Look Outside Yourself

, , ,

We’ve heard the expression, “pity party” or “wallow in self despair”.  This article is a little tough love.  It’s kind of been circling around and around in my mind all day, and I figured, with the risk of making someone insulted, I would take the chance and put it down on paper.

“Oh, woes me”.  What happens to us when we think that?  Do we feel better, or do we spiral downward even faster.  I’ve spent a good portion of my life wallowing…. so I believe can certainly talk on this topic quite fluently.  It’s up to us when we’ve wallowed enough.  Then, and only then, can we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and move forward.

We can even make ourselves feel horribly – even physically sick – if we want to.  We can give ourselves pain.  I have worked in skilled nursing for many years and, in talking to the residents, there are those who focus on pain or an illness.  They don’t get better. They get worse.  In our book, “If I Knew Then What I Know Now, Our Quest for Quality of Life” (www.IfIKnewThenBook.com) I noted that “A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it’s also a terrible thing to have”.  Not going to tell you where I wrote that line, you’ll have to read the book to really see how it fits in; but, I can certainly speak on it.  Who makes us feel bad?  OK – so someone might be yelling at you, you might have a bad boss, you might have a cruel acquaintance who gives you a hard time…. But, who makes you feel bad?  YOU do. 

What to do about all this?  Look outside ourselves.  When we focus on the “bad” things get worse.  When we focus on the pain, it gets worse.  When we focus on what’s wrong, things get worse.  Focus on the negative and the downward spiral gets more severe.  We need to focus outside of ourselves. We need to see the big picture, notice the beauty in the world, and find a purpose in life.  See the pain another is experiencing and reach out a hand.  Through helping others we help ourselves, and I believe every one of us has something to offer that can help another.  There are TONS of volunteer opportunities available, or just bring a neighbor who may need a helping hand some flowers or a hot meal.  Trust me, the rewards of giving instead of reflecting on how bad our lives are, are monumental.

Look outside yourself.  Make a friend.  Reach out.  You never know what another person is going through, and just a smile might change their day. 

Last thought:  Grandma used to say how, no matter how bad you think things are for you, there’s someone out there who has it worse.  Be THANKFUL for what you have. Be thankful for who you are.  You are here for a reason.  Sometimes it’s hard to find it, as we get caught up in so much day-to-day distractions which steal our time.  BUT, you are here for a reason.  My mantra is, “people helping people and collaboration = success”.  I know that, as I keep going, as I keep talking, as I keep striving to spread this message, others will embrace it.  Trust me; I know it’s hard to move forward, but I also know, in the end, the reward will be great.

State of the Real Estate Market 5 Years After

, , ,

Five years after the bubble burst there have been many articles written and news commentators questioning if Americans, the government and financial institutions have learned any lessons from the Great Recession.  They ask where we are on the recovery curve? 

As a real estate broker I can offer a few observations from “my corner of the world” plus some of the latest industry data. 

1.       The real estate market generally is in full recovery with sales up, prices up and tight inventories of homes for sale beginning to adjust to a more balanced position.  Locally for Queens/Long Island closed sales activity is up 15.5% over last year at this time.  Median home prices are up 6.4% over last year.  Available residential inventory is off 17.6% (lower) from last year at this time.  (per Long Island Board of Realtors MLSLI August 2013). 

2.       We are not watching the formation of a new housing bubble.  Today’s rising home prices have been more the result of a shortage of homes for sale and not the loose lending decisions, lack of guidelines and general “irrational exuberance” prevalent in the 2002-2006 time period preceding the crash.  The shortage of homes for sale has resulted in multiple bidding on homes and what naturally follows – rising prices. 

As more homeowners feel confident in the market and rising prices help improve their equity position so they can make a move, the inventory challenge will correct itself – which is beginning to happen.  3.2 million homeowners were freed from negative equity positions in the past year and an additional 1.9 million are expected to do so in the coming year. (Zillow 8/29/2013 Report) 

RisMedia reported 9/18/13 that Realtor.com’s National Housing Trend Report for August 2013 points to “a healthy shift in the dynamics of the housing market where future home value appreciation will likely be driven by market demand rather than inventory shortages” – a market moving toward normalcy. 

