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MNEMONICS

WILLS

1) A valid will must be SWEPT


S – Signed by an adult testator
W – In Writing
E – Signed at the End by the testator
P – Published
T – Two witnesses (who don’t have to be adults) must sign, in the testator’s presence,
within 30 days of each other.

2) DAMN CAR LAW can alter an existing will


D – Divorce
A – Afterborn children
M – Marriage of the testator
N – No Contest Clause Breach
C – Cy pres of charitable bequests
A – Advancement of a bequest
R – Renunciation by a beneficiary
L – Lapsed legacies (but always consider NY’s Anti-Lapse Statute)
A – Ademption or abatement
W – Wrongfully killing the testator

3) If you can BRA²G IT, J.P., you’ll increase your right of election
B – Jointly-held US savings Bonds
R – 50% of decedent’s Retirement plan
A – Shareholder Agreements entered into after the marriage that restrict sale or
testamentary disposition of testator’s closely-held corporate stock
A – Annuity payments surviving decedent’s death
G – Gifts causa mortis
I – Inter vivos gifts, even to charity, exceeding $14,000 if made within the one year prior
to the testator’s death (absent written waiver by other spouse)
T – Pre- or post-marriage Totten trust bank accounts
J – Post-marriage Jointly-held bank accounts, stock brokerage accounts, or jointly-held
real or personal property, but only to the extent that consideration was furnished by decedent
P – Pay on Death Securities

©2014 Professors Pieper 1


4) A beneficiary that uses I-DROPS is deemed to predecease the testator:
I – Interrorem clause breach
D– DADS decree
R – Renounces
O – Death within One hundred and 20 hours from testator’s death
P – Predeceases the testator
S – Slays the testator

5) ALIS can use the anti-lapse statute


Anti-Lapse Issue or Sibling of testator

6) A DADS judgment [Divorce, Annulment, Dissolution or Separation Judgment] impliedly


revokes the survivorship interest of the former spouse named in: TRIP JAW

1. A Totten trust
2. A Revocable lifetime trust
3. A life Insurance policy
4. A Pension plan (if not inconsistent with federal pension plan law)
5. A Jointly held real property or joint bank account
6. A power of Attorney, or
7. A Will

7) A killer is permitted to acquire property from the victim’s estate if the killing was in SIN
S – Done in Self-defense
I – The killer was Insane at the time of the homicide
N – The homicide was accidental (Negligent homicide)

8) DIE rights are defeated by DAVIS


D – Wrongful Death proceeds from the other spouse’s death
I – Intestate share where the deceased spouse had no will
E – Right of Election against the deceased spouse’s will

D – A DAD decree: Divorced


Annulled marriage
Dissolved marriage
A – Abandonment by the surviving spouse without the other spouse’s consent, which
continued till the spouse’s death
V – A Void marriage (bigamous or incestuous)
I – The surviving spouse, as a plaintiff, had earlier obtained an Invalid DAD decree
outside of NY
S – The testator obtained a Separation judgment against the surviving spouse, based on the
surviving spouse’s fault

©2014 Professors Pieper 2


INTESTATE DISTRIBUTION:EPTL § 4-1.1

Where the decedent was survived by: (1 to 6)

1. Surviving spouse, no issue, then S.S. gets 100%.

2. S.S. and issue, then S.S. gets the first $50,000 plus ½ of the balance and the issue gets
other ½ “by representation.”

3. Issue but no S.S., issue gets 100% “by representation.”

4. No spouse, no issue but D’s parents and siblings are alive, then parents take 100%.

5. No spouse, no issue, no parents but siblings are alive, then siblings (or issue of
predeceased siblings [nephews and nieces] under anti-lapse) take 100% “by
representation.”

6. If none of the above survive, the net intestate estate is divided into two equal parts with
one part passing to T’s maternal grandparent’s side and one-part to the paternal
grandparent’s side of the family [in search of living heirs (grandparents, aunts, uncles, 1st
cousins, but only as distant as children of first cousins)].

If there are no surviving heirs within this degree of kinship, (1 to 6 above), then the intestate
estate escheats to the State of New York.

ABATEMENT: EPTL § 13-1.3

Interests in T’s estate are extinguished by abatement in the following order:

1. The intestate distributees forfeit first; then

2. The residuary legatees, “all the rest, residue and remainder I leave to X and Y”; then

3. General legacies (sums of money); then

4. Specific and demonstrative legacies; and then

5. The last to abate is a disposition to a surviving spouse regardless of whether it is a


specific, demonstrative or a general legacy.

©2014 Professors Pieper 3


EXEMPT PROPERTY: EPTL § 5-3.1

Exempt property passes outside of the estate and is not considered part of the estate for
intestacy or right of election purposes. Exempt property cannot be claimed by the decedent’s
judgment creditors. Exempt property passes directly to a surviving spouse, or, if there is no
surviving spouse, to children under the age of 21. EPTL § 5-3.1. In that regard, the following
property is not an asset of the estate but vests in the surviving spouse or children:

1. All housekeeping items, clothing of the decedent, computers, musical instruments,


electronic devices, clothing, furniture, appliances, and jewelry unless not to exceed
$20,000. This does not include items used exclusively for business purposes.

Also, if jewelry was a specific bequest in the testator’s will,, then it is not considered
exempt property.

