Finance & Law

by -
0 2495

By Nancy Burner

With tax planning becoming less of an issue for the average client, the focus in estate planning has shifted to asset protection for intended beneficiaries. As attorneys, we often hear our clients tell us that they plan to leave everything equally to their children but that they are concerned that one (or more than one!) has creditor issues or are going through a divorce. How can they ensure that whatever they leave to this child will not have to be spent on his or her debts or given to his or her soon-to-be ex-spouse? The answer is with the use of a descendant’s trust.

Whether an estate plan includes a traditional last will and testament or a trust, planners should direct that any asset left to a child with potential creditors or divorces be left in a descendant’s trust, also commonly referred to as an inheritor’s trust. This is a trust written into the last will and testament or trust document that does not come into effect until after the death of the creator, which will protect the child’s inheritance from outside invaders, including creditors or divorcing spouses. To the extent that assets are left in the trust, creditors do not have access, and the assets are considered separate and apart from the marital estate.

Typically, the descendant’s trust provides that any income generated from an asset in the trust shall be paid to the beneficiary, and principal distributions can be made for health, education, maintenance and support if the child is his or her own trustee or for any reason if there is an independent trustee. An independent trustee is a person not related by blood or marriage to the beneficiary and is not subordinate to the beneficiary, i.e., does not work for the beneficiary.  However, your lawyer can customize the language to provide for you and your beneficiaries’ specific circumstances.

While a beneficiary can be his or her own trustee, if there is a concern about the child’s “questionable spending habits,” a trust creator can consider naming someone else to be trustee for him or her or naming a co-trustee to act with the child. This could be a sibling or another trusted individual.

It is important to remember that many assets are disposed of by beneficiary designation, such as retirement accounts and life insurance. This means that once you draft the descendant’s trust in your estate plan, you must designate the trust created for their benefit as the beneficiary for their share of your assets. This will ensure that the asset passes to their trust and not to them directly.

However, be cautious when designating a trust as the beneficiary of retirement assets. When an individual inherits a retirement account, he or she must begin taking minimum distributions according to his or her life expectancy, but the principal of the retirement account continues to grow tax deferred. When a trust is designated as a beneficiary, the IRS forces the account to be paid out over a five-year period since there is no individual on whom to calculate a life expectancy. In order to ensure that a trust can still get the “stretch-out” over the child’s life expectancy, there must be certain provisions included so that the trust can accept the retirement account. Accordingly, be sure to discuss any beneficiary designations with your estate planning attorney before executing same.

Whether your estate plan includes a simple will or a complicated trust-based plan, incorporating descendants trusts is an excellent way to safeguard assets for your intended beneficiaries.

Nancy Burner, Esq. has practiced elder law and estate planning for 25 years. The opinions of columnists are their own. They do not speak for the paper.

by -
0 375

By Michael R. Sceiford

If you are interested in saving for retirement, here’s some good news: For 2015, the IRS has raised the maximum contribution limits for 401(k) plans from $17,500 to $18,000. And if you’re 50 or older, you can put in an extra $6,000, up from $5,500 in 2014.

These same limits also apply to 403(b) plans, for employees of public schools and nonprofit organizations, and to 457(b) plans, for employees of state and local governments and other governmental agencies, such as park boards and water districts. So, in other words, a lot of workers have gotten a “raise” in their ability to contribute to tax-advantaged retirement plans.

Although you may not think you will ever contribute the maximum amount to your retirement plan, you may still benefit from making small increases each year. Unfortunately, many people don’t do this. In fact, approximately 30 percent of eligible workers don’t even participate in their employer’s 401(k)-type plan, according to the Employee Benefits Security Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor. And the median savings rate for these plans is just 6 percent of eligible income, with only 22 percent of employees contributing more than 10 percent of their pay, according to a recent report by Vanguard, an investment management company.

In any case, you do have some pretty strong motivations to put in as much as you can possibly afford. First of all, your 401(k) earnings grow on a tax-deferred basis, which means your money has more growth potential than it would if it were placed in an account on which you paid taxes every year. Eventually, though, you will be taxed on your withdrawals, but by the time you start taking out money, presumably in retirement, you might be in a lower tax bracket.

