Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category


August 9, 2013

A “simple” Will can be defined as one by which the person making the Will (the testator) leaves all assets first to his spouse. If the spouse predeceases the testator, then all assets go to the children in equal shares. For some people this may be fine.
For other people, a simple Will may not be best because it does not consider these and other issues:
1. Children may get money or assets outright at eighteen, the age of majority, and might not use the money for college or some other use the testator supports.
2. It’s a second marriage, the children are not of this marriage and the testator never adopted them, even though he considers them to be his children.
3. One child receives governmental benefits and anything left to that child will make them ineligible for those benefits.
4. Uncertainty as to what assets transfer under the Will instead of by other means.
5. The testator made unequal financial gifts during his lifetime (maybe paid for college) and wants to equalize monies given to children in the Will.
6. The testator wants to leave something to some grandchildren and to a couple of charities.
The lawyers at Bansbach Zoghlin P.C. can draft a simple Will or a Will tailored to your life. If you would like to talk with or send an e-mail to one of us, please let us know.
Tel: (585) 227-2610
John M. Bansbach, Esq.
Mindy L. Zoghlin, Esq.
Gerald F. Wahl, Esq.
The information contained in this article is not legal advice. Bansbach Zoghlin provides legal advice to clients who retain it to provide services.



July 19, 2013

It’s possible to keep assets that transfer because of death out of probate court.   If you do this, a probate court judge (New York State calls them a “Surrogate’s Court Judge”) will not be involved in your estate.  This is true whether you die with or without a Will. There can be many advantages to avoiding Surrogate’s Court:  less expense for court filing fees and attorney fees; less exposure of your assets to claims of creditors; faster distribution of assets; and greater privacy.

There are simple ways to keep your post-death financial transactions out of a probate court.   These include: (a) owning assets as a joint tenant so that the survivor becomes the owner by operation of law (often done with real estate and bank accounts); (b) naming beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries (for example, life insurance and IRAs); and (c) using TOD (Transfer on Death) accounts.

Less simple ways to keep assets out of probate court include transferring them  during your life to a revocable or an irrevocable trust and transferring your home to children with the reservation of your right to live in your home as long as you choose (a so-called “life estate”).  In addition to keeping assets out of probate court, these types of transfers can increase the certainty that what you want will to happen does happen and avoid the need to pay for nursing home care privately in order to spend down assets to achieve Medicaid eligibility.

 If you’re interested in avoiding estate probate, the lawyers at Bansbach Zoghlin P.C. can help you.

Pet Trust Musing

September 14, 2012

While driving to work yesterday, I began to think about what would happen if I died today?  I have relatively few real assets: a car, a few bank accounts and some jewelry.  All of that would go to my husband, Ryan.  I have no children, but I do have a 1 year old Lab-mix named Ollie. Ollie sure acts like a big baby sometimes despite the fact that he can put his paws on my shoulders and weighs in at about 65 lbs.  While I may attribute human characteristics to Ollie and treat him as an important member of my family, in the eyes of the law he is just another piece of property.

We often plan for the fate of our homes, cars, jewelry and heirlooms, but what about our pets?  Sadly, our pets are often overlooked in traditional estate planning.  According to the American Pet Products Association (“APPA”), 62% of U.S. households own at least one pet[1]. Our pets range from cats and dogs to horses and pythons.  Over 500,000 pets end up in shelters each year due to the pet owner’s death or incapacity.[2]  Of those, up to half may be subject to euthanization.[3]

While it may be difficult to put Ollie in the same category as a couch or grandma’s china, it is important to plan for our pets so that they can be cared for even after we are gone.  Unlike grandma’s china, Ollie would be costly to maintain, and that may be too much to ask of surviving loved ones.