2. Videotapes, discs, software, religious items, pictures, and books not to exceed $2,500;

3. Cash or other personal property not to exceed $25,000 (but only after payment of
funeral expenses);

4. One of the decedent’s cars or the value thereof not to exceed $25,000 net value; and

5. Domestic and farm animals, feed for 60 days, farm machinery, a tractor, and lawn
tractor not to exceed $20,000.

If the automobile’s value exceeds $25,000, the spouse can take the car and reimburse the
estate for the value exceeding $25,000. The spouse also can take the value of the car (not to
exceed $25,000) in lieu of the car itself. If the testator made a specific bequest of the car, the
spousal exemption will defeat that bequest, but if the car’s value exceeded $25,000, then that
excess amount paid back to the estate by the spouse goes to the specific legatee.

If the decedent did not have any of the above, then no allowance can be made for the value.
Exempt property (which can total up to $92,500), together with the right of election or intestate
right to the first $50,000, guarantees the surviving spouse approximately $142,500.

The surviving spouse’s right to exempt property can be specifically waived in a prenuptial
agreement. Matter of Marrone, 36 Misc. 3d 225 (Sur. Ct. Queens County 2012).

©2014 Professors Pieper 4


RIGHT OF ELECTION

Scenario 1. T dies with a $900,000 net estate, which in her will she leaves 100% to Charity. If her
surviving spouse elects against T’s estate, he is entitled to 1/3, i.e., $300,000. Charity will take the
remaining $600,000.

Scenario 2. T dies with a $900,000 net estate, which in her will she leaves 100% to Charity. She also
has a $300,000 totten trust named “T in trust for Joe.” If her surviving spouse elects against the estate, he
is entitled to 1/3 of the net estate plus any testamentary substitutes. Here, the net estate ($900,000) plus
the totten trust ($300,000) equals $1,200,000 against which the surviving spouse may elect. Thus, the
surviving spouse’s 1/3 entitles him to $400,000.

How do we come up with the $400,000? Everyone who received under the will or from a testamentary
substitute must contribute proportionately (the EPTL says “ratably”) toward the surviving spouse’s
elective share based on what the individual received. Thus, Charity, which received 75% of the combined
bequests and substitutes, will contribute 75% toward the $400,000, i.e., $300,000. Joe, who received
25% of the combined bequests and substitutes, will contribute 25% toward the $400,000, i.e., 100,000.
Thus, the surviving spouse will take $400,000, Charity will take $600,000 and Joe will take $200,000.

Scenario 3. T dies with a $900,000 net estate. She leaves $600,000 to Charity and $300,000 to her
surviving spouse. She also has a $300,000 totten trust named “T in trust for Joe.” If her surviving spouse
elects against the estate, he is entitled to 1/3 of the net estate plus any testamentary substitutes. Here, the
net estate ($900,000) plus the totten trust ($300,000) equals $1,200,000. Thus, the surviving spouse’s 1/3
entitles him to $400,000.

Here, the surviving spouse was not disinherited, but rather under-inherited; he received only $300,000
under the will, and is entitled to elect to get his total up to $400,000. So how do we come up with the
$400,000? Because he received an outright bequest of $300,000, that’s where we get the first $300,000.
Now we only need to come up with another $100,000 to make the spouse’s 1/3 election whole. As
before, everyone who received under the will or from a testamentary substitute must then contribute
proportionately (the EPTL says “ratably”) toward the surviving spouse’s elective share. Thus, Charity,
which received 2/3 of the combined bequests and substitutes (notice here, we use the $900,000 again and
leave out the spouse’s bequest because she’s already pulled it back), will contribute 2/3 toward the
$100,000, i.e., $66,666. Joe, who received 1/3 of the combined bequests and substitutes, will contribute
1/3 toward the $100,000 net elective share, i.e., $33,333. Thus, the surviving spouse will take $400,000,
Charity will take $533,333, and Joe will take $266,666.

Scenario 4. If in any of the scenarios above, the facts stated that T left a life insurance policy for the
benefit of anyone, even the surviving spouse, nothing would change in that scenario’s calculation of the
elective share because life insurance policies are not testamentary substitutes. So, e.g., if in Scenario 3, T
also left $100,000 life insurance policy payable to the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse would take
$500,000 (the $100,000 from the insurance policy plus his $400,000 elective share), and Charity and Joe
would still take $533,333 and $266,666, respectively.

©2014 Professors Pieper 5


Sample Essay

I just had a meeting with Tess and Rob. Tess is the surviving spouse of Sam, who
died last week. Sam and Tess had three sons. Rob is their only surviving son, and
he has a son, Tot. Another son, Sol, predeceased Sam, survived by one child, Joe.
Jim, the oldest child, also predeceased Sam, and is survived by two children, Jack
and Jill.

Tess gave me an original will, duly executed by Sam two years ago, before Sol and
Jim died, and a life insurance policy on Sam's life for $50,000, owned by Sam, and
payable to Tess as beneficiary. Sam's will contains the following dispositive
provisions:

First: I give my wife, Tess, $75,000, and the $50,000 I have maintained in an
account at Big Bank in the name "Sam, in trust for Rob". This, together with the
life insurance policy for $50,000, payable to Tess as beneficiary, should be
sufficient for Tess.

Second: I give the rest of my estate to my issue.

At his death, Sam had a net distributable estate of $900,000, including the account
at Big Bank, plus the life insurance policy payable to Tess. Tess has expressed
disappointment at the extent of her inheritance, and she wants to know if she has
any legal remedies. Rob shares his mother's disappointment, and he is willing to
renounce his inheritance if that will benefit her.

1. How should the account “Sam, in trust for Rob” be directed?

2. What, if anything, may Tess do to increase her inheritance?

3. How should Sam’s residuary estate be distributed?

4. Will a renunciation by Rob benefit Tess?

©2014 Professors Pieper 6