Battisti & Garzo, P.C. is proud to serve the legal needs of the Southern Tier of New York. Our team is here for you when you need assistance with a legal matter. With a prompt and personal response, we are committed to providing you with the legal expertise you need now!
Our Law Firm provides a wide range of legal services:
• Criminal Defense: Felony, Misdemeanor & Violation Level Offenses
• Federal Practice: Criminal and Civil Cases
• Speeding Tickets
• Family Law
• Wills & Estate
• Real Estate
• Landlord / Tenant
• Personal Injury
• Workers' Compensation
Probate seems to be a fairly complicated process. Is there any way for a person to take steps prior to death to avoid or minimize the impact of probate?
Probate only applies to assets held in the decedent’s name alone. There are several ways for a person to own assets so that probate can be avoided. 1. Jointly owned assets which are titled in the name of the decedent and another person automatically pass to the joint owner upon the death of the other joint owner. The surviving joint owner only needs to give a death certificate to have the joint asset put in his or her name. With real estate, the property automatically passes to the joint owner even without a new deed. It is important to note that the asset must be titled as “joint tenants with the right of survivorship.” If the asset is titled as “tenants in common” then it will be subject to probate and not pass automatically to the joint owner. 2. Another way to avoid probate is to have a designated beneficiary for the account. For Life Insurance, IRA’s, retirement benefits and annuities, the owner can prepare and submit a beneficiary designation form setting forth who will receive the account after his or her death. Starting several years ago, a person can now name a beneficiary for regular investment and brokerage accounts. This is accomplished by using a “Transfer on Death” (TOD) form. It is important to note that a decedent’s Will does not govern the distribution of jointly owned assets or assets with designated beneficiaries. Thus, it is critical to coordinate beneficiary designations and jointly owned assets with the will provisions. 3. A third way to avoid probate is for the person to set up a revocable trust. We have talked about trusts before, but this one is different. The person who sets up the trust is not only its creator but also the trustee and the beneficiary. By putting assets into the trust prior to death, the trust will control the distribution of the decedent’s assets rather than the will, thereby avoiding probate. Revocable trusts have become quite popular and we will talk more about the pros and cons of a revocable trust next time.
From Battisti & Garzo, PC
What are my rights as a client of Battisti & Garzo, P.C.?
Using a Lawyer Means Better Insurance Settlements
There have been reports recently of insurance companies contacting accident victims immediately after an accident.The companies tell victims they want to help and ask them to quicky settle their claim. If you are in an accident and this happens to you, ask yourself who the insurance company is really trying to help?
In one case, insurance adjusters contacted a 70-year-old woman's family just hours after she was killed in a car accident. They tried to get a settlement before the family could even gather its thoughts. Fortunately, family members told the adjuster they had an attorney, and the adjuster quickly left. In another case, a Florida woman thought she could deal directly with the adjuster who called her right after her accident. But the adjuster is now accused of improperly obtaining information from the woman —information the insurance company is trying to use to lower the amount it pays.
Why are some insurance companies going to such lengths to persuade accident victims to not get a lawyer's help before settling a claim? Simply because they can settle claims for less money if the accident victim is not represented by a lawyer.
Lawyers help clients get all the money they are entitled to after an accident. Most accident victims don't know all their legal rights or all they are entitled to under the small print of an insurance policy. Because of this, getting a lawyer's advice before settling a claim is critical for an accident victim.
Insurance companies that try to disrupt this process sometimes suggest that using a lawyer won't help the accident victim get more money. But the insurance industry's own research proves the opposite is true. For car accidents, insurance industry research shows that the average accident victim receives more money for economic damages (like lost wages and medical expenses) when represented by a lawyer, even after deducting all costs. And when recoveries for pain and suffering are considered, the larger recoveries by accident victims use lawyers is significantly higher.
If you are in an accident, seek legal help immediately. A lawyer can advise you about all your rights as well as advise you about all insurance benefits you may be entitled to receive. Insurance industry research and common sense show that it is wise to consult a lawyer after an accident, and before settling an accident claim.
How soon will the beneficiaries of an Estate receive a distribution from an Executor?
The Executor must make sure that most if not all of the estate expenses and debts of the decedent are paid before any payments to beneficiaries are made. Included in this list are (i) funeral and burial expenses, (ii) income, estate and inheritance estate taxes, (iii)credit card bills, mortgages, and health care bills, and (iv) court fees and attorney fees. Accordingly, the Executor must take care of a great deal of expenses and bills before distributions can be made. We do not want an Executor to make premature payments to beneficiaries and then leave himself or herself short. As a rule of thumb we help the Executor to be in a position to make significant partial distributions to the heirs within seven to nine months of the date of death, and to have final distributions completed within one to two years.
What is a Trust and what are Trusts used for?
A trust is a separate entity created by you to handle and manage assets for persons and purposes selected by you. The person creating a trust is the “Grantor” or “Settlor”, the person managing the trust is called the “Trustee”, and the person receiving benefits from the trust is called the “Beneficiary”. The trust can be created in your will (a testamentary trust) or by a separate trust agreement during your lifetime (an “inter vivos” or “living” trust). Trusts can be created for various purposes, including: - Trusts for children and grandchildren to be used for specific purposes, such as education expenses. - Trusts set up for tax planning purposes which are designed to reduce the amount of estate taxes, inheritance taxes and/or income taxes, such as credit shelter trusts, marital trusts or life insurance trusts. - Trusts designed to protect assets in case long-term nursing home care or Medicaid is needed, so-called “Medicaid Trusts”. - Trusts to protect assets for disabled or incapacitated individuals, such as a “Supplemental Needs Trusts”. - Trusts set up to avoid probate and minimize expenses, so-called “Grantor” or “Revocable” trusts. An attorney with competent knowledge of trust and estate law can help you explore whether a trust or trusts should be part of your estate plan.