July 26, 2017

Why Hire a Probate Lawyer?

One question that you might have as you create your last Will or sift through the Will of a loved one is – do I really need a lawyer to help me with this? Legally speaking, you do not NEED to hire a lawyer to assist you in creating a Will or probating a Will. However, having an experienced and dedicated probate lawyer working with you on these tasks has many benefits. Understanding these benefits will help you decide if you want to hire a probate lawyer or not.

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Benefits of hiring a probate lawyer to help you draft your Will

If you are considering hiring a lawyer to help you draft your Will, consider these benefits:

  • Lawyers know more than you do: Would you think to include a clause saying that it is ok for your family to use informal probate in your Will? Would you remember to write in your Will that the probate bond can be waived? There are a million little things to include in your Will that you are probably not aware of. Because probate lawyers are experienced with the law and have experience drafting Wills, they will know exactly what to include or leave out in your Will.
  • Make it easy for your family: One benefit of hiring a lawyer to help draft your Will is that this will make your Will as specific and easy-to-follow as possible. When you pass on, this will make the process of probating your Will as simple as possible for your family and the executor.
  • Get your questions answered: It’s natural to be confused about the process of writing your Will. In addition, drafting your Will can be an overwhelming process. To make this process as easy as possible, it’s best to have a lawyer who is experienced and who can guide you through the process. Having someone that you can go to with questions at any time is a valuable benefit of hiring a probate lawyer.

Benefits of hiring a probate lawyer to help with the probate process

There are several benefits to hiring a probate lawyer to help you through the probate process, including:

  • Filing paperwork: Your probate lawyer can help you file the probate petition and other paperwork. During this difficult time, having assistance with the paperwork can be a big help.
  • Help for the executor: The executor has a huge job in executing the demands of the deceased’s Will. Even executors with the best intentions can make mistakes or become stressed by the process. A probate attorney can keep the executor on track and work with him or her to ensure that the Will is executed properly. This means that all parties (creditors, heirs, beneficiaries, executor, etc.) can be happy when the estate is settled.
  • Professional resource: Again, a probate attorney can help you through this process due to his or her knowledge and experience. If you need questions answered, guidance, or peace of mind, you can get it from a probate attorney.

There are many benefits to hiring a probate attorney. For more information about what I can offer you, contact my office today!

Formal Probate vs. Informal Probate

There are two major kinds of probate – formal probate and informal probate. These types of probate are similar but they have a few distinct differences that should be noted. If you are trying to split up the assets of a deceased loved one, and you and your family are considering using the informal probate process as opposed to the formal one, there are some things that you should know.

Probate vs. Informal Probate

Probate, as I’ve mentioned, occurs when an executor files a probate petition with the court and handles the affairs of the deceased according to his or her Will. Informal probate is similar to probate, but it differs in that it can be done without the supervision of the court.

When to use Informal Probate

If you and your family are considering using informal probate, there are some things that you should consider. Informal probate works best in situations where the assets amount to $50,000 or more. All parties (creditors, heirs, executor, etc.) must agree to the informal probate process, and it must be stated in the Will of the deceased that informal probate can be used. If at any time a party in the proceedings decides that he or she wants to switch to formal probate, he or she can file a petition with the court to allow for formal administration. If you decide to use informal probate, you do not have to hire an attorney, but it is still advised that you do so. At any point during the informal probate process, you can hire an accountant, a tax preparer, or a probate lawyer to assist you in understanding the finances and law involved with the estate.

Deciding to use informal probate will depend on your individual situation. If the Will that is left behind by the deceased is a complex document with room for interpretation and questions, you might want the court to give guidance where there are questions. In this case, you should use probate. On the other hand, if the deceased’s Will is clear and straightforward, you might not need the help of the court. In this case, using informal probate can help to make the probate process faster.

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Formal probate and informal probate are similar, but depending on your personal situation, one might be more effective than the other. If you are trying to determine which form of probate will be more useful for you and your family, it is in your best interest to contact a probate lawyer. He or she can consider your individual circumstances and make an informed suggestion based on it. A probate lawyer, like me,  can also answer your questions and make this process run smoother in general. Contact me here.

Choosing an Executor for My Will

Choosing whom to name as the executor of your Will is a big decision. You are essentially deciding who will be in charge of your affairs once you are gone. You need to pick someone that you trust not only as a person, but someone you trust to be organized and prepared to take on this responsibility. This article will serve to help you decide how to choose your executor and who would be a good person to choose.

