January 2011 News: New York Estate Planning News

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January 2011 Archives

New Yorkers Can Give More Money To Their Kids Even With Estate Taxes

Last year, many New Yorkers were worried about the uncertainty surrounding the 2011 estate tax until Barack Obama’s administration finally decided on the terms for the reinstatement of the tax. It will return a higher exemption level during the next two years than before, allowing for an exemption of $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples with a lower tax rate of 35 percent.

Fortune writes that many people have failed to notice the advantages the wealthy have under this year’s estate tax as well. Similar to the estate tax, gift-tax exemptions were increased to $5 million instead of $1 million per person and $10 million from $2 million for couples. Anything above the amount provided for each person or couple will be taxed at 35 percent.

End of Life Care Discussions are Hard for Many Americans

Most Americans are uncomfortable with discussing end of life matters such as living wills, powers of attorney and even trusts or other estate planning instruments. But what do you do with someone whose deep cultural beliefs prohibit speaking of death? You might try poetry.

According to a in-depth article in The New York Times, outreach workers have found a way to broach end of life legal and health issues with their elderly Navajo patients in northwest Arizona. Mitzie Begay is cross-cultural coordinator for the home-based care program at the Fort Defiance Indian Hospital; it is her job to teach patients about living wills, durable powers of attorney, do-not-resuscitate orders.

Disinheritance Issues In Elizabeth Edwards' Estate

Elizabeth Edwards left an estate of nearly $1.5 million to her children when she passed away from cancer in December of last year, according to CBS News. Many New Yorkers may also be aware that she did not include her estranged husband, and former presidential candidate, John Edwards in her will.

Even though it appears as if Elizabeth may have been trying to completely disinherit John from her estate, The Wills, Trusts, & Estates Prof Blog reported that disinheritance of a spouse is actually not possible under probate law in North Carolina.

The Gran Scam: A Look At Financial Elder Abuse

A new film has come out that New York locals might be interested in. It will most likely never be a part of the Tribeca Film Festival, but might be worthy of a look, all the same. The Wills, Trusts and Estates Law Professors Blog had a few great reviews and recommendations for a short film called The Gran’ Scam of Things, a comedy that might hit home for anyone one with elderly parents or grandparents in their lives.

The Gran Scam of Things is a comedy, reports the Law Prof Blog, that follows the misadventures of an older woman and one of the notorious Nigerian email schemes. The film opens with an email (based on an actual occurrence) from one, Osagioduwa Williamsona, a Nigerian banker offering a senior citizen $16,000,000 if she would assist him.

Auctioneers Sell Lee Harvey Oswald Coffin Over Family Objections

In one of the more macabre stories of late, a Los Angeles auction house is being sued by the brother of Lee Harvey Oswald for auctioning off the casket and embalming items of the late assassin for over $160,000. Robert Edward Lee Oswald, brother of Lee Harvey, contacted the auctioneers to tell them the items were not theirs to sell, reports the LA Weekly, but in vain.

Oswald filed suit.

Elaine Kaufman's Will Says She Wants Her Ashes Scattered In New York

The late New York restaurant celebrity Elaine Kaufman has left her co-executors Robert Tucker, an NY estate planning lawyer, and long-time friend and beneficiary Diane Becker with many estate issues to handle since her death.

In one particularly complicated request, Kaufman stated in her will that she wanted her "ashes be spread over Second Avenue of New York City," which happens to be where her Upper East Side eatery is located. The problem, however, is that it is illegal in New York to spread a person's ashes in a public place, reported the New York Post.

How To Change A Will In New York

Life in New York can change very quickly, which may require some people to make a couple of modifications in their will. A New York estate planning attorney might encourage people to revise their will if they have experienced life-changing events including:

  • Getting married or having a new partner;
  • Getting a divorce;
  • Having children or step-children; and
  • Obtaining new property, like a home.

But how can a New Yorker go about in making those changes to his or her will?

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Has "Miracle" Awakening

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz recently flew to see Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was hospitalized after suffering severe injuries from a horrible shooting in Arizona. According to the New York Daily News, Gillibrand and Wasserman-Schultz were able to witness the emotional and poignant moment of Giffords’ “miracle” awakening during their visit.

When the women arrived in Giffords’ hospital room, she had one eye covered with bandages and part of her skull removed after a bullet that traveled to her brain caused some swelling. Gillibrand and Wasserman-Schultz were talking to Giffords’ husband Mark Kelly when she suddenly opened her other eye and reached out to touch her husband.

Same-Sex Marriages: The Fight Over Sarah Ellyn Farley's Estate

Whether or not a couple’s marriage is considered valid can have a large effect on the distribution of his or her estate in any jurisdiction, including New York. While same-sex marriage is not allowed in the state, all state agencies are required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

However, not all states view same-sex marriages that were legally performed elsewhere as valid. Jennifer Tobits, a Chicago resident, is currently caught in a legal battle in Pennsylvania’s federal court with the parents of her late wife, Sarah Ellyn Farley. Since Farley’s death in September, The ABA Journal reported both parties have been disputing who will receive the proceeds from Farley’s profit-sharing account.

Don Tyson Dies Right After The Return of Estate Taxes

Many New Yorkers may be talking about the recent death of the well-known CEO of Tyson Foods. Don Tyson, who was also the former chairman of the company. Tyson passed away on January 6, 2011 at age 80, according to Forbes. His death occurred right after the return of the federal estate tax, which leaves his assets subject to a 35 percent federal tax compared to the nonexistent levy available last year.

Tyson, an Arkansas local, helped build Tyson Foods into one of the largest food processors and meat marketers in the world. He was a member of the Forbes 400 for most years and recognized as one of the most affluent business tycoons in the country. His net worth was said to be $275 million when he first appeared on Forbes 400 in 1982, and he had a value of $1 billion by 2005.

Old New York: Elaine Kaufman's Last Will and Testament

The quintessential New Yorker and owner of the quintessentially New York literary hang-out Elaine's, Elaine Kaufman, passed away in December 2010. But that is not news. What is news as of January 5, is that the major beneficiary under Kaufman's will is her manager Diane Becker. Becker will inherit the restaurant as well as much of the rest of Kaufman's estate. Along with Manhattan attorney Robert L. Tucker, Becker is also the executor of the will.

Elaine Kaufman left bequests to family and friends, reports The New York Times, including $50,000 each to her four nephews. Among the other bequests Kaufman left are gifts to long-time employees and fabulous objects such as a Wyeth drawing, antique French posters and a baseball, courtesy of George Steinbrenner.

The New Estate Planning: What's In Cyberspace After Your Death?

Most people shudder at the mere thought of having to plan for their own or a loved one's death. Personal belongings and financial assets are often planned for when it comes to arranging a person's estate and transferring property. However, many of us might forget to include what we do online and how our digital affairs should be handled after we are gone.

Only about a third of Americans have a will, but The New York Times writes that even fewer individuals have thought about sorting out the digital things they may also leave behind. Even if what we do in cyberspace is not physically tangible, most of us leave a part of who we are online - from pictures on Facebook, to personal thoughts shared on a blog.

Law Lesson: Testamentary Trust Versus Living Trust

Trusts are estate-planning tools that can help you manage property during life while ensuring a smooth transition of affairs after death, reports CNN Money.

The basics of trust creation are fairly simple. To create a trust, the property owner (called the "trustor," "grantor," or "settlor") transfers legal ownership to a person or institution (called the "trustee") to manage that property for the benefit of another person (called the "beneficiary").

The trustee often receives compensation for his or her management role.

Trusts fall into two broad categories: testamentary trusts and living trusts, according to the researchers at FindLaw.