Contesting a Will

A probate attorney understands that even in the happiest of families, disputes arise. Sometimes relatives are able to work through and move past those disputes, but other times, the issue can cause a fissure within the family. This often happens when a loved one dies and relatives begin fighting over the estate. We have been assisting clients in estate plan and probate disputes for more than and know how emotional these situations can be.

Reasons to Contest a Will

If you suspect a loved one’s will is not valid, whether because of manipulation, coercions, or the will has been altered in some way, you have every right to challenge that will in the probate process. Some of the more common grounds that a probate attorney has handled include:

  •  The will was executed improperly: This can often happen when there was no attorney involved in drafting the will. All state laws must have been followed in executing the will or it is invalid.
  •  The decedent was not mentally competent when they signed the will: This can happen if the decedent was suffering from dementia or some other mental condition.
  •  There was fraud perpetrated on the decedent: If the decedent was tricked into signing the will, then it is not valid. For example, if he or she thought they were signing some other type of paperwork and had no idea it was a will, then the will is invalid.
  •  Another individual or individuals put undue pressure or influence on the decedent: If a party was threatening or blackmailing the decedent to change their will, it would invalidate it. This can be difficult to prove, but not impossible.

In order to prove that the will that has been filed with the probate court is invalid, you should consider consulting with a probate attorney to represent your best interest. It can be difficult proving that a will is invalid according to the rules of the probate court without an attorney. This can be especially true if the will that has been filed is the only will that was ever executed. A probate attorney has extensive experience in contesting wills and will be able to advise you on what is the best direction to proceed in.

In order to contest a will, it is critical to notify the probate court in writing as soon as possible. There is only a limited amount of time to contest a will and once that time has expired, the opportunity to contest expires, as well.

Your probate attorney will then prepare an argument to prove that the will you are contesting is invalid. The more evidence that can be provided, the stronger your case will be. This can include copies of any other wills, as well as bank statements, credit card statements, and any other evidence which can prove your claim.

Let a Probate Attorney Help You

If you think a loved one’s will is invalid, contact an expert and professional wills lawyer O’Fallon MO has to offer to help your case.

Thank you to the Legacy Law Center for providing their expertise and insight on contesting a will.

 

 

What is a Will?

A well-drafted Will is a vital part of every estate plan. A Will is how you ensure that your wishes are respected, and to help avoid taxes.  

What is a Will?

A Will is a legal document that can address many important issues at your death.  Common issues addressed in a Will include:

  • Selecting who will oversee your estate.  This person is called an Executor in some states and Personal representative in others.  The Will is also where you can pick the backup person, should your first choice be unable or unwilling to serve.
  • Payment of your debts.  When you die, your creditors are paid before any heir can receive an inheritance. In the Will, though, you can determine what assets are used to pay these debts.
  • Payment of Taxes.  If there are inheritance or estate taxes due, the Will is where you decide if the taxes are paid from the estate’s residue, or if each recipient pays their share.
  • Will Contest Defense.  If you believe someone will challenge your Will, the Will itself can set up various defenses.
  • Protective Trusts.  Wills can create protective trusts providing shelter an inheritance from a beneficiary’s divorce and creditors.
  • Guardians for your minor children.  In your Will, you nominate who you wish to serve as guardian until your children turn 18.
  • Burial Arrangements.  The Will is also where you name the person who has the legal responsibility and power to arrange your funeral and your final resting place.

What if I Die Without a Will?

If you die without a Will, your assets are then divided up according to state law. Many people mistakenly believe that this means everything passes to a spouse. In some states, such as Pennsylvania, if a married person dies without children but has living parents, a portion of the estate passes to the parents.  In other states, if a married person dies with children, then the estate is divided between the surviving spouse and the children.

Having a well-designed Will can avoid all these default rules and make sure your wishes are respected.

Where do I Keep My Will?

Typically, the estate planning lawyer stores the original Will.  This way it is not lost. It is not uncommon that when someone gets ill and has to move to a nursing facility that their documents are misplaced.  Sometimes this is by accident, other times by design. By leaving your records with your estate planning lawyer and informing your executor of the location, you can rest assured your documents are safe.

Who Should I Name as My Executor?

Your Executor files your Will, gathers your assets, pays your bills and then distributes the assets as you have instructed.  Not everyone is cut out to serve as an Executor. Your Executor should be a responsible, diligent person who follows through on this challenging task.  He or she should also feel comfortable hiring professionals to guide them when they are unfamiliar with the job. For example, executors often hire accountants, realtors and probate attorneys to help bring the estate to completion as quickly as possible.

