Trouble." A Surrogates judge then reduced the amount to $2 million after complaints from Ms. Helmsley's heirs (including two grandchildren who were cut out of the will altogether).

Ask A NY Estate Attorney About Your Healthcare Proxy

Gary Coleman's story is a sad story about when your healthcare proxy may or may not follow your wishes according to your living will. CNN reports that in spite of Gary Coleman's living will requesting that he be on life support for at least fifteen days, his designated healthcare proxy Shannon Price pulled the plug after just one day of life support.

Which bring us to a question that you can ask a New York probate attorney:

Gary Coleman's Wife Allegedly Overrode His Living Will

Gary Coleman's wife (as she claims by common law), Shannon Price may have been too quick with her decision to pull the plug on the beloved child actor. The New York Daily News reports that Gary Coleman's living will requested that he be kept alive unless he was in a coma that could not be reversed for more than 15 days. Shannon Price allegedly told doctors to take Gary Coleman off life support after just one day of being in a coma. Gary Coleman fell into a coma after injuries sustained from a brain hemorrhage.

While Gary Coleman's living will appointed Shannon Price as his healthcare decision maker, it also stated that there should be a wait time for 15 days. While this is an ongoing story in Utah, it does provide some insight to New Yorkers who want to plan ahead. 

Why More Teens Should Draft Wills

We have written about how important it is for people to draft wills. We have stressed the importance of drafting wills for new parents, the elderly, and even American military service members. But what about teenagers? A NY estate attorney will tell you that it is wise even for a teen to plan ahead.

According to the Wall Street Journal, some legal experts advise that once a child turns 18 years old, he/she should draft a will. When a child turns 18, he/she can enter into a legal contract.

US Military Personnel Drafting Wills More Frequently

While it typically takes a lot of energy for a New York probate attorney to convince a client to draft a will, there is a growing trend of drafting wills with one particular group of individuals. The Wall Street Journal reports that US military personnel have been clamoring their local US Navy Judge Advocate General's Corp. to help them draft wills in order to ensure that their families are taken care of. JAG offers a myriad of legal services. One of those services is help drafting wills.

JAG offers an estate planning questionnaire  that asks about the essential information needed for estate planning. For US military personnel in the New York metro area, two meetings are needed. The first meeting with a JAG attorney is in order to discuss the questionnaire responses. The second meeting with JAG helps the JAG attorney draft the necessary documents. You will sign off on these documents during this meeting.

More New Yorkers Are Hiding Assets

It seems that a lot of elderly New Yorkers are consulting with their New York estate attorney in order to help them with hiding their assets. Why are these New Yorkers so bent on hiding assets? They have multiple reasons.

The first reason is a reason we have mentioned over and over again. Estate tax is something that many elderly New Yorkers fear because they are worried that their heirs will be left with nothing. The New York Times reports that in areas such as New York and California, a lot of estates fall under the estate tax that will most likely go into effect next year. This is because of high home prices which could affect the estates of individuals who assume that they are middle class.

As a result, more individuals are trying to hide assets with a bit of help with their New York estate planning lawyer.

Kramer v. Kramer: A Family's Fight To Claim Life Insurance Benefits

In a fight that seems like another Kramer v. Kramer, one family is fighting against the wishes of a deceased man.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the heirs of New York attorney Arthur Kramer were told something strange when they met with his New York estate attorney. They were told that Arthur Kramer had taken out a life insurance policy worth $56.2 million. The catch was that they weren't the beneficiaries.

Planning Ahead For The Return Of The Estate Tax

Forbes gives some good general tips about issues that you can discuss with a New York estate attorney so that you can be ready for the estate tax hike in 2011. Here are some of the tips:

Make Sure You Don't Die Owning Life Insurance: If you do die owning life insurance, it will be subject to estate tax. Make sure you tell your NY estate planning lawyer that you want to leave the life insurance to a spouse (who is a U.S. citizen) or a charity. In a nutshell, make the person you want the life insurance proceeds to go to the actual owner of the policy.

The actual owner must pay the premiums on the policy, but you can give the owner a gift. Any gift under $13,000 falls under a gift tax exclusion.

Have Some Assets In Your Name: This way you can have some assets to fund a bypass trust. A bypass trust is also known as an AB trust. It basically gives the beneficiary (usually a spouse) a life interest. This means that all assets in a bypass trust will go to the beneficiary to use for the duration of his/her life. Ask a New York estate attorney for more information about the bypass trust because some assets can not be transferred in certain situations.

Dan L. Duncan And His Heirs May Pay No Estate Tax

The subject of many a New York estate attorney, the estate tax lapse of 2010 has been one of those confusing legal anomalies that come around once in a blue moon. One thing that your NY estate planning lawyer will tell you is that in the year of 2010, there will be no estate tax. The estate tax last year was 45 percent on estates worth $3.5 million or more. In the year 2011, it will hike up to 55 percent and may include estates worth $1 million or more.

One prominent estate that has lucked out in the year of 2010 is the estate of Dan L. Duncan. Since he passed away in March of 2010, his heirs may not have to pay a dime in estate taxes. The New York Times reports that Dan L. Duncan may become the first billionaire to pass along his fortune to his heirs without any taxes.

Shannon Price Plans To Contest Gary Coleman's Will

Even though Gary Coleman's parents are not putting up a fight about their late son's will, his ex-wife is. While this is all happening in Utah, your NY estate attorney can tell you that contesting a will can be a long and often difficult process. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Gary Coleman's ex-wife Shannon Price is planning to contest the will provided by Gary Coleman's longtime friend and manager Dion Mial.  

