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Danbury Probate and Estate Administration Law Blog

Every estate is unique

Every person residing in Connecticut is different. Individuals have different interests, talents and personal circumstances. Along with this, individuals also have different lifestyles. All of these differences are what make individuals special and unique from one another.

These differences also explain why there is no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to a person's estate planning decisions. With different property and other assets at stake, individuals should make sure that their estate plan matches their individual circumstances. If care is not taken to address these unique circumstances, an heir's inheritance can be drastically impacted by a strategy that does not properly handle the deceased person's situation.

When is legal action necessary against an executor?

It takes time and effort for Connecticut residents to properly plan an estate. Unfortunately, even the best-planned estates can run into trouble after a person's death if those individuals who are handling the estate fail to properly do their job.

Executors of wills, as well as trustees who administer a trust, have certain duties they must follow in administering the terms of a person's will or trust. For example, executors must distribute a person's assets according to the terms of the will, after paying bills and taxes and making sure everything is in order with the estate. Many of these items are encompassed within an executor's fiduciary duties, which are duties the person must perform in line with their role as executor.

What is a living will and why should I want one?

There is an aspect of estate planning that is growing in popularity in Connecticut and around the country. It's a part of estate planning called a "living will," and it's only useful to you when you're alive. This is contradictory to what people usually think about wills. Typically, wills are thought of as a plan for after a person's death.

Living wills are different because they carry out a person's wishes while they are still alive. Why would you need such a thing? Living wills are useful when a person becomes unable to express their healthcare wishes due to a medical condition. For example, if a person is in a coma after a car accident they cannot express their wish for a specific type of medical treatment versus the treatment the doctor may deem best for the patient.

What do Connecticut courts consider when appointing a guardian?

It takes time and care to make an important decision. In exercising this care, Connecticut residents may consider a variety of different factors en route to making important decisions in their lives, as there is not often one simple answer to a difficult issue.

Courts in Connecticut typically operate in the same deliberative fashion. One such area in which care must be taken is in the appointment of a guardian for a minor. Courts consider a variety of factors in making such an important decision. These factors are set by statute, and therefore the Legislature has directed courts as to the factors to consider in appointing a guardian.

How do I draft a will in Connecticut?

Many Connecticut residents pride themselves on being able to accomplish difficult tasks on their own. From home improvement projects to financial matters, individuals are often satisfied when they can save money and teach themselves new things.

When it comes to drafting estate planning documents, however, individuals should be cautious in proceeding by themselves. While wills do not necessarily have to be lengthy documents full of legal language, they do have to comply with certain formalities in order to actually be recognized upon a person's death. If the formalities are not complied with, the person is taking a risk that the will might not be enforced by a court, in which case the whole point of drafting the will in the first place would become a nullity.

Should a parent appoint a guardian for a child in an estate plan?

There is nothing more important for many Connecticut residents than their children. Many Connecticut parents would do virtually anything for their children. Yet, many individuals may have failed to take the very basic precaution of appointing a guardian for their child in the event of the parents' death.

When the parents have not selected a guardian, the probate court handles the appointment of a guardian of a minor child. This court will consider a number of factors in determining whom to appoint as a guardian for a child.

These factors are geared toward appointing a person who can care for the child appropriately, including providing the necessary emotional, physical and educational care needed to raise the child. Typically, if a minor child is over 12 years of age, the court also will take into consideration the child's wishes.

What does a surviving spouse receive when a husband or wife dies?

Most Connecticut residents enjoy making their own decisions, particularly when it comes to important financial and personal matters. For this reason, individuals are urged to establish wills or trusts that set forth a distribution of assets according to their wishes.

When individuals die without a will or other estate planning mechanism in place to transfer assets, the state must decide how to distribute the person's assets instead. In order to accomplish this task, Connecticut has enacted certain statutory provisions setting out the distribution of assets for those individuals who die without a will.

Anticipating problems before they arise in estate planning

When Connecticut residents make important decisions in their lives, there are often multiple factors that must be considered. Making the right decision requires a careful analysis of all of these factors, including a balancing test that considers which factors are more important than others.

In the world of estate planning, this balancing act is performed frequently. Individuals often must juggle competing demands and probabilities, as well as dealing with unknown issues that could arise during the estate administration after their death.

Using different estate planning strategies for women and men

As discussed previously in this blog, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for different individuals in drafting estate planning documents. A person's individual circumstances must be considered, including their age, health, assets and other considerations.

One of these circumstances is a person's gender, as estate planning strategies often differ between men and women. For instance, women generally have longer life spans than men, which means many women will not only be widowed, but will need to plan for a longer retirement. As a result, women should ensure they plan well to understand where their income will come from and what benefits they might be entitled to if their spouse dies.

Estate planning critical for Connecticut residents

There have been a lot of changes in the federal estate tax system over the past few years, as discussed previously in this blog. In 2012, Congress passed permanent tax reform, taking away much of the uncertainty in the federal estate tax exemption that existed prior to that time.

The federal laws raised the estate and gift tax exemption to $5 million, with married Connecticut couples being able to avoid tax on a $10 million estate. Congress also made portability of the exemption between spouses permanent.

RSDN Riefberg Smart Donohue & NeJame, p.c.

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