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Julie Garber

Ed Koch's Will Filed for Probate

By March 20, 2013

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The last will and testament of three-term New York Mayor Edward Irving Koch, who died on February 1, 2013 of congestive heart failure, was filed for probate last week in New York City's Surrogate Court. Mr. Koch was never married and did not have any children, so it should not be surprising that his estate, estimated in the probate documents to be worth between $10.5 million and $11 million, will be divvied up among an historical society, an education fund, his devoted secretary, and various family members. Here is a summary of the contents of the will, which was signed by Mr. Koch back in 2007:

  1. The will states that Mr. Koch had already made arrangements with Trinity Church Cemetery located in New York City for his burial in the Jewish tradition.

  2. Mr. Koch's executor (see who he named as executor below) is to assemble all of the pictures and other memorabilia and papers related to his political life which are located in his office and residence and complete the agreement of gift he entered into in September 2000 with the New York Historical Society. All remaining items of this nature are to go to his sister, Pat Thaler, to be disposed of in her discretion.

  3. All remaining tangible personal property is to go to his sister, Pat Thaler.

  4. Mr. Koch left the sum of $100,000 to the LaGuardia and Wagner Educational Fund for the purpose of creating a program bearing his name to promote public and government service.

  5. The sum of $500,000 is to go jointly to his sister, Pat Thaler, and her husband, Atvin Thaler.

  6. The sum of $100,000 is to go to his devoted secretary, Mary Garrigan.

  7. The sum of $50,000 is to go to Mr. Koch's late brother's wife, Gail Koch.

  8. The sum of $50,000 is to go to Mr. Koch's nephew, Andrew Koch.

  9. The sum of $50,000 is to go to Mr. Koch's niece, Joey Koch.

  10. The rest and residue of Mr. Koch's estate is to go equally to the children of his sister, Pat Thaler.

  11. Pat Thaler is named to serve as the executor of the estate.

If the estate is valued at $10.5 million, then after paying federal and New York estate taxes of approximately $2.7 million and the specific bequests, it is estimated that the children of Pat Thaler will split $7 million. As estate planning attorney and author Deborah L. Jacobs points out, it's surprising that Mr. Koch did not take any steps to reduce or minimize his New York and federal estate bills, particularly since he lived frugally (in a modest apartment, and he did not own a car), and he could have at the very least set up generation-skipping trusts for Pat's children. However, according to Ms. Jacobs, "Constantine N. Katsoris, a professor at Fordham Law School who wrote Koch's will and supervised the signing in 2007, would not comment on his client's strategy or the rationale behind it. 'Lawyers like to set up trusts, but it's a personal choice,' he says."

March 26, 2013 at 1:03 am
(1) dcdoc says:

Estate planning is best done years in advance, right. And it seems Koch took some planning steps at least 5 years before he died. So might you make some assumptions about his circumstances at that time (e.g., liquidity; personal requirements, including possibility of long term care needs; etc.), what specific steps might you have advised him to take so as to achieve those ends, while seeing less of his estate go to pay taxes?

If he had put his assets in a revocable living trust, then might he not have maintained more privacy and his estate incurred less administrative expenses by avoiding probate?

March 27, 2013 at 11:13 am
(2) Cyborg1939 says:

Estate planning in the USA is a joke. Too often a sad and painful joke. Why? Because the rules of THE GAME are changed willy-nilly. Just look at the federal estate tax alone and one can see how it’s a moving target one is trying to hit. It is a BIG sad joke.

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