How to prevent a family feud over your NY Estate? Estate of Takeoff

MOSCOW – 27, MARCH, 2015 : Rappers Soulja Boy and Migos (Quavo, Offset, Takeoff) at interview before concert in Russia

So what happens when we pass without the benefit of having a NY will?  As a NY estate lawyer with 22 years of experience probating and litigating the estates of New Yorkers I can tell you every single NY estate plan should begin with the drafting of a NY will.  And not just any NY will but a NY will that is drafted and whose execution supervised by a NY estate lawyer.

On November 1, 2022, 28 year old hip hop star Takeoff of the group Migos was shot and killed.  Takeoff’s career was just beginning, playing tremendous venues while opening for superstars like Drake.  At the time of his murder Takeoff had amassed an estate estimated to be in excess of $26 million dollars.  By any measure this amount of wealth is not insignificant and Takeoff should have had a will drafted.  However like many other young artists who achieve stardom he did not think about his own mortality, never drafting a will or creating an estate plan. With no surviving spouse or children, Takeoffs parents are his closest surviving relatives and heirs. Unfortunately Takeoffs, parents have had no communications with one another since his birth when his father allegedly abandoned his mother.  Raised by his mother, Takeoff’s parents are now fighting to seize control over the $26 million dollar estate by filing petitions to become Administrators of the estate.

So what happens now?

When we pass without a NY will it is called intestacy.  Rather than our NY estates going through the streamlined probate process within the New York Surrogate’s Courts the intestate NY estate must go through administration.  Administration is a much longer, more difficult process which can also prove to be costlier.  In NY, estate administration requires a court’s determination as to the identity of the deceased’s heirs.  The Surrogate’s Court must then determine which of the heirs would be eligible to serve as the estate’s fiduciary, also called the administrator.  Sometimes, when the heirs themselves are either ineligible to serve based on various qualifications or cannot agree who will serve amongst themselves, the court may then appoint a third party to administer the NY estate.  Absent a will, the Surrogate’s Courts of New York will also require the administrator to post a bond for the estate assets which is an insurance policy for the NY estate against any theft or loss on the part of the Administrator.  With a will the filing of a bond is almost always waived, but without a NY will the Court will require the fiduciary to have good credit for the posting of their bond.

Here in Takeoff’s estate the fighting amongst his parents has already begun.  With $26 million dollars in the balance I doubt either parent will back down without protracted estate litigation.  NY estate litigation is both lengthy and costly, normally lasting several years before combatants can come to a resolution.

So why is a NY lawyer drafted and supervised will so important?  When your NY estate lawyer drafts and executes your NY will the will contains two key provisions which protect your NY estate from infighting amongst your heirs.  First, the NY will designates who your beneficiaries of your NY estate will be. Having a NY will allows you to determine who will receive the bounty of your NY estate when you are gone rather than your NY estate being distributed to your surviving heirs by default.  As in Takeoff’s case, where he may not have had much contact with his biological father throughout his lifetime, he may not have wanted half of his $26 million dollar estate to be distributed to him. Since Takeoff did not have a will this is the result that may ultimately occur absent a successful argument of abandonment.   Secondly, and almost as important, your NY will allows you to appoint your executor to be the fiduciary of your NY estate. This allows you to determine who will control your NY estate after you are gone, waiving the necessity to post any bond or prove to the courts that your nominee will qualify to act as your fiduciary.  This provision is what really prevents most instances of NY estate litigation.  When there is no NY will, one of the most common issues that arises in NY estates is the fight to be the administrator for control over the NY estate.  In NY administration disputes, 9 times out of 10, I am asked as a NY estate lawyer to litigate this issue as to who will be appointed Administrator of the NY estate.  Only once that issue is resolved can the NY estate proceed to be administered.  These disputes can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars while holding up the distribution of NY estates for years.

For all of the reasons stated above, it is most important to have your NY estate lawyer draft your NY will ahead of time.  Should you or a loved one wish to speak with a NY estate lawyer about planning their estate, feel free to call us at (718) 261-2444 to speak with an experienced NY estate lawyer for a free consultation.  Our offices have been successfully probating NY estates and drafting wills for New Yorkers in the Counties of New York, Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, Bronx, Richmond, Westchester, Orange, Rockland and Dutchess for years.

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