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Rochester Estate Planning Law Blog

Why small business owners need an estate plan

Creating an estate plan is an important responsibility that can help you ensure that your family is taken care of in the event of your death. If you’re a small business owner, this responsibility is even more important, as both your business and your family could face financial disaster in case of your untimely passing. Despite this, an estimated 30% of business owners do not have an estate plan.

As an entrepreneur, your business may represent a significant portion of your assets. Planning to pass such assets down to your desired beneficiaries can be more complicated in these cases due to tax, liquidity and other considerations.

Ex-manager for Stan Lee charged with elder abuse and more

You may remember when comic creator Stan Lee began creating some of our most beloved pop culture figures in the 1960s. Lee’s popularity only grew through the years as his creations expanded to television, movies and more. In late 2018, Lee passed away at the age of 95.

In his later years, Lee was under the care of his then manager. Recently, s former manager for false imprisonment, grand theft, and elder abuse for knowingly inflicting mental harm on Lee. Prosecutors allege that the former manager stole $250,000 and fraudulently held Lee captive. Should a jury find the ex-manager guilty on all counts, he could face 10 years in prison.

Parents of minor children may prefer leaving assets in a trust

Parents of young children usually have different estate planning considerations than parents of adult children have. One of those considerations should be who to appoint as the guardian of minor children in case both parents unexpectedly pass away. However, a less well-known consideration might be how you plan to leave assets for your children.Many parents leave assets for their children in a will. This can be a convenient option since a will is also the document needed to designate a guardian. However, leaving minor children assets in a will could be problematic.

The importance of a last will and testament

Some may believe writing a “last will and testament” can wait until tomorrow. But tomorrow is not guaranteed. If you don't write or help create “a will” and pass on, New York State will take over and divide the assets. The state has defined standards for dividing an estate holder’s property. It does not try to figure out the wishes or the goals of the deceased. It also does not accommodate the unique interests of a family. 

Many people, from all walks of life with considerable assets, have failed to put together a last will. You shouldn’t be one of them. Absence of a will creates enormous uncertainty and often leads to turmoil and conflict among family members and loved ones. Quite commonly, this can lead to legal battles that were completely avoidable.

A family meeting can prevent some disputes over your estate plan

You may feel uncomfortable bringing up your estate plan with family, and some family members may even try to change the topic when you do so. However, many benefits can come from talking with your loved ones about your estate plan.Communicating at least the basics about your estate plan to family members can prevent family infighting and probate disputes. This conversation can also help make sure everyone understands your wishes and is prepared to take on any necessary responsibilities when the time comes.

When is it important for me to update my estate plan?

For many New Yorkers, the creation of an estate plan is viewed as final with no changes necessary. Some might have taken a significant amount of time before finally crafting an estate plan to prepare for the future, but when they did they were fully prepared to leave it as is. However, major problems can arise if the document is not updated when changes to a person's life happen. Even with the most comprehensive strategies for estate planning are frequently insufficient because of a failure to update. There are several reasons why it is important to update an estate plan and having legal advice when doing so is critical.

While a will a trust or other estate planning device is meant to prepare for the testator's death, others who are named in the document might die first. Failing to change a will can leave a new spouse, children who were born after the document was completed and others facing problems because of this oversight. Tax implications are often ignored. With each new presidential administration, there will undoubtedly be changes to how estates are taxed. For those who have a large estate, creating an estate plan based on the tax laws at the time is wise. But when a new administration comes into the picture and changes the law, this must be addressed in the estate plan to avoid heirs being stuck with a large bill.

Can I file an estate proceeding after a person's death?

In New York, there are many questions that heirs will have after the death of a loved one. Estate and probate can be complicated and confusing and it is even more difficult if there was no will. A person who died intestate might have done so because they did not believe they had significant assets to warrant a will or other estate planning device. They could have been younger and been the victim of an untimely death before realizing that a will was needed. The family members left behind will frequently wonder about filing for estate administration. To understand this, having legal advice is critical.

When there was a will, there will be an executor. This makes the process of estate administration simpler than if there is no will. The executor will simply file for probate or a small estate in the relevant county where the testator lived. If, however, the person died intestate, only certain people can file for administration or for a small estate. Generally, this is limited to the person who is designated as the "closest distribute."

Can you revoke a will?

A well-drafted estate plan should represent your wishes at the time you and your lawyer executed it. However, life can throw a lot of changes at you, and you may find that after a few years your plan no longer reflects your wishes.

With wills and other estate planning documents, it is important to remember that there are laws governing how they can be changed. Knowing how to revoke or alter a will requires legal assistance.

Key considerations for estate administrators

Estate administrators are tasked with substantial, time-consuming and potentially contested responsibilities following the death of a loved one. While you may feel honored to take on the responsibility at the request of a family member or friend, the legal process to follow can be complex and arduous.

Whether your loved one asked you to be their estate administrator or you only found out after their death, you may become quickly overwhelmed with your tasks. Especially if you live outside New York or even in a neighboring town, your role can require much of your time and energy. You may question what exactly your responsibilities are and how to properly execute them.

An estate plan for artwork and other collectibles can be complex

New York State can be a hotbed for the art scene with many people collecting valuable items. Collectibles are not limited to artwork, however. Anything can rise in value based on its popularity and historic significance. That includes sports collectibles, coins, stamps, antiques and more. When drafting estate planning documents, it is imperative for the testator to be cognizant of these properties and to prepare accordingly. As with any asset and an estate plan, having legal guidance is crucial.

These properties vastly differ from items like real estate, bank accounts and retirement accounts. Their value and aesthetic can go beyond the obvious, and it may be wise to have an established appraisal when preparing an estate plan.

  • I wanted to write to say how pleased my wife and I were at your professional handling of our estate planning and preparation of new wills. We were put at ease by your visit to our home for an interview and were pleased that you listened to us and captured the things that we felt were important.

    --Robert and Christine Simonson, Fairport
  • In order to finalize the documents we came to your office and were greeted in a very professional manner and we could not have asked for finer service. We left with copies of everything we needed and feel very confident our needs have been met. Thanks again. We will surely recommend you should the opportunity arise.

    — Christine and Robert Simonson, Fairport
  • I have been working with Weinstein & Randisi for about two years now. Elizabeth Randisi, through a very thorough process, has helped my wife and me determine what is really important in our lives. Thus, we were able to draft a living will that reflected our most important values regarding our estate.

    --David and Ajia Cherry, Fairport
  • I would like to give a testimony for Elizabeth Randisi, an estate attorney with Weinstein & Randisi. Her knowledge of wills and estate planning was clearly demonstrated in her presentation to us. Realizing our need for a will, my husband and I went to see Elizabeth.

    --Kathy and Gary Gray, Webster
  • Filing for Medicaid is never an easy or fun process. However, working with the Weinstein & Randisi firm made the process simple and streamlined. We were able to obtain all files and records regarding Medicaid enrollment within a few days using specially prepared checklists and verbiage recommended by our assigned paralegal.

    --Ajia and David Cherry, Fairport
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