In conclusion, this post is a short introduction to a critical and complex issue.  Contact an experienced attorney, like an estate lawyer Allentown, PA trusts, in your area to find out what plan best fits your needs.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Klenk Law for their insight into wills and estate planning.

 

Estate Planning Simplified

For those thinking about the future of their family, can benefit from consulting with an estate planning attorney at Yee Law Group for advice. At some point, people may consider what will happen to their belongings and assets after they pass. We understand estate planning can feel a little odd and be a sensitive task. We can help you make decisions about what kinds of paperwork to include in your estate plan or will.

We have been dedicated to helping clients feel confident about how their treasures will be handled after they pass on for more than 40 combined years being in business. We have created a list of steps entailed in creating an estate plan, so the task does not feel quite as daunting or intimidating.

You may have heard the term “estate planning” but are not exactly sure that means. By following the list below, and with some help from an estate planning attorney at Yee Law Group, you are on the road to protecting the future of your legacy.

 

  • Draft a Will

 

When writing your will, you want to list who shall inherit your property, belongings and other items in the event of your passing. It can be beneficial to also list a guardian to care for your children (if underage at the time), in case something unfortunate happens to the other parent as well.

 

  • Consider a Living Trust

 

If you establish a living trust, it can help prevent your surviving family members from having to attend probate court, which can be a very time-consuming and potentially expensive process.

 

  • Health Care

 

If you are ever unable to make medical choices for yourself, decisions can be made by the person you appoint as power of attorney for health care purposes.

 

  • Financial Power of Attorney

 

The person you list to handle your finances is referred to as your attorney-in-fact or agent, but does not have to be an actual attorney. You will be giving this person a durable power of attorney for finances, so they can make decisions if you become disabled or incapacitated.

 

  • Protecting Property of Children

 

An adult should be named in your estate plan who will manage any money or property that your underage children may inherit.

 

  • Beneficiaries

 

Name a beneficiary for your retirement plans and bank accounts in order to skip the probate process. By doing so, the account becomes “payable on death” to the beneficiary and permits funds to be handled by him or her.

 

  • Funeral Expenses

 

You can create a payable upon death account with your bank to pay for funeral expenses. This method can be preferred over a funeral repayment plan, which can be unreliable.

 

  • Organizing Documents

 

Your attorney-in-fact or executor may need easy access to the following kinds of documents. Keep these in a safe place that is quick to obtain.

  • Will
  • Trust
  • Real Estate Deeds
  • Insurance Policy
  • Certificates for Bonds, Stocks
  • Bank Account, Mutual Fund Information
  • Retirement Plan, 401K or IRA Information
  • List of Debts: Credit Cards, Mortgages, Unpaid Taxes
  • Final Arrangements
  • Funeral Repayment Plan

By hiring an estate planning attorney at Yee Law Group, we can help answer any questions or concerns related to your last will and testament. Please call us today at 916-927-9001 to schedule your first free consultation.

Wills and Probate: Questions to Ask

Everyone should have a will. You may say, “I am too young for a will,” or “I am not sick.” You may say, “I do not have anything to leave behind,” or “I am just going to leave everything to my spouse.” While these things may all be true, life can throw unexpected curveballs your way. For example, what happens if you die in a car accident? What happens if your spouse dies with you? Though you may have relatively few assets, what happens to your minor children in the event of your death? What happens to your house? What happens to your pets? These questions are hard to ask yourself because they require you to think about very sad and unlikely events. However, they highlight the importance of drafting a will now. Not only is drafting a will just a good idea to make sure that your wishes are carried out in the event of your untimely death, but it will also help your family make difficult decisions during a time when they are already suffering a great deal of emotional and possibly financial pain.

 

So, what do you need to know about wills. First, what is a will? A will is a legal document that lays out what happens to your assets, such as your car, furniture, jewelry, and other belongings, what happens to any real property that you own, such as your house or land, and what happens to any savings accounts or investment accounts that you maintain. A will can also specify who you would like to become the guardian of your minor children, pets, or of any incapacitated adult in your care.

 

Second, how do you write a will? You can write a will on your own, though you should conduct research to determine what your state requires to make valid will. Each state has its own requirements for a valid will and may specify things like who must sign the will, whether the will must be witnessed and by how many people, and even if notarization will help validate the will. It is always a good idea to consult a competent attorney to help you with these questions.

 

Third, what is probate? Probate is a court process in which a judge will review the will to check for a few things including, an analysis of whether the will is valid, a review of the decedent’s debts to make sure that all necessary debts are paid from the estate before the assets are distributed, and then to ensure that the terms of the will are followed in accordance with state law. This process can take time, and can be costly. Most wills go through probate, though some small estates are exempt from the process.

