Articles

Linda M. Toga’s monthly column, Legally Speaking, has been published by the Times-Beacon Record newspapers since 2009. Prior to that, she was featured in Newsday's Ask the Expert column a number of times. We invite you to browse the list of articles below or use the search options to the right to select articles based on areas of practice and/or keywords to find columns of interest to you. Note: The articles are for informational purposes only. All rights are reserved.
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Safeguarding your children’s inheritance when you remarry

The Facts: I will be getting married soon. It is a second marriage for both me and Mary. We both have children from our prior marriage. Question: Is there something can have Mary sign to insure that my assets will pass to my children when I die? The Answer: If you are only worried about […]

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Providing for a disable grandchild

The Facts: My grandson Frank is disabled and will likely need medical and financial assistance as an adult. I would like to name Frank and my other grandchildren as beneficiaries in my Will but, I am concerned that doing so may make Frank ineligible for government assistance programs. Question: How can I leave Frank money […]

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Contesting the probate of a will

The Facts: My brother Joe died recently. At the time of his death, Joe was living in a house that has been in the family for generations. When my father died, Joe inherited the house. It was understood that he would eventually pass it on to me, his only surviving sibling, or to his children […]

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Can you disinherit your family?

The Facts: I have been estranged from my family for many years. I want to be sure that family members are not able to inherit from my estate  Question: Is that possible? The Answer: While you cannot disinherit your spouse, you can certainly take steps to prevent your siblings, children, cousins and other blood relatives […]

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Does an adopted child have the right to inherit?

The Facts: When I was three, my parents adopted a baby and named her Mary. My mother died seven years later and my father remarried. My father and his second wife had two children together. My father recently died without a Will. My half-siblings insist that since Mary is not my father’s biological child, she […]

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Why bother with Estate Planning?

The Facts: I am a widow with modest assets and a small IRA. I have two grown children and two young grandchildren. My friends have been urging me to see an attorney about developing an estate plan. The Question: Considering the size of my estate, is that really necessary? The Answer: The short answer to […]

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Can an Executor exercise discretion?

THE FACTS: I am one of four children. My siblings are Joe, Bill and Mary. My mother died last month. About 15 years ago, she went to her attorney and had a will prepared in which she named me as executor. Rather than divide her estate equally between her four children, my mother essentially disinherited […]

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Who has Legal Authority to Sign a Deed?

The Facts: Last year my aunt Sue died without a Will. She was widowed and owned a house that had been in our family for generations. The understanding was that when she died, the next generation, including me and my siblings, would inherit the house. Recently, my aunt’s daughter, Mary, signed a deed transferring the […]

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How to Avoid a Lapsed Policy

The Facts: My father purchased long term care (“LTC”) insurance decades ago. Since he had been widowed at a relatively early age, he felt it was important that he have coverage in the event he ever needed skilled nursing care or in home care. Recently it has become obvious that my father’s ability to handle […]

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How a Power of Attorney Works

The Facts: My elderly aunt, Mary, has no spouse or children and is getting to the point where her heath is failing and she is forgetting to pay her bills. Mary has a will and a healthcare proxy but, she has not appointed anyone to handle her financial affairs or assets. The Question: What do […]

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The Importance of Beneficiary Designations

The Facts: My brother Joe was dying from cancer and wanted to be sure that all of his assets passed to his wife, Mary, upon his death without the need for court intervention. He mentioned this a number of times so I assumed he had taken the necessary steps to insure that his wishes were […]

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The Benefits of Obtaining a Pet Trust

The Facts: About a year before he died, my father bought a puppy that he adored. His name was Gizmo. My father’s will provided that $15,000 was to be left to the person who agreed to take care of Gizmo after my father’s death. My father told me that he set aside $15,000 because he […]

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Should you put your original will in a safe deposit box?

The Facts: My father executed a Will many years ago in which he disinherited my older brother, Joe, and named me as executor of his estate. Joe had been estranged from the family for years. My father recently passed away. I have looked through all of my father’s papers and cannot find the Will. I […]

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The Right Way to Change a Will

The Facts: My mother recently passed away. She and my father were divorced and my mother was in a long term relationship with Tom. My mother prepared her will before she met Tom. After living with Tom for many years, my mother made changes to her will by writing in the margins of the pages […]

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Is Long-term Insurance the way to go?

The Facts: I am in my late fifties and am thinking about purchasing a long term care insurance policy. The Questions:  What are some of the factors I should consider before I purchase a policy? The Answer: Long term care insurance can be very confusing and may not be the best option for some people. […]

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Do I Really Need a Prenup?

The Facts: I am widowed, have two grown children and will soon be getting married to Joe. Joe also has children from his first marriage. We are both financially independent and have agreed that our separate assets will remain separate. When I die I want my children to receive the bulk of my assets. The […]

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Can I Sell My Father’s Vacation Home?

The Facts: In his Will my father names me as the executor of his estate. I filed a petition in the surrogate’s court to be appointed executor and have been issued letters testamentary. In addition to his home in New York, my father owned a vacation home in Florida which I need to sell. The […]

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Is a Life Estate the Way to Go?

The Facts: Many of my friends have told me that I should transfer my house to my son and retain a life estate. The Questions:  What are the pros and cons of doing that? The Answer: People often transfer their property to their children and create life estates because they believe it is the best […]

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What is a Living Will?

