Estate Planning & Probate

WHAT IS ESTATE PLANNING?

Nobody likes to think about what happens to their worldly possessions when they die, but a proper estate plan is essential to make sure that your assets are transferred to your loved ones.  There are three main goals with any estate plan:

  1. Make certain the money, property, and other assets are distributed in accordance with the deceased's wishes.
  2. Provide clear guidance if someone is incapacitated and unable to make health care decisions.
  3. Protect and preserve as much of the potential estate assets as possible.

A lot of attorneys or other vendors will prepare a "simple will" or give you forms for an low price. That simple will often does not address serious issues that could impact the estate when it is time for probate. I do not believe that selling my clients a "simple will" without considering all of their circumstances benefits them in the long run, so I take a different approach. Each estate plan I draft is custom tailored to fit that client's specific circumstances.

My goal is to make the process as painless as possible. I provide in-home consultations so you are comfortable, or you can come in to the office to sit and talk. Whatever your preference, I can accommodate it.

What is a trust?

A trust is a legal entity that people use in place of a person to hold different types of property. You can learn more about trusts here.

Future Planning is Important

I can help you make sure your last wishes are honored, your heirs are left with fond memories of you, and everything is taken care of. There's no "perfect time" to set up an estate plan and not having a plan can wreak havoc on your family. And if things change after your plan is in place, that's no problem. We can make changes.

WHAT IS PROBATE?

When a loved one dies with a will, the Surrogate's Court enters the will into probate. The court will review the will and make sure it is valid, appoint an executor or administrator, and watch over as the executor or administrator inventories the property, pays any taxes or bills, and distributes the estate assets based on the will. The process can be complicated and many executors hire legal counsel to make sure they handle the matter appropriately. I help clients with this process.

TRUST & ESTATE LITIGATION

Most lawyers who handle trust and estate administration are not litigators. They do not regular go to court. They consider themselves transactional lawyers. And there is nothing wrong with that. Litigating is an acquired taste, and some of the best probate lawyers in the business hate litigating contested cases.

Personally, I like litigating contested trust and estate matters. I have a background in litigation that most probate attorneys simply lack. As an experienced litigator, I can handle hotly contested trust and estate litigation that other trust administration and probate attorneys might pass up.

I started as a litigator at a regional powerhouse personal injury law firm before moving on to a general litigation firm. I have handled small car accident cases all the way up to multi-million dollar appellate work. If you're looking for experienced litigation counsel on an estate matter, I'm your guy.

CASES I HANDLE INCLUDE:

  • Will contests
  • Trust disputes
  • Claims of breach of fiduciary duty
  • Claims of mishandling estate or trust assets
  • Tax disputes and controversy
  • Breach of buy/sell agreements
  • Business asset and valuation disputes
  • Claims of undue influence

If a case involves trusts, probate, or post-death business arrangements, I can handle it.

GUARDIANSHIP

The purpose of a guardianship is to protect someone who is unable to protect themselves. Parents are the natural guardians of young children. But once someone becomes an adult, the parent loses control. A guardianship becomes important when a person is unable to tend to their own daily affairs or financial affairs due to health or other reasons. A guardianship might be necessary for a child with developmental disabilities who is turning 18, a young adult who suffers a debilitating stroke or other illness, or an elderly person who slips into dementia or alzheimer's disease.

The court can appoint a guardian over a person's stuff only ("guardian of the estate") or they can provide a guardian with full decision-making ability. The type of guardianship needed is based on the specific circumstances of each case.

Guardianships also become important when the parents of a child die. Usually there is some direction from the parents saying who the guardian should be. But it doesn't happen by magic—the proposed guardian has to ask the Court to appoint them as guardian.

Guardianship issues can be complicated and occasionally contentions. A lawyer can help you sort through it all.