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September 2010 Archives

Supreme Court Reviews Anna Nicole Smith's Probate Dispute One More Time

The dispute over the estate of the late Anna Nicole Smith's husband has carried on for quite some time, and the Supreme Court has agreed to take another look at the case. The former model's separate estate has been fighting for years to obtain a share of her deceased spouse J. Howard Marshall's fortune. According to CNN, the justices allowed reevaluation on the probate case, and oral arguments will be held next year.

Texas oilman J. Howard Marshall was 89 when he married Smith, who was 26 at the time. The two were married for fourteen months before Marshall died in 1995. The billionaire oilman left almost all his assets and trust to E. Pierce Marshall, his son from a previous marriage, and left nothing to Anna Nicole Smith. She was not given a share of the estate in the will or separate trust.

How to Prepare for the Return of the Federal Estate Tax

The New York Times reports that the federal estate tax is scheduled to make its way back on the first of January of 2011. Unless Congress changes current law, this could affect a great deal of families and retirees who must decide on how to avoid estate taxes based on new estate tax thresholds. NY estate attorneys will also have to prepare their clients for the changes next year.  

In 2011, $1 million from each estate may be exempt from the estate tax, and the tax on the balance will rise to 55 percent. To reduce the tax bill, you can give up to $13,000 a year to as many people as you like or count your gift against the $1 million lifetime exemption and avoid paying a gift tax. If you give more than that, you'll receive a 35 percent gift tax.

Mistake On Will Ends With Family Fight In Court

Mistakes on wills do happen. Which is why a NY estate attorney always double checks everything on a will in order to ensure that a will is valid.

Gerleen Holden always believed that she would be able to live in her grandparents' home with her son. This firmly held belief stemmed from a promise that Gerleen Holden's grandfather made to her before he passed away. Unfortunately for her, a mistake on his will means that promise will be a broken one. The New York Daily News reports that when Gerleen Holden's grandfather Clayton Holmes wrote his will, he failed to sign the will in the right spot.

Is the Estate Tax Fair and Necessary for the Wealthy?

There seems to be estate planning loopholes that exist for which the wealthy have been able to manipulate, so Michael Graetz says. In The Wall Street Journal, Graetz says the case for estate taxes comes down to whether or not it is fairly applied to those inheriting greater amounts of wealth, such as Conrad Hilton leaving his fortune to grand-daughter Paris Hilton. The argument brings food for thought as Graetz points out how large tax-free inheritances do not reflect America's motto of equal opportunity for all.

Judge Refuses To Appoint Guardian For Huguette Clark

A Manhattan judge recently refused a request by distant relatives of Huguette Clark to appoint an independent guardian to help oversee her fortune which is estimated to be worth close to $500 million. The New York Daily News reports that Judge Laura Visitacion-Lewis called the distant relatives' worries about her health and state of mind "speculative" and "insufficient" to merit taking away control from her longtime attorney Wallace Bock and accountant Irving Kamsler.

As we have written before on this blog, the family was concerned for Huguette Clark because they were denied contact with the heiress through her attorney Wallace Bock. Bock maintains that it was the heiress' wishes to maintain her privacy. Currently, Wallace Bock and Irving Kamsler are under investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's office to see if they have mishandled her estate. However, no criminal charges have been filed against the two men.

Narcy Novack Needs A Free Attorney

In one of the more stranger cases that would shock even the most veteran NY estate attorney, accused killer Narcy Novack needs government assistance to help pay for the fees of her Manhattan attorney. The Associated Press reports that Narcy Novack's lawyer has said that he is willing to work for less than his normal rate "because I care about my client and I want to see that justice is done."

As we have written about before on this blog, Narcy Novack is accused of killing her husband Ben Novack Jr. back in July 2009 in a Hilton hotel in Rye Brook, NY. Ben Novack, heir of the Fontainebleau Hotel, was beaten to death in his hotel room. She has been formally charged along with two other individuals with the murder.

Wills And Trusts Software Doesn't Eliminate The Need For A NY Estate Attorney

While we have written about DIY wills before on this blog, it still is a hot topic for New Yorkers who don't have the time or money to meet with a NY estate attorney.

The New York Times reporter Tara Siegel Bernard test drove four different types of wills and trusts software in order to assess how trusty computer generated wills are. After she wrote her wills with the software, she then handed them over to a New York estate planning lawyer in order to look for errors or potential legal problems. The final verdict was that while three of the four wills drafted by software were perfectly legal documents, the wills had very different ways of approaching important estate issues such as estate taxes.