The Facts: I want to be sure that I do not receive end of life medical treatment that will do little other than prolong my life. The Questions: Is the document in which I can state my end of life wishes called a living trust or a living will? The Answer: The document in which […]

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The differences between joint tenancy and tenancy in common

The Facts:  After my husband died, I remarried a wonderful man named Joe. Joe had been married before and had 3 children with his first wife. Since Joe moved into my house and was helping to pay the carrying costs, I decided to add Joe as an owner on the deed to my house. Shortly […]

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How does adoption impact a person’s right to inherit?

The Facts:  After my mother’s death I was approached by a man I will refer to as Joe who claims that my mother was his biological mother as well. According to Joe, before she and my father married, my mother gave birth to Joe and immediately put him up for adoption. Although Joe admits that […]

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What is a Right of Election?

The Facts: Approximately five years ago, my father remarried and he and his second wife, Mary, purchased a house together. At the time my father told me that he alone paid for the house and that his plan was for the house to pass to me and my sister when he died. My father is […]

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Giving the Gift of Education

The Facts: I would like to help defray the cost of college for my grandson, Joe. My daughter and son-in-law are not in a position to pay full tuition, room and board I don’t want them or Joe to borrow for his education. The Question: What is the best way to help out without hurting […]

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Children’s expectations

THE FACTS: My husband and I are in our sixties and have three grown children. All were given the same opportunities growing up, but they did not all take advantage of those opportunities or make wise decisions about their futures. Our two daughters are financially secure and doing very well. Our son, however, has struggled […]

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Including a pet trust in your will

THE FACTS: My mother has a dog, Fido, who means the world to her. When it comes to Fido, money is no object. She is very concerned about what will happen to Fido when she dies. Not only does she worry about who will care for Fido but also about who will pay for Fido’s […]

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Credit shelter trusts

THE FACTS: I had my will prepared years ago. The estate tax exclusion amount at the time was considerably less than it is now, so my will contains a provision that directs my executor to create a credit shelter trust to avoid estate taxes. The trust provision mandates that the credit shelter trust be funded […]

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Preventing an estate disaster

THE FACTS: My father and sister perished in a plane crash under circumstances making it impossible to determine the order of death. My sister is survived by her spouse, Joe, and two children. My father’s will leaves his entire estate in equal shares to me and my sister, per stirpes. He was under the impression […]

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When to appoint a guardian

THE FACTS: My elderly aunt never married and is living alone. During my recent visits with her, it has become evident that she cannot continue to live independently. She is not bathing regularly, there does not appear to be much food in the house, some of the food is past its prime and the mail […]

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Who pays estate taxes?

THE FACTS: After my mother’s death, my father met a woman, Mary, who was his partner for many years. They lived in my father’s house, which has a value in excess of $3 million. In his will my father left the house to Mary. He also named Mary as the beneficiary of his life insurance […]

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Medicaid eligibility

THE FACTS: My house and most of my liquid assets are held in an irrevocable trust that I funded over five years ago. I am fortunate in that my income is sufficient to for me to live comfortably without using my savings. THE QUESTION: If I do need to move into a nursing home down […]

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The rights of a grandparent

THE FACTS: Since my grandchildren, twin boys, were born seven years ago, I have cared for them five days a week while my daughter and son-in-law worked. My daughter is in the process of a divorce and my son-in-law will likely have shared custody. He is threatening to prohibit me from seeing the boys. THE […]

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The legal significance of paternity

THE FACTS: My friend Joe, a New York State resident, was never married, but he and his on-again off-again girlfriend had a son together. The child was 14 months old when Joe died without a will. Before his death, Joe spent most of his free time with his son who lives with the girlfriend in […]

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Life estate pitfalls

THE FACTS: My mother’s will provides that her house will be sold and the proceeds divided equally between me and my brother. However, because she was concerned about needing long-term care, a few years ago she signed a deed transferring the house to my brother and retaining a life estate in her favor. THE QUESTION: […]

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Are your affairs in order?

THE FACTS: I am trying to help my elderly parents organize their affairs. They want things to be as simple as possible for me when it comes time to handle their estates. My parents have wills and other advanced directives in place. THE QUESTIONS: Other than their wills, are there other documents or any types […]

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Can a will’s executor take the money and run?

THE FACTS: My father died recently. He had a will in which he named my brother as executor. My brother and I have not spoken to each other in a number of years. I am concerned that he will close out my father’s accounts and sell his house and keep all the money even though […]

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End of the year gifting

THE FACTS: With the holidays fast approaching, I’ve been thinking about making gifts of cash to my grown children. I’ve heard that I can give each child $14,000 without any negative tax consequences. I am not wealthy but, at this point, I believe I can afford to give each of my children $14,000. I know […]

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Apportionment of estate taxes

The Facts: I recently inherited a beachfront house that has been in my family for generations. Although it was quite modest when first built, the house has appreciated tremendously over the years.  As a result of the inheritance, the value of my estate is now in excess of the estate tax exclusion amount. I do […]

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Choosing a guardian for your minor children

The Facts: I have three young children and want to be sure that they will be taken care of in the event my husband and I die before they are adults. I understand that I can appoint guardians for my children in my Will but, I am having a great deal of difficulty deciding who […]

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