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Morristown Estate Litigation Blog

Sibling disputes can lead to estate litigation

Brothers and sisters do not always get along, and they do not always agree on the right way to handle various situations -- such as when a parent dies. Recently, a story was shared about how one sibling, out of three, took charge when their mother died. The decisions this one sibling is making are not sitting well with at least one of the other siblings. This kind of thing, whether it happens in New Jersey or elsewhere, may require estate litigation to resolve.

According to the story, the mother had lived with one of her daughters for three years before she was placed in hospice for pulmonary disease. When she died, the oldest sibling took charge, told the others there was no will, made plans to cremate their mother's body and began selling her assets. None of this sat well with the middle child who is insistent a will had been created years prior. Even if a will is never found, this individual believes that she should have a say in the administration of the estate. 

Estate planning myths you should ignore

Estate planning can come with numerous hiccups. One New Jersey family learned this the hard way when two sisters' mother tasked a family friend with being the executor of her estate. The executor moved slowly in selling the house, so the sisters had to wait a long time before seeing any actual money from the mom's estate. 

There are several ways to avoid complications like this. In fact, New Jersey residents can save themselves a lot of hassle by dispelling common myths that persist regarding estate plans

How the SECURE Act will affect estate planning, if it passes

Many New Jersey residents have retirement accounts of some sort, through work or personal choice. On these accounts, they likely have beneficiaries designated so that, when they eventually pass on, someone they know and/or love will benefit from their willingness to save. Recipients have a few options when inheriting such funds. Thanks to the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Act, those options are likely about to change, which means estate planning for such accounts will likely need to change. 

Under current laws, beneficiaries of retirement accounts can have funds distributed to them slowly over time, or account owners can set up IRA Conduit Trusts to help their heirs avoid excessive taxation. Thanks to the SECURE Act, which recently passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate, these benefits will soon disappear. Now, beneficiaries will have to withdraw the full amount of the fund within a 10-year period -- with a few exceptions. Without beneficiary designations, the fund will be paid out in five years to whomever the court decides is the rightful heir.

Estate planning considerations after a breast cancer diagnosis

Every year, numerous women in New Jersey, and even a few men, are diagnosed with breast cancer. When such a diagnosis is received, staying positive and looking ahead to the future is a must -- though, understandably, difficult. The last thing anyone wants to do when faced with a severe illness is think about putting one's affairs in order. Estate planning may not be at the top of one's priority list, but it is not something one should put off entirely. It is possible to remain positive about one's prognosis and make sure personal protections are put in place in the event they are needed.

Estate planning covers a lot of ground. It is more than writing a will and naming beneficiaries. The following legal documents could prove helpful should one, during the course of treatment, become unable to make important decisions or care for oneself:

  • Power of attorney
  • Health care proxy
  • Living will
  • HIPPA release

Forgery and fraud behind estate litigation case

Some of the family members of a man who allegedly made millions in the stock market have taken his designated heir and agent to court, asserting that this individual should not receive the inheritance supposedly left him. Why? They claim that forgery and fraud are the only reasons he was left anything in the first place. When such beliefs exist in estate cases in New Jersey or elsewhere, estate litigation may be unavoidable.

According to a recent report, the nieces and nephews of a former mill worker have been fighting for access to his estate for five years. They claim that their uncle's second cousin placed the man in a nursing home without knowledge or consent of anyone else, forged his signature on a will and power of attorney, and asked medical providers to end life support after the man had been placed on a breathing machine following a medical procedure that went awry. They also say the agent failed to buy a grave marker of any kind for their loved one despite inheriting roughly $4 million.

After years of estate litigation, Paulucci estate settled

New Jersey residents may or may not be aware of the fight over the estate of Jeno and Lois Paulucci. He, a famed businessman, and his wife passed away in 2011, leaving a vast estate worth millions to his named heirs. Unfortunately, various claims made against the terms of the estate plan caused family fights that led to estate litigation that has just now come to a close. 

According to reports, after the couple's death, roughly three dozen lawsuits were filed by various family members regarding who is entitled to what. Millions ended up being spent on attorneys fees and court costs. In the end, the heirs decided to settle the matter before any more of the estate was lost to legal expenses.

Advanced planning matters if you are diagnosed with Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's is a disease that is affecting more people in New Jersey each year. It can be slow or fast to progress. It can be devastating to the victim of the disease and even more so to his or her loved ones. Due to the nature of Alzheimer's, advanced planning is critical to ensure one's wants and wishes are known and carried out before and after death.

Alzheimer's is a degenerative disease. It causes a person to lose his or her memory and his or her ability to care for him- or herself properly. Those with Alzheimer's can protect themselves, their families and their assets by putting together estate plans before their disease progresses too far. If this is done too late, it may be possible for others to question the validity of the estate planning documents due to them being created when one is not of sound mind.

The effects of undue influence on the validity of a will

Drafting a will in New Jersey is responsible and provides an easier path through the probate process. When someone dies and the will triggers, heirs and beneficiaries may find themselves surprised by the outcome.

Upon the opening of probate, family members may not receive notice, signifying they do not appear in the will. If this is a surprise, especially if they did prior, the process may require challenging the will's validity. Depending on the facts, undue influence over the decedent may play a role in a will's directives changing.

When estate planning, structure matters

It is impossible to prepare for the future completely. No one knows what curveballs will be thrown their way. One of the only things people can be sure of is that they will not live forever. Estate planning allows New Jersey residents the opportunity to prepare for the inevitable and make sure that those they care about are taken care of. Here are four different structures that people tend to consider when putting their estate plans together.

Structure number one: Everybody equal. Quite a few people go this route. This is where all assets are equally divided among the designated beneficiaries. Most would think equally divided is akin to evenly divided. The truth is, asset division ends up being about what is fair, not necessarily what is equal.

New Jersey estate litigation: When to contest a will

After losing a loved one, the desire to get through estate administration as quickly as possible is understandable. However, there are times when holding things up and really digging into that individual's estate plan is necessary and for the best. While most wills and other estate planning documents are legally valid, there are those that are questionable. In New Jersey and elsewhere, estate litigation often arises over the desire to contest a will's validity.

There is a big difference between having the desire to contest a will and having the legal grounds to do so. There are only a few reasons why the courts will allow for a will to be challenged. Proving that any of the following is an issue can be difficult:

  • Testator did not understand what he or she was signing
  • Testator did not know he or she was signing a will
  • Testator failed to sign the will
  • There were no witnesses to the signing
  • Testator was the victim of undue influence

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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
Morristown Office Location