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Spousal and Other Beneficiary Rights

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    The legal terms surrounding wills and beneficiaries can be overwhelming if you’re not an estate planning attorney. That’s why you need the services of top estate and probate law attorneys in College Point, Queens to prepare your last will and testament and to ensure your spouse and other beneficiaries are treated according to your wishes. And when you’re on the receiving end of assets following a death, your New York City lawyer at Albert Maimone & Associates, P.C. helps you receive what’s yours. Since there’s no power of attorney after death, you need the power of an expert attorney in Queens on your side.

    Is There Power of Attorney after Death?

    There’s no power of attorney after death. A power of attorney (POA) is set up for many different reasons, such as for taking care of medical decisions with a healthcare proxy or a financial power of attorney to protect your assets. A POA document may specify that it goes into effect in case of a triggering event, such as physical or mental incapacitation, and if this triggering event occurs, the person you’ve appointed, known as the attorney-in-fact, makes important decisions for you.

    The spouse or descendant of a person who has passed away, however, may feel confused about their rights, but a power of attorney document won’t help. For guidance on spousal and other beneficiary rights in New York during this difficult time, rely on top last will and testament legal experts at the boutique law firm of Albert Maimone & Associates. They offer a free consultation and case evaluations, and then provide the highest quality legal services without charging big firm legal fees.

    What Rights Does a Surviving Spouse Have after Their Partner’s Death?

    Property that was held jointly automatically belongs to the surviving spouse, even if the decedent’s will says otherwise. If there is no will or if the deceased didn’t include the spouse in the will, the surviving spouse can’t be completely cut out of the inheritance in most states, including in New York. While there is no power of attorney after death, the rights of a surviving spouse in different scenarios include:

    • No descendants. If there are no descendants, the estate is passed on to the surviving spouse.
    • A will that excludes the spouse. Sometimes, a will is prepared before a person gets married and isn’t updated after getting married. If there’s a will, but the decedent didn’t include the spouse in the will, the spouse can receive $50,000 or one-third of the estate. If there are no surviving children, the spouse is entitled to half of the estate.
    • No will or a lost will. If there’s no will or the will’s been lost, the surviving spouse is entitled to the first $50,000 and half of the remaining estate. If there are no children, the surviving spouse is entitled to the entire estate.

    The surviving spouse must file a will contest proceeding to claim an inheritance. This action must be done within six months of the appointment of an estate administrator. If a couple was in the middle of a divorce at the time of death, they’re still considered married, and the spouse has the same rights as any other surviving spouse. If children contest the validity of the marriage, it may be up to the court to decide.

    How Does a Prenuptial Agreement Affect the Rights of a Surviving Spouse?

    Couples sometimes enter into a prenuptial agreement that specifies who owns what property and what happens in the event of death or divorce. If you have a prenuptial agreement in place in which you waived your right to receive your elective share of the estate upon death, laws intended to protect a surviving spouse may not apply. For a prenuptial agreement to be considered valid:

    • The agreement must be fair.
    • Both parties must voluntarily agree to the terms.
    • Both parties must have received the opportunity to obtain legal advice.
    • The financial records of both parties were adequately disclosed.

    If a prenuptial agreement is contested after a death, the court reviews it to decide if the document should stand. The court reviews whether there’s any indication that one party may have signed it under duress and whether the agreement is fair to both parties.

    Do Children Have Inheritance Rights?

    Having a will is the best way to ensure that your assets are passed on according to your wishes. If a person dies intestate, meaning they had no will, assets are passed down according to state intestacy laws. This means:

    • If there’s no surviving spouse, children inherit everything.
    • If there is a surviving spouse, the children inherit half the estate after the first $50,000 is given to the spouse.

    Children who’ve been adopted have the same rights as biological children. Stepchildren or foster children who weren’t legally adopted don’t have these rights.

    Do Co-Habiting Partners Have Inheritance Rights?

    If you’re in a committed relationship but are unmarried, your partner doesn’t have inheritance rights. Spousal rights related to inheritance depend on being legally married. If you die without a will in place, your possessions go to your next of kin, not your partner. Steps you need to take to protect your co-habiting partner include:

    • Preparing a last will and testament. Both partners should have a last will and testament prepared that names the other as primary beneficiary and executor.
    • Considering a living trust. Transferring your assets into a living trust allows you to manage them while you’re still alive and ensure they’re distributed to the beneficiaries you choose once you’re gone.
    • Holding property in joint accounts. Bank accounts and real estate should be held jointly with your partner. Assets should be set up as either payable on death or transferable on death.

    List your partner as your beneficiary on your life insurance policies and name your partner in advance directives, including as a healthcare proxy. Talk to your NYC estate planning attorney to find out what other actions you should take to protect your partner.

    How Do I Protect My Spouse and Other Beneficiaries after Death without a Power of Attorney?

    Be proactive about estate planning to ensure that your estate is divided the way you want it to be divided. Put a will or living trust in place and update documents in your estate planning whenever there are changes, such as marriage, divorce or children. If you intend to disinherit a particular family member, make sure that’s spelled out in your documents so that it’s not assumed to be an oversight.

    Estate planning and managing the affairs of an estate after the death of a loved one can be confusing for a surviving spouse or for other relatives. Contact the experts at Albert Maimone & Associates. They guide you through estate planning and probate law, providing the highest quality legal services in College Point, Queens without charging big firm legal fees. This highly rated team of estate planning attorneys practice in the five boroughs of New York City and in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

    Albert Maimone & Associates P.C.

    127-16 14th Avenue
    College Point, Queens, NY 11356
    (718) 357-1216

    Page Updated on Mar 17, 2024 by Albert Maimone, Esq., (Lawyer) of Albert Maimone & Associates P.C.