In the most recent Home Price Expectation Survey leading analysts feel home values will increase approximately 5% over the next 12 months – a more sustainable appreciation than that many locales have experienced over the past 2 years. 

3.       People still want to buy homes and homeownership is very much alive!  NAR’s 2013 Housing Pulse Survey found:


–          8 in 10 Americans believe buying a home is a good financial decision.

–          68% of those surveyed felt now is a good time to buy a home.

–          50% of renters said eventually owning a home was one of their highest personal priorities.

 Five years after the crash Americans still know the importance of homeownership – and There Is No Place Like Home!!!



Sheila and Chris Korte: After unexpected career changes, we wanted to fulfill our dreams of owning a business.

, ,
(Article Featuring Sheila & Chris Korte from Cruise Planners Franchise Magazine August 2013)The Korte’s Story – Sheila and Chris Korte met in the Army and have been together ever since. With a love for travel and an entrepreneurial spirit, Sheila found the turn-key opportunity she was looking for. Cruise Planners-American Express Travel instantly helped grow her business with its marketing programs, technology, and business development support. Chris even retired and joined her to make what is now a 100% veteran owned-and-operated franchise.

After Chris left the Army, he worked as a civilian air traffic controller while Sheila managed their young family and worked towards and completed an Associates degree in Business. Chris changed careers after he lost his job in the controller’s strike in 1981. He successfully worked as a broker on Wall Street for over 30 years. Sheila was hired by the FAA and worked for 17 years as an Air Traffic Controller. Her career path took a turn after a bad car accident. No longer able work as a controller due to injuries, she decided to fulfill her dreams to complete her college degree in Travel & Tourism with a Marketing Minor.

Sheila initially worked for a travel consortium and then for a travel supplier. Not content in those jobs, she kept searching for a new path, wanting to own her own business. While waiting for her car to be serviced and looking through old magazines on a rack her eye was drawn to a bright green Cruise Planners ad. Both Sheila and Chris agreed that this might be just what she’d been searching for to achieve her dream of working independently in the travel business. Sheila called Cruise Planners the very next day. Within a few days, she was a proud owner of her very own Cruise Planners-American Express franchise.

Chris retired in 2012 from his Wall Street career to join Sheila and has given it an extra boost with his sales and work experience. With hard work, love of travel and people, Cruise Planners has grown to a perfect business for them. They can work while on the road traveling or at their cozy home office. Working with Cruise Planners allows them the flexibility to be able to see their grandchildren regularly and to travel and check off those destinations on their bucket lists. As long as they have a phone, Wifi device & a laptop, Chris and Sheila are able to work their business most anywhere.

Call KorteTravel for any travel advice, they would love to hear from you!  (631) 893-4232 or email them at skorte@cruiseplanners.com




Toll Free: (631) 893-4232 ~ 866-81-KORTE (56783)
Local: 631-893-4232

Babylon, NY 11702

BE The Change You Want To See In The World


When you think something is going wrong in your life you have three ways to respond. You can (1) complain (to yourself, or others) (2) blame (yourself or others) or (3) change (yourself). If life doesn’t go according to your plan or your expectations, how do YOU respond? I’m asking this because I used to spend a lot of my valuable time complaining and blaming without a thought of what I was creating for my future moments. Admittedly, I didn’t know I had other options, but now that I know I can change my thoughts and my behavior, I’m on board.

When I used to complain, guess what I discovered? I never had a shortage of circumstances or people to complain about. Never. The complaint “well” never ran dry. Yes, I was able to complain at any given time, 24-7, 365 days a year. The supply of complaints was endless. What’s even worse – and laughable – is that I thought complaining was “normal”. Look around, or more importantly, look in the mirror. I don’t know too many people that don’t complain on a daily basis. You?