But you can also get a more immediate tax-related benefit from contributing as much as you can to your 401(k). Consider this hypothetical example. Suppose that you are in the 28 percent tax bracket. For every dollar you earn, you must pay 28 cents in taxes (excluding state and other taxes), leaving you 72 cents to spend as you choose. But if you put that same dollar into your 401(k), which is typically funded with pre-tax dollars, you will reduce your taxable income by one dollar — which means that if you did contribute the full $18,000, you’d save $5,040 in federal income taxes. Your particular tax situation will likely be impacted by other factors, but you’d have that $18,000 working for you in whatever investments you have chosen within your 401(k) plan. If you kept contributing the maximum each year, you will be giving yourself more potential for a sizable fund for your retirement years.

Even if you couldn’t afford to “max out” on your 401(k), you should, at the very least, contribute enough to earn your employer’s match, if one is offered. (A common match is 50 cents per dollar, up to 6 percent of your pay.) Your human resources department can tell you how much you need to contribute to get the greatest match, so if you haven’t had that conversation yet, don’t put it off.

As we’ve seen, investing in your 401(k) is a good retirement strategy — you get tax benefits and the chance to build retirement savings. And with the contribution limit increasing, you’ve got the chance for more savings in the future.

This article was written for use by local Edward Jones Financial Advisor Michael R. Sceiford.

by -
0 554

The Facts: I am selling my house. A number of years ago I replaced the fence that enclosed my back yard. The person who is buying my house had my property surveyed and it appears that the fence is about 3 feet inside my property line. The title company is requiring me to obtain a boundary line agreement from my neighbor.

The Questions: Is a boundary line agreement necessary under these circumstances? And if so, why is it needed?

The Answer: The quick answer to your first question is, yes. A boundary line agreement is necessary because the title company will not insure the buyer’s ownership interest in the land between the property line and the fence without a writing in which the neighbor states that he has no claim to the land.

The problem you are having is actually very common, especially when old fences are replaced and when new fences are installed without reference to a survey. When a fence is installed inside a property line, the placement of the fence effectively makes the enclosed property appear smaller and allows neighbors to make use of the land between the actual property line and the fence. For example, by installing a fence 3 feet inside your property line, your neighbors may believe that the 3 feet of land outside the fence is actually theirs and may plant hedges or widen their driveway accordingly. Especially in the case of a driveway that encroaches upon your property, the continued use by your neighbor of that driveway may create an easement or develop into an adverse possession claim. If that happens, your use of your property will be negatively impacted and may result in litigation. In any event, when you sell your property, you will need to address the problems created by the misplaced fence.

Assuming your neighbor does not assert an adverse possession claim stating that the land between the fence and the property line is actually his, the title company will likely require that you and your neighbor enter into a boundary line agreement that describes the exact location of the property line. The agreement will be recorded with both your deed and your neighbor’s deed insuring that future owners can accurately locate the property line regardless of the placement of a fence or driveway. When a fence is only off the property line by a foot or so, the title company may accept an affidavit from the neighbor stating that he has no ownership interest in or claim to the land between the fence and the property line. Since the affidavit is not recorded with the land records, it provides a less costly and less formal resolution to the problem created by a misplaced fence. What type of documentation the title company requires is fact specific.

Boundary line disputes (or potential disputes) like the one you described can delay the closing on a real estate transaction and, if not resolved, may be the basis for a buyer terminating the contract of sale. Since so much is at stake, such disputes should not be taken lightly but should be handled by a real estate attorney with experience resolving boundary line disputes and working with title companies.

by -
0 587

By Linda M. Toga, Esq.

The Facts: My mother’s Will contains provisions that are inconsistent with other documents she has signed and with what she told my sister about the distribution of her estate.

The Question: Are the Will provisions void or are the other documents unenforceable?

The Answer: Unfortunately, the situation you’ve described is quite common and often creates a great deal of tension between family members. While it is too late to avoid the problems caused by the inconsistent documents if your mother has already passed, if she is still alive, an experienced estate planning attorney can work with your mother to eliminate the inconsistencies and avoid the resulting problems. As for which of your mother’s documents and agreements now in existence will control the distribution of her estate, that will depend on the types of documents at issue and the provisions of those documents.

A Will only controls the distribution of assets that are owned by the decedent at the time of her death. For example, if your mother left her car to you in her Will but, signed the title to the car over to your sister before she died, you are out of luck. As long as transfer of the title took place during your mother’s lifetime, the provision in the Will is unenforceable because the car was not owned by your mother at the time of her death.

