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Danbury Probate and Estate Administration Law Blog

Coming up with a unique estate planning strategy for you

There are many moving parts to consider when Danbury residents must address a complex situation. Different circumstances can influence a person's decision-making, and different decisions will lead to different consequences.

In the world of estate planning, there are many influences that can impact a person's decisions. For example, the person's family dynamics may have a large influence on how that person chooses to structure his or her estate plan. If a person has a family that may be likely to quarrel about matters after death, it may be necessary to provide more guidance or take away some discretion from loved ones in handling the deceased person's estate. This might be accomplished through a trust that sets certain conditions on distributing a person's assets.

Comedian Joan Rivers provides for her pets in estate plan

The thought of leaving loved ones behind is an unpleasant one for many Connecticut residents. Aside from simply missing their loved ones, individuals also may be concerned about how others will carry on without them, including long-time spouses or minor children. These concerns are legitimate and can be a major reason why it is beneficial for individuals to have a well-thought-out estate plan.

Nonetheless, estate planning also may be important for other certain four-legged family members. Many individuals include their family pets in their estate plan in one form or another, which can be beneficial in order to ensure the pet is cared for after the person dies.

Do family members have to pay the debts of a deceased loved one?

When a Danbury resident's loved one passes away, it can be stressful and burdensome to deal with the flood of emotions that naturally come with a loved one's death. Through the grief, individuals may also have questions about what will happen with the loved one's belongings, and how the assets of a deceased person's estates should be distributed.

One question that often arises after the death of a loved one is whether surviving family members must pay the debts of the deceased person. In general, creditors do have a right to seek payment from the assets owned by the deceased person at death.

How does an estate get administered in Connecticut?

When Connecticut residents have a goal in mind, there are often multiple steps that must be taken in order to reach that goal. This is certainly true when it comes to estate planning, as it may take some time and effort to accomplish a person's objectives.

For example, when it comes to the administration of a person's estate, there are several legal issues that need to be taken care of before a person's assets are distributed. First, the deceased person's will must be filed with the court, along with a petition for the administration or probate of the will, within 30 days after the person's death. Certain information must be included in the petition, such as the contact information of all heirs and beneficiaries.

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.

RSDN Riefberg Smart Donohue & NeJame, p.c.

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