Once a person is adopted (either as a child or as an adult) all inheritance rights of the biological family of the decedent are terminated.

In the past, prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage, many partners in same-sex relationships adopted each other, to create a legal recognition of the relationship. Adoption also happens often during second marriages, when one biological parent has either died or abandoned the child. Adoption also frequently happens now by grandparents adopting their own grandchildren, whom they are raising full time, because the biological parents are either in jail or addicted to drugs.

When adoption happens, all past biological relationship is terminated for the purpose of inheritance.

Continue Reading Adoption Ends Inheritance Rights of Biological Family

More than 50% of the adults in the US do not have a Will. Most assume that that they do not have enough assets to bother with one, or that they will write one when they are older. Yet dying without a Will results is going to result in the person’s assets being divided in accordance with the state’s laws rather than the person’s own wishes. As a result, not having a Will leads to delays, expenses, and family battles, not to mention hours of headaches and paperwork..

Continue Reading CryptoWills: What They Are and How They Work

Issue of undue influence comes up often in the context of contested probate proceedings. A relative dies, and when the heirs start going through the estate of the dearly beloved, it turns out that there is not much left. Apparently 3 months before her death the aunt transferred her $2MM Manhattan apartment to a next door neighbor. And she named that same neighbor as a beneficiary on her $1MM IRA account and on her $500K life insurance policy. The question then arises – were these transfers made out of free will or were these the result of undue influence?

Undue influence requires a finding that a person was restrained from acting independently, or was constrained to do that which was against her free will and desire.

Continue Reading Was your aunt unduly influenced by her neighbor when she transferred her house to him?

In New York, every Will must be witnessed by at least two witnesses. When the Will gets probated in Surrogate Court, the names of the Witnesses must be listed on the Probate Petition. Therefore, the Executor of the Will has a real problem when the signatures of the Witnesses are illegible and no other information about them is available.

When the Witnesses were the Testator’s friends, it may be possible to figure out their names based on familiarity with the Testator. Even then, there are usually other problems that arise when the Testator executed his Will without a lawyer.

Continue Reading Spell the name of the Witness to Your Will

It is important to revisit your documents at least once every 5 years. As the tax law changes constantly, the documents created in the past may no longer be the most efficient ones. As your family situation changes, your Will may become completely outdated.

Changes in Law

In the past, estate tax threshold used to be $1MM. Anything above that amount would be taxed at 40%.

Continue Reading Revising Your Will Based on Changes in Law and Changes in Facts

When spouses divorce, there are often children left from first marriage. When one of the spouses remarries, he should be very careful that the children from the first marriage do not get disinherited.

The second spouse, who is often much younger and less financially secure, may exert pressure on her husband to provide for her in the event of his death.  The second spouse may have new children, whom the father sees on a daily basis. Simultaneously, the remarried husband may not see the children from first marriage as often (due to geography or ill-feelings from both sides).

Continue Reading Second Marriages: Causes of Family Strife!

1. Location of Siblings. It is often the case that one sibling provides care and support for an aging parent, while other siblings are distant (either physically or psychologically). While the local sibling provides support, that same sibling may also control the parent’s finances. The same sibling may also bring the parent to an attorney to get his affairs in order.

Continue Reading Main Reasons Why Families Fight Over Estates

In 2016, several well-known families had well-publicized fights about estates. These disputes should teach everyone to plan while one has capacity!


Pop artist Prince died in April 2016 without a Will. Since his death, at least 30 individuals have come forward, claiming to be Prince’s children, spouses, or half-sibling. As of this writing, the judge on the case dismissed most of these claims. It looks like the estate, valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars, will be split amongst Prince’s younger sister and five half-siblings (pending the final results of genetic testing).

Continue Reading Top 3 Estate Battles of 2016

A Will execution has many formalities – ensure that your attorney actually knows them!

Most people think that writing and signing a Will is easy. I often hear from friends “Any attorney can do it”, or better yet “It’s so easy, I don’t need an attorney, I will do it myself”.

Well, do so at your own peril. Remember that the content of your Will is only half of the calculation for getting a Will probated, since Wills can and often do get invalidated based on improper execution, particularly when the Will is executed without an attorney being present. The latest case in point: Matter of Costello, 136 A.

Continue Reading Are you at risk to have your Will invalidated?

As most people by now know, the artist Prince died without a Will. The family is now set up for tens of thousands in legal costs and years of delay before the money gets distributed.

When a person dies without a Will, regardless of the size of his estate, numerous problems come up. These include:

  1. Executor. The person who will be named in charge of your estate may not be the person that you would have liked.

Continue Reading Rich and Famous Planning: Lessons learned from Prince’s mistake