Don’t think for a minute that complaining was the only thing on my “to do” list. No, I also liked to blame everybody and anybody (but myself) for my unhappiness. Oh, I loved that one. Take responsibility for my unhappiness? No thank you – especially, when there’re so many other people to blame. Right?

It was only when I consciously made happiness my number one priority, did I make the decision to change my behavior.

Why is it So Important to Change?

The Universal Law of Cause and Effect is no joke. The Law of Cause and Effect states that for every action, there is an equal reaction. This is extremely important because WHATEVER action (cause) you emit, you will receive a corresponding reaction (effect). And, by the way, it doesn’t matter whether or not you believe in the validity of the Universal Laws. Whatever you cause, you will experience an equal effect. There are no exceptions to the Laws of the Universe. None. Ninguno. Aucun. Méiyǒu. Keine.

What’s the Solution?

When I started accepting that everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) that happened to me was actually a blessing and/or a valuable lesson, I changed my thoughts. I also changed my reaction to the circumstance. When I changed my thoughts and my reactions, I automatically changed my behavior. I began asking, “How is this experience serving me”? As I started to look for the good in the otherwise “bad” situation, my focus changed from finding what’s wrong, to discovering what’s right! It may sound cRaZy, but it works for me. Without question, I’m much happier now.

Great things flow effortlessly to all who are accountable for their actions. I encourage you, my dear friends, to take accountability to the next level. When you realize you have the power and the ability to change your behavior, life gets easier and you will smile (inside and out) a lot more.

Added Bonus: When YOU change, the world changes!

Let Us Help You Dream and Plan Your Bucket List Destination for 2014!

, ,

Korte TravelWhere Are You Going For Vacation Next Year? I know that most of you might just be returning you’re your summer vacation, but let’s dream together… Next year, will you be cruising down the River Seine in Paris, eating pasta in Italy, exploring the Galapagos Islands, walking on the Great Wall of China, or experiencing the Aurora Borealis in Alaska…

Will your next vacation be an experience?  Will you be traveling to a destination on your travel  bucket list?   

Why Not???  

What if we take the time now to explore the possibilities with you, instead of you being hurried and pressured to decide on a vacation later?

Let’s think outside of the box…  Let’s think of your next trip as an experience.  If we use some creativity, with budgets, time frames, and Cruise Planners/American Express discounts, I know that we can check off at least one special destination off of your bucket list. 

Please answer this question…

“It’s my life-long dream to go to/on……………for vacation”

I am working with a client who spent all her vacations, year after year, going to the same destination to be with family.  This year she decided to break out and allow us to plan a round-the-world cruise for 2015.  We are in the process of mapping it out with her and she is having a ball in the dreaming and planning stage.  By the time this stage is complete, she will be ready for the adventure of a lifetime.  That’s the type of experience we would like to share with you.  We can give you the benefit of our experience about routes and destinations, including what is best travel time and how to best use the discounts we can get through Cruise Planners/American Express Travel. 

Chris and I were lucky to check off two destinations from our bucket list this year.  New Zealand & Sydney, Australia, both lived up to their exciting reputations. We had a wonderful trip and were able to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge, something  that we always dreamed of doing. 

We would like to help you have that type of fulfilling and exciting adventure and make your vacation dreams come true.  

Give us a call or email us soon, so we can start to help you dream and plan your bucket list destination for 2014!  

Sheila & Chris Korte @ 866-81-KORTE (56783)  Korte Travel Online



Toll Free: (631) 893-4232 ~ 866-81-KORTE (56783)
Local: 631-893-4232

Babylon, NY 11702


New Interest Rates on Federal Student Loans–Again


On August 9, President Obama signed the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013, which changes the formula for determining federal student loan interest rates. The law comes after months of partisan bickering and uncertainty in the student loan arena, which culminated with the rate on subsidized Stafford Loans doubling to 6.8% on July 1.

