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June 2011 Archives

Same-Sex Marriage Legalized, Estate Planning in New York

Same-sex marriage was finally legalized in New York after much delay and debate. In passing the bill, New York becomes the sixth state, and the largest state, to allow gay marriage -- couples can marry starting late July.

The legalization of same-sex marriage in a pivotal state like New York has obvious symbolic meaning for the gay rights and the civil rights movements. But along with symbolism, there are also legal ramifications for gay couples considering marriage, reports The New York Times, including significant changes to New York's estate planning laws.

So what are some the ways the same-sex marriage bill affects estate planning in New York?

President Obama Heckled by New York Gay Marriage Supporters

At the Gala With the Gay Community fund-raising event in Manhattan, President Obama was heckled by gay-marriage supporters for his failure to back New York’s same-sex marriage bill. More than 600 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people paid $1,250 each to attend the event, reports The New York Times, and the President was interrupted on more than one occasion by shouts of “Marriage!”

President Obama acknowledged the shouts and expressed his sympathy:

“And I believed that discrimination because of somebody’s sexual orientation or gender identity ran counter to who we are as a people. It’s a violation of the basic tenets on which this nation was founded. I believe that gay couples deserve the same human rights as every other couple in this country.”

The mystery that surrounded who would inherit Huguette Clark’s vast estate finally came to an end with the filing of her will. The winners were Hadassah Peri, Clark’s nurse, and a to-be-created charity run by her attorney, Wallace Bock, and accountant, Irving Kamsler. The losers? Her family and friends.

Clark, an heiress of a copper fortune, was a mystery both in life and death. She spent the majority of her life estranged from her family, friends, and the outside world and there was rampant speculation that she was being manipulated by Bock, the man who wrote the will, and Kamsler.

Max Melitzer: From Rags to Riches?

You may have heard the story of the Salt Lake City homeless man, Max Melitzer, who inherited a “massive” fortune from his New York brother. It’s been reported in the New York Daily News, the New York Post, and even across the pond in the Daily Mail. In fact, we’ve written about the story too.

If you don’t know, Max Melitzer, 65, was a down-on-his-luck homeless man living in Salt Lake City. His brother recently died of cancer and left the bulk of his estate to Melitzer. However, as Melitzer was a drifter, he could not be found. So his family hired a private eye to search for his whereabouts and with the help of a local radio station, they found him on a park bench and delivered to him the good news.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a strong advocate of gay marriage, flew to Albany to meet with Senate Republicans in an effort to persuade them to open up the gay marriage bill to a vote. Bloomberg believes that if the gay marriage bills come to the floor, it would pass with votes to spare reports The New York Times.

According to the Times, this year's legislative session is winding to a close next week, and with passage of the gay marriage bill top on many legislators' priority lists, Senate Republicans may have to decide soon whether to allow voting on the bill.

Leona Helmsley's Dog-Heiress Trouble Dies at 12

Trouble, the Maltese who inherited $2 million from Leona Helmsley, has died and gone to doggie heaven. Trouble spent her last days in Sarasota, Florida, where she was tended to around-the-clock and had every one of her canine whims met.

Trouble first made headlines in 2007 when her owner, the billionaire real estate tycoon Leona Helmsley, died and bequeathed to the dog $12 million. According to The New York Times, Helmsley left out several grandchildren from her will, while ensuring that her beloved pooch had millions.

A surrogate court judge stopped an alleged Brooklyn con-man, William Frazier, from inheriting the estate of Marcel Carter, a woman who suffered from dementia and died at the age of 94. The judge found that Frazier conned his way into Carter’s life, and acting as her caretaker, had Carter sign a will that basically gave him all of her possessions.

According to the New York Daily News, a judge found William Frazier to be a con-man specializing in taking over the personal and financial lives of fragile elderly woman. Along with Marcel Carter, Frazier is alleged to have been involved in administering the estates of four other older women.

When Doris Schmitt died last year, she left her entire estate valued at about $300,000 to Family Radio and its leader Harold Camping — the group who wrongly predicted the end of the world on May 21, 2011. Most of Schmitt’s relatives were left with nothing, and some of the relatives have tried to contest Schmitt’s will reports CNN.

Eileen Heuwetter, Schmitt’s niece, told CNN that she was shocked to find out that her aunt had left her entire estate to Camping and his doomsday group. As many of her relatives could have used the money, Heuwetter sought to invalidate Schmitt’s will through a will contest. However, CNN reports that while several attorneys sympathized with Heuwetter, they agreed that she would likely not win a will contest.

IRS Targeting Gifts of Real Estate for Reporting Violations

The IRS is undergoing a sweeping investigation of state land-transfer records in search of improper reporting of gifts of real estate to family members. The Wall Street Journal reports that the IRS has already begun review of several states' data including data from New York.

After an initial review of the state data, the IRS has said that there is an "extremely high failure-to-report rate" reports The Journal.