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Family Trust Attorney – What We Do

family trust lawyer

A family trust attorney can help protect you and your loved ones from losing your hard-earned assets to the government, attorneys, creditors and in-laws. You worked hard to get to where you are today, and it makes sense to reduce financial risk by protecting your assets with a family trust. Here are some of the goals that a family trust attorney may be able to accomplish for you:

  • Qualify for Medicaid. A family trust can help you qualify for Medicaid, including home care and nursing home coverage. This helps you avoid spending your hard-earned assets on medical care and long term care, leaving those assets to your family. Learn more about a Medicaid family trust.
  • Protection from creditors and lawsuits.A Properly executed and funded irrevocable family trust will shield the principal of the family trust from creditors and lawsuits.
  • Avoid probate. Probate proceedings can become expensive and delayed. Property that you transfer to a family trust will not have to go through probate.
  • Protection from your children’s spouses and creditors. You may not want any of your hard-earned assets to go to your child’s spouse, whether in divorce or as an inheritance. You do not want any of the assets you give to your child to go to your child’s creditors, whether as a result of a lawsuit or in bankruptcy. A family trust attorney can make sure that your hard-earned assets remain in the blood family and not be preyed on by people who are not immediately related to you.
  • Maintain privacy from creditors. Proceedings in probate court are public record. Any person or organization will be able to find out the extent and location of your assets. Not so with a family trust.
  • Avoid multiple-state probate proceedings. If you have property in multiple states, you can avoid ancillary probate proceedings by transferring your property into a family trust. Upon your death, the property will pass according to the family trust and multi-state Surrogate’s Court proceedings will not be required.
  • Protection from irresponsible and inexperienced children. A family trust provides limits on how your beneficiaries can spend the assets. For example, you can specify amounts upon reaching a specified age.
  • Management of funds for minor children or grandchildren. Minor children or grandchildren cannot manage funds and they will need a family trustee to manage the funds for them. If children inherit funds without a family trust, the children’s parent or guardian will not be able to access the funds without a lengthy court proceeding and tremendous court oversight, we are talking about having the court endorse every check and having to file multiple reports each year.
  • Avoid interruption of income and use of assets. A family trust provides for the continuity of management of your assets, and avoids interruption of income and use of assets upon your death or disability. Without a family trust set up by a Family trust lawyer, your estate or business may be subject to restrictions imposed by the probate court.
  • Provide planning for mental disability. A family trust lets you select a family trustee – someone you family trust to manage your estate on your behalf in the event you become unable to do so yourself. Read more in Planning for Disability.
  • Preserve your loved ones’ right to qualify for Medicaid and SSI – if your loved one is disabled and is on means-tested government programs such as Medicaid or SSI, a Special Needs Trust (also known as Supplemental Needs Trust) can help preserve their eligibility. They can continue to qualify to have the government pay for their care, instead of using your hard-earned assets.
  • Save money on estate taxes. A family trust can help you legally save a substantial amount on estate taxes. Read How to Avoid Estate Taxes to learn more about a credit shelter family trust, life insurance family trust, “QTIP” family trust or QDT family trust for the benefit of your spouse can further your tax savings goals.

A Charitable Remainder Family trust (CRT) or a Charitable Lead Family trust (CLT) helps maximize your tax advantage per charitable dollar. A Grantor Retained Annuity Family trust (GRAT), an Intentionally Defective Grantor Family trust (IDGT), or a Unitrust are advanced family trusts that remove appreciation of your property from your estate. Read more in Advanced Estate Planning.

A revocable a family trust does not offer enough protection to be considered a good asset protection tool. The law considers assets in a revocable family trust to belong to the person who placed the asset into the family trust, so forming an irrevocable family trust, although it has some benefits, will have no impact on asset protection. This is because a revocable family trust gives a lot of control to the person who established the family trust. You can even revoke the family trust, reversing it completely. For this reason, only an irrevocable family trust can work as a tool that a family trust attorney would use in New York.