 

Fourth, so what should I do? You should write a will. You should do your research to make sure your will is valid and will stand up in court. You should anticipate probate. Know that in the event of your death there may be a significant delay before your loved ones receive any funds from your estate. You can reduce the amount of time it takes for your will to go through probate if you make sure it is appropriately drafted. Consider consulting an attorney. They can help make sure your will meets all the criteria prescribed by state law and may recommend ways to structure your will to reduce time in probate. If you need any legal help regarding wills or probates contact Wills and Trusts Lawyer Scottsdale AZ and locals turn to for any information.


Thank you to Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys for providing the answers to these key questions.

Child Custody and Criminal Offenses

Technically, each child custody case is determined by what the judge thinks is in the best interest of the child. Because the activities of parents matter in such cases, one or multiple criminal convictions will be a deciding factor in the judge’s custody orders. When a judge is making these decisions, they usually review certain factors, including parents’ criminal history. The weight of your convictions will be dependent on a few things:

  • Who was the victim of the offense?
  • What type of offense did you commit?
  • How old you were when you committed the offense.
  • What was the sentence?
  • How many convictions do you have?

If you are in the middle of a child custody dispute and have a criminal history, the judge will probably ask about the relationship between you and the victim of your crime. If the crime is psychologically or emotionally damaging towards your children, the court can and probably will limit your custody arrangement and visitation rights. If you have committed a crime against your child once, you may do it again and that is the concern of the judge. If the conviction involves sexual abuse or serious physical assault, then you may face termination of your parental rights.

Violent Offenses

If your conviction was violent, (i.e. domestic abuse, assault, stalking etc.), then that will hold more weight in the judge’s consideration. The court may be concerned about anger or violent issues if you have these types of convictions, so you may have restricted or no custody arrangement. There are many states that will allow the authorization of a “domestic violence presumption” if an ex-spouse can establish a history of abuse. The court is legally allowed to assume that the parent convicted of a violent offense may abuse the children and should be restricted or denied access to their children.

Drug- Related Offenses

Although a drug conviction may not technically be a violent crime, it may still cause issues if you are seeking a custody arrangement. The court will test you as soon as they become aware of a drug-related conviction and a positive test will probably result in supervised visitation, if not complete revocation of parental rights. A DUI conviction may also hinder your chances of a custody arrangement. A family judge may view a DUI charge as behavior that may put the children in danger should you be responsible for transportation.

Seeking Legal Assistance

There is no perfect formula for predicting how your custody battle will be affected by your prior convictions. However, the guidance of lawyer, like a family attorney Tampa FL relies on, may provide you a better chance of understanding how your case will be viewed by the judge. If you have questions about how your convictions will hurt your case, consider calling a family law attorney for a free consultation about the particular details of the case.

 

Thanks to our friends and contributors from The Mckinney Law Group for their insight into family law.

Estate Planning When You Have a Business Partner

One of the most satisfying things for many people is the day they finally open their own business and no longer work for anyone else. They are finally their own boss. Some business owners own their business solo, while others decide to go into business with a partner or partners. When a business partner dies, it can be difficult not only personally, but there are also legal issues that could affect the business. What happens to that business now?

Do you sell the business, liquidate the assets and split them between your partner’s heirs and yourself, or does someone from your partner’s family come in and take his or her place?

Partnership Agreement

When you formed your business with your partner, you likely drafted a partnership agreement that included a clause addressing what would happen to the business if one of the partners died or became permanently disabled. If you had a Memphis estate planning lawyer assist you in drafting the agreement, he or she may have suggested one of the following options:

  • The decedent’s estate takes over their share of the partnership.
  • The decedent’s share is transferred to the other partner, who will make payment to the estate.
  • The partner has the option to purchase the decedent’s share of the business using some type of agreed-upon financial formula.

No Partnership Agreement

If you and your partner did not draft a written partnership agreement, then the rules of the Partnership Act would apply. Every state except for Louisiana has adopted the Partnership Act into state law for business regulations.

According to the Partnership Agreement, when one of the partners dies, that immediately dissolves the partnership. The surviving partner or partners will then owe the estate of the partner who died the amount of the decedent’s share of what the business was worth on the day they died.

For example, let’s say three friends – Mike, Pat, and Eric – open a business under a general partnership but they don’t draft a partnership agreement. Each one of the men put up one-third of the capital needed to start the business. Eric dies, which then dissolves the partnership. After the business has been dissolved and debts paid, Mike and Pat receive a third of the leftover capital, and Eric’s third goes to his estate. Mike and Pat take their capital and start the business up again, only this time with two partners.

Should Partners Have Agreements to Address Death?

There are risks associated with having an agreement and risks associated with not having one. If you do not have an agreement and your partner dies, the partnership dissolves. It can take time to address all the issues that involve dissolving a partnership, liquidating its assets, and paying off the debts. What happens if the surviving spouse or other heirs want their share of the partnership immediately? They could decide to sue to gain immediate release of the capital owed to them.

There are also potential issues with an agreement, especially if the agreement says the partner’s survivor steps in as the new partner. A spouse or other family member may not be on the same wavelength as the surviving partner, resulting in a lot of disagreements


Thanks to our friends and contributors from Wiseman Bray PLLC for their insight into Estate Planning When You Have a Business Partner.

 

Frequently Asked Estate Planning Questions

What is a trust?

A trust is legal, fiduciary arrangement that is created to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary.  A trustee is the person who is in charge of overseeing the assets in the trust. There are several different types of trusts that can be used for estate planning purposes.

What is a living trust?

A living trust is one that is created by an individual who maintains control over the trust while they are alive. This is also referred to a revocable trust because the person may change or revoke the trust at any time. The person can put whatever assets they choose into the trust and then designate a beneficiary who will receive the contents of the living trust upon the individual’s death.

The individual can also stipulate that instead of the beneficiary having control of the assets, a third-party, or trustee, will oversee control of the trust. The individual can leave specific instructions on how or when any assets are distributed to the beneficiary.

One of the benefits of a living trust is that it does not require any probate process when the individual dies. The assets are transferred immediately to either the beneficiary or to the trustee if one has been appointed.

What is an irrevocable trust?

An irrevocable trust is a living trust, where assets are placed and are transferred to the beneficiary upon the decedent’s death, however, the trust itself is irrevocable. Once a person establishes an irrevocable trust, they cannot change or revoke it at a later date. Many people choose an irrevocable trust because of the tax benefits that may be realized. Your estate planning attorney can explain what, if any, benefits this type of trust would have for your estate and/or beneficiaries.

Do I still need a will if I have a living trust set up?

Although you may have a living trust established, there are still issues that need to be addressed when a person dies that only a will can address. The only assets that do not have to be addressed are the ones in the living trust, but most people also have other assets and/or property when they die that are not in the trust. Examples of these assets include household belongings and furniture, vehicles, jewelry, valuable collections, digital assets, and checking and savings accounts. The only way to legally specify how you want these other assets distributed is to document your wishes legally in a will. A probate court will not accept any other documentation, only a legally executed will.

In addition to assets that need to be distributed, there are usually debts and/or taxes that an estate needs to pay. You will need to name a person to oversee your estate and make sure that not only assets are divided, but also that the debts are paid.

Parents who have minor children can also name who they want to be their children’s guardian in the will and how the children’s financial needs will be handled.

If you do not have a will, all of these issues will be decided by the court, with no guarantee that what the court decides is what you would have decided. Speak with an experienced attorney such as the Scottsdale Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys locals turn to.

Thanks to authors at Arizona State Planning Attorneys for insight into Estate Planning.

How do I know that the Will I made is valid?

        A lot of people buy Wills online or through Kinkos. But how can you make sure that the Will you bought is valid? Following are formalities and solemnities that are required for a valid Will. For the purpose of this blog post, a testator is the person making a Will in many states like Texas.

  1. Writing requirement. The Will must be in writing. The Will either has to be entirely typed or entirely in the testator’s handwriting. It cannot be in between.
  2. Signature requirement. The Will must be signed by the testator. The signature of the testator does not have to be his formal signature. The only requirement for the signature is that the it be a name or mark intended to express approval of the will as the testator’s will.  The signature can be located anywhere in the will and not just at the end of the document. Although, traditionally, that is where you will find the signature.
  3. Witness requirement. If the will is not a holographic will – entirely in testator’s handwriting, it requires two (2) witnesses who are 14 years of age or older to sign the Will in testator’s presence. The witnesses must sign the will itself. They cannot later draft an affidavit stating they were present at the will execution. The witnesses have to be credible. The executor can be a credible witness if the only thing she receives under the Will is compensation for being an executor. A beneficiary under the Will cannot be a credible witness. The witness does not have to have knowledge of the contents of the will. The witnesses do not have to sign in each other’s presence.
  4. Capacity requirement. Not only does the will you have needs to be executed properly but who can make a will is also a question that must be addressed. To make a will, a person must be at least 18 years of age or older.
  5. Sound mind requirement. To make a will, a person must be of sound mind. A person is of sound mind if the person has sufficient mental capacity to make a will. The person must understand the he/she is making a will. He/she must know the effect of making a will. The person must understand the nature of property he/she owns. The person must know her next of kin. The person must understand the business to be transacted – making of a will.

