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Probate disputes often reflect the worst aspects of family law coupled with issues of undue influence.

At the time of a will probate dispute the court system is seeing the litigants at a trying period in their lives. They have lost a loved one and tensions are running high as to the actual intent of the deceased person. While the parties may be furious with one another, there is always the hope that some degree of familial ties can be preserved. Mediation is uniquely suited to resolve these tensions. The litigants can tell their sides of the story to the mediator, who has the time to listen. In my experience, it is very important for all litigants to feel as if their side of the dispute has been properly told. It is after this emotionally draining experience that they are ready to find common ground and solutions to the problems presented.

Challenges frequently arise when all heirs are not treated equally. One child may feel they had the burden of caring for the aging parent and should be compensated. A variation of this story arises when the elderly parent has given a power of attorney to only one family member. After death disputes arise as to assets that may have been spent by the child with the power of attorney. Rarely have receipts been saved, and frequently large amounts of cash have been paid to home health aide. Expensive litigation and a trial will only serve to reduce the assets. A mediator can help the parties narrow their actual disputes and discuss the cost of proving the righteousness of a position. The insight of a neutral third party is invaluable.

ALTERNATE Dispute Resolution of Business Claims

Business conflicts arise in a myriad of different situations, such as:  minority shareholder claims, dissolution, allegations of  self dealing, breach of fiduciary duty, and violations of restrictive covenants. Additionally, minority partners may allege they have been shutout of the business, or a stockholder may seek greater access to internal investigations. Individuals may also seek to have their interests bought out. Even where there is a governing document dealing with dissolution, there is frequently a dispute as to how it applies in a given situation. Any of these claims expose the business entity to damages and the high cost of litigation. Beyond that, there is the concern that corporate secrets or methods of doing business will be exposed to competitors. There may be concern that questionable tax practices may come to the attention of the court.  Even if there is a confidentially order in effect, it is likely that the competitor will learn of the dispute and take advantage of the turmoil within the company. Similarly, an individual suing a business entity risks being labeled a trouble maker and having their business reputation compromised.

Mediation presents a more efficient, less expensive, and confidential method to resolve these disputes. The parties can agree on the ground rules for the mediation. Mediation can be undertaken immediately with the mediator permitting some discovery, or it can be started after the parties have already commenced litigation. The mediator can work with accountants, as necessary. Mediation is a viable solution when dealing with a problem of a small business and also when dealing with more complex issue such as interlocking corporations and closely held family businesses.

The idea of giving up an inheritance might sound foolish, but in certain circumstances it can be a beneficial estate planning tool. While we as estate planning attorneys try to prepare for every possible outcome at the time of a death, there is no way to predict the timing of a death, the laws at that time, nor the assets a decedent will actually hold at death. Especially in today’s environment where COVID-19 has shocked our economy, the tax laws could change at any time.

A disclaimer or a renunciation is a refusal to accept an interest in property.  No one can be forced to receive a gift or bequest; everyone has the right to either accept or refuse what is given.  In certain situations, disclaiming may be more beneficial than actually receiving the gift.  If the beneficiary of a decedent’s estate disclaims an asset passing to the beneficiary (the “disclaimant”) as a result of decedent’s death, the asset passes to the next-in-line beneficiary as if the disclaimant had predeceased the decedent.

Under federal law, a “qualified disclaimer” is an irrevocable and unqualified refusal by a person to accept an interest in property so long as the following requirements are met:

The SECURE Act (“Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement” Act), which was enacted in December 2019, eliminated the “stretch IRA” – a feature of an inherited IRA account[1] that allowed the beneficiary to stretch out required minimum distributions (RMDs) over his or her lifetime, thereby deferring a significant amount of income taxes on the RMDs. Now, beneficiaries must withdraw the entire account over the 10-year period following the owner’s death. Doing so will significantly accelerate the income tax due with respect to the account.

Perhaps you are thinking: this is a piece of legislation coming from Washington – there’s got to be a loophole, right? The answer is: maybe. Here are a few planning ideas to consider in light of the SECURE Act:

  • Increase the number of designated beneficiaries.

The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security), which became law on March 27, 2020, made some important modifications to retirement accounts for 2020. For example:

  1. Required minimum distributions (RMDs) are waived, for both account owners and beneficiaries who have inherited an account.
  2. The 10% early withdrawal penalty is waived for distributions up to $100,000, if any of the account owner, spouse or a dependent has been diagnosed with coronavirus; or if the owner has experienced adverse financial circumstances as a result of coronavirus.

We are proud to announce 11 of our attorneys have been named to the 2021 Best Lawyers® list, two of which were named “Lawyer of the Year.” This recognition in The Best Lawyers in America© 2021, identifies each for their leading legal talent in their corresponding practice areas.

The following Lindabury attorneys were named as Best Lawyers honorees:

Dino Flammia from New Jersey 101.5 FM interviewed Lindabury attorney Elizabeth Candido Petite, to discuss the the importance of having a will, a power of attorney and a living will, as well as the latest news from our Wills, Trusts, and Estates practice group. You can read the interview here and listen to the recording below.

On August 3, 2020, the US District Court, Southern District Court of New York, issued its opinion in State of New York v. U.S. Department of Labor, et al. striking down four material components of the US Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) regulations implementing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).  The Court’s opinion comes approximately four months after the effective date of the regulations and five months before the FFCRA is scheduled to expire.

Background. The FFCRA incorporates the provisions of the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (“Expanded FMLA”) entitling employees up to 12 weeks of paid leave if they are unable to work because of the closure of a child’s school or place of daycare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (“Emergency PSL”), also incorporated within the FFCRA, requires covered employers to provide employees up to 80 hours of paid sick leave if the employee is : (1)  subject to a government quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; (2) has been advised by a heath care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to  COVID-19; (3) experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis; (4) caring for an individual subject to a quarantine or isolation order by the government or healthcare provider; (5) caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed, or whose childcare provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19; or (6) experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted households and working families everywhere.  As states begin to reopen, employers across the country are constructing return to the workplace plans that incorporate changes to physical and behavior protocols within their buildings and office space. As employees look to reenter the workplace, many working parents are faced with a similar issue – how to safely reopen the home to household employees, including nannies, tutors, dog walkers, cleaning staff, etc.

Whether you’re welcoming back a former employee, or hiring someone new, it is imperative that you construct a thoughtful return to work plan for those reentering your household.  While an open and honest conversation about these challenges is a good starting point, the best source of protection is a written agreement between the parties, which formalizes expectations and eliminates areas of question down the road.  Your “return to the household” plan or contract should take into account the following principles:

  • Disinfecting and cleaning measures;
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The Honorable Judge Katherine Dupuis, (Retired) and Nicole A. Kobis, partner at Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook, & Cooper, P.C., explain how divorce can be handled virtually

If classroom lessons and workout classes can be conducted virtually, does the same hold true for divorce proceedings?

The short answer to this is yes. Virtual alternative dispute resolution will result in a faster divorce process during times like these when the courts have limited capabilities and a back log of matters to be heard.

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