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Estate Planning- The Right of Election, Elect What?

A surviving spouse can elect from the decedent’s estate – this includes property that passes under the decedent’s Last Will and Testament or through the intestate estate (if there is no Last Will and Testament) and other property. The other property is known as testamentary substitutes (see Estates Powers & Trusts Law section 5-1.1A(b)) and is listed below. The statutory language is listed below and my summation follows each paragraph in bold:

  • Gifts causa mortis. (A transfer made in fear of death).
  • (B) The aggregate transfers of property (including the transfer, release or relinquishment of any property interest which, but for such transfer, release or relinquishment, would come within the scope of clause (F)), other than gifts causa mortis and transfers coming within the scope of clauses (G) and (H), to or for the benefit of any person, made after August thirty-first, nineteen hundred ninety-two, and within one year of the death of the decedent, to the extent that the decedent did not receive adequate and full consideration in money or money’s worth for such transfers; provided, however, that any portion of any such transfer that was excludible from taxable gifts pursuant to subsections (b) and (e) of section two thousand five hundred three of the United States Internal Revenue Code, including any amounts excluded as a result of the election by the surviving spouse to treat any such transfer as having been made one half by him or her, shall not be treated as a testamentary substitute. (Transfers made within one year of death except an annual exclusion gift ($14,000.00 or tuition or medical gifts).
  • Money deposited, together with all dividends or interest credited thereon, in a savings account in the name of the decedent in trust for another person, with a banking organization, savings and loan association, foreign banking corporation or organization or bank or savings and loan association organized under the laws of the United States, and remaining on deposit at the date of the decedent’s death. (Totten trusts).
  • Money deposited after August thirty-first, nineteen hundred sixty-six, together with all dividends or interest credited thereon, in the name of the decedent and another person and payable on death, pursuant to the terms of the deposit or by operation of law, to the survivor, with a banking organization, savings and loan association, foreign banking corporation or organization or bank or savings and loan association organized under the laws of the United States, and remaining on deposit at the date of the decedent’s death. (Joint bank accounts or bank account with transfer on death designation).
  • Any disposition of property made by the decedent whereby property, at the date of his or her death, is held (i) by the decedent and another person as joint tenants with a right of survivorship or as tenants by the entirety where the disposition was made after August thirty-first, nineteen hundred sixty-six, or (ii) by the decedent and is payable on his or her death to a person other than the decedent or his or her estate. (Property (other than bank accounts) held jointly with another or payable on death to another).
  • Any disposition of property or contractual arrangement made by the decedent, in trust or otherwise, to the extent that the decedent (i) after August thirty-first, nineteen hundred ninety-two, retained for his or her life or for any period not ascertainable without reference to his or her death or for any period which does not in fact end before his or her death the possession or enjoyment of, or the right to income from, the property except to the extent that such disposition or contractual arrangement was for an adequate consideration in money or money’s worth; or (ii) at the date of his or her death retained either alone or in conjunction with any other person who does not have a substantial adverse interest, by the express provisions of the disposing instrument, a power to revoke such disposition or a power to consume, invade or dispose of the principal thereof. The provisions of this subparagraph shall not affect the right of any income beneficiary to the income undistributed or accrued at the date of death nor shall they impair or defeat any right which has vested on or before August thirty-first, nineteen hundred ninety-two. (Transfer of property with a retained interest or power of appointment).
  • Any money, securities or other property payable under a thrift, savings, retirement, pension, deferred compensation, death benefit, stock bonus or profit-sharing plan, account, arrangement, system or trust, except that with respect to a plan to which subsection (a) (11) of section four hundred one of the United States Internal Revenue Code applies or a defined contribution plan to which such subsection does not apply pursuant to paragraph (B) (iii) thereof, only to the extent of fifty percent of the capital value thereof. Notwithstanding the foregoing, a transaction described herein shall not constitute a testamentary substitute if the decedent designated the beneficiary or beneficiaries of the plan benefits on or before September first, nineteen hundred ninety-two and did not change such beneficiary designation thereafter. (Retirement plans with beneficiary designations).
  • Any interest in property to the extent the passing of the principal thereof to or for the benefit of any person was subject to a presently exercisable general power of appointment, as defined in section two thousand forty-one of the United States Internal Revenue Code, held by the decedent immediately before his or her death or which the decedent, within one year of his or her death, released (except to the extent such release results from a lapse of the power which is not treated as a release pursuant to section two thousand forty-one of the United States Internal Revenue Code) or exercised in favor of any person other than himself or herself or his or her estate. (Power of appointment).
  • A transfer of a security to a beneficiary pursuant to part 4 of article 13 of this chapter. (Securities with transfer or payable on death designations).

To be continued …
Aaron E. Futterman, CPA, Esq. is a partner in the law firm of Futterman & Lanza, LLP with offices in Smithtown, NY and clients throughout Suffolk, Nassau, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Richmond, New York, Westchester and Rockland Counties. He concentrates his practice to Elder Law, Medicaid Planning, Medicaid Applications, Estate Planning, Probate, Estate Taxes, and Estate Administration.

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