Who can I choose?

Before we get into who you should choose as the executor of your Will, let’s talk about who would qualify as your executor. Many people think that they can only pick a family member to be the executor. This is not the case. While many people do choose a family member to serve as their executor, you can pick a person or an entire trust company. If you have a large and complex estate with a lot of property and assets, you should consider choosing a trust company to be your executor. If you have a smaller estate, you can choose a relative or a friend, so long as he or she is at least nineteen years old.

If you cannot find anyone to act as your executor, you can have the Public Trustee be the executor of your Will. You will want to contact the Public Trustee before you actually naming it in your Will.

Who should I choose?

Ultimately, you want to choose someone that you can trust as your executor. To this end, consider the following when deciding who to name as your executor:

  • Ask someone who’s not in your family. A close friend or a business associate that you know on a personal level would be a good choice for an executor. Sometimes it is easier for friends or business partners to be unbiased when carrying out your wishes than it is for family members.
  • Ask a family member. When considering who you can trust the most, many people choose their spouses, parents, or children. For this reason, many people choose adult relatives to act as their executors.
  • Ask professionals. Like I said, large and complicated estates are oftentimes best handled by trust companies. Likewise, you can choose a lawyer, trust company, or financial expert to take care of your estate if you feel it will be too much for your friends or relatives to handle.
  • Age. Being an executor is a great responsibility. While your executor can be 19 years or older, you might want to choose someone who is older than 19 or 20 and mature enough to handle this job.
  • Qualifications. You don’t have to hire someone with a lot of law or financial experience, but you should choose someone who is mature and responsible. So long as your executor has access to advisors, he or she does not have to be a professional.

As you can see, choosing your executor is a largely individualized process. The right choice for you might be different for someone with a different family situation and estate. When choosing your executor, consider the size of your estate and the character of the person you choose. So long as they are honest, trustworthy, organized, and responsible, it doesn’t really matter if they are your friend, family member, or a professional. For more information, contact me here.

Information on Probate Bonds

Taking on the role of the executor during the probating of a loved one’s Will can be a big job. As the executor, you are responsible for putting the deceased’s affairs in order and distributing property and assets to the rightful inheritors. In last week’s post, I talked about fiduciary duty – the requirement for being an executor that states that you will be fair and honest in your role as executor. Unfortunately, sometimes executors make mistakes or even purposefully tamper with the distribution of property and assets. For this reason, executors generally have to pay a probate bond in order to protect both creditors and heirs from accidental or purposeful negligence on the part of the executor.

We all know what a regular bail bond is. If someone is arrested for a crime, depending on the severity of this crime, they can post bail and be released from jail until their court date. A bond is paid when the accused gives money to the court as a condition of his or her return. For example, if bail is set at 10,000, the accused will have to give the court $10,000 in order to be released. If he or she does not return for trial, he or she forfeits the money given as the bond. The concept behind a probate bond is similar. In order to ensure that the executor does not take money that was supposed to be given to heirs or creditors for him or herself, a Judge will oftentimes order a probate bond to be paid by the executor as an act of good faith. If the executor is in charge of a $20,000 estate, he or she will have to pay a bond of $20,000. The executor will get this money back if and when the property and assets are distributed properly. If they are not, the heirs and creditors get to keep the probate bond.

Problems with Probate Bonds

While protecting the creditors and heirs and ensuring that they get what they are entitled to is a good thing, sometimes obtaining money for a probate bond can be difficult. An executor raising money for a probate bond will in many cases have to essentially take out a loan to pay for the bond. This is tricky because the executor can be denied the loan, the loan can take a long time to obtain, and the executor oftentimes has to add more money to the bond if years go by and the estate is not settled. This can put a lot of pressure on the executor.

Waiving the Probate Bond

Because there are so many potential problems with probate bonds, many attorneys will waive the bond requirement when they draft Wills. Another way that the bond can be waived is if all of the heirs agree to have this done. For example, if “Ben”, the executor of his mother’s Will is an heir to the Will along with his two brothers, all three brothers can agree to trust that Ben will fulfill his duties as executor and they can waive the probate bond.

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In theory, probate bonds are useful, as they protect the interests of the heirs and creditors while a Will is probated. However, in practice, the money for probate bonds can be difficult to raise, and if the executor is a loved one, the bond is oftentimes unnecessary. For more information about probate bonds, contact me here.