However, a family trust attorney would still use a revocable family trust for a number of situations. A revocable family trust is flexible because you can change or revoke them any time you like and for any reason. A Revocable family trust becomes irrevocable after the death of the person who made them, making it a flexible option but at the same time offering many of the benefits of a family trust outlined above.

An Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT) is set up to own the life insurance policy, so that when the insured person dies, the proceeds of the life insurance will not become a part of the taxable estate. The insured can still pay the premiums by a “Crummy gift” to the family trust. The downside of this family trust is that it cannot be changed since it is irrevocable. The upside – no estate taxes (if set up the right way).

A Life Insurance trust is also an important estate planning tool. They hold your life insurance for the benefit of your beneficiaries. After three years the family trust would be deemed the owner of the policy, so as to minimize and chance that your estate will pay estate taxes on the proceeds. It also ensures that any appreciation of the life insurance policy is kept out of your estate. As a note of caution, a Life Insurance Family trust has to be carefully drafted by an experienced Family trust attorney to meet exacting IRS requirements.

Family trust Litigation Lawyer

Someone Was Left Out of the Family Trust

When a family trust litigation lawyer’s client is cut out of the family trust, the attorney investigates whether the decedent was incapacitated, coerced or defrauded. We may also look into accusations of forgery or improper execution. We can even find that a later will is discovered. We strive to get the evidence and argue the legal theory to get the best possible settlement or verdict for our clients in family trust contests. If the family trust attorney finds evidence of those things, then he takes the case to trial, to try to prove to the judge or the jury that the family trust is invalid and should be set aside. We would also defend a family trust that a beneficiary is attempting to contest – we can represent either side of the family trust contest, whether the proponent of the family trust or the objectant to the family trust.

Accusations of Stealing from a Family Trust

Family trustees don’t always steal from a family trust, but it happens often enough, and when it does, a family trust attorney is there to try to reverse the damage to the family trust. Family trustees have access to the funds, and the temptation is too much to resist for some people. We’ve seen stealing by administrators, family trustees, family trustees, and even probate attorneys. A family trust attorney helps family trust beneficiaries bring an accounting proceeding to get a formal report on how the family trust is being handled and try to get property back into the family trust if it is missing. In the most egregious cases, such as where self-dealing and stealing from the family trust can be shown, a family trust attorney helps beneficiaries seek fiduciary removal. We can represent either side of the case – the beneficiary who is alleging stealing and the family trustee who is saying that everything done in the family trust was proper.

A Family Trust Litigation attorney Can Help Resolve Disagreements

Disagreements sometimes arise in a family trust. Some family trustees have a feeling of absolute power and act unreasonably towards the beneficiaries of a family trust. On the flip sides, some beneficiaries mount unreasonable demands on a family trustee. Some family trust disagreements can be resolved without court intervention. This includes disagreements over sell vs. keep, valuation, who gets what, and items with intangible value. We strive to obtain the best possible distribution for our clients.

Unclear Language in a Family Trust

Unclear instructions sometimes occur when wills, family trusts, and other disposition documents are not carefully drafted. Whether the ambiguities work out to your advantage or disadvantage, a family trust attorney will make every effort to have the documents interpreted in your favor.

A Family Trust Litigation attorney Can Help in Kinship Disputes

When a relationship to the deceased is in question, a kinship proceeding arises and you need the help of an experienced family trust attorney to prove your kinship and possibly exclude the kinship of others. In kinship proceedings, we may litigate over situations involving the need to look back multiple generations or unravel vague circumstances.

A family trust attorney not only represents beneficiaries of a family trust but also represents family trustees when one of the following situations occur:

  • Relatives of the decedent are trying to overturn the family trust
  • Beneficiaries are claiming that the family trustee has done something wrong
  • A person with an interest in the estate is trying to cancel a gift the decedent gave to the family trustee
  • An heir is trying to cancel a beneficiary designation
  • A beneficiary is challenging the family trustee’s qualifications
  • A spouse of the decedent is presenting inflated spousal elective share claims
  • Beneficiary or business partner is claiming a share of the business

A family trust attorney can protect the family trustee against unfair allegations.

