Featured Queens Ledger Estate Lawyer
New York’s spousal right of election laws- Clarified
NY has laws that outline what and what not a person is entitled to in terms of his spouse's relation to the estate. Did you ever think of disinheriting a loved one? Perhaps you found out someone cut you off the will and you do not know what to do. Roman Aminov will share his expertise with us again and enlighten us with everything we need to know about disinheriting a spouse & NY's right of election. Roman has wrote award winning publications all over the internet and let's just say "he's done it again." Click on the link above and read this masterpiece. We promise you that you'll become an expert at spousal right of election laws outlined in NY's EPTL 5-1.1A.
Opening Safe Deposit Box After Death: The NY Law
How to Deal with a Small Estate in New York
When a person dies in New York, it’s customary for the decedent’s estate to be handled through a probate process. However, an estate doesn’t always have to go through probate. If the estate value doesn’t reach a certain threshold, for instance, it’s considered a “small estate.” In New York, if the deceased left personal property worth less than $30,000, that means the assets can be distributed directly to the heirs and beneficiaries without the involvement of a formal probate court.
When dealing with personal property, it doesn’t matter if the decedent left a Last Will and Testament or not. What matters is the dollar value of the assets left. The good news is that if the deceased’s assets fall below New York’s small estate limit ($30,000), the loved ones can use a more straightforward, shorter probate procedure popularly known as summary probate.
There are some cases whereby the deceased’s estate can be ruled not to be a “small estate” even if it’s worth less than $30,000. If there’s a potential for wrongful death or other forms of legal suits being brought up in the future, it is best to file for an administrative proceeding instead.
If the deceased owned exclusively (not jointly) a real estate property (land, house, building, etc.), then it’s not considered to be a small estate. If that is the case and there is a will, the named estate representative should file for a probate proceeding within a statutory period. Otherwise, if there is no will, the court will appoint an executor. It is worth noting, however, that if the deceased owned property valued less than $30,000 jointly with someone else, then it’s considered as per New York law to be a small estate.
Filing for a Small Estate
Again, with summary probate, the loved ones can avoid probate court proceedings altogether. Instead, the executor will have to fill out a simple form and hold off for a given period of time before distributing the deceased’s assets. There are two instances you need to think about when filing for a small estate in New York.
It the decedent had drafted up a will with a lawyer, the nominated person should file a certified copy of the death certificate, the original Last Will & Testament, small estate affidavit petition and a raft of other relevant documents. When there’s no Will, the court can appoint a representative of the estate. The filing fee in New York is $1.
How to Determine if the Deceased’s Estate is a “Small Estate”
Start off by making a list (perhaps a spreadsheet) of all the decedent’s assets. Remember not all assets owned by the decedent counts toward the estate value. Retirement benefits, 401K, joint tenancy, POD and TOD accounts, beneficiary designations, brokerage accounts, and real estate transferred by TOD deed, for instance, doesn’t count when calculating the small estate limit. Moreover, if the deceased had a life insurance policy with an express beneficiary named, the proceeds will also not count.
Distribution of Assets of a Small Estate
Once the deceased estate has been determined to be below New York small estate limit and there’s a Will, the representative will fill out a simple form and wait out. As soon as the statutory time elapses, the executor can distribute the decedent asset to the rightful heirs and beneficiaries.
If the deceased left no Will, the executor would have to file a petition through expedited summary probate. It turns out, New York’s intestacy law doesn’t allow for the use of affidavit procedure. The summary probate helps appoint an executor who will distribute the assets to the right parties.
Negligence In Nursing Homes: The Sad New Trend
Using Legal Zoom Vs A Lawyer For A Will
A will is a legal document that sets out your wishes for what will happen to your property, assets and children after you die. It’s really important that you get one written so that your family know what to do when you pass away.
