The curious case of the homeless millionaire

Colorado’s probate courts have been mired in controversy for years. Two state audits in the last eleven years have found screening and monitoring of guardians and conservators as lacking. There have also been instances of neglect, theft, fraud and a general lack of accountability. Attempts to reform, the system has been moving at a glacial pace.

One person caught up in this mess is homeless millionaire Alan Fantin. That’s right, a homeless millionaire.  Fantin has a net worth in the millions but he has had trouble getting accessing it for years. He has been under a conservatorship that was created thirty years ago after a car accident left him with a severe head injury and partial paralysis.

He owns a house which is mostly paid off. But right now it’s ridden with black mold and there are squatters in the basement who don’t pay rent and won’t leave. And Fantin hasn’t been allowed near the house since he was arrested last month and charged with assaulting his live-in girlfriend. His pre-trial monitoring says he can’t come within one-mile of his alleged victim’s residence, which is also his home, or it it was.

On top of all that he is currently engaged in a legal tussle with the guy who controls his funds, a court-appointed conservator named Scott Christian. Christian was appointed in early 2015. Since then the two have battled constantly over financial matters, ranging from the amount of Fantin’s cable bills to his marijuana use. Christian has described Fantin’s weed smoking as a “substance abuse habit.”

Fantin has had a license to use marijuana for medical purposes since 2001.

In a report in Westword, Fantin says the weed helps him with the seizures he’s bee experiencing since his accident. “When I run out of pot, my seizures are more aggressive and they tend to last longer.”

Westword also reports

…Christian refused to provide any funds for his lodging after he was banned from his house; directed him to use a public defender in his domestic-violence case rather than hire his own attorney; threatened to cut off his phone if he continued to complain; and has been less and less responsive to Fantin’s pleas for help even as his firm’s fees for the conservatorship have steadily increased.

The case offers a rare glimpse behind the closed doors of probate court, where a professional cadre of attorneys, care managers, estate administrators and others are entrusted with guarding the interests and funds of some of society’s most vulnerable people. In many instances, they may be doing just that, protecting the elderly, the sick, the mentally or physically disabled from unscrupulous relatives or neighbors — and sometimes protecting them from themselves.

It’s a fascinating story which we suggest you read. Homeless Millionaire Alan Fantin Wants His Day in Probate Court

 

Read More

Inheritance laws in New York

New York is one of 12 states that tax estates of decedents people who owned property in the state.  Now besides that, there are other things you need to know when estate planning.

New York doesn’t charge inheritance tax, but the estate tax comes with one big provision. Though December 31st of this year there is a  $5.5 million exemption which means if the value of the estate is less than $5.5 million, the estate tax is waived.

That tax is in addition to the federal estate tax that hits individual estates worth more than $11,180,000 between gross assets and prior taxable gifts to pay within nine months of the individual’s death. You can get a six-month extension. But chances are you don’t have an estate worth $11 million. Only a few thousand people do.

New York estate property categories

There are only two categories in New York: personal property and real property, Real property is what you probably think it is; land and houses. Personal property is everything else. New York is not a community property state so the surviving spouse doesn’t automatically inherit the deceased’s property.

It does, however have what they call  a spousal right of election when deciding on inheritances for spouses. This law states that should a spouse pass away, his or her spouse will receive an “elective share” of $50,000 or one-third of the decedent’s estate. Should a spouse not receive this elective share, he or she has the right to file for it as long as it’s within a six-month window after an executor for the estate has been named.

Importance of a will 

If you die with a will in New York things are normally pretty straight forward, but it will still need to go through probate and people can challenge the will. There are ways to avoid probate and the Law Offices of Jeffrey Weinstein can help you avoid probate.

The State  entitles surviving spouses who have disinherited them to a piece of their estate. But this is limited to non-probate assets, such as property held in joint tenancy or a jointly held brokerage account paid on death to beneficiaries.