The new legislation introduces a new market-based system that ties federal student loan interest rates to the government’s borrowing costs. The legislation will apply retroactively to student loans that originated July 1.

The new rates

Under the new law, student loan interest rates will be tied to the 10-year Treasury note, plus an added amount. For the current academic year (July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014), this formula results in a fixed rate of:

  • 3.8% for undergraduate students borrowing subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford Loans
  • 5.4% for graduate students borrowing unsubsidized Stafford Loans
  • 6.4% for parents borrowing PLUS Loans

The rates are determined as of June 1 each year and are locked in for the life of the loan. There is also a cap on interest rates: 8.25% for undergraduates, 9.5% for graduate students, and 10.5% for parents.

Key details


New rate

Old rate


Borrowing limits

Stafford Loan (subsidized)



Undergraduates with demonstrated financial need

For dependent undergraduates:

1st year: $5,500 ($3,500 subsidized)

2nd year: $6,500 ($4,500 subsidized)

3rd, 4th, 5th year: $7,500 ($5,500 subsidized)

Max: $31,000 ($23,000 subsidized)

For graduate students:

$20,500 per year (unsubsidized only); max $138,500 ($224,000 for health professionals)

Stafford Loan (unsubsidized)




Undergraduates and graduate students without financial need




Parents of dependent undergraduates and independent graduate and professional students

Total cost of education, minus any financial aid received by parent or student

 The federal government pays the interest on subsidized Stafford Loans while the student is in school, during the six-month grace period after graduation, and during any loan deferment periods. With unsubsidized Stafford Loans, the student pays the interest during these periods. Eligibility for subsidized Stafford Loans is based on financial need, as determined by the federal government’s financial aid application, the FAFSA.


Whitney Houston’s Estate Plan Illustrates Use of Testamentary Trust

, , ,

The Elder Law Minute TM

Whitney Houstons Estate Plan Illustrates

Use of Testamentary Trust


By Ronald A. Fatoullah and Debby Rosenfeld


Whitney Houston’s tragic death provides an example of how a trust that goes into effect upon death can work effectively as part of an estate plan. But Houston’s estate plan has some surprising aspects as well, including the reason she used such a trust to begin with.

The late singer’s will provided that her entire estate passes to her to her 19-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina, but Kristina cannot currently access her mother’s estimated $20 million fortune because the funds are being held in a trust.

Houston’s will established what is known as a “testamentary trust” for the benefit of her daughter.  A testamentary trust is a trust that is created pursuant to the terms of a will. The will names a trustee and specifies what property will be put in the trust upon the death of the person who executed the will (the testator). Such a trust has no power or effect until the will of the testator is probated. Although a testamentary trust does not avoid the need for probate and becomes a public document because it is a part of the will, it can be useful in accomplishing other estate planning goals, such as providing for a child or reducing estate taxes in certain circumstances.

The person creating the trust may want to prevent a beneficiary who is a child or young adult from inheriting a large amount of money before he or she can handle it. One option is to pay the beneficiary in stages when the beneficiary reaches a certain age or achieves a specific goal.  The other option is to give the appointed trustee complete discretion as to when to make payments to the beneficiary. The trustee is usually given a standard by which to make such decisions – such as for the health, education, maintenance or support of the beneficiary.

The trust created in Whitney Houston’s will provides that her daughter will receive certain percentages at different stages in her life.  It reportedly allows Houston’s daughter to receive a ten percent payout when she turns 21, another one-sixth when she turns 25 and the remainder of the trust’s assets when she turns 30. In this type of trust, the trustee usually has the discretion to distribute trust funds to the child at any time prior to attaining these ages, if needed for education or for other reasons.

