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Rochester New York Family Legal Blog

Intestate succession in New York State

Making a will is an important task many people tend to put off. However, avoiding estate planning can result in various problems for one's family.

In the absence of a will, New York probate courts will apply the laws governing intestate succession. Contrary to what some people may assume, the results may not coincide with one's wishes, even when one does not have a large family.

How super-wealthy couples get divorced

When super-wealthy couples get divorced, the legal process is usually much different than with couples who have a normal amount of money. One main differences has to do with the types of assets they possess. Billionaires from New York to California often have huge sums of money tied up in stocks from companies they've owned or in which they've invested. This makes asset division particularly difficult. While the specifics of many of these divorces are kept private, attorneys have shared information about how things work in general.

In addition to stocks, the super wealthy often own rare and expensive items like artwork, antiques, pop culture collectibles, instruments, and jewelry. Assigning specific values to all these items can be a long and arduous process. There's also the issue of overseas bank accounts and investments. Dividing these assets is made all the more difficult due to different jurisdictions having different divorce laws as the super wealthy may have residences all over the world.

When might a forensic accountant help in a divorce case?

While divorcing your significant other can prove to be a highly emotional process, once you take emotions out of the picture, divorce, at its core, comes down to dividing up assets, debts and responsibilities. While some divorces, such as those for short-term marriages, may be easier to work through than others, divorces that involve particularly high earners or parties that otherwise have significant assets can prove far more complicated.

In such situations, it may serve you well to hire a forensic accountant who can help make sure assets undergo fair division and that both parties in the marriage remain truthful about what assets they have on hand. You may find it useful to have a forensic accountant help with your divorce case under the following circumstances.

Getting your ex to agree to QDRO

During your marriage, retirement savings may have been a big focus. From the time you were both in your 20's, you may have had dreams of taking early retirement, selling the family home and traveling in an RV. You never thought you would have to worry about splitting that retirement money ahead of time due to divorce.

When it comes to negotiating the split of retirement accounts during a divorce, there are a few options available. In New York, the court favors equitable distribution of property and assets, meaning you and your ex should share and share alike. One way to accomplish this with 401(k) accounts and other retirement monies is through the use of a QDRO.

Think about beneficiary designations when planning an estate

When people in New York plan for the future, some of the most important decisions that they have to make about the distribution of their assets may never be reflected in their will. Even people with updated, accurate wills may need to pay attention to this issue in order to prevent their assets from being distributed in opposition to their goals. Some of a person's most significant assets, including 401(k) plans, retirement funds, investment accounts and life insurance policies, are distributed after death to a named beneficiary.

These beneficiary designations are considered to have priority over alternate designations in other documents like wills or trusts. It is important to keep them up to date to reflect current goals and plans. In many cases, people named a beneficiary when opening the account but did not update the designation since that time. As a result, many people have life insurance policies or significant investment accounts with a long-divorced former spouse, a deceased parent or an estranged family member listed as a beneficiary.

It may be necessary to revoke a power of attorney

A power of attorney is a written authorization to act on behalf of another person in some specifically defined legal capacity. When a person is creating a New York estate plan, a power of attorney provision is typically included in a will, trust or another document, such as a living will or durable power of attorney for healthcare. No matter the basis for the granting of the power or its scope, there may come a time subsequent to the creation of the power where the grantor determines it is in his or her best interests to revoke it.

Initially, legal experts explain that unless a power of attorney had a specified expiration when it was created, it lasts until the death of the grantor. The expiration can be a certain date or triggering event, but most POAs do not have such a provision. More often, circumstances change in the life of the grantor that alters who the appropriate designee should be. For instance, a husband may name his wife as POA but most likely would decide to change that designation if the couple were to divorce.

How long does it take to go through probate?

When a parent passes away, the grief and sorrow are often overwhelming. On top of dealing with emotional despair, you may also have to deal with your parent's financial and personal affairs. This is especially true if the deceased named you the executor of his or her estate.

Part of your duties may entail going through probate. This is a process that validates a will and ensures the executor manages the estate correctly, including paying off debts and distributing assets to beneficiaries. Probate can take months to years, depending on a few factors.

What happens to a 401(k) after the divorce?

One of the most contentious issues couples must face when divorcing is splitting the money. This is not just about checking and savings accounts, but it encompasses other assets such as property and retirement accounts.

Retirement accounts are some of the trickiest assets to deal with during the divorce.

Using common sense can prevent estate planning mistakes

When creating an estate plan, it's important to make sure that the wills and trusts are completely functional. Unfortunately, many New York residents drop the ball somewhere in this phase of the planning process. This can create problems for those handling the decedent's estate. A common sense approach to these issues can avoid unnecessary delays and expenses.

Estate planners should start by making sure that all assets are accounted for and the executor of the estate will have access to them. For instance, real property may have been properly transferred to a trust, but if the deed is locked in a safety deposit box somewhere, instructions on accessing the box should be provided. Similarly, non-testamentary assets, such as life insurance policies or investment accounts with beneficiary designations, must be described and means of access provided. Often, this entails digital access through online sites requiring user names and passwords.

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Rochester, NY 14618

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