On the other hand, if your mother signed an agreement with your sister stating that her house was to be sold upon your mother’s death and that the proceeds would be divided between you and your sister but, her Will gives you the right to live in the house until you are forty, the Will controls. Unless your sister can demonstrate that your mother lacked capacity to execute her Will or that you unduly influenced your mother and caused her to sign the Will containing the provision that was contrary to her agreement with your sister, your sister will likely have to wait until you turn forty before the house can be sold and the proceeds divided. The reason for this is that agreements generally die with the parties to the agreement. Unless an agreement specifically states that it is binding upon the heirs, successors, assigns and executors of the parties signing the agreement, the agreement is not enforceable after one of the parties dies.

If the inconsistent documents you are concerned about are a Will and a beneficiary designation form signed by your mother, the terms of the beneficiary designations will control. For example, if your mother signed a form stating that her IRA was to pass to your sister but, her Will stated that her entire estate was to be divided equally between you and your sister, the funds in the IRA will pass to your sister. The balance of her estate will pass in equal shares to you and your sister. The same is true with jointly held property and bank accounts that provide for the right of survivorship. In that case, upon the death of one of the joint owners, the property or the funds in the account automatically belong to the surviving joint owner, regardless of any provisions in the deceased joint owner’s Will.

Because of the complexities surrounding the distribution of a decedent’s assets and the issues that arise when there are inconsistencies between various documents relating to estate planning, it is important to review with an experienced estate planning attorney all of the documents and agreements, oral and otherwise, that you may have in place relating to asset distribution. Engaging in estate planning gives you the opportunity not only to learn about the consequences of signing various types of documents and agreements, but also to look at your assets, consider your ultimate goals and take the steps to insure that those goals are met. Only by understanding the relationship between different estate planning strategies and the documents designed to implement those strategies can you be sure that the documents you sign and the agreements you make are consistent and will result in your wishes being honored.

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of litigation, estate planning and real estate from her East Setauket office.

by -
0 452

By Linda M. Toga, Esq.

I generally do not revisit a topic if I have discussed it in a prior article. However, based on the number of phone calls I’ve received from clients in response to alarming solicitations they’ve received in the mail, I am making an exception this month.

It has been almost three years since I first warned readers about a scam involving unscrupulous companies that scared property owners into purchasing unnecessary certified copies of their deeds at inflated prices ranging from $59 to $129. Unfortunately, the companies behind the scam are still at it. In fact, the problem has apparently become so widespread that the Suffolk County Clerk recently sent a letter to property owners advising them that there was no immediate need to purchase certified copies of their deeds.

My original article which includes information on how to obtain a certified copy of the deed to your property in the unlikely event you need one, follows. While this article deals exclusively with deeds, there is a lesson to be learned here that applies to all types of legal documents. If you are asked to send money or to take some other type of action in connection with a contract, power of attorney, deed, lease or license, to name a few, it is best to consult an experienced attorney before you act. Scams like the one discussed here are only successful when people make uninformed choices. So please, get expert advice before you act in such matters.

The Facts: I recently received a letter from a company suggesting that I should have a certified copy of my deed. The company offered to get the deed for me for about $85.

The Question: Is this a scan?

The Answer: Yes, it is a scam and one that is quite lucrative for the company making the offer. The reason it is a scam is that most people will never need a certified copy of their deed. In the unlikely event a property owner needs to produce a certified copy of a deed, they can easily obtain one either in person or by mail for a fraction of what the company is charging. Although companies like the one that sent you the letter often refer to an article published by the Federal Citizen Information Center (“FCIC”) to convince property owners that they must have a certified copies of their deeds, it is noteworthy that the FCIC website contains a warning about the deceptive practices of companies that send mass mailings like the one you received to unsuspecting property owners.

How It Works: When you purchased your property, the original deed signed by the seller should have been forwarded to the county clerk for recording. Once the deed was recorded in the county land records, the original deed would have been returned to you, as the new property owner, or to your attorney. If, for some reason, the original deed was not returned to you or your attorney, or if it has been lost, you can obtain a copy of the deed from the county clerk in the county where your property is located. For property in Suffolk County, you can call the Suffolk County Clerk’s Office at 631-852-2000 for information on how to obtain a copy of your deed. If, in fact, you do need a certified copy of your deed, the county clerk can also provide you with a certified copy of your deed. Rather than paying the $85 charged by some private companies, you will only have to pay the county clerk about $5.00, including postage and handling, to get a certified copy of a deed up to 4 pages long.

