Wills, Testamentary Trusts, Decedents Estates & Conservatorships

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Last Will and Testament

Some people are ardent do-it-yourselfers when it comes to everything from household tasks to taxes. You can easily go on the internet or the local office supply store, gather the necessary forms and information, spend a little of your time, and, presto, you have a Will. However, it is very easy to overlook important legal and technical planning points that can cause your beneficiaries to endure anguish in dealing with details you thought you looked after, to pay unnecessary taxes, high fees to attorneys or probate court or cause assets to be distributed to the wrong people at the wrong time. One of the biggest problems with DIY “one size fits all” software packages and forms is the lack of personal advice. It can never provide the advice that comes from an experienced attorney. A comprehensive and effective Will is based on asking all the right questions and taking your individual needs into account, something no software or form can do.

What happens when a person dies without a Will? Contrary to popular misconception, their assets do NOT “go to the State”. Their assets go to “family members” under the State’s laws of intestacy. So, the question you should be asking is “Who would inherit from me if I don’t make a Will”. The surviving spouse of a married person who dies without a Will has statutory rights to some or all of the decedent’s estate, while the surviving spouse of a decedent who dies leaving a Will which leaves the estate to a person or persons other than such spouse has the right to a life use of one third of the estate. There are also provisions for interim support for married spouses while a estate is being settled, including financial advances from the estate, and the ability for the married spouse to remain in the decedent’s home.

If a decedent dies without a Will the probate court in the town where that person last resided has jurisdiction to grant the power for someone to administer the estate. In Connecticut, these include: the surviving spouse; any child of the decedent or any guardian of such child as the court shall determine; any grandchild of the decedent or any guardian of such grandchild as the court shall determine; the decedent’s parents; any brother or sister of the decedent; or the next of kin entitled to share in the estate.

If a decedent has left a Will, he or she has likely named an executor who will have the responsibility of administration of the decedent’s estate. An executor has several responsibilities: identifying, gathering, and protecting assets; settling debts; and distributing any remaining assets according to the will’s instructions. These duties may seem overwhelming, but an executor doesn’t have to complete them alone. Since there are legal obligations and specific procedures that must be followed for the administration of a decedent’s estate, a Connecticut probate lawyer at the Law Offices of Gryk and Frolich, LLC can assist the executor in that process.

If you wish to answer questions about your individual circumstances and have control over the distribution of your probate estate upon your death, you should consult a licensed Connecticut attorney about drafting a Will. Through many years of mentoring, education, and practical experience, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Gryk and Frolich LLC have developed the skills, resources and tools needed to help you create a Will

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Testamentary Trusts

A Testamentary Trust can be an effective and efficient way to provide for your minor children — or other loved ones who are unable to care for themselves –after your death. The language for the Testamentary Trust is included in your Last Will and Testament and the actual Trust is created upon your death. You may change the terms of a Testamentary Trust at any moment during your lifetime; in fact, you may even choose to remove it from your Will. However, upon your death, a Testamentary Trust becomes irrevocable.

A Testamentary Trust may be drafted in many different ways. For example, if you have young children, you might direct that upon your death (assuming your spouse is also deceased) your home and personal property are sold and the proceeds shall go into the Trust to benefit your minor children. You name a person you trust implicitly to manage the funds in that Trust. In this way, your children’s needs are taken care of financially.

Another possibility is to draft a Testamentary Trust to benefit a sibling, for example, who has a mental illness or who is a hard-core substance abuser. Leaving your money or property outright to that sibling would be counter-productive due to their inability to properly manage funds. Instead, you would name a person to serve as Trustee and that person would manage the funds that would provide proper care for your sibling.

Testamentary Trusts may be as simple or as complex as your personal needs and circumstances warrant.

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A conservator is someone who is appointed by the Probate Court to manage the personal and/or financial affairs of an individual who has become incapable of handling such matters. A Conservator of the Person manages an incapable individual’s personal needs, such as housing, food, clothing, medical needs and other related matters. A Conservator of the Estate manages an incapable individual’s financial affairs and assets so that no “waste” occurs.

There are two categories of conservators: voluntary and involuntary.

An individual who has not been deemed by the Probate Court to be legally incapable may petition the Court to appoint a Voluntary Conservator of the Person and/or Estate. For example, a person who suffers from vision loss may need assistance in paying monthly bills. Such a person may want the assistance of a conservator to manage his or her affairs. There are a variety of reasons a person may request a voluntary conservator: for example, an elderly person who requires assistance but does not have immediate family in the local area may need regular assistance with paying bills and managing daily living needs. A person with no surviving family members — or one with family members he/she does not trust — may wish to request the services of a conservator.

If a person is diagnosed by his/her physician with a memory impairment condition such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease — or by his/her psychiatrist to be suffering from a mental disorder such as schizophrenia — the services of a conservator may be required. Under such circumstances, when the individual is incapable of caring for and speaking for himself or herself, a petition for an Involuntary Conservator may be filed with the probate court for the appointment of a conservator of the person and/or estate.

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For more information on the role of a conservator or to request the services of a Connecticut conservator, please contact the Law Offices of Gryk & Frolich, LLC in Manchester.

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