Well, there’s costly, and then there’s extravagant.  “Queen of Mean” Leona Helmsley left $12 Million in Trust for the care of her beloved Maltese, Trouble, when she died in 2007[4].  While the Court eventually reduced the trust to $2 Million, Trouble’s annual expenses until his death in 2011 are estimated to have been approximately $190,000 per year[5].  However neither Ollie nor your everyday household pet will require a $12 Million trust for care during its life.  According to the APPA, the average dog will incur approximately $1,500 in expenses each year, while the typical cat may only incur approximately $1,200[6].  Not every dog requires a personal security team like Trouble did[7].  The annual expense for your pet may vary depending on his or her lifestyle, favorite foods, grooming expectations, toys and medical condition.

When choosing someone to care for your pet it’s important to choose someone who is willing and able .  Leona Helmsley appointed her son as Trouble’s caretaker, but he refused.  Ultimately, the manager of one of Helmsley’s hotels agreed to take care of Trouble.

While Trouble was lucky that someone was willing to take her in, other pets aren’t as fortunate.  I would choose at least one alternate caretaker and, as a last resort, a no-kill animal shelter or rescue organization that can find a loving home for Ollie in the event that the appointed caretakers are unable to care for him.

In all likelihood, the trust you create for your pet will outlive your pet.  In that case, it is important that you appoint a beneficiary to receive the remainder of the trust upon your pet’s death.  The beneficiary can be an individual or a charity.  Humane Societies and rescue organizations are popular choices.  Ryan and I adopted Ollie from a rescue organization called Buffalo Paws and Claws; it is likely that when we set up a trust for Ollie’s care we will leave the remainder to that organization so that they can continue to place rescued animals in forever homes.

The moral of the story is this: the law may treat our pets like personal property, but many us of consider them a part of our families.  When we die we should consider who will care for them, and what funds may be needed to do so.

[1] American Pet Products Association, Industry Statistics & Trends, Available at:

[2] Shidoon Aflatooni, The Statutory Pet Trust, 18 Animal L. 1 2011 at 3

[3] Shidoon Aflatooni, The Statutory Pet Trust, 18 Animal L. 1 2011at 3

[4] Sewell Chan, Leona Helmsley’s Unusual Last Will, Aug 27, 2007, available at:

[5] Dan Slater, Trouble for Trouble!  Judge Knocks $10 Mil form Helmsley Dog’s Take, June 16, 2008, available at:

[6] American Pet Products Association, Industry Statistics & Trends, Available at:

[7] Government Incent

January 10, 2012 Government Incentives Lead to Private Investment in Green Buildings:           In early 2011, President O…

Government Incentives Lead to Private Investment in Green Buildings

January 10, 2012

          In early 2011, President Obama announced a plan to make commercial buildings twenty percent more energy efficient within ten years, known as the Better Buildings Initiative (“BBI”).[1]  The BBI proposed a series of initiatives designed to spur energy efficiency, including:

  • changing a tax deduction for commercial building upgrades to a tax credit;
  • increasing loan size limits for energy efficiency retrofit loans;
  • providing competitive grants to states and local municipalities to streamline standards and encourage upgrades; and
  •  challenging CEOs and university presidents to make their organizations more energy efficient.[2]

          Significant progress has been made since the announcement of BBI.  In June of 2011, the Obama Administration debuted the Better Buildings Challenge (“BBC”) to provide $500 million in private sector financing in energy efficiency projects, upgrading some 300 million square feet of space.[3]  This was later increased to a $4 billion investment from the public and private sectors- $2 billion dedicated to the energy upgrades of federal buildings and $2 billion committed by CEOs, mayors, universities and labor organizations for energy efficiency projects in 1.5 billion square feet of office, industrial, municipal, hospital, university and school building space.[4] 

          In addition to reducing businesses’ energy costs by nearly $40 billion over the next decade, the increased investment through the BBC is estimated to create tens of thousands of jobs in the construction industry.[5]  The energy savings and job creation has won the praise of both business and labor groups, and a number of CEOs, municipalities, universities and labor organizations have committed to the BBC. 

          With the energy savings so significant and the organizations participating in the BBC so diverse, the next ten years should be prove to be a renaissance in green building development and, hopefully, for many years beyond. 

[2] Id.

[4] Id.