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of litigation, estate planning and real estate from her East Setauket office.

by -
0 568

By Linda M. Toga, Esq,

At least once a week a new client who owns real property with someone else comes to my office with a question about his rights and obligations with respect to his joint ownership of the property. Oftentimes the questions arise because the owners do not see eye to eye as to who is responsible for paying the carrying costs on the property (real estate taxes, insurance, maintenance and repairs) or how the proceeds will be divided in the event the property is sold. Since joint ownership of property can take a number of forms, each conferring different rights and obligations upon the owners, the answers to these questions require an understanding of the different ways in which people can jointly own property.

Individuals who are not married to each other can own real property as tenants-in-common or as joint tenants with right of survivorship. In addition, spouses can own real property as tenants-in-the-entirety.

Owners who are tenants-in-common each own a share of the real property. They have the right to sell or transfer their own share to whoever they want without the consent of the other owners, either during their lifetime or by Will. Tenants-in-common need not own equal interests in the property. For example, if three people own a piece of property as tenants-in-common, each may have a one-third interest in the property but, one may have a one-half interest while the others each have a one-quarter interest. Since the ownership interests may not be the same for each tenant-in-common, it is important that the percentage of the property owned by each tenant-in-common is set forth on the deed. It is also important that tenants-in-common set forth in writing what their obligations are with respect to the carrying costs associated with the property. Generally each owner’s share of the carrying costs is the same as his ownership interest in the property. For example, if four people each own 25% of a property, they are each responsible for paying 25% of the carrying costs. However, the owners may agree to a different arrangements, especially if not all of the owners reside or make use of the property. To avoid confusion and disputes, a detailed agreement setting forth the rights and obligations for each tenant-in-common should be signed by all of the owners. In addition, detailed records should be kept of contributions made by each owner toward the cost of owning the property.

Unlike tenants-in-common, when more than one person owns property as joint tenants with right of survivorship, it is assumed that each owner has an equal ownership interest in the property. Joint tenants are not free to sell or otherwise transfer their interest in the property to a third party without consent of the other joint tenant owners. In addition, a joint tenant with right of survivorship cannot leave her share of the property to someone in a Will. That is because the right of survivorship essentially guarantees that the “last person standing” is the sole owner of the entire property. For example, if there are three joint tenants and one dies, the two remaining joint tenants automatically become the sole owners of the entire property. Upon the death of one of the remaining joint tenants, the survivor becomes the sole owner of the entire property. This is true even if the other joint tenants died with Wills explicitly leaving their interests in the property to a third party. Like tenants-in-common, joint tenants should set forth in writing what their obligations are with respect to the carrying costs of the property and how the proceeds from the sale of the property will be divided if not equally.

Although anyone can own property as tenants-in-common or joint tenants, only spouses, both traditional and same sex, can own property as tenants-by-the-entirety. In fact, in New York, even if the deed does not specifically indicate that ownership is by tenants-in-the-entirety, real property is assumed to be held by spouses as tenants-in-the-entirety absent language in the deed to the contrary. Even if a deed simply provides that the owners are “John Doe and Jane Doe, his wife,” it is presumed that John and Jane are tenants-in-the-entirety. If they wish to hold the property as tenants-in-common, the deed must specify that they are tenants-in-common and must indicate the size of each owner’s interest in the property. The rights and responsibilities associated with tenants-in-the-entirety are identical to those associated the joint tenancy with the right of survivorship. Like joint tenants with right of survivorship, tenants-by-the-entirety cannot dispose of their share as they please. Rather, upon the death of the first spouse, the surviving spouse automatically owns the entire property. A divorce will sever a tenancy by the entirety, resulting in the owners being tenants-in-common.

Because of complexities associated with jointly held property and the potential for unintended consequences, it is good idea to consult an attorney when purchasing property with others to insure that you understand your rights and obligations and have taken the steps necessary to protect your interests.

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of litigation, estate planning and real estate from her East Setauket office.

by -
0 442

The Facts: I have two dogs that I consider part of my family. I want to be sure they are cared for after I die. Someone suggested that I include a Pet Trust in my Will

The Question: Do you think this is a good approach?

