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Estates & Probate

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Estates & Probate

What is my estate?

Your estate is all of the assets you currently own, as well as the assets you may own in the future. They include assets held solely in your name, as well as assets owned jointly with others, such as:

  • Bank accounts
  • Real estate
  • Stocks, bonds, and investment accounts
  • Life insurance policies
  • Retirement accounts
  • Annuities
  • Any money or payments which are owed to you
  • Personal property such as furniture, jewelry, automobiles, artwork and collectables.

What happens if I do not have a Will, Trust or other Estate Plan?

If you die without a will, trust, or other appropriate plan, state law will dictate who will receive all or part of your assets, who will act as your executor, and who may be appointed as guardian of your minor children. Your wishes will not be taken into account.

What is Probate?

When you die, your will is submitted to the court as part of a process called probate. Once the will is accepted by the court, and the executor named in your will is approved, your assets can then be transferred and administered as stated in your will.

Do I have to pay Estate Taxes?

Estate taxes depend upon on the value of your estate, and the year in which you die. Presently, New York taxes estates which exceed $1 million dollars in value, and federal estate taxes apply only after an estate is valued at $5.25 million.

What is the effect of a marriage, or divorce, on my Estate Plan?

You should always consult with an attorney to review your will and estate plan when your marital status changes. Most states give surviving spouses an automatic share of their deceased spouse’s estate if the deceased spouse failed to leave them the minimum required percentage in their will. However, states do not necessarily give surviving spouses all of their deceased spouse’s estate, so careful estate planning after a marriage is very important. If you have recently divorced, it is also important to review, and update your will and estate plan, assuming that you do not want your ex-spouse to inherit from your estate.

Do you need professional legal assistance?