Clients and Conflicts in Probate

Over the next few articles, we’ll take a step back and look at some ethical issues that can arise when dealing with probate. We’ll only look at a few and then take some time to figure out how to handle such situations. In our first article, we’ll look at clients, who they are and how to avoid potential conflicts. If that sounds appealing, please continue reading. We hope it is both informative

Understanding the Attorney Roles

In most cases, the executor (or personal representative) of an estate believes that the attorney representing the estate is their own. However, as previously stated, this is an incorrect belief. In the majority of cases, the attorney represents only the estate. This does not include the beneficiaries.

The probate attorney, on the other hand, has a fiduciary duty to any estate beneficiaries. In fact, a will can be declared invalid due to “undue influence” if a beneficiary has a too-close relationship with an estate’s attorney! As you can see, it’s best to keep things strictly professional.

Conflicts of Interest in Probate

Any attorney who represents both the deceased and any beneficiaries may be in violation of conflict of interest rules. Please keep in mind that while an attorney may represent executors individually, there must be no hint of a potential conflict of interest.

A trustee may also have a conflict of interest if they are the parent of a remainderman who is their own child, which is especially true if the child is an infant. In the event of a conflict of interest, appointing a Guardian for the child would be far more beneficial.

Scott Counsel Is Here to Help

“There is certainly a lot to consider when dealing with all manner of things related to estates, rules and regulations, and a host of other things,” says Justin Scott, a probate attorney in New Jersey. And, to be honest, it can be overwhelming at times, and all that information can end up doing more harm than good, making already difficult decisions even more difficult.

If you have any questions about any of these rules, or if you are unsure whether or not there may be a conflict of interest, please come and speak with me or one of my colleagues. We would be happy to explain all of this to you in greater detail and clear up any confusion you may have. We know the road ahead will be difficult enough without adding more obstacles. We want to assist you in avoiding those roadblocks

As you are aware, dealing with the aftermath of a person’s death can be difficult. It would be extremely beneficial to be aware of, and at least have a basic understanding of, the pitfalls and unseen obstacles that can befall someone if they are not cautious, and we hope that this article has shed some light on the situation. Contact us today to speak with our experienced and ethical probate attorneys.

Social Security, Pension and Veteran Affairs: An Answer to Your Questions

You might be wondering exactly how the probate process deals with social security, pensions, or even Veteran affairs. After all, you’re reading this article, so that means you must at least be curious. If so, and you’ve got questions, congratulations! You’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll look at just exactly that, and hopefully give you answers to all those burning questions. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

The Social Security Act

The concept of Social Security can be a confusing one, but it can actually be quite beneficial. What does it do exactly? For one thing, the Social Security Act is able to provide for survivor’s benefits to family members, as well as other benefits to any eligible persons. These benefits can include monthly payments or if preferred, a lump sum death payment.

Who Is Eligible for Veteran Benefits?

If anyone who may be entitled to benefits dies, a member of the family or interested party should contact the local Social Security office for any further information.

Any widows, minor children, or other family members may be eligible for benefits, if applicable. Anyone interested in finding out more about this should contact the appropriate pension company official for further information regarding this matter.

If someone dies and they were a Veteran, you should contact the Veteran’s Administration if you are curious about burial or death benefit information.

A Final Word From Justin Scott

Hopefully, this information will be able to shed some more light on the situation. If you’re in New Jersey, you can contact Scott Counsel in Cherry Hill for more help or information.

Justin Scott, an attorney for the practice, says, “We know you have questions, and we are here to help point you in the right direction to find answers, as well as to help clear any hurdles you may come across. We’re here to help, and I or any of our other experienced attorneys will be here to walk this road with you every step of the way. That’s what we believe you not only need at a time like this, but it’s what you deserve.”

A Closer Look at Pay-On-Death Accounts and Retirement Accounts

couple learning about pay-on-death account

In the “Avoiding Probate” series, we took a look at the many ways a person can avoid the probate process altogether if he or she so chooses. For your convenience, we’ve linked those articles for you. You can find part 1, part 2, and part 3.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at one of those ways: Pay-On-Death Accounts and Retirement Accounts.

Pay-On-Death Accounts

These types of accounts are one of the easiest ways to keep even large sums of money out of probate. All you need is to fill out a simple form, which your bank can provide, and name the person you want to inherit the money you have in the account at the time of your death.

It should be noted that, for as long as you are alive, the person you name to inherit the money in such an account has no rights to it. You have full control, and can spend the money, name someone different, or even close the account entirely.

Upon your death, the beneficiary needs only to go to the bank, show the proof of your death, as well as his or her identity, and finally collects whatever funds remain in the account. As such, the probate court is not involved at all.

Also, if you and your spouse share a joint account, when the first spouse dies, the funds most likely will transfer to the survivor, without having to involve the probate court. If, however, you decide to add in a POD designation, it will only take effect upon the death of the second spouse.

Retirement Accounts

Upon opening a retirement account, like an IRA or 401(k), the required forms will ask you to provide a beneficiary for the account. At the time of your death, any funds that remain in the account do not have to go through the probate process; any beneficiary you name can then claim the money directly from the account custodian. Any surviving spouse also has more options to consider when withdrawing the money than other beneficiaries.

For example, if you are single, you have the right to choose whomever you’d like to designate as a beneficiary. If you are married, however, the spouse can inherit some (and in some cases all) of the money.

Call our New Jersey Probate Lawyers for Help

So there you have it, a closer look into POD accounts and retirement accounts, and the options you have when considering whether or not to avoid the probate process entirely. The New Jersey Probate Attorneys at Scott Counsel have a long-standing history of guiding his clients through the probate process. If you have any questions, contact us online or by phone.