What Should Be Included in an Estate Plan in New York?
Estate planning is the process of arranging, in advance, the management and disbursement of a person’s estate during that person’s life (if he or she becomes incapacitated) and after death. You may not think you have an “estate,” but your estate is made up of everything you own—your vehicle, home (and everything in it), other property, financial accounts, investments, life insurance, and personal keepsakes. Estate planning involves documenting in writing what happens to your possessions, such as who gets what and when, and it can also ensure that you will have the financial resources you need and that your wishes regarding your own care will be followed. When creating an estate plan, an experienced attorney can help you understand your options and work with you to draft the correct documentation.
Get It in Writing
It is essential to have specific instructions in writing for what happens to your possessions or money after you die if you live in New York; otherwise, this can cause conflict between your family members. Some of the issues you should consider when making an estate plan include:
- Whether you want to provide for loved ones who are destitute or donate assets to charity.
- How you can provide assistance for family members with special needs.
- Directions for your care in case you become disabled before your death.
- Who you would like to serve as a guardian for your minor children.
- Whether you have life insurance coverage for your family.
- If you are a business owner, who will take control of the ownership and management of your business.
- How you can minimize taxes, court costs, and other legal fees.
Your estate plan should always be updated in the event your financial or family situation (or the laws that apply to you) change over your lifetime.
An estate plan may include a variety of legal documents, including:
- Will: Your last will and testament states to whom you will leave your assets and who you would like to be the guardian of your minor children, and it will also name an executor who will manage the distribution of your estate.
- Trusts: This is a financial arrangement in which you will designate a trustee to hold assets and distribute them to your beneficiaries according to your instructions.
- Durable Power of Attorney: This names someone who is authorized to take care of your finances if you become incapacitated.
- Living Will: This spells out your wishes regarding the end-of-life medical care you do or do not want to receive.
- Health Care Proxy: This names someone who is authorized to make decisions about your healthcare if you become incapacitated.
When a person dies, their estate will be distributed to their heirs through the probate process according to the terms of their will. A will only needs to go through probate if the person died with assets of $30,000 or more in value. Assets which are held in a trust do not need to go through probate.
When a person in New York dies without leaving a will, it is referred to as dying “intestate.” In such cases, that person’s property is distributed according to the law. Typically, the person’s spouse and/or children inherit everything if there is no one else designated.
Contact a New York Estate Planning Attorney
You should speak to a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer to make sure your family is cared for the way you want after your death. If you are a New Yorker and want to plan ahead, you should see a Brooklyn estate planning lawyer to help you with documenting your wishes while you are still alive and healthy. Call 718-514-9516 for a free initial consultation to find out how we can advise you on these important decisions. It is never too early to think about estate planning.