The Role of the Executor

Being named as the executor of someone’s Will is an honor. The deceased clearly trusted you with a very important task – taking care of his or her affairs once he or she could not, and ensuring that all debts are paid off and the remaining assets and property are given to the rightful heirs. This is a big responsibility and it can seem, at times, like an overwhelming job. If you have been named executor of a loved one’s Will, there are some things you need to know about this responsibility.

Do I Qualify as an Executor?

Because an executor has to deal with laws and finances that are oftentimes complex, you might think that only an expert in these fields would qualify as an executor, but this is not necessarily the case. Anyone can be an executor so long as they fulfill what is called fiduciary duty. Fiduciary duty refers to the duty to act honestly and with good faith in order to represent someone else. This means that you must be an honest and impartial person in order to be an executor. If you feel that you have these characteristics, you can be an executor.

What Does the Executor Do?

An executor has many jobs including:

  • Paying debts. The executor will have to notify creditors of probate proceedings and pay off any debts that the deceased has.
  • Paying taxes. Similarly, the executor is in charge of filing the final income tax return on behalf of the deceased. This income tax return should be filed for the start of the tax year up to the time of death.
  • Identifying the deceased (or decedent’s) property and assets.
  • Managing the decedent’s assets and property until the inheritors can take them. This duty could include deciding to sell securities or real estate or deciding to hold onto them.
  • Supervising the decedent’s property as it is distributed to the inheritors. The executor has to make sure that the property and assets are distributed to the right people according to the decedent’s Will.
  • Establishing a bank account for the estate. This account will be used to store money owed to the decedent.
  • If necessary, filing the Will in probate court.
  • Determining the necessity of proceedings in probate court.
  • Taking care of general details. This might include dealing with notifying credit card companies and banks/federal agencies of death.

As you can see, fulfilling the role of executor is no small task. If you think that you are up to the challenge, you will have many responsibilities. At times, this role can be confusing and overwhelming. If you ever feel like this is the case, you can contact a probate lawyer such as myself for guidance. I can give you the answers that you need and walk you through this experience. Even if you are not ready to retain my services, I offer free consultations, so we can meet together and discuss your situation at no cost to you. If this sounds like a good option to you, contact my office today!

Guest Blog by Julie Avellino | Life is always changing…

Life is always changing and as adults nearly every change has a real estate component. Big changes, positive and negative, often catch us off guard. Occasionally, we are given the luxury of planning for a big change. Whether you have the chance to plan or not if you’re at a personal crossroads it’s important to take a deep breathe, step back and take deliberate action so that you find the opportunities hidden within the change. A few phone calls should be placed asap; to a lawyer, a realtor and to your financial planner/banker. If you don’t have these people in your life already now is the time to build your team of trusted advisors who have only your best interest in mind and who have been through similar scenarios many times before with their clients. A team of trusted advisors does not include co-workers, friends (tangible or virtual), strangers or even most relatives; each of those groups will have their own baggage and experiences, they instinctively want to be involved which often leads to riling things up and they will impose their experiences on you. When life is giving you a change it is also presenting you with a chance to manage that change and its outcome to best suit your unique needs. Don’t let the opportunity get clouded with the anecdotes of others. Lean on and confide in your trusted advisors.

realtorlogoAs a Realtor and a divorce coach I often work with clients who are at the end of a marriage (I also work with clients who are experiencing other life changes such as downsizing, retiring, selling “mom’s house”, etc).  Often times selling the family home becomes part of the divorce agreement but there are a lot of emotions wrapped up in that transaction. I am typically the only advisor who represents both parties during a divorce, since they will find their own team of attorneys, financial advisors, etc.  Here is where I work not just as a Realtor but also in a capacity to manage the process of the sale and to limit the impact of the transaction on the family. As a Divorce-Realtor I take great care to get both parties to agree the items needed to be accomplished with the sale of the home. I will also speak with attorneys and financial advisors to give them my professional opinion on the value of the home as it sits today as well as the value of the home should deferred maintenance be addressed or updates be made.

Perhaps the most common question I get from divorcing couples is about whether or not to invest in a major renovation before selling the property.  I think this is the result of HGTV and its constant stream of “flip” shows. This decision can have great financial impact on the couple and I give it thorough research before giving my final recommendation. Here’s a look into some of my process:

1)      What condition is the home in now? If the property is in great disrepair and will limit the buyer pool to cash buyers only, deferred maintenance should be addressed if financially possible.

