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The Importance of a Last Will and Testament

Perhaps the most surprising fact reported following the death of musician Prince Rogers Nelson was that the celebrity died without a Last Will and Testament. As mentioned in a previous blog article, Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson filed an Emergency Petition in a Minnesota court seeking the appointment of a Special Administrator. The circumstances surrounding the celebrity’s death is not uncommon, as 55 percent of Americans do not have a will or an estate plan in place, according to LexisNexis.

Wills are an important part of estate planning to consider, even for young people. They protect the succession of assets and ensure that the intended beneficiaries are able to access those assets, according to the deceased’s wishes. To accurately reflect the wishes of an individual, a Will should be reviewed and re-drafted every decade or so or when personal circumstances change.

Some of the factors that may affect an individual’s decision to draft a Will may include a person’s medical condition and family medical history; participation in the armed forces; level of involvement in dangerous recreational activities such as alcohol and drug consumption; health and fitness habits; and desire for financial independence.

When it comes time to draft a Will, a person should list his or her assets and desired beneficiaries. It is just as important to include digital assets, such as access to photos/videos, documents and other files, passwords and sensitive accounts (such as a savings account), as it is to consider physical ones. When drafting a Will, it is important to take into consideration extenuating circumstances, such as the unexpected death of a beneficiary. An individual may name a contingent beneficiary if his or her primary beneficiary or beneficiaries predeceases him or her.

Without a Will, the fate of a person’s estate, stocks, savings and other holdings could be decided by the state. Without a Last Will and Testament to provide clear guidance for the division of estate and assets, a deceased’s loved ones may encounter stress and be forced to endure costly legal battles to settle the estate following the loss of their loved one.

When considering drafting a Last Will and Testament, it is important to contact an experienced estate lawyer who can guide you through the process and help you make informed decisions that affect both you and your loved ones. If you or a loved one needs a Last Will and Testament or other Advance Directives, contact the experienced attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. at (718) 210-4744 to ensure that your property passes to those you choose and not according to the laws of intestacy.

The Musical Icon Prince May Have Died Without a Will

According to documents obtained by People Magazine, Prince did not have a Last Will and Testament. Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson filed an Emergency Petition in a Minnesota Court seeking the appointmeprincent of a Special Administrator.

Sources report Prince’s sister as stating, “I do not know of the existence of a Will and have no reason to believe that the Decedent executed testamentary documents in any form,” states the document, which was filed in Carver County Minnesota.

An Administrator is appointed to settle an estate after a person has died.  A petition must be filed with the court and a personal representative must be appointed.  The personal representative is responsible for the following:

  • Collection, inventory, and appraisal of assets of the person who has died.
  • Protection of the estate’s assets.
  • Payment of decedent’s debts.
  • Distribution of the remaining assets to the proper parties as provided by law.

According to a survey conducted by FindLaw.com, 35% of those surveyed had a Will but individuals over the age of 65 did execute a Will. Without a Will, property passes according to the State’s intestacy laws.

Some sources believe that Prince’s current estate is valued at over $300 million dollars. The failure to execute a Will may result in his property being distributed in a manner contrary to what he may have wanted during his life.

If you or a loved one needs a Last Will and Testament or other Advanced Directives, contact the experienced attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. at (718) 210-4744 to ensure that your property passes to those you choose and not according to the laws of intestacy.

Do I Need to Make a Living Trust, or is my Will Enough?

Part of estate planning is determining how you will distribute your property and to whom at death.  It is very important to have a will, otherwise your property will be distributed by intestacy, and may not be distributed according to your wishes.  While wills and trusts have some elements in common, they serve two separate functions.

In New York State, a will is a written document that must contain a signature at the end witnessed by two people.  The purpose of a will is to name beneficiaries who will receive property after your death.  A will is revocable and can be destroyed by a physical act such as burning or tearing, by operation of law such as divorce, by presumption (for example, after your death the will cannot be found), or by a subsequent will.  Accordingly, a will may be revised many times during one’s life.  In a will, an executor for the estate and guardians for children may be named, and instructions for wishes to be carried out may be listed.  Upon death, a will goes through the probate process and becomes a public document.

A trust is a relationship between the person who funds the trust (the settlor), the trustee (the person who manages the trust), and the beneficiary (the person who benefits from the trust).  As a trust does not go through the probate process, it is much more private than a will.  Avoiding probate is both cost and time effective.   A trust also allows the beneficiary to enjoy gifts from the settlor of the trust during the settlor’s lifetime so that the settlor can see the enjoyment the beneficiary gets from it.  Additionally, a trust is a good option if you want to be able to distribute funds to children who have not yet reached the age of majority.  Generally, living trusts are revocable and allow for the continuous transfer of assets.  Another benefit of a living trust is that, unlike a will (unless you have appointed a power of attorney), if you become incapacitated, the trustee will take over.

It is best to consult with an experienced attorney to determine whether you should consider making a living trust.  Contact an experienced elder law attorney who can best assist you in planning your estate.  Call the Law Offices of Tanya Hobson-Williams toll free at (866) 825-1529 or (718) 210-4744.

Tanya Hobson-Williams, P.C. Defends Client’s Marriage to Husband who was declared an Incapacitated Person Resulting in Wife Inheriting $3 Million Dollar Estate

Tanya Hobson-Williams, NY AttorneyOn September 24, 2014, the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division: Second Department reversed a lower court’s order annulling the marriage between a younger woman and an elderly man.  The Appellate Division determined that a new hearing on the man’s ability to enter into a marriage contract was warranted. Capacity, in a legal sense,refers to the ability to make a rational decision based upon all relevant facts and considerations.

The case involved an elderly man who was appointed a guardian by the New York Supreme Court to provide for his personal needs and property management. During the course of his guardianship, the elderly gentleman entered into a marriage with a younger woman. After being informed of the marriage, the guardian asked the Court to have a psychologist determine whether the elderly man had the capacity to enter into a marriage. After a hearing and testimony, the New York State Supreme Court determined that the elderly gentleman lacked the capacity to enter into a marriage, and, as a result, annulled the marriage.

On Appeal, attorney Tanya Hobson-Williams, representing the young woman, argued that her client was not given any notice that her marriage would be annulled and that she lacked the opportunity to be heard by the court before it ultimately decided to annul the marriage to her late husband. While the petition to appoint a Guardian for the elderly man requested a determination of the elderly gentleman’s capacity to handle his affairs, neither the Petitioner nor the Guardian ever requested that the marriage be annulled. Essentially, all that was formally requested of the court was to determine matters pertaining to the level of guardianship. Continue reading “Tanya Hobson-Williams, P.C. Defends Client’s Marriage to Husband who was declared an Incapacitated Person Resulting in Wife Inheriting $3 Million Dollar Estate”