One of the surprising aspects of Houston’s estate plan is that she could have accomplished the same goals through the creation of a living trust which would have kept the provisions of the trust private because it would pass outside of probate. Second, Houston was relying on a will that was created in 1993, when she was married to Bobby Brown, and it apparently was never updated, even after she and Brown divorced in 2007.  The will names Brown as the suggested guardian for Bobbi Kristina.  Although Bobbi Kristina is no longer a minor, Brown could still gain control of Kristina through a conservatorship, as was done in the case of Britney Spears.  Finally, the will provided that if Houston had no living children at the time of her death, her fortune would be split between Brown and several family members.

Perhaps all this is what Houston wanted, even after her divorce from Brown, but that should have been made clear in an updated will.  As it stands, it appears that Houston simply neglected to do something elder law attorneys urge all clients to do: update their estate plan after a divorce or other major life change. 

Trusts — either testamentary or living — can be set up for many different purposes. To decide if a trust is an appropriate vehicle, consult an elder law attorney. 


Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. is the principal of Ronald Fatoullah & Associates, a law firm that concentrates in elder law, estate planning, Medicaid planning, guardianships, estate administration, trusts and wills. The firm has offices in Forest Hills, Great Neck, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Cedarhurst, NY. Mr. Fatoullah has been named a fellow of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a former member of its Board of Directors. He also served on the Executive Committee of the Elder Law Section of the New York State Bar Association for over 15 years. Mr. Fatoullah has been Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Mr. Fatoullah is a co-founder of Senior Umbrella Network of Queens. This article was written with Debby Rosenfeld, Esq., a senior staff attorney at the firm. Ronald Fatoullah & Associates can be reached by calling (718) 261-1700, 516-466-4422, or toll free at 1-877-ELDER-LAW or 1-877-ESTATES.







When to Appoint A Monitor For Your Power of Attorney

, , ,


The Elder Law Minute TM



When to Appoint A Monitor For Your Power of Attorney




By Ronald A. Fatoullah Esq. and Debby Rosenfeld Esq.


The new power of attorney law in New York has been in effect since September 2009 and it is probably still too early to measure its intended success. Through the legislation, many provisions were added to protect the financial well-being and safety of the individual granting the powers (the “principal”). There was significant concern that under the former law, elderly individuals were particularly vulnerable due to the broad powers inherent in the document.


We know that a power of attorney can be an exceptionally effective estate and elder law planning tool if it is drafted correctly and contains all of the necessary powers. When meeting with clients, we stress that having such a properly drafted and executed power is one of the most important documents to have. For the short-sighted individual who, for whatever reason, does not wish to move forward with asset protection planning at the moment, executing a broad and expansive power of attorney that has been modified to his/her specific needs will enable planning to be effectuated at a later point in time. 


Very often, individuals executing a power of attorney have no problem deciding on an agent or agents to appoint. Typically, family members and children are selected by the principal to act on the principal’s behalf. The most requisite element is that of trust. If the principal trusts the agent implicitly, he can have peace of mind that the agent will act in his best interests in the future. Sometimes, however, the principal has doubts about the agent. Individuals might not entirely trust their relatives, or they might trust their relatives but may question the relatives’ ability to act as agent, or they might simply not have any close family members to name as agent(s).  


In such a predicament, the principal has a few options. First, the power of attorney provides that more than one agent can be appointed at the same time, and both or all agents must act together. This may ultimately present an administrative burden, but it will ensure that there is some type of check and balance system in place. Of course, the principal can name 2 or more agents to act separately, and although this would make it easier for the agents to act, this would provide no check and balance protection.


Further, the law gives the principal the ability to appoint a “monitor” to oversee the actions of the agent. This is an added measure that the new legislation included in order to protect the principal from potential abuse by the agent. The monitor has the ability to request and receive a record of all financial transactions performed by the agent. If the agent does not comply, the monitor also has the ability to compel the agent to furnish these records. The monitor can also request a copy of the power of attorney from the agent. While the law does not impose a fiduciary duty on the monitor, such an appointment would generate a sense of vigilance in the agent, as he/she knows that someone is potentially reviewing his actions.  


