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New York Family Law Blog

Proper planning and tools can reduce estate litigations

No one relishes the idea of contemplating one's own demise. Unfortunately, there is no avoiding this eventuality, and heirs may have one less worry with careful planning that can reduce the risk of estate litigation. New York has laws that apply to estate planning that can aid one in creating plans that will best fit each unique family's needs.

One of the first steps to take in determining which plans will work for a particular situation is to actually take the time to draft them. Not having a will or trusts in place will mean that the state will make these decisions, which may not reflect one's wishes. Along with making these plans, it is important to ensure that all assets are listed correctly and that selected beneficiaries are kept current. If life insurance or retirement accounts are a part of the estate, the individuals named on these accounts supersede any listed on other documents.

How do courts deal with frozen embryos in a divorce?

Many New York couples fail to feel as though their families are complete without children. However, whether it stems from timing, inability to conceive or some other reason, some couples decide to use in-vitro fertilization to create embryos that could result in a child someday. When couples decide to wait to use them, the clinic could freeze them for future use.

Perhaps you are part of an LGBT couple, and one of you provided the biological material needed to create the embryos with another donor. Taking this step may relieve some of the stress you both may feel about starting a family. This wonder of modern medical science may provide you and your spouse a gift, but what happens if you don't use those embryos and your relationship ends?

In spite of concerns over EB-5 fraud, program extended for now

Of the many avenues that are open for immigrants who wish to start over in America, one of the most controversial was just extended for another month. This visa, which is obtained in part through investments, is often the target for allegations of EB-5 fraud. There are many projects in New York that came to fruition through the use of these important investment funds.

The news about the latest extension was met with relief from many of those from certain Asian countries whose citizens are hoping to obtain these coveted green cards. Congress recently voted to extend the program until the middle of January when they will take up the issue once again. The current administration has stated that it may consider revising several of the visa programs. The EB-5 is the only program that requires that hopeful immigrants make an investment into a development project located in the United States. Along with the minimum investment of $1 million (or $500,000 if the project is in depressed region), investors are required to have a plan that provides or retains at least 10 employment opportunities for qualified workers.

Woman seeking to end parental rights after same-sex divorce

It is rare that a parent will attempt to avoid child support by seeking to have his or her parental rights terminated. In another state, a former spouse is seeking to have her own parental rights revoked after her same-sex divorce. The unusual circumstances raise issues about child rearing that has caught the attention of advocacy groups in New York and elsewhere. 

The case hinges on the issue of consent to have a child and whether it was freely given. The woman seeking to have her parental rights terminated claims that she was not involved in the decision to have a child and that her former wife elected to pursue the pregnancy while she was deployed. The couple married in 2013, and divorce proceedings were initiated in 2015.

Addiction complications can lead to estate litigation at times

For years, the main reason many New York residents would undertake estate planning was to safeguard their assets from taxes. In the past few years, there may be another pressing need to ensure that one is not vulnerable to estate litigation, and that is the issue of addiction. There are some steps that one may be able to take in order to plan for how this sensitive problem may be addressed.

When it comes to addiction to opioids, no family is immune any longer. Addiction is not confined to the lower classes as almost anyone could be susceptible to this alarming and growing social issue. While disinheriting, a family member who struggles with addiction may seem like a good candidate for disinheritance. In reality, this may only exacerbate the problem and make the estate more vulnerable to legal challenges. Instead, there may be other solutions that can ensure that the family member is provided for while also safeguarding assets from being used to feed the addiction.

Woman enters guilty plea for alleged EB-5 fraud worth $50 million

The EB-5 visa is an immigration program that offers foreign investors a path to immigration through investments into American development projects that provide jobs and economic growth. This particular visa has often come under government scrutiny due to allegations of EB-5 fraud. While this program has provided funding for successful New York projects, there are others that never came to fruition due to allegations of illegal activity.

Recently, one woman entered a guilty plea to charges that she committed fraud through this program. An investigation into her business has determined that the woman's investment company purportedly provided green card opportunities to foreign investors to whom she would later refund a substantial portion of the minimum investment. She then allegedly used the funds that she retained for her own personal use, including purchasing at least two private residences.

Take advantage of estate planning benefits as a same-sex couple

When same-sex couples across the country received the right to marry back in 2015, they also gained numerous advantages previously only available to married heterosexual couples. One area where not enough married couples, same-sex or not, take advantage of the benefits of marriage is estate planning.

Estate planning goes well beyond just executing a will, and as a same-sex couple, married or not, a comprehensive plan could save you some grief in the event that one of you becomes incapacitated or passes away. Of course, your last will and testament remains the cornerstone of a good estate plan, and without one, things can get complicated fast.

Studies show that same-sex parents are equal to opposite sex

A census conducted in 2000 revealed that anywhere between one and nine million children are being raised in families that are headed by same-sex parents. While that figure has likely jumped considerably with the legalization of same-sex marriage, family life for these children has likely remained the same as it is for those raised by parents of the opposite sex. Many of these families are living in New York, which has supported these types of marriages for some time.

While there may have been concerns in the beginning that children raised by same-sex parents are at a disadvantage due to societal issues, studies are showing that children who are raised in these types of households may have a slight advantage in certain aspects of life. Adolescents who are living in families headed by gay couples tend to report feeling more connected to peers and are more likely to engage in conversations dealing with emotionally sensitive topics. These children also tend to exhibit more compassion and tolerance of others. These adolescents also showed a high level of resilience when needed. 

Some national banks creating hassles over certain estate matters

The death of a loved one or close friend can be not only an emotionally difficult time but can also result in other challenges if one has been selected as the executor of an estate. Though New York has its own laws and procedures for preparing an estate for the probate process, there may still be some difficulty concerning certain estate matters. According to some who work in a probate office, some banking institutions are hindering the opening of estate accounts.

Once an executor has begun the process of preparing an estate for probate, one of the first matters that needs to be addressed is opening one central account from which all estate transactions can be handled. Surrogates in a neighboring state have complained that certain banking institutions seem to be making that process more challenging due in part to its lack of familiarity with its customers. These surrogates claim that assembling the proper identifying paperwork can usually be completed in less than 30 minutes. These documents are then presented to the bank in order to open the estate account.

Same-sex divorce still not the same as heterosexual dissolutions

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court extended legal protections and allowed same-sex couples to enter into valid marriages. Unfortunately, that ruling applied to the joining of two lives and did not address the issues that some couples are discovering in the event they decide to file for a same-sex divorce. New York has its own laws regarding these divorces, and it may be beneficial to seek information on how the state laws will apply in a given situation.

The legalization of these marriages applied at the federal level, and at the time of the decision, more than a dozen states still had laws that prohibited these marriages. States that recognized these relationships may automatically give credit for the number of years that a couple was together when it comes time to decide on the division of assets and whether alimony will be paid. In the states where these marriages were not considered valid, even if a couple had spent more than 10 years in a committed relationship, a divorce court may only consider the 2015 date as a starting point of the union.