When it comes to estate planning, no two individuals or families are alike. You need an attorney who will listen to your questions, hear your concerns, and provide a personal approach and estate plan tailored to your personal needs.
When you don’t have an estate plan, the court will decide what happens to your assets based upon New York statutory provisions. Those statutory provisions are often different from how you would what your assets distributed. For example, if you die without a will leaving behind a spouse and children, your spouse does not automatically receive your entire estate – – it will be shared with your children. Additionally, you may have wanted the children’s share of your estate to be held in trust until they reach age 21, or 25, or 30. That will not happen without a will.
Proper estate planning will save you and your loved ones from some of the stress and difficulty faced when you do not have a will and other estate planning documents that are tailored to your needs. You need an estate plan that is right for you and your family.
A will details how your estate should be distributed, who should be your executor to carry out the terms of your will, and what powers your executor will have. A will can also establish a trust for children, grandchildren, or the disabled, and can specify who you would appoint to be the guardian of your minor children.
A trust appoints a trustee to manage whatever property or assets you put into the trust. There are many different kinds of trusts which are used for different purposes. A trust can be a living trust, created while you are alive, or a testamentary trust, created in your will. A living trust can be revocable, meaning you can change or revoke it at any time, or irrevocable, meaning you cannot change or revoke it once you have created the trust and transferred property and assets into it.
Trusts can be used to avoid probate, manage monies for children or grandchildren, and to help you qualify for Medicaid, or to supplement the support of a disabled person.
A Power of Attorney appoints an agent to act on your behalf in legal and financial matters. It is an essential estate planning tool to make sure that if you become disabled, your agent can access your bank account, pay your bills, and take care of other important matters.
A Health Care Proxy is also an essential estate planning tool, which appoints an agent to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to communicate those decisions yourself. If you are ill or have an accident, and are unconscious, you need to have an agent appointed to talk to the doctors, review your medical records, and make medical decisions for you.
A Living Will is your declaration stating that if you have a terminal illness or injury, and you are unable to communicate your own medical decisions, you do not want your doctors or hospital to take extraordinary measures which will simply prolong your life. For example, you would not want to be put on a respirator to keep you alive if have no brain function.
Probate refers to a court proceeding in which your appointed Executor submits your will to the court along with various other documents, and asks the court to establish the validity of the will. Until your will is admitted to probate, the provisions in your will not be carried out. Probate is a lengthily process; even where there is no will contest, in some counties it can take the court six months or more just to validate your will.
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