Defend a Family Trust Against Contests

A resident of New York has the right to cut people out of their family trust. A family trust attorney can help a family trustee clear a family trust of allegations and proceeding to close the family trust and distribute assets to their rightful beneficiaries, sometimes with small settlements or no settlements at all.

A Family Trust Litigation attorney Can Defend Against Allegations of Family trustee Wrongdoing

Family trustees can be unjustly accused of taking funds or property of the family trust and are accused of overspending on family trust expenses. In such situations, a family trust attorney will work with the family trustees to remedy the situation and put any misunderstandings behind them.

Defend Pre-Death Gifts

People are within their right to make gifts during their lifetime. Those gifts are often challenged after the person who made the gift dies. Claimants make arguments that the person “did not really intend to make the gift” and that they were taken advantage of. A family trust attorney will provide a vigorous defense to disprove the claimants’ arguments, and if need be, demonstrating that the giver made the gift of their own free will and that whatever issues the claimant has with the gift are not enough to change the fact that the gift was made. A family trust attorney often has the capacity to successfully defend most challenges to pre-death transfers of assets.

Defend Beneficiary Designations

Beneficiary designations can be challenged by the people who were not named as a beneficiary or who have received a lesser share than they expected. They will claim that the person who named beneficiaries to their assets was tricked into signing the form or they did not know what they were signing. It is up to the people making those claims to prove their case. Family trust attorneys do their best to dispute those claims, and to show the Court that the person who died made the beneficiary designation on their own free will, with full understanding, and without any technical defects.

A Family Trust Litigation Attorney Can Defend Family trustee Qualifications

Beneficiaries of a family trust sometimes have a personal problem with the Family trustee. Family trust attorneys often provide a simple solution to this potential problem by posting a bond, which is like insurance on the family trustee’s potential misconduct. A bond sometimes works to put the beneficiaries at ease. If a bond cannot be posted or if the beneficiaries want the Family trustee out no matter what, it is up to the beneficiaries to prove why the family trustee is not qualified. A family trust attorney will do his absolute best to show that the beneficiaries’ claim to have the Family trustee disqualified are without basis.

Defend Against Inflated Spousal Elective Share Claims

A disinherited spouse is entitled to a claim of up to one-third of the decedent’s family trust. A spouse is also entitled to a third of any property the decedent owned up to a year prior to their death, recapturing the property even if the decedent transferred the property to someone else before they died. A spouse can attempt to overvalue the entire family trust in the hopes of receiving a higher elective share. Sometimes, a spouse attempts to include the family trustee’s own property in the elective share valuation. If a spouse disagrees with the family trustee over the amount of the elective share, it is up to the spouse to prove to the court how the family trustee is wrong. Family trust attorneys vigorously defend family trustees against a spouse’s attempt to overvalue an elective share.

A Family Trust Attorney Can Defend the Family trustee’s Share in a Business

Family trustees are often in business together with the decedent, having worked in the same company sometimes for decades, has significantly contributed to the company, having a share in the company or receiving compensation from the business. Non-family trustees who are not involved in the business tend to challenge the family trustee’s share, ignoring the years of hard work that the family trustee put into the business. A family trust attorney will work hard to show the court that the Family trustee is entitled to the share of the business and to the income and control of the business.

Defend Claims Against a Family Trust

After a person dies, all kinds of people and entities make claims against their family trust. The most common claimants are creditors, alleged business partners, life partners, ex-spouses, the IRS, and Medicaid. If often turns out that the alleged claimants cannot provide any sort of proof such as documents or testimony. Even if they do have a claim, it is often overstated. A family trust attorney will fight hard to make sure that if a claim is even paid, the claimants only get a reasonable settlement amount.

Albert Goodwin is an experienced New York family trust attorney who has successfully represented clients all over New York City, including New York County (Manhattan), Kings County (Brooklyn), Bronx County, Queens County, Richmond County (Staten Island), Nassau County in Long Island, and Westchester County (the White Plains court).

If you are looking for family trust attorney in New York, you can call Albert Goodwin, Esq for the best representation. We can be reached at 718-509-9774 or 718-509-9774.