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Providence Legal Issues Blog

If you have children, you need to name a guardian for them

Many people think of estate planning as something that you do when you approach retirement age. However, putting it off that long could endanger the people that depend on you the most. It's a common estate planning mistake. You should commit yourself to estate planning if you have children because their future security could depend on what you put into your last will.

Specifically, you need to take steps to name an appropriate guardian for your children in case you die. Failing to do so could mean that they live with unsavory family members or even wind up sent into foster care if something unexpected happens to you.

Restaurateur's estate virtually gone in six years

When setting one's estate plans in Providence, it is vitally important that the right people be asked to fill the right roles. Selecting an executor, personal representative or trustee should be a decision that a testator takes very seriously, given the authority that the people in those roles are empowered with. Typically, one establishes a very clear direction with how they want their estate to be managed, whether that be to immediate disperse funds to beneficiaries or generate income for them over time. Poor decisions on the part of a trustee or personal representative can easily derail those plans. 

The case of a late restaurateur's estate may serve to illustrate this point. The man's original restaurant chain sold for $154 million in 2000, and when he passed away in 2012, his estate was valued at around $20 million. Now, according to his stepson, its assets have dwindled to include only a few real estate holdings, which the stepson believes to be worthless. He blames the estate's financial decline on the poor management of the decedent's former financial advisor (who is also the trustee of several of the estate's trust). He even went so far as to file a lawsuit accusing the trustee of fraud. The trustee, for his part, does admit that some poor decisions contributed to the estate's losses, but also claims that a declining real estate market and poor choices by the decedent himself are equally to blame. 

Effective methods of reducing estate tax

They say that there are two certainties in life: death and taxes, and regrettably, Rhode Island residents cannot avoid either one. There are, however, some efforts you can make while you are still alive to reduce the amount of your estate that your loved ones will ultimately lose to taxes. At the Law Offices of James T. Marasco, we are well-versed in the most effective methods of reducing estate tax, and we have helped many people with similar goals accomplish this and other estate planning objectives.

According to U.S. News & World Report, one easy way to start reducing your estate tax burden is to simply lower the value of your estate. How can you do this? Simply put, you can start giving away some of the wealth you have amassed now, before you pass away, so that the percentage ultimately taken from your estate is that much lower.

What red flags should I look for when buying a home?

When buying a home in Rhode Island, it’s important to do your research to ensure you're getting what you expect. Even if a property looks great, there could be lurking repair issues or lawsuits connected to the home. Forbes explains the following home buying red flags and how you can determine a property’s true value.

Hidden lawsuits

Rhode Island's rules for intestate succession

Estate planning is not something that sits at the forefront of most Rhode Island residents' minds (nor those of most adults in the U.S., for that matter). Indeed, according to information shared by the American Association of Retired Persons, more than 60 percent of American adults do not have a will. This is the case despite estate planning experts advising all adults that they create such documents early on in their lives. The main motivation behind seeing to one's estate planning is control. Without a will in place, one forfeits the opportunity to dictate who will receive the assets that they have spent a lifetime accumulating. 

A legal term is applied to cases where one dies without a will: intestacy. In such an instance, the state determines who receives a decedent's assets. Local intestates succession guidelines can be found in Section 33-1 of Rhode Island's state statutes. Here, it states that one's spouse is entitled to the entirety of their estate if they die intestate. If one has no surviving spouse, then the order of descent of their intestate estate is as follows: 

  • Their children (or their children's descendants) 
  • Their parents
  • Their siblings (or their siblings' descendants)
  • Their grandparents
  • Their aunts and uncles (or their aunts and uncles' descendants)
  • Their great grandparents (or their nearest surviving kin)

Liens: Stopping home sales and slowing the buying process

If you are interested in purchasing a property, one thing you need to do is to make sure there are no liens on the property. A property with a lien against it cannot usually be sold without satisfying the lien since there are complications that could come with a sale.

There are several kinds of liens that could be placed against a property. One is a mortgage lien. This lien is a security interest against in the property. If the person who is selling the home tries to sell it before being able to satisfy the debt to the mortgage company, the lien will show up on the title as a cloud. The lien then allows the lender to claim a portion of the sale proceeds to satisfy the loan before releasing the lien and allowing the sale to continue. If the money coming from the sale is not enough to satisfy the lien, the sale may not continue.

What is your role as an estate administrator?

If you have recently lost a close friend or loved one, you may be dealing with a host of emotions stemming from the loss. You may have even more emotions if you discover that your passed loved one named you as the estate administrator or executor to the will. As the estate executor, there are a myriad of tasks you are responsible for in settling the terms of the estate and ensuring that the deceased’s property is properly distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will.

As the executor, you may have to take the estate through the probate process. First, you must obtain important documents, such as the death certificate and life insurance policies. You may need to notify the life insurance policies of the passing in order to obtain the benefits of the policy. Second, you must gather the property and assets in the estate and have them evaluated and appraised. It is important to get a value of the estate and know its worth. From that money, you may be required to pay off an extenuating expenses, funeral expenses, debt, taxes and other bills owed by the deceased. During this time, you are responsible for protecting the estate and ensuring no damage happens to the property.

How do you revoke power of attorney?

Reaching the point of incapacity is something that you may need to contemplate as part of your estate planning. If and when that happens, who is to make important decisions in your stead (particularly involving your medical care)? Empowering a family member or friend in Providence with durable power of attorney eliminates the issue of who will act on your behalf in regard to your health care. There may even be scenarios where you might want to grant another with this authority even if you are not completely incapacitated. Yet simply giving one power of attorney privileges does not necessarily mean that all of their decisions may be in your best interest. 

The prompts the question of whether or not there is a way to revoke a durable power of attorney. Section 23-4.10-3 of Rhode Island's General Laws states that you can revoke a durable power of attorney at any time in any manner in which you are able to communicate. This may include the spoken or written word, or any other available means of communication. Your wishes in this regard are to be respected regardless of your mental or physical condition at the time. Thus, whoever had previously been granted power of attorney cannot argue that you are not in the right mental state to make such a decision. 

Late author's daughter objects to casting of play characters

When preparing one's estate plans in Providence, one of the most important decisions to be made may be the selection of an executor. Whoever is asked to fill this role may be stepping into a monumental undertaking, one that can last for years (or even longer). This may be particularly true for estates that count intellectual properties amongst their assets. Renowned novels, songs or works of art may endure for many generations, and people may one day want to utilize them in their own works. It is in these scenarios where an executor or personal representative may really need to work to ensure that a creator's interests are well-represented. 

This fact was on full display in a dispute between a theater production company and the estate of the late novelist Arthur Miller. At the center of this dispute was the casting of two roles in an upcoming Broadway revival of one of Miller's stories. The director of the play wanted to cast African-American actors in the roles, yet Miller's daughter (who oversees her father's estate) objected. She did not have an issue with the casting of African-American actors in general, but rather that casting them in these two roles in particular would be at odds with the historical context of the story. Ultimately, the director of the show ended leaving the production as a result of the dispute. 

What are some common mortgage scams?

For homeowners in Rhode Island, foreclosure can be a scary prospect. That’s why many scam artists prey on people facing foreclosure by offering methods of preventing it. To ensure you can recognize common scams and take the proper steps to avoid them, the Federal Trade Commission offers the following information.

Forensic loan audits

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