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Trusts and Estates

A law firm does not survive for over a century and a half without being dedicated to the long range goals of its clients. The individualized service of a client’s needs has always been a hallmark of Cullen and Dykman and nowhere is this better exemplified than in the firm’s Trusts and Estates department.

Almost since the inception of the firm 160 years ago, our attorneys have prepared wills and other wealth transfer documents appropriate for individuals with varying family circumstances and levels of wealth. Our size and the extent of our presence in the metropolitan area mean that we have the capability of servicing clients out of our Manhattan, Brooklyn and Garden City offices.

We presently assist clients across the spectrum, whether regarding the creation of generation-skipping trusts for grandchildren or in qualifying for Medicaid assistance, to comply with the frequent changes in the laws governing wealth and taxation. The fact that Cullen and Dykman has been in practice for over a century is a testament to the firm’s dedication to its clients and the corresponding loyalty of those clients.

For the convenience of our clients, we currently hold over 2,000 original wills or living trust agreements in our vaults. In many instances we represent children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren of ancestors who were also clients of the firm, including descendants of John Roebling, who designed the Brooklyn Bridge. In many instances, clients who move away from the State of New York expect and seek our assistance even after their relocations.

Experience counts. Effective counsel for your estate planning needs must possess both the technical knowledge and the practical experience to assure your goals are achieved and that the expense of family litigation is minimized.

Estate planning is not a once and done process. Changing circumstances require attention to the impact such changes may have on your goals. Here are some changes that occur that can have an effect on your estate plan.

Changes in Family Relations:

Changes in Economic Position and Employment Status:

External Changes:

Questions you should be asking:

The attorneys at Cullen and Dykman can answer these questions and more.

A case in point

Poor Mr. H died in 2004, having executed eight wills in the last six years of his life. The last will could not be found in its original form and only a copy was discovered in Mr. H’s effects. In such cases the law presumes that the testator revoked the will by an act of destruction. The previous six wills were all executed without the assistance of an attorney and all contained defects in execution that precluded them from being admitted to probate. Instead, Mr. H’s family offered the first of the instruments, executed in 1998, for probate. It was a complete and properly executed document. No one in the family opposed the request to probate the first will.

Wouldn’t it be reasonable to imagine that the court would agree with the family’s request and admit the first will to probate? Wrong.

The court correctly pointed to a section of the governing statute that if after executing a will a testator executes a later will which revokes or alters the prior one, a revocation of the later will does not, of itself, revive the prior will or any provision thereof. Therefore, possessing a copy of the last will, although presumably revoked by Mr. H, was sufficient to prevent the prior instrument from being admitted to probate. Of course, the irony here is that if there was one thing that Mr. H demonstrated in the final six years of his life was a desire to avoid dying intestate.