The Answer: Yes, I do. However, in addition to the Pet Trust, which will not exist until after your Will is admitted to probate, it is important to make temporary arrangements for the care of your dogs that can be in place immediately upon your death.

When thinking about the provisions to include in the Pet Trust, you must not only consider who will care for your dogs, but also whether the appointed caregiver has the resources to cover the costs associated with pet ownership. Even if money is not an issue, you need to confirm in advance that the caregiver’s living arrangements are suitable for the dogs. As much as a potential caregiver may want to care for your pets, some apartment buildings and residential communities do not permit residents to own pets. If the caregiver of choice lives in such a community, or lives in a setting that is not large enough for the dogs, it is best to name someone else to adopt your pets after your death.

Once you have settled on a caregiver, you should consider including in your Pet Trust a description of the care you want your pets to receive. For example, if your dogs are groomed once a month, have an annual check-up by the vet and have their teeth cleaned three times a year, this schedule can be set forth in the trust. You can also name the groomer and vet that have taken care of your dogs in the past so that the caregiver can continue to use people with whom your dogs are familiar. Alternatively, you can prepare a letter to the caregiver in which you provide the caregiver with this information.

While the purpose of the Pet Trust is to insure that your dogs will be cared for after you die, it can also serve as a vehicle for providing your caregiver with instructions with respect to the handling your dogs’ remains after they die. This information is important and useful to the caregiver who will certainly want to honor your wishes.

In addition to setting forth in the Pet Trust provision of you Will the name of the caregiver and the type of care you wish your dogs to receive, both during their lives and after their deaths, you will need to allocate a certain amount of money to the trustee of the Pet Trust. The job of the trustee is to distribute the funds to the caregiver as needed to be used for the benefit of your dogs. Some people name the caregiver as the trustee but, you may have different people in those roles if you wish.

A final decision that you will have to make in connection with the Pet Trust is what happens to any of the funds left in the trust after your dogs pass away. Many people who have a Pet Trust direct that any money left in the trust after the death of the pet goes to the caregiver. Another popular arrangement is for the money to be donated to an organization that cares for abandoned and/or abused animals.

In light of the number of issues to be considered when creating a Pet Trust, and the fact that it will be part of your Will, you should discuss your ideas and concerns with an experienced estate planning attorney. That is the best way to insure that your dogs will be cared for in accordance with your wishes.

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of litigation, estate planning and real estate from her East Setauket office.

 

by -
0 523

By Linda M. Toga, Esq.

The Facts: My father has decided to gift his house to me and my brother and to retain a life estate for himself. This is part of his Medicaid planning.

The Question: What are the advantages and disadvantages of making this transfer?

The Answer: The advantages of putting the house in your names now is that it starts the clock running for purposes of Medicaid benefits that will cover nursing home care. As long as five years pass between when the house is transferred and when your father applies for Medicaid, the full value of the house will have no bearing on your father’s eligibility for benefits. In addition, by retaining a life estate in the house, your father will continue to be eligible for real property tax exemptions such as Enhanced Star and veterans exemptions that he may now enjoy. It is important to note that the life estate has a value which will be taken into consideration when he applies for Medicaid. However, the life estate should not cause him to be ineligible to receive benefits.

The disadvantages of transferring the house to you and your brother outweigh the advantages. First, if the house is sold during your father’s life, he is entitled to receive the value of his life estate. While the life estate itself is not considered an available resource for Medicaid purposes, the cash that he receives from the sale of his life estate will be deemed an available resource which may make him ineligible for benefits.

Second, if you and your brother are gifted the house now, your basis in the house for capital gains tax purposes will be the same as your father’s basis. If, on the other hand, you are not gifted the house now but you inherit the house upon your father’s death, you will get a step up in basis. Assuming your father has owned the house for a long time, getting the step up in basis upon his death will likely avoid significant capital gains taxes when you and your brother sell the house.

Third, if you and your brother own the house, your creditors will be able to attach liens and/or judgments to the property. This will not necessarily decrease the value of the property but, those liens and judgments will have to be paid when the house is sold, regardless of whether that is before or after your father’s death. If your father needs to apply for Medicaid in three years, for example, your father will be ineligible for Medicaid for a period of time based upon the value of the gifted house. If you have to sell the house to cover your father’s expenses during the penalty period, the amount of money you and your brother will have to pay those expenses will be decreased by the amount of any judgments and liens that had to be paid off at the time of the sale.