We have written about how this will, which was written and executed back in 1999, leaves all of the "Diff'rent Strokes" star's assets to Mial. It also names Dion Mial as the executor of the estate.

One of the issues that we have written about before is that since the will was written back in 1999 which was before Gary Coleman got married, it failed to name Shannon Price as a beneficiary.

Experts Say To Take Advantage Of The Gift Tax Rate

While many people are worried about the possible estate tax liability coming soon, your NY estate attorney will most likely tell you to take advantage of the current gift tax rate in order to combat that liability.

Reuters reports that U.S. gift tax rates are the lowest they have ever been since the Depression, but that most people are wary of giving funds to their heirs. Your New York estate planning lawyer will tell you that this is a bad move because actually giving the money to your heirs can save your estate from the impending increase in estate tax. Basically, you can transfer your assets from an estate in the form of a gift at a lower tax rate which would reduce the tax liability on the estate overall.

Executor Named in Gary Coleman's Will

Fox News reports Gary Coleman's will possibly has been found and an executor has been named. According to Gary Coleman's parent's attorney, the possible executor of the deceased actor's estate is Dion Mial. Dion Mial is Gary Coleman's former manager and longtime friend.

When news broke about Gary Coleman's death, Dion Mial contacted Shannon Price (Gary Coleman's ex-wife) about the will. Shannon Price's brother, Shawn Price told Fox News that Mial wanted to help his sister: "Dion wanted to help Shannon out and wanted to help Gary out as much as possible. And coming to find out that Gary never signed it, Dion came forward and said well I've got stuff, let's get it going."

Prepaid Funeral Arrangements May Be An Unwise Plan

While planning out your estate with your NY estate attorney is a prudent decision, there are decisions that you make in advance that can possibly do more harm than good. One of these possibly bad decisions is to have prepaid funeral arrangements.

The Wall Street Journal reports that while prepaid funeral arrangements have long been marketed to lower-income families, more of these prepaid funeral plans are now targeting individuals of all income levels.

A Blended Family May Need A NY Estate Attorney To Prevent Feuds

While we have written about families fighting about estates before, this blog has not addressed what happens when the family in question is a blended family. In order to prevent a family feud, it can help to plan your estate with the aid of a New York estate attorney.

The New York Times tackles the issue of blended families and their financial needs. Here are some of the pointers that the New York Times recommends for a blended family trying to prepare an estate:

Victoria Duffy-Hopper to Battle It Out in Probate Court

While late actor Dennis Hopper is being laid to rest, he battle for his estate is only just awakening.

Dennis Hopper's estranged wife, Victoria Duffy-Hopper will be moving her divorce battle over to probate court as she is expected to challenge the estate to fight for her piece of the estimated $30 million pie.

So, You're the Executor: Now What?

What is the role of the executor of an estate? This question was asked last week on CNN Money's personal finance blog, "More Money."

While a will may be very straightforward, the fact remains that a will may often name an executor of the estate. And what's not so straightforward is the role of the executor. The executor is essentially the person designated in the last will and testament to administer the will and the intent specified in the will documents. But testamentary intent isn't always clearly spelled out.

Michael Jackson's Final Wishes Emerge

Michael Jackson's three children will be taken care of. As details of Michael Jackson's last will and testament emerge, the legal issues are slowly being ironed out.

Michael Jackson's last will and testament were released by a British newspaper recently. And while his final wishes are being referred to as a "will" by many news sources, many New York estate planning lawyers are looking at the documents and saying "why this isn't a will at all!"

Decision Planning: The Durable POA

The phrase "power of attorney" is a legal phrase that is familiar to most people. It's a phrase that you don't need a NY estate attorney to decipher for you.

But in the context of estate planning, a power of attorney can have deeper meaning. The durable power of attorney is an estate planning document used to transfer authority over your affairs to someone else.

Filling the Basket: Funding the Living Trust

A New York estate planning lawyer will likely be able to draft a revocable living trust for you, but be sure to ask if the attorney plans on funding the trust. Trust funding is not always implicit and you most certainly want to check with your NY estate attorney that the trust will be funded.

First, however, we need to be able to understand the distinction between "drafting a trust" and "funding a trust."  

Neil Bender Ruled As Executor of Billion Dollar Gottlieb Estate

In a dramatic case that pitted a sister against her very own brother, the Appellate Court of New York upheld a previous ruling by Surrogate's Court on May 17 to allow Mr. Neil Bender to be the rightful executor of the famed Gottlieb estate, according to The Villager. It will certainly be a huge win for Neil Bender's NY estate attorney; the Gottlieb estate, which includes a huge portfolio of lucrative Manhattan real estate, is worth an estimated $1 billion dollars.

According to the New York Observer, the family feud started when Neil Bender's sister Cheryl Dier and her son questioned Neil Bender's fitness to be executor of the vast estate. They both submitted items such as drunk driving convictions and IRS tax liens in order to support their claims that he was unfit to run the estate.

Larry Birkhead Holds An Auction of Anna Nicole Smith Items

What happens to loved ones when estate planning goes awry? They can be left with nothing, which means it may be wise to plan ahead with a NY estate attorney.

MSNBC reports that Larry Birkhead is holding an auction offering property of Anna Nicole Smith to the highest bidder in an attempt to provide for their biological daughter.

The auction is an indication of how estate planning, or lack thereof, can leave family left behind in a tough situation. Anna Nicole Smith, a former Playboy Playmate, died suddenly in 2007. She left behind her daughter Dannielynn who was just 5 months old at the time. She also left behind very little in terms of an estate. She declared bankruptcy prior to her death.