Dying without a will

An administration proceeding is the most common legal event that occurs in New York if you die without a valid will, but you own property. If when you pass away you don’t have a will, your estate consists of either jointly-owned or no real property, and your personal property is worth less than $30,000, you must file as a small estate.

Without a will, if you only own real property, it goes to your nearest relative.

There are other issues involve in estate planning and the law offices of Jeffrey Weinstein  347-305-8752 can help you navigate the process to lessen the hassle for you and your heirs.

 

 

Read More

Biological dad not entitled to money in son’s death

A Milwaukee County, Michigan judge has denied a biological father a share of the wrongful death proceeds awarded in a suit brought by the mother of a 25 year-old man who died in a mental health facility back in 2012.

 Alicia Johnson, 48, argued that the biological father, 53 year-old Marcus Crumble, her first cousin, didn’t deserve a cent because he raped her when she was 15 and never helped financially with the son who was born as a result of that rape.

Circuit Judge David Borowski agreed with her, writing,

“The Court has seen far too many absent fathers in this community. Out of wedlock births, where a ‘father’ both literally and figuratively abandons a child are a scourge.

“Under the tragic facts and circumstances of this case, including the fact that Mr. Crumble committed both statutory rape and incest, this Court will not allow a six-figure windfall to be awarded to Mr. Crumble.”

However, Crumble was awarded the amount he chipped in for the funeral. Crumble rekindled somewhat of a relationship with his son, Brandon Johnson, after he graduated  college.

 Borowski wrote, that anyone 18 years old could create a will and direct their estate not go to an abandoning parent. But noted that very few unmarried people without children under 30 actually create a will.

He wrote the equitable powers of the probate court allow him to find that allowing Crumble half of the settlement would amount to unjust enrichment.

Borowski ordered the estate’s special administrator to pay Crumble only the amount he spent for Brandon’s funeral, give half of the remaining $837,000 to Alicia Johnson, and keep the balance for 90 days, or longer if Crumble appeals.

 

 

Read More

3 ways to avoid probate

At its best, probate can be a real pain in the butt and time consuming. Property can’t be distributed until probate is completed and probate is paid out of the estate, which means less inheritance for heirs.

With that in mind here ar three ways to avoid probate.

Establish a living trust.

A living trust is a great way to avoid probate. What you do is transfer ownership of the assets you intend to bequeath into the trust. While there are cots an time involved in setting up a trust, it’s much easier than dealing with probate.

Give assets away. 

If you have a bunch of assets just sitting around waiting for you to die, you might want to consider giving them away to friends, relatives or charities.

Name beneficiaries in bank and investment accounts

It may seem like a no-brainer, but many people don’t name beneficiaries on their bank or retirement accounts.

All you need to do to get started is to fill out the payable on death forms that your brokerage company or bank can provide. If you are married, some of these accounts may be partially owned by your spouse. By taking the time to fill out the forms, you can make sure the proceeds are immediately dispersed at death without having to pass through probate, saving your heirs a lot of time and hassle.

Read More

Estate planning: When only a will doesn’t cut it.

For many people, the most important document isn’t their will, it’s their IRA or 401(k).  That’s because many financial products, including retirement accounts and life insurance policies are legal contracts and override anything in your will.

So, no matter what your will says, the payouts from these products will go to the beneficiaries you designated when you filled out the forms, even if that was decades ago. That’s why it is important that you review beneficiaries regularly and choose contingent beneficiaries as backups, just in case. For example, you probably don’t want any of your estate to go to a former spouse so you need to make sure you update any documents that name them as a beneficiary.

For most people this should be enough, but for for those substantial assets it might be be best to set up a trust(s). By doing this you can exercise more control, minimize taxes and avoid potential challenges by heirs.

The best part of a trust is they don’t go through probate and are not public record, making the settling of an estate less complicated and less prone to legal challenges. Of course you will need to contact an attorney to decide what type of trust is best or you.

Read More