If you go without a will, you end up Intestate- meaning the government will take care of distributing your assets for you. While this may not seem a big deal, it could potentially end with the sale of shared family homes or property- leaving your loved ones in a bad situation. If you have young children, you’ll want to make sure they fall into the best care possible. By writing a will, you can carefully choose who is best to look after them. For example, you may have a long-term partner who would be the most natural carer for your kids- but if you aren’t married, the state wouldn’t hand them over by default. Should you have specific wishes for your funeral, or what happens with your body- this will all be lined out in the will too.
There are a few ways you can get a will written up. Most people go to a lawyer to get a will written up, but in recent years it’s been a growing trend to use online legal companies like LegalZoom. LegalZoom allows their customers to create certain legal documents online- without the need for hiring a lawyer. LegalZoom offers these documents at a really low price compared to lawyer fees, but at what cost?
While LegalZoom's website may seem promising, it doesn’t hold a penny to hiring a real lawyer, who has spent years studying the system. While LegalZoom gives customers the impression that they’re in the safe hands of a lawyer- they aren’t really. All you’re doing with LegalZoom is filling in the blanks on standard document templates, and there’s no customization to fit your personal situation. These documents are known as ‘canned’ documents.
By writing your will with LegalZoom, it’s likely that you’ll miss out important information. Even worse, the will could end up invalid, leaving your family members without their deserved assets. Once you’re gone, there’s nothing you can do to fix the situation- so it’s better to spend that extra bit of money on a lawyer to make sure it’s done properly.
On the subject of money, LegalZoom doesn’t actually work out as cheap as it is advertised. While the initial fees may be low, the company have been known to hit customers with big surprise fees. They like to reel people in with a ’30 day free trial’ which leaves customers paying a monthly fee. Even if you do end up getting a will written for a bargain price- it won’t be sufficient, and you’ll end up paying lawyer fees down the road to amend it. To save your time and money, find a reputable lawyer- don’t get caught up by sites like LegalZoom.
I’d like to include this quote from Joanne Fanizza, an estate attorney licensed to practice law in New York, Florida and the District of Columbia. This is what she had to say about canned documents like the ones provided through Legal Zoom.
I have had several clients come to me with pre-prepared documents that were either completely invalid, didn’t do what they were supposed to do, or required a lot of legal work afterwards to fix the mess they got the clients in. Some were wills, others were trusts, some were corporation papers and other were contracts. In each case, the client wound up paying more.
Instead of risking your money, time, and even problems in court- find a reputable lawyer that specializes in estate planning. Yes, it will cost you more than a canned document on LegalZoom, but not really. A simple will drawn up by a lawyer can cost between $100 and $220, which isn’t that expensive at all. The price of your will increases depending on what needs to be covered. For example, the price will go up if you’ve been divorced, had children, or own trusts/ oversea properties. It might cost extra, but at least you’ll have peace of mind that everything you need is included.
Once your will is written, a solicitor will usually store it away in a fireproof safe. This means your will is safe, and there’s no risk of it being invalidated. Another benefit of hiring a solicitor is that you’re protected if something goes wrong. Since solicitor’s firms are a regulated industry, you won’t be out of pocket if something isn’t right with the will and needs amending. With big online companies like Legalzoom, it’s much harder to resolve issues. They don’t have anywhere near the customer service a law firm has. You’ll have to email to get in touch with them, and they won’t get to you as quickly.
Your will should be reviewed every 5 years, or if there’s a big change in your situation, for example, marriage, divorce, becoming a parent or moving to a new house. You also need to update your will if your executor dies. An executor is somebody you place in charge of taking care of your remaining financial matters- such as bills and taxes. To get a will amended, you must sign a codicil- which is just a fancy word for ‘official alteration’. Any alterations to a will must be signed by a witness. Your lawyer will advise you on all of this when you create a will with them, and they’ll provide guidance you could never get from an online company.
Hopefully, this article has provided you with some valuable information for when you start to write your will. It’s important to realize that quick-fix, cheap legal websites such as LegalZoom should really be avoided. A will is a very important document- and so needs to be written properly, personalized to your individual circumstances. If you are worried about what will happen to your assets after you’re gone- start thinking about your will today.