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Providence Legal Issues Blog

Emotional considerations regarding estate planning

When it comes to the estate planning process, there are many financial considerations that people have to take into account, of course. However, there are other factors that may need to be taken into consideration while creating (or modifying) an estate plan. For example, people should consider the emotional impact of estate planning, not only with respect to their own emotions but their loved ones' emotions as well. There are various positive and negative emotions that may arise as a result of one's estate plan, and being prepared can be very helpful.

In some instances, loved ones may become upset with an estate plan. For example, siblings may quarrel with each other over decisions that have been made, such as the way in which assets are split up or the person who is placed in charge of the estate. These emotions may ultimately lead to a dispute later on, which could be very difficult for the entire family. By taking these factors into account beforehand, some people are able to lessen the emotional impact of their estate plan. That said, there are also times when nothing can be done to prevent disputes between family members.

Does Rhode Island recognize holographic wills?

Many reason may exists as to why Rhode Island residents (and American adults in general) tend to put off their estate planning. Some might even tell you that you do not have to worry about it until you approach the end of your life, and that even when you do, all that's needed is a simple document (or even declaration) stating what you want done with your estates. This line of thinking fails to into account two very important points: first, no one knows when they are going to die (or much less have time to scribble down a last will and testament). Second, you should at least find out whether a hastily thrown together will is even valid. 

If you decide to simply write down your will in your own hand and sign it, what you have actually created is a holographic will. Most recognize a standard will as one that has been typed and prepared, witnessed by the appropriate number of witnesses, and legitimized by a notary. Some states will allow a handwritten will to be considered valid provided it meets all of the other criteria required of a legitimate will. Others will even recognize holographic wills created on one's death bed. 

What are your rights of access to your rental units?

Owning and maintaining a rental property in Providence can be quite a lucrative investment, yet you should be aware that assuming the role of landlord requires also agreeing to respect certain responsibilities. Chief among these is the responsibility to respect the rights of your tenants. You might assume that those rights are limited to those that would not normally involve property ownership, such as granting access to a rental location. As the owner, you probably think that you are entitled to enter your rental properties at any time. Yet that is not the case. 

Per the Rhode Island Landlord-Tenant Handbook, you must provide your tenants with a two-day minimum written or verbal notice of your intention to enter into your units. Your reasons for entering must be valid, such as: 

  • To perform an inspection
  • To make repairs or improvements to the unit
  • To show the unit to a potential tenant or buyer

What you should know about the probate process

You may be filled with a myriad of emotions when you experience the loss of a close friend or loved one. While it can be difficult to navigate through this difficult time, there are matters of business that must be handled, such as managing the estate. Depending on how the deceased planned and organized their estate, dividing the estate to beneficiaries named in the will may be a simple process. If the deceased appointed an administrator, however, and did not set up the property in a trust, it may go through the probate process.

Probate is the process where a person’s estate, including property and assets, is distributed to the beneficiaries designated by the deceased in the last will and testament. As part of the process, all property and assets are gathered together and appraised. Any lingering expenses, such as taxes and debt, are then paid from the value of the estate. The remaining property and assets are then divided to beneficiaries or as otherwise directed by the deceased.

Avoid these common and costly mistakes as a landlord

Becoming a landlord in Rhode Island can be a great way to obtain a steady revenue stream that can help you support yourself or your family, but the landlord role is not always an easy one. Often, new landlords, or inexperienced landlords, make similar errors that wind up costing them considerable money, and recognizing what these common errors are can help you learn how to avoid them. At the Law Offices of James T. Marasco, we are well-versed in the challenges affecting the state’s landlords, and we have helped many people in your shoes pursue solutions that meet their needs.

According to Zillow, one of the most common landlord mistakes involves not having a solid understanding of the laws pertaining to fair housing and discrimination. In simple terms, fair housing and discrimination laws dictate that you have to give everyone an equal opportunity to rent your property, regardless of race, sex, disability or what have you.

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)
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