Clearly, the disadvantages of gifting the house now are significant, and individual circumstances and goals may require differing approaches. There are also other options available to your father. For example, rather than transferring the house to you and your brother now, your father can transfer the property into an irrevocable trust. The trust can provide that the house passes to you and your brother when your father dies. While using a trust will not avoid the five year Medicaid look-back period, it will protect the property from your creditors and result in you and your brother getting a step up in basis upon your father’s death.

In light of the number of issues to be considered, it would be important to discuss this matter with an experienced elder law attorney and/or financial/tax advisor before deciding which option is the best one for your father.

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of litigation, estate planning and real estate from her East Setauket office.

by -
0 490

By Linda M. Toga, Esq.

The Facts: My mother died recently. She and my brother, who is my only sibling, had not spoken to each other in over a decade. In her Will, my mother disinherited my brother. On the beneficiary designation form for her IRA, my mother named my father, who predeceased my mother, as the sole beneficiary. She did not name any contingent beneficiaries.

The Question: Under the circumstances, is my brother entitled to a share of the IRA despite the provisions of the Will?

The Answer: How the funds in an IRA are distributed upon the death of the account holder is governed by the beneficiary designation form associated with the account. If there are no living beneficiaries named, the funds in the IRA effectively become an estate asset and they will be distributed in same manner as the rest of the decedent’s estate. If the decedent died with a Will, the terms of the Will will dictate how the funds are distributed. If the decedent died intestate (without a Will), the intestacy statute that dictates who inherits a decedent’s assets will control.

Since your father was the only beneficiary named on the beneficiary designation form, and he predeceased your mother, the funds in the IRA are now estate assets. If your mother had died without a Will, your brother would be entitled to one-half of your mother’s entire estate, including the funds that had been in the IRA. However, since your mother had a Will, the terms of the Will control. That means that your brother is not entitled to any of the estate assets.

Interestingly, if your mother had named you and your brother as contingent beneficiaries on her IRA, your brother would be entitled to a share of the funds in the IRA despite the fact that he was explicitly disinherited in your mother’s Will. This fact highlights the importance of considering all of your assets when engaging in estate planning, including but not limited to jointly held property and accounts, retirement plans and life insurance policies, so that your estate plan is comprehensive and consistent. Inconsistencies could result in a costly will contest.

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of litigation, estate planning and real estate from her East Setauket office.

by -
0 510

By Linda M. Toga, Esq.

The Facts: My sister died recently. In her Will she left 50% of her estate to friends and 50% of her estate to a charity. I feel she should have left her estate to her family.

The Question: As her sibling, can I contest the probate of her Will?

The Answer: Whether you can contest the probate of your sister’s will depends on whether you have “standing.” For purposes of this article, standing is defined as a legally protectable right or interest in your sister’s estate. The law provides that an individual has standing to contest the probate of a Will if that individual would inherit from the estate if the person who died had died without a Will. In other words, you can contest your sister’s Will if you would inherit from her estate if she had died intestate.

To determine if you have standing to raise objections to the probate of the Will, you need to look at the relationships between your sister and the people who survived your sister. You then need to look at the intestacy statute. If your sister was survived by a spouse, children/grandchildren (known as her “issue”) or a parent, the intestacy statute provides that they would be in line ahead of you to inherit her estate. As a result, you would not have standing to contest her Will. However, if your sister was not survived by a spouse, issue or a parent, you and your siblings and/or the children of any predeceased siblings would be in line to inherit her estate. Under those circumstances, you would have standing to contest the probate of your sister’s Will. If you were successful, your sister’s estate would be divided between you and your siblings and/or their issue in accordance with the intestacy statute.

Even if you have standing to contest your sister’s Will, you must have valid grounds for objecting to its probate. While space limitations preclude me from going into detail about what constitutes valid grounds for contesting a Will, suffice to say that the fact that you may feel that your sister should have left her estate to her family does not constitute grounds for a Will contest.

If you believe a Will contest is in order, I suggest you consult an attorney with experience in estate administration who can advise you as to the legal grounds necessary for contesting a Will and assist you in your efforts to overturn your sister’s Will.

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of litigation, estate planning and real estate from her East Setauket office.