As indicated above, it is critical to have an updated, comprehensive and properly executed power of attorney that complies with the statute. We urge our readers not to simply download a power of attorney form from the intenet, as that document will not set forth needed provisions and will not provide needed protection. And, for those who have concerns about the trustworthiness or financial prudence of an appointed agent, selecting a monitor to oversee everything is a wonderful and viable option. 


Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. is the principal of Ronald Fatoullah & Associates, a law firm that concentrates in elder law, estate planning, Medicaid planning, guardianships, estate administration, trusts and wills. The firm has offices in Forest Hills, Great Neck, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Cedarhurst, NY. Mr. Fatoullah has been named a “fellow” of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a former member of its Board of Directors. He also served on the Executive Committee of the Elder Law Section of the New York State Bar Association for over 15 years. Mr. Fatoullah has been Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Mr. Fatoullah is a co-founder of Senior Umbrella Network of Queens. This article was written with Debby Rosenfeld, Esq., a senior staff attorney at the firm. Ronald Fatoullah & Associates can be reached by calling (718) 261-1700, 516-466-4422, or toll free at 1-877-ELDER-LAW or 1-877-ESTATES.

Trust Protector – Another Level of Security Over Your Estate

, , ,

Elder Law Minute TM

Trust Protector – Another Level of Security Over Your Estate


By Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. and Yan Lian Kuang-Maoga, Esq.



            Many of us are familiar with trusts and may already be using a trust for various purposes.  We are also likely familiar with the common players involved in any given trust: (a) grantor(s) or settlor(s), (b) trustee(s), and (c) beneficiary(ies).  A grantor or settlor is the person who creates the trust and transfers ownership of his or her asset(s) into the trust.  A trustee is the person who manages the day-to-day administration of a trust.  Beneficiaries are individuals who may have a current or future interest in the income or principal of a trust.  Another player we may be hearing more of and may consider using is a trust protector or advisor


            A trust protector (or advisor) is a person that the grantor names to ensure that the trustee carries out the wishes of the grantor as provided under the trust instrument.  While the trustee is involved in the day-to-day administration of the trust, a trust protector is not.  A trust protector’s role is to monitor the actions of the trustee and make critical decisions about the operation of the trust or the distribution of trust assets.  Some of the important tasks a trust protector may perform are as follows:

(1)   Advisor to Trustees – Where a trustee is not savvy with investing trust assets, a trust protector who has investing expertise may be appointed to advise the trustee.  Depending on the needs of different trusts, a trust protector from various professions such as real estate investment, accounting, and legal may be appointed to advise the trustee.  Also, a person who knows the intent of the grantor or the needs of the beneficiaries may be appointed as trust protector to advise bank trustees when exercising discretionary distributions from the trust.

(2)   Monitor the Actions of Trustees – Instead of having the beneficiaries ensure that the trustee adheres to the terms of the trust, a trust protector can be appointed to do so.  An important power that a trust protector should have is the ability to remove and replace a trustee without court approval.

(3)   Mediating Disputes – As an alternative to potentially expensive court proceedings, a trust protector may be appointed to mediate any disputes between the trustee and beneficiaries or among the beneficiaries.  This person can be a family member or friend who is familiar with the grantor’s wishes and is able to interpret any ambiguity in the trust. 


            The use of a trust protector is beneficial in many ways and should be considered and tailored towards each trust.  Currently, New York has proposed, but has not yet enacted legislation governing the legal status of trust protectors.  However, even without legislation governing trust protectors, a grantor can appoint a trust protector where appropriate and clearly delineate the role and powers of the protector in the trust instrument.


Ronald Fatoullah is a leading expert in the field of elder law. He is the founder and managing attorney of Ronald Fatoullah & Associates, a law firm concentrating in elder law, Medicaid eligibility, estate planning, special needs, trusts, guardianships, & probate. He is certified as an elder law attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation, and he is the current Legal Committee Chair of the Long Island Alzheimer’s Association.  The firm’s offices are conveniently located in:  Long Island, Queens, Manhattan & Brooklyn and can be reached at: 1-877-Elder Law 1-877-Estates.

