For most New Yorkers, having a Last Will and Testament is ubiquitous. As one ages, it is not unusual for the topic of a conversation to be whether one has signed their Last Will. Unfortunately, what is often missing from the conversation is that a Last Will only controls assets held by an individual in his or her name alone at the time of his or her death (not jointly held assets or assets with named beneficiaries), and that for the Last Will to be effective as to those assets, it must admitted to Probate in the Surrogate's Court of the County where the decedent resided.
According to the 2015-16 APPA National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association, approximately 65% of all households in the United States have a pet. Along with pet ownership comes the responsibility of ensuring your companion animal's care and well-being - even if that extends beyond your lifetime. Westchester elder law attorney Anthony J. Enea of Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano, LLP in White Plains and Somers, N.Y. recently addressed the importance of protecting your pet's future and urges pet owners to consider including companions animals in their estate plan.
Taking the time to formulate an estate plan can often seem like a daunting process. This is particularly true for the single parent. The single parent is likely struggling to balance the demands of taking care of the children, home and working a job outside of the home. With these struggles the mere thought of adding anything to their to-do list may seem overwhelming. However, taking the time to develop an estate plan will likely ease some stress since the plan can help ensure that their children are provided for according to their wishes in the event of their demise. Some of the most valuable steps to consider implementing are:
One question I am often asked is how to contest (or challenge) a last will & testament. While challenging a last will is not something to be done lightly, there are specific instances in which a will contest would be appropriate. In order for a last will to be deemed valid and legally enforceable in New York State, it must first be admitted into probate by the Surrogate's Court where the deceased resided. Once this process begins, individuals with a pecuniary interest (those who stand benefit monetarily from the last will) have the opportunity to formally challenge the document's validity. This includes named beneficiaries in a previous will and/or heirs at law. Once it has been established that an individual does have a pecuniary interest, he or she may formally challenge the last will by filing an objection with the Surrogate's Court. In New York, the grounds for objecting to the admission of the last will & testament to probate are: