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Morristown Estate Litigation Blog

It is possible to challenge transfer-on-death beneficiary deeds

Some New Jersey residents, in an effort to prevent their beneficiaries from having to go through a long, drawn-out probate process, choose to create transfer-on-death beneficiary deeds. Under the right circumstances, and if everything is done just so, this can work, and there are benefits to going this route. Of course, such deeds are not without their drawbacks as well. For example, they only cover certain types of property, and it is possible to challenge them in court. 

Before digging into how to challenge a transfer-on-death beneficiary deed, let's cover the basics. For property owned in New Jersey, this type of deed can only be used to assign registered stocks and bonds to the beneficiary of the estate owner's choice. For property owned outside of the state, TOD deeds may be used for other types of assets, as each state has its own rules about TOD benefits. The asset will not be distributed to the beneficiary until the owner's death. The individual receiving the property will not have the ability to sell it immediately if that is what they wish to do; instead, they have to give anyone who wishes to challenge the property title the opportunity to do so.

Caretaker of Marvel's Stan Lee accused of violating elder law

Those in New Jersey and around the world who grew up reading Marvel comics and watching the blockbuster movies based on those characters are likely familiar with the creator of that world, Stan Lee. Lee built an empire around Iron Man, Doctor Doom, Black Panther and other superheroes and villains. When he died in 2018 at the age of 95, his estate was worth over $50 million. However, recent media reports say that one of Lee's closest advisors may have violated elder law by committing financial abuse against the comic book legend.

After Lee's wife died in 2017, Keya Morgan supposedly became Lee's caretaker. However, soon after that, their relationship seemed to take a dark turn because reports say that one night in 2018, Morgan took Lee from his home and allegedly imprisoned him in a condominium. Police reportedly arrested Morgan several weeks later and charged him with making falsified police reports to frighten Lee. At the time of his death, Lee had a restraining order against his former manager.

Prevent estate litigation by passing on assets while you're alive

Putting an estate plan together serves a few very important purposes for New Jersey residents. First, it offers one protection in the event of incapacitation. Second, it offers protection for one's family in the event of one's incapacitation or death. Finally, third, it is supposed to ensure that assets are distributed to the proper parties upon one's death. Unfortunately, estate litigation often arises when family members or other parties take issue with how certain assets included in the estate are to be distributed.

The distribution of money is not usually behind estate disputes. They often result when figuring out who gets to keep certain items -- even items of little monetary value. There are simply certain assets that are of emotional significance to some people, and there is nothing wrong with that.

2 scenarios that may lead to a contested guardianship

Creating an estate plan is something every parent should do. One of the crucial items you will have to address is the person or persons who will care for your children upon your death.

Even if you do appoint a guardian in your will, it is not a guarantee that the person you choose will ultimately get custody of your children. Someone may come along and challenge the validity of your choice, a process known as contested guardianship. Knowing why someone may do this may help you in making a choice that weathers the storm.

Estate planning: Are your heirs ready for their inheritance?

Putting together a solid plan for one's estate is something that no New Jersey resident should delay. There is a lot that goes into estate planning. One small part of it is making sure assets are left to the person or persons of one's choice. Something many people fail to consider, though, is how their heirs will actually handle their inheritance once they receive it.

It is possible to have a grand plan for how one's assets will be divided upon one's death and hopes for how beneficiaries will utilize those assets. Without taking certain precautions, that plan may go out the window when all is said and done. According to a recently published article, most estate plans fail to live up to what their owners intended. Why? Beneficiaries are not ready to handle their inheritance.

When estate litigation and administration seem to take forever

When a loved one passes away, one would think that taking care of taxes, paying debts and administering assets would be fairly simple and straightforward. That may be true in some New Jersey probate cases, but there are those where estate litigation is an issue which makes the administration process seem to last forever. The battle over Prince's estate is a good example of just how taxing and time-consuming estate litigation and administration can be.

The famed singer died at his home three years ago. He left behind an estate valued at roughly $200 million, but without a will, it took time to determine who were to be the beneficiaries of his estate. Eventually, a judge declared his six siblings the beneficiaries.

3 years after Prince's death, estate litigation rages on

Famed musician Prince died in 2016 without a will in place. A judge ultimately named the singer's brothers and sisters as his heirs. Three years have gone by since his death and the beneficiaries have yet to have any assets distributed to them. Estate litigation rages on and there seems to be no end in sight for when this estate case will come to a close. While few estate cases in New Jersey will see issues as complex as those seen in the Prince estate case, some beneficiaries may find themselves dealing with some of the same issues that Prince's heirs have found themselves struggling with.

According to a recent report, the beneficiaries of Prince's estate have asked the courts to limit the administrator's control. Currently, Comerica Bank & Trust is the assigned administrator. To date, this firm has been paid over $10 million from the estate for services rendered, yet estate taxes still have not been paid. Until the tax liability is taken care of, the estate cannot be closed and assets cannot be distributed.

Getting married and estate planning go hand-in-hand

Newly married couples in New Jersey and elsewhere often have big plans for their future. They dream of all the things they want to do and take steps to make those dreams a reality -- which, of course, is a good thing. There is one aspect of future planning that some newly married couples try to avoid, though, and that is preparing for death. Everyone dies at some point. If estate planning has not been completed, it can hurt one's spouse and/or one's children in the end.

No one likes to think about death, particularly people who are just in the new stages of marital life. It is understandable that it is a depressing thing to think about. However, knowing why it is something to think about may help some couples bite the bullet and get an estate plan put together.

Most common estate planning mistakes

Estate planning is serious business. Although everyone's plan is different, there are some common mistakes attorneys and judges see all the time. 

A single mistake is enough to completely derail a family's plan. The death of a loved one is already tough on everyone, but pursuing litigation may only complicate matters. Therefore, when anyone creates an estate plan, it is critical to watch out for these errors. 

New Jersey estate planning: Is a DIY will really worth it?

There are a lot of projects out there that the average person can complete on his or her own with great results. The do-it-yourself craze certainly gets people out, trying new things and sharpening already existing skills. Unfortunately, DIY is not meant for everything. Take a DIY will, for example. It is cheap and quick and seems to get basic estate planning done, but is it the best way for New Jersey residents to protect their assets and beneficiaries?

A quick Google search will bring up a number of websites that offer DIY will forms online. These forms are all very basic and there are no guarantees that they or the websites they come from are up to date with current state laws. People turn to these online products, though, because they are easy to access and fairly inexpensive to purchase. In the long run, though, a will made this way can end up costing one's beneficiaries a lot in the end. 

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Thomas N. Torzewski, LLC

Torzewski & McInerney, LLC
60 Washington St
Suite 104
Morristown, NJ 07960

Phone: 973-532-2868
Fax: 973-359-0077
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