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Latham New York Legal Blog

Should New York residents do their estate planning on their own?

When it comes to legal matters, it is often a mistake to undertake them alone. Even so, many New York residents attempt to do their own estate planning believing that generic forms they find on the internet are sufficient to complete the task. Unfortunately, their families could end up paying the price when the time comes due to deficiencies in the documents.

As is the case in every other state in the country, New York has specific laws regarding estate-planning documents. Failing to properly execute the documents, one wrong word or missing words, and other errors could mean all the effort is wasted when the individuals pass away or become incapacitated. For instance, the law dictates who can and cannot serve as a personal representative of an estate, who can serve as a witness to the signing of documents such as wills and trusts, and what formalities must be followed in order to make sure a document meets with the court's scrutiny.

Likely new real estate rent law shocks New York developers

New rent bills have real estate magnates in shock. Many New York real estate investors aren't exactly enamoured with new bills that would strengthen tenants' rights and protections. Developers of some of the most well-known and easily identified buildings in New York City -- like the World Trade Center and 3 Times Square -- have made efforts to have the bills blocked. They have asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo to help them, but Cuomo said developers need to enlist the aid of their legislators to help thwart the bills.

The bills seek to get rid of rules that allow rental property owners to deregulate apartments and would allow them to raise rents by closing various loopholes. There are nearly one million rent-regulated apartments in New York that these bills would affect. The bills would also allow areas other than New York City to come up with their own policies. Critics of the bills believe they would do more harm than good, by reducing landlord incentives to make upgrades and repairs to existing buildings and to build new, affordable rentals.

Are you an heir-at-law? What are your rights?

After a loved one dies, the long process of probate begins. If your loved one did not leave a will, which is known as dying intestate, you and others may be wondering how to divide the assets in the estate. On the other hand, perhaps your loved one left a will that has created confusion by omitting names of those who were close to the deceased. How does the law deal with these matters?

In New York and other states, probate courts have certain laws that determine who has the primary right to the assets of someone who dies. Not just anyone can make a claim to your loved one's property, and it is important to understand your rights and when it is appropriate to take legal action.

Important facts about probate litigation

Contesting a loved one's will is never an easy prospect. Probate litigation is difficult for everyone involved and before questioning a will, there are some things of which New York residents should be aware. Firstly, people need to be aware that being left out of a will happens to many people and there is usually a good explanation, but many cases also end up in court, so it's important to be prepared. Calling a lawyer may be the first step to take.

Contesting a will doesn't come cheaply. Court costs can add up. Those contesting wills also have to be prepared for emotional turmoil. These types of cases usually pit family members against each other and are extremely stressful, but when someone agrees to probate litigation, he or she likely believes there is a good reason. Litigation is not an easy road. 

Estate planning and administration matters for single parents

Many people put off the process of estate planning because they believe they are too young, too healthy or not quite wealthy enough to justify the effort. In reality, this is an important step for many adults in New York, especially those who may be raising children by themselves. There are important estate planning and administration matters to consider for single parents.

No parent wants to think about what will happen in the event that he or she passes away, but it is prudent to have plans in place. Through certain estate planning steps, such as drafting a trust, a parent can ensure that his or her children have what they need well into the future. A trust can set assets aside and protect them, ensuring these assets are only used for their intended purpose, as outlined in the trust. 

Certain areas in New York hot for real estate, others not so much

There are certain parts of the Big Apple where the housing market is hot and areas where it's relatively tepid. There are many factors that affect the New York real estate market, one of which includes inventory, and there seems to be a shortage of properties on the market right now that are in a mid-price range, while a glut of higher-end properties continue to remain unsold. A new federal tax law capping tax deductions locally have also been negatively affecting the market, according to experts.

The New York suburbs seem to be faring well in terms of market activity, along with the lower Hudson Valley area. With the advent of spring, the market seems to have rallied and properties in those areas are starting to shift. But the areas in which homes are more high-end seem to still be on the cool side -- homes with values in excess of $1 million.

Elder law: Banks, brokerage firms aim to thwart financial abuse

Banks, financial advisers and brokers are geared up to take a bite out of elder financial abuse. Elder law in New York is in place to help protect senior citizens from abusive situations, including bilking seniors out of their savings. Now, loved ones who are worried about their elder family members have the Senior Safe Act in place to help.

FINRA, the self-regulator for the brokerage industry, aims to protect seniors from unscrupulous types looking to take advantage of them financially. The new trusted contact rule assures that financial advisers and brokers make every effort possible to get a contact person on file for those opening new accounts or updating existing ones. That way they will be able to notify the contact if they suspect something untoward is going on. Experts say it's a step in the right direction in an effort to thwart financial abuse of seniors.

New York does not love all children equally

Given how common it is for Americans to divorce and remarry, you might expect inheritance laws to account for stepchildren. But they don’t—at least, not in New York.

New York’s laws for intestate inheritance govern those situations in which a person dies without a will. They’re basically the state’s plans for your estate, and they do not account for any stepchildren you might have raised but didn’t legally adopt.

Elder law: Seniors in care are vulnerable to abuse situations

Senior citizens are among the most vulnerable groups in society. Elder law in New York is in place to protect these vulnerable individuals, but there are things family members can do to protect their loved ones from abusive situations whether they're financial, physical or emotional. The fact is, there is abuse happening in many long-term care facilities and family members can educate themselves on the signs that their loved one may be on the receiving end of abuse from caregivers in nursing homes and other assisted living residences.

The prime objective of many nursing homes is to generate a profit, and sadly, giving compassionate care is not high on the agenda of some of these homes. This leaves residents open to abusive employees and even other residents who may act out physically. Nursing homes are known to cut costs, which may further escalate the problem since there are likely not enough employees to see to the needs of residents on a regular basis.

Elder law: Preventing financial abuse

Elder abuse, sadly, is alive and well. There are rules in place under elder law in New York, but some senior citizens still find themselves on the receiving end of abuse, which can also put a dent in their pocketbooks. According to recent statistics, about one in five Americans 65 years of age or older has suffered some kind of financial scam or financial abuse to the tune of more than $36 billion in total. 

Modern technology has made it easier for scammers to get money from unsuspecting and trusting senior citizens. Scammers impersonate all sorts of individuals and the highest on the list is impersonating an IRS agent. These types of phone calls and correspondence illicit fear in seniors. There are ways seniors can protect themselves from such scams and the first way is not to trust any unsolicited phone callers.

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