Estate Administration & Disputes
The two certainties of life are death and taxes. Estate representations are about both of these certainties. Unfortunately, many people are uncertain about what happens after a loved one passes away. The process sounds simple - determine if there is a will; verify the validity of the will; gather the assets; pay the taxes; and distribute the proceeds to the beneficiaries.
However simple the process sounds, probating a will is filled with complexities. Proving that a will is valid, or challenging a will's validity, is a complex task involving the oversight and review of a court. Further, once an estate is opened, a new entity is created and the executor (or administrator) takes on fiduciary duties that a lawyer can assist with by providing guidance and counsel regarding the right course of action. You may also be required to file tax returns and, on occasion, may have to pay tax on behalf of the deceased from the estate’s funds.
Finally, disputes can arise among the family and/or beneficiaries of a deceased person. In my experience, these disputes can be very emotionally charged and litigious. Of course, whenever there is a dispute and court involvement, you should have legal counsel.
I have represented estates throughout the process of preparing the will for probate to final distribution to beneficiaries. In addition, I handle disputes concerning issues from the propriety of the executor's actions to determining who ought to inherit what. Personally, I enjoy estate work. I encourage you to call me with your concerns to see if I can be of assistance to you.
Example: Client C and his domestic partner had also been together for over 30 years, however, Client C came to me after his partner’s passing and admission of a will adverse to his interests in probate over his partner’s $12 million estate.
When Client C came to me, he was facing a $300,000 cash demand to ‘secure’ his use of their beach home (a right to use the home for the rest of his life being all that was left to him in the will), joint accounts he had with his partner had been drained by a hostile executor and he had just re-entered his home and the beach house after being physically locked out, allegedly to “protect a valuable stamp collection”.
While it was too late for me to do anything about the will, there was much other work yet to be done. A deed to their beach home giving it to Client C had been wrongly ‘unrecorded’ by people involved with the estate but hostile to him. The ‘money trail’ also had to be explored to see who was benefiting from his loss.
RESULT: The $900,000 beach house was put in Client C’s name, the $300,000 cash demand dropped and those who effected this harm to Client C have been pursued in the appropriate legal channels. Net swing: $1.2 million.
Example: Client G’s father had a brain tumor which his girlfriend took advantage of by having him name her as the beneficiary on an $200,000 annuity three weeks before he died. I successfully represented Client G in recovering a portion of the annuity beneficiary.
I am well experienced in litigation matters concerning wills and estates, disputes typically handled by specialized state courts. In New York, the Surrogates Court is the specialized court handling estate and will (in addition to other) disputes. Surrogates Court has highly specialized rules that differentiate it from other state and federal courts.
I have had several cases with hotly contested issues concerning wills, estates, bequests and control of an incapacitated person's finances. Many of these cases have millions of dollars at stake. I understand that often the adverse parties have known each other for many years and find the entire situation to be very emotionally upsetting. Like any litigation, I seek to advance your interests in an economical manner. In addition, I empathize with my client's situation in what is usually an emotionally trying time.
Taxation of estates by the federal government begins at $5 million (inflation adjusted after 2013) and for New York State at $1 million. New Jersey tax depends on who is inheriting from the estate..
The essence of estate taxation is control - if you control the asset at the time of your death, the government will tax your estate. If you do not control the asset at the time of your death, then you will not be taxed on it. How much control you retain or give up over your assets is a very personal decision based on the circumstances of your life, which we will work together to determine.