If you are unsure if the document you received from online or Kinkos, please contact an experienced estate planning attorney Arlington TX relies on. Not only they can verify what you have is a valid will or not, but can also draft one for you.


Thanks to our friends and contributors from Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into estate planning and wills.

Why it is Crucial to Purchase Title Insurance When Buying a Home

Most property that people purchase can be physically transported from the seller to the buyer. This would include everything from jewelry, a car, a washing machine, etc. However, the purchase of land in any form, whether a home, a lot or acreage, is accomplished strictly by the use of documents.

Typically the seller executes a Warranty Deed in favor of the buyer. The deed is recorded with the local county, and constitutes proof that the buyer now owns the land. What, then, is the purpose of title insurance?

Owner’s title insurance is critically important in the event that future events reveal that the seller did not have clear title to the property. As the saying goes, “one cannot give what one does not have.”

For example, assume that the seller of a parcel of land inherited that land when his widowed father died without a Will.  Assuming that the son was an only child, he would inherit this land. However, assume further that five years after purchasing the land from the son, a nephew of the father comes forward with a validly signed Will which clearly gives the father’s land to the nephew?

In such a situation the owner’s title insurance will hire an attorney, like a real estate or real estate litigation lawyer residents, turn to, to go to court to defend the owner against the nephew’s claim. However, should the nephew’s claim be validly based on a properly executed Will, then the owner’s title insurance policy will pay the owner for the financial loss of that land. In other words, the owner will be “made whole.”

In many real estate transactions, it is common to require the seller of the home to pay the cost of the owner’s title insurance policy. Unlike most insurance policies which require regular monthly payments, owner’s title insurance is paid in one lump sum at the time of the closing of the sale of home.

The owner’s title insurance policy may protect the owner from other types of losses regarding the home, such as:

— Previously undisclosed easements
— Unknown liens by tradesmen and contractors
— Violations of zoning laws
— Unlawful encroachments on to other property
–Encroachment of fences

NOTE – All title insurance policies are not the same. The degree of protection the buyer receives depends upon the exact language of the policy of insurance.

Finally, if a person purchases a home using a mortgage, the mortgaging bank will almost always require the buyer to purchase Lender’s Title Insurance, protecting the bank from the types of losses described above.

Managing Wealth After a Divorce

Divorce is known to be a financially disastrous task, but rebuilding your wealth afterwards is very possible. Since you may have been dependent on two incomes to help pay bills and other things for your entire household, learning how to manage your income with one less individual to support can be a little rough. However, if you learn to establish a budget and not go over it, reassess your current financial situation, reevaluate and re-prioritize your financial goals and projected income, it can be a lot easier to understand and maintain.

One step to financial planning is to review your financials and expenses monthly. You should begin by looking at your income sources, your most common purchases, which assets now only belong to you, and your new tax situation.  Although every divorce is different, it is always harder and more expensive to maintain two households instead of one. If you are paying child support and alimony as well while you are supporting your own household, your expenses will obviously go up. If your ex partner was working when you divorced and you split the assets down the middle, then you only will have your household and possibly child support to worry about. You should also review your past year’s credit card and bank statements.  You can make a chart and organize your expense category and list separate expenses for you, your former partner, and your children if you have any.  Once you have made this list, you will definitely have a better and broader understanding of what you can afford, so you can allocate the money to new things that you may need.  If you were awarded the house, consider downsizing to an apartment to save money. You will have one less person living with you, so there is no need for extra space unless you have children that will live with you.

Insurance coverage for both you and your ex spouse is typically negotiated as part of the divorce settlement.  Because spouses usually share the same insurance plan, try to make it a priority to find good health insurance coverage after your divorce.  Also, now that you are single you will want to make sure that your life insurance coverage and disability coincides with your current state of health.  You will possibly need to change your beneficiary designations on any retirement accounts, wills, estate plans, and bank accounts that you have in your name.  Some divorce settlements may require you to keep your ex as a beneficiary on a policy, in which you cannot change the beneficiary designation. Speak with an experienced attorney such as the family lawyer Tampa FL locals turn to.

 

Thanks to authors at The McKinney Law Group for their insight into Family Law.