2)      If the home is dated and minor updates (removing wall paper, painting, landscaping) will have an impact on the selling price and length of time the property is on the market they improvements should be done if financially possible.

3)      If one party is interested in doing a major renovation project (remodel the kitchen is the common one) we need to dive deeper in the motivation.

  1. Does on person really not want to sell the house? Is this a stall tactic?
  2. Is one person trying to spend money prior to the divorce to avoid having to split savings?
  3. Is there enough upside benefit in the post-renovation sales price vs. the length of time to complete the project to warrant the project?
  4. Who is doing the work? Will the project be a DIY disaster with low budget finishes and shoddy workmanship? Can the couple agree on reputable, licensed contractors?
  5. Who will manage the project and who will decisions on cost overages be managed?

These are just a few of the scenarios I walk through with my divorcing clients so that I can provide them with a clear financial picture as it relates to their shared property.  If you have a property in Connecticut that needs to be sold and aren’t sure what steps to take first to ensure you get top dollar at sale, we should talk. I’d be happy to help you determine what the next best steps are for you and your family.

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Julie Avellino is a licensed Realtor in Connecticut and has been selling residential real estate for 11 years. In addition to working with divorcing couples, first-time sellers and first-time buyers as a Realtor Julie is also an inspirational writer and speaker addressing topics including divorce, children, entrepreneurship and life in general from her unique perspective.  Julie’s love of photography supports all of her interests by showcasing her listings professionally as well as supporting her writing pieces. You can learn more about how Julie can help you with your real estate needs at www.FirstTimeSelling.com and you can read her writing, learn about her divorce coaching programs and see her other creative work at www.julieavellino.com  Julie can be reached at justsayjulie@kw.com or call or text at 203-414-9479.

Please Join Us for a Fun & Fabulous Evening in October!

As the Vice President of the Milford Network of Executive Women, I am pleased to invite you to our annual scholarship fundraiser called Girls Night Out on October 27, 2016, from 5:30 to 8:30 P.M., at St. Barbara’s Greek Orthodox Church in Orange, CT.

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I will be hosting a Vendor Table at the event which will spotlight my Law Firm, Consumer Legal Services, LLC.  We will have a Free Raffle and give away an Estate Planning Package to the lucky winner.

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The event will include shopping (clothing, jewelry, etc.), entertainment, a fashion show, food & wine tastings, a lottery tree, general raffle and silent auction.

Men and Women are welcome, and all proceeds go towards the Phyllis Holt Scholarship Fund which helps dozens of women further their education and careers year after year.

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Please join us and bring friends! Purchase tickets by clicking on the link below.

Thank you for your support!

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PURCHASE TICKETS HERE!

Introduction to the Probate Process

The death of a loved one can be an incredibly devastating and traumatic time for close family and friends. Unfortunately, the mourning process is oftentimes complicated by things like planning the wake, planning the funeral, choosing a coffin, making sure the burial plot is in order, writing the obituary, etc. Once all of the wake and funeral arrangements are made, there is still the issue of distributing property and assets based on the Will left behind. While this might seem an unpleasant and overwhelming task, it is important to “probate” the Will. This article will cover the basics of that process.

Probating a Will basically means executing the deceased’s wishes in the Will. If the deceased owned property, it will be distributed based on the Will that he or she left behind. Probating the Will essentially means passing property titles onto heirs and determining how the assets will be divided among family members.

To probate a Will, an executor is determined. This person is in charge of managing the distribution of property based on the deceased’s Will. Basically, the executor just has to follow the instructions left by the deceased and make sure that his or her interests are honestly represented and carried out.courts

Probate can be a long and expensive process depending on what the deceased (referred to as the decedent) left behind. If a Will was left behind, transferring the ownership of property can be slow and costly. It is much easier and quicker to do if the decedent has a living trust.

The following things can be accomplished in probate:

  • The decedent’s property is identified and an inventory is made of it
  • An appraisal is made on the property
  • Taxes and creditors are paid with the decedent’s assets
  • Retirement accounts and life insurance are given to the joint owner or heirs

Probate must occur in the county where the decedent has property, not necessarily where he or she was at the time of his or her death. In order to probate a Will, a probate petition must be filed with the court. Roughly a month to a month and a half after this petition is filed, there will be a legal hearing to determine how the property will be divided.

As mentioned above, probating a Will is generally a long and slow process that can become expensive. If you want to avoid probate, you should use a living trust. Using a living trust is the most common way to avoid probate.

If there is no living trust or if you want to probate the deceased’s Will, it can be a confusing and tedious process. This is where a probate lawyer comes in. I can help you through this process and make it as painless as possible. For more information, you can contact me for a free consultation. I will answer any questions that you have at no cost to you!

Back To School Shopping On A Budget

Back to school shopping is no doubt a pain for all parents. If you’re watching your finances, school supply shopping can be even more difficult. However, back to school shopping on a budget can be a breeze if you do it right. Below are some tips every parent should incorporate into their August-September back to school shopping for their children.

  • Set a budget. Go into the back to school shopping season with a specific budget. Let your children know what the overall budget is and that there will be no going over it.
  • Make a list! Get a list of supplies that your children need from each of their teachers. Before you go out and purchase everything, go through your home and look for things you may be able to cross off the list. Look at what school supplies your children have left from the previous year and what things you may be able to reuse. Also separate the list into needs and wants. Get all of the essentials for your child and in order to keep under budget, consider skipping some of the “wants” on the list.
  • Don’t go right to Staples for your child’s school supplies. Get things like pencils and pens from your local Dollar Store.
  • Buy your child a bookbag that will last! Brands like L.L Bean and Jansport have a lifetime guarantee on all their bags so buy one that your child can use year after year so you will definitely get your money’s worth.
  • Reuse! Buy your children plastic folders instead of cardboard and such. The plastic will be reusable for years after the purchase as long as your children take care of them.
  • Look through your children’s closet and see exactly what they need so you may plan ahead. Avoid shopping in August for clothes. If you can, wait until mid September or around that time in order to hit the sales that go on after stores think that everyone in town has already completed their back to school shopping. Alternatively, your family can go clothing shopping for fall clothes at the beginning of the summer in order to take advantage of some deals.
  • Try shopping at local thrift stores or outlet malls. Some thrift stores sell name brands for cheap and outlets always have good deals on clothes and shoes.

 

Back to school shopping no longer needs to be a dreadful, money-sucking event that happens at the end of every summer. If you use these helpful tips, you will succeed in getting all the supplies your children need, but also stay well under your budget.

5 Ways To Save Money At A Carnival

Carnivals are a place that families go in order to have a fun night out together. With no admission fees to most carnivals or fairs, some people have the impression that they are inexpensive. Although, unfortunately, that is not always the case with these game-filled and ride oriented affairs. The cost of food, games, and rides most certainly adds up and your so-called “inexpensive” family night out has run your credit card the same amount of money as a five star dinner for two. Below are five ways to save money on a trip to the carnival.

  1. Allot one treat per child. Instead of spending over $100 on food at the carnival, talk to all of your children in advance and let them know that they are entitled to one treat and one treat only while at the fair. Treats such as funnel cakes, candy, popcorn, corn dogs, and things of that nature are so expensive at carnivals so be sure to bring snacks and drinks with you. Take things from your own home such as water, juice boxes, granola bars, and chips to snack on so your children’s one allotted snack each fills them up.
  2. Take a look at the fair or carnival’s website before you go to check for any deals that may be available. Sometimes there are coupons and discounts for rides only available online that are not advertised. You will never know that discounts and such were available unless you look for them!
  3. Think hard about souvenirs. Do you really need that $15 souvenir cup with free refills? No one needs that much soda in one day.
  4. Scope out the parking situation before the day of the carnival. On-site parking can be costly, but definitely more convenient. Alternatively, if you are looking to save money, maybe find an off-site parking lot that will most likely be much cheaper. Sure, you and your family may have to walk a little bit, but the money you will save will be well worth it.
  5. Limit the rides. Rides can be very expensive at fairs and may run anywhere from $4 to $9 each. Tell your children before even getting to the fair to choose their rides wisely because each child will only be able to pick two or three to go on.

Carnivals can be a fun filled family day, but if you do not plan your trip wisely, they can be quite costly. Check online for coupons and discounts that you may be able to use. Have a talk with your children and let them know that this day trip will not be a free for all. The children will be allotted a certain amount of rides and food choices each. Also think wisely about what souvenirs you buy. If there is a possibility you can get a souvenir somewhere else, it would be best not to buy it at a carnival for a more expensive price. Use these money saving tips above in order to have a fun money-saving family day!

This firm is a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief amongst other things, under the Bankruptcy Code.