Clients Can Sue Their NY Estate Attorney

We have written extensively about why many New Yorkers would need a New York estate planning lawyer, but what about clients who are not happy with the outcome of their estate issues? The Wall Street Journal reports that clients can now sue their NY estate attorney for malpractice a lot more easily. This is because of a New York Court of Appeals ruling that makes estate planning lawyers more liable for malpractice. The case, Schneider v. Finmann, deals with the legal concept of privity. Privity on contract is the relationship between two contracting parties.

Typically, when a person plans their estate with a New York estate planning lawyer, he or she is the only one who can sue for malpractice due to privity of contract. This means that heirs or beneficiaries are often barred from suing for malpractice because they don't have privity. This case has changed all of that. As a result, this particular case is of "huge import to estate planners," says Stephen M. Breitstone, a partner at Meltzer Lippe Goldstein & Breitstone in Mineola, NY.

Funeral Costs: What You Need To Know

Funerals are not exactly at the top of everyone's priority list for planning. Which is exactly why it makes sense to plan ahead. According to Smart Money, consumers rarely plan for funerals ahead of time. This ends up leaving grieving families ill informed to make smart financial decisions. Families are also less likely to bargain. While you may have written a will, it may be wise to ask a NY estate attorney about how to plan for your funeral the smart way.

Typically, when family and friends are going through a loss, it comes with a lot of decision making and big purchases. Making such decisions while you are emotionally vulnerable can mean that you ultimately overpay for funeral services. Joshua Slocum, the executive director for the Funeral Consumers Alliance told Smart Money: "
Death takes you by surprise. Most of us, to our own detriment, don't plan for it."

Family Of Huguette Clark Request A Temporary Restraining Order

AOL News reports that distant relatives of Huguette Clark have requested a temporary restraining order against her attorney Wallace Bock and her accountant Irving Kamsler. The temporary restraining order, which was requested by the heiress' two nephews and niece, is intended to prevent contact between the heiress and her two financial advisors. The temporary restraining order would also prevent the two from managing her estate, which is estimated to be worth approximately $500 million.

As a result, NY estate attorney Wallace Bock responded by saying that there was no reason to grant the restraining order. He filed a response with the state Supreme Court in Manhattan this past Tuesday. In the filing he wrote: "There simply is no basis in fact or in law for the granting of any temporary restraining order." He called the petitioners "officious interlopers" and "virtual strangers" to the heiress.

Is A DIY Will Right For You?

According to Forbes writer Deborah L. Jacobs, since a will is one of the most important legal documents that you will prepare in your life, it is better if you seek the help of a seasoned attorney to help draft it. A NY estate attorney can ensure  that your will has the legally required formalities in order to make the will valid; something not easily accomplished with a DIY will. Timothy E. Kalamaros, a lawyer, said that using a DIY will is like "pulling your own tooth with a pair of pliers instead of going to the dentist."

Wallace Bock: Heiress Huguette Clark Does Have A Will

In news that will surely pique the interest of any NY estate attorney, it seems that Huguette Clark has a will.  

AOL News reports that a spokesman for Wallace Bock, the NY estate attorney for reclusive heiress Huguette Clark, has revealed that the heiress does indeed have a will. Spokesman Michael McKeon said that the will "has been in existence for some time." However Mr. McKeon would not reveal who the beneficiaries of her will are.

He did say that in spite of speculations by the media that Mr. Bock has allegedly exerted undue influence that Ms. Clark is of sound mind. He said: "Over the years, Ms. Clark has made all of her own decisions--including insisting on her privacy. In short, she had lived her life the way she has wanted to."

More Americans Go Without Life Insurance Policies

It's a sign of hard economic times. Close to a third of U.S. households have no life insurance coverage. The Wall Street Journal reports that according to data provided by Limra, approximately 35 million U.S. households are not covered by life insurance policies, nor are they covered under one sponsored by their employer. The number indicates that the economy may be a factor. Limra speculates that with less wiggle room in household budgets, loss of employer-provided coverage due to layoffs, and employers cutting back on benefits, Americans are left with little or no life insurance coverage.

While the economy can be blamed for this, if you ask a NY estate attorney, he or she would tell you that investing in life insurance may save you from financial ruin in the case of a tragic death. According to the survey done by Limra, 3 out of 10 respondents said that they would be unable to meet living expenses if a primary breadwinner died. An additional 3 of the 10 said that they would be unable to keep up with expenses after a few months.