 This article was written with the assistance of Yan Lian Kuang-Maoga, Esq.


The ABC’s of Will Drafting

, , ,


Elder Law Minute TM


The ABC’s of Will Drafting

By Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. and Stacey Meshnick, Esq.


Many clients are often confused as to the meaning of “probate”. Probate is “proving” an individual’s Last Will and Testament (“Will”) to the court.  New YorkState law dictates specific formalities for the execution of a will.  For a will to be validly executed and subject to the probate process, it must be signed by the person making the Will (“Testator/Testatrix”), in front of two witnesses who, within thirty days, sign their names and addresses at the end of the will.  The Testator must declare to the witnesses that the document is his/her Will.  Upon the death of the Testator, the witnesses must be contacted for verification unless they have signed an affidavit at the time of the Will indicating that they witnessed the execution of the Will and that the Testator read and understood the terms of the Will.  If a witness predeceases the Testator, a death certificate of the witness must be produced.


Aside from the above-mentioned procedures, there are several factors to consider before a Will is drafted.  One consideration is family structure, e.g. spouse, children from a prior marriage, children with special needs, or other family members with special needs, etc.  Some clients are also concerned about leaving assets to a child who may be a spendthrift.  In such a case, the Will could be written incorporating a trust that can prevent a beneficiary from squandering an inheritance.


In New York, and in most states, the only person who cannot be completely disinherited is a spouse. Even if a spouse is left out of a Will, New York law provides that he/she is entitled to an “elective share”, which is the greater of $50,000 or 1/3 of the estate.  When disinheriting a relative who would ordinarily legally be eligible for an inheritance if no Will exists, it is important for the Testator to be clear about intent in order to avoid a possible Will contest.  If the Testator does not mention the disinherited individual, it may increase the likelihood of a challenge by the family member.  It is therefore recommended to specifically disinherit a relative within the Will rather than simply omitting mention of the relative.


A provision for those concerned about beneficiaries contesting a Will is called an “in terrorem” clause, or a “no contest” clause.  Such a clause, states that if the beneficiary contests, his or her interests are revoked, discouraging a beneficiary from challenging a Will.


It is important to be aware that there are different ways to distribute one’s assets.  For example, the Testator must consider how the assets should be distributed if a beneficiary dies before the Testator.  The Testator should decide in advance whether a bequest is to pass to a predeceased beneficiary’s children or to be divided amount all of the surviving beneficiaries.


Finally, another factor to consider when drafting a Will is the size of the Testator’s estate, which will determine if estate tax planning is involved.


In conclusion, if an individual dies without a Will (“intestate”), assets are distributed in accordance with New York State Estates Powers and Trusts Law, which dictates to whom assets are distributed.  One must execute a Will in order to prevent distributing assets in a way that does not comport with one’s wishes.  All of the issues discussed herein as well as related issues should be discussed with an Elder Law attorney, who can draft a will that is tailored to the individual’s needs.


Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. is the principal of Ronald Fatoullah & Associates, a law firm that concentrates in elder law, estate planning, Medicaid planning, guardianships, estate administration, trusts and wills. The firm has offices in Forest Hills, Great Neck, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Cedarhurst, NY. Mr. Fatoullah has been named a “fellow” of the NationalAcademy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a former member of its Board of Directors. He also served on the Executive Committee of the Elder Law Section of the New York State Bar Association for over 15 years. Mr. Fatoullah has been Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Mr. Fatoullah is a co-founder of Senior Umbrella Network of Queens. Stacey Meshnick, Esq., supervises the Medicaid Department at the firm.  The firm can be reached by calling (718) 261-1700, 516-466-4422, or toll free at 1-877-ELDER-LAW or 1-877-ESTATES.