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Wills

Sep 24, 2019

Three Factors to Consider After the Death of a Joint Bank Account Owner

We have all heard the expression about the “poor man’s will” being created by adding children or spouses as joint owners of one’s assets, including bank accounts.

The rationale is that this avoids the judicial probate process by having all of one’s assets pass outside of probate, according to the joint designation. » Read More

Jan 07, 2019

When a Copy or Unsigned Will May Be Good Enough

We all know how important it is to have a will.  Yet, we see one celebrity after another, with substantial estates and who could pay to receive the best advice, die without one.  Until recently, the law viewed the issue as an “either/or” – either you had a validly executed will when you died, or you did not, in which case your assets passed by the laws of intestacy, which were intended to reflect traditional expectations of how a person would want his assets to pass (first to his spouse, then to his children, etc.). » Read More

Oct 17, 2018

Promised Inheritance? Make Sure It’s in Writing!

It’s a common scenario- a couple gets married, each having children from a prior relationship.  They each set up their Wills to provide for the surviving spouse and then for all their children, collectively, when they are both gone.  The understanding is that when one dies, the survivor will not modify or revoke the survivor’s Will in a way that diminishes the inheritance of the children of the spouse who dies first. » Read More

Oct 03, 2018

Are Conversations from Beyond the Grave Admissible in Estate Litigation?

Following our post about vampire blogs, as the calendar turns to October and we approach Halloween, we’ll take a quick look at another other-worldly topic: how the decedent’s voice is admissible in estate litigation from beyond the grave.

Parties and other witnesses in estate litigation will frequently rely on or reference conversations they claim to have had with the deceased; and the attorney who drafted the document at issue, such as the decedent’s will or trust, is often viewed as a critical witness.  » Read More

Sep 18, 2018

No-Contest Clause, No Problem?

One of the most enduring myths about Wills is that if you leave someone $1 (or some other nominal amount) in your Will, that person cannot contest it. Implicit in this reasoning is that the Will also contains a so-called “no-contest” clause, sometimes known by its more sinister label, the “in terrorem” clause, which says that any provisions for someone who contests the Will are revoked. » Read More

Aug 28, 2018

When Is a Joint Account Not Really a Joint Account? When It’s for “Convenience Only.”

Prior blog posts (here and here) have addressed the limits of a Will by identifying numerous assets that pass not by Will upon death, but by some other means.  For example, life insurance, retirement benefits, and annuities pass not according to the provisions of a Will, but based on the named beneficiaries in the applicable beneficiary designation.  » Read More

Aug 02, 2018

A Vampire Will?

In a previous blog post, we discussed the fact that New Jersey law has trended away from a strict interpretation of what it takes to have a valid Will.  For example, a Will is valid in New Jersey if the signature and material portions of the document are in the decedent’s handwriting, a so-called “Holographic Will.”   Would that include a document written in the decedent’s own blood?  » Read More

Jul 10, 2018

Beneficiary Rights of Separated Spouses

The tragic deaths of celebrities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade brought attention to the critical importance of recognizing and treating depression.  In the case of Kate Spade, it also highlights the beneficiary rights of separated spouses.  Ms. Spade’s husband revealed that he and his wife had been separated for almost a year prior to her death.  » Read More

Jun 04, 2018

I was Excluded as a Beneficiary, but Don’t Think it was Intended; am I out of Luck? Maybe Not!

We all know what certain words mean, particularly in the context of family.  We know who our spouse is, who our children are, and who our grandchildren are.  But sometimes it’s not that simple, and it becomes necessary to go beyond written words to determine someone’s true intention. » Read More

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