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Rochester Estate Planning Law Blog

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.

Court battle looms over late musician's trust

For New Yorkers who are well-known and wealthy, it is important to keep track of how estate plans can spark a legal dispute among heirs if the document is not crafted properly. Prominent entertainers bring joy to their fans and earn large sums of money for their efforts. After they have died, it is not uncommon for their relatives to disagree about how their legacy will be handled. Unfortunately, this is frequently related to money. When a family member is trying to address a disagreement about a will or a trust, having legal advice from a law firm that is experienced in estate lawsuits and negotiations is vital.

A pending court battle centers around the estate of the late musician Tom Petty. Mr. Petty's widow and his two daughters from a prior relationship are in dispute about the widow's role as the trustee to his estate. According to the widow, the daughters are hindering her attempts to manage the estate. She asks the court to put in place an operating agreement to name a manager who will have authority over any significant decision made regarding the estate's assets. The decisions would need a consensus among the three women so her decisions cannot be overridden.

Goals of estate planning include avoiding family disputes

The main goal for many people when crafting an estate plan in New York is to cover all the bases and ensure the assets and properties go where the testator wants. This can mean many things and the strategies to achieve the desired ends are critical to the process. Understanding potential pitfalls is a sound way to avoid them. Paying attention to what industry experts see as risks is key. A recent survey says that there are three basic concerns with estate planning in 2019: family disputes, the fluctuating markets and changes to the tax code. For people preparing or updating their estate plan, these must be considered.

Although the estate plan is designed to avoid family disagreements, they still happen. Beneficiaries and who is designated as such will unavoidably leave some members of the family feeling left out or thinking they did not get what they are entitled to. A lack of communication regarding the estate plan is also a foundation for dispute. Blended families in which the testator might have remarried and had children with the new spouse can also be the catalyst for problems. Being transparent, having dialogue and keeping family members as up to date as possible are ways to avoid these disagreements.

Should I seek durable power of attorney for my elderly parents?

As people age, they become concerned with end-of-life decisions. Sometimes they become concerned with the possibility that they might not be able to communicate decisions related to medical care, treatment or life support.

While a living will is the usual method to communicate those wishes in advance, not all situations can be predicted. That’s why many people opt to give durable power of attorney to a loved one or trusted friend. Situations that may require a durable power of attorney include:

Single New Yorkers need a well-crafted estate plan too

For single residents of New York, drafting estate planning documents might not be high on their list of priorities. While they might feel justified in avoiding the subject of the inevitability of the end of life and what will happen to their possessions, it is still a mistake for a variety of reasons. Even single people who do not have dependents should think about an estate plan. There are certain key aspects to an estate plan that anyone - not just those who are married, have a family or have significant assets - should understand before taking that vital step of creating the document.

A health care proxy and a power of attorney might not seem important to a young, healthy person. However, these documents are integral for anyone regardless of their situation, as they allow preemptive decisions on medical care and finances if the person becomes incapacitated. It should be someone the individual trusts to have their best interests in mind. A will is an obvious need, but there are factors to think about even after the will is written. For example, naming an executor is a vital part of a will, as the executor will handle probate and pay outstanding debts.

Changes in life require changes to an estate plan

New York residents who believe they have fulfilled the need to have an estate plan and simply leave the document as is without changing it are often making a mistake. With the inevitable changes in life, there are times that an estate plan is no longer as current and applicable to the circumstances as it was when drafting estate planning documents. Therefore, it is wise to think about life changes and act accordingly by updating an estate plan. Knowing when to do so is key.

Those who have crafted an estate plan should think about various factors, including the possibility that the person will be incapacitated and need a power of attorney. This is true even for people who have just reached legal adulthood at age 18 and are being proactive by creating an estate plan. Getting married is a critical juncture in a person's life and with the new life should come a new estate plan. During the marriage planning, there are some difficult discussions that are important. That includes whether there will be a prenuptial agreement or not and how the assets will be distributed if one spouse dies.

Estate planning steps parents should consider after divorce

There are several estate planning changes you should consider after divorce whether you are a parent or not. These considerations can include updating your health care proxy, financial power of attorney, will, trust and beneficiary designations. The people you select to inherit from your estate, to manage your affairs and to make decisions on your behalf should always be the people you trust most, which probably is not your former spouse. However, as a divorced parent, you may have some special estate planning considerations as well.

Appoint a guardian

Legal help with advanced medical directives in an estate plan

When New Yorkers are preparing for the future by creating strategies for an estate plan, there are certain aspects of it that can be difficult. While it is known that everyone's life is finite and the end is unavoidable, it can be difficult to think about a time when end of life planning is needed. However, those who have strong feelings on end of life care must make certain their estate plan addresses their wishes for such a time. In these cases, an advanced medical directive is important. To understand how to craft the document properly, legal advice is a must.

The advanced medical directive will state the person's wishes for how they will be cared for in the event of a medical emergency if they are unable to communicate with family members and medical professionals. For example, the medical directive can clearly state that a person wants certain treatments, but does not want others. They are not required to give a reason for it. It could be due to a personal belief that these treatments are not how they want to live; it could be based on religious beliefs; or there could be no reason at all - just a preference.

How a revocable trust can be useful as part of an estate plan

When New Yorkers are thinking about setting up their estate plan, nearly everyone understands what a will is. Creating a will is relatively easy, regardless of the person's financial and personal situation. However, not all situations are simple and more complex situations will need more thought into the kind of estate plan that is needed. This is where a trust can be useful. Understanding when and why a trust is beneficial can help the decision-making process immensely.

A revocable trust can address common worries that people might face. When the grantor of the trust dies, the trust will still be in effect to govern the wishes of the grantor. In some instances, the grantor is also the trustee. If this is the case, the trust should have successor trustees named. If a revocable trust is used, probate can be avoided, which can save time and money. Since a trust does not go through probate, the process will be completely private, and the contents of the trust will not be made public.

What are the easiest steps to take when creating an estate plan?

Estate planning is not a simple process for most people, despite how little their assets may be. It is often a complex system of laws, filled with clauses, exemptions, stipulations and more. How does the average person manage to create a satisfying estate plan? One step at a time.

Legal oversight is crucial to the success of an estate plan. And getting started is often the hardest part of the process. Once individuals and families get together and start discussing inheritance and future responsibility, the better off their estate plan will be.

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    --Robert and Christine Simonson, Fairport
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    — Christine and Robert Simonson, Fairport
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    --David and Ajia Cherry, Fairport
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    --Kathy and Gary Gray, Webster
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