Whether you require a Last Will and Testament, a Trust, a combination of both, or merely advice as to how to title your assets and designate beneficiaries, it is important for you to take action to maintain control over your assets. We can help you formulate an estate plan which addresses your particular circumstances. If you do not create an estate plan then New York State’s laws of descent and distribution will determine what happens to your estate when you pass away.
For example, if you are married with three children and you pass away without a Will, then approximately one-half of your estate will be distributed to your spouse and the balance divided equally between your three children. That may be exactly what you want to happen. However, depending upon your unique circumstances, that could be a problem for the following reasons: you may want to leave your entire estate to your spouse; your children may be too young or immature to manage their financial affairs; your children may have substantial debt, substance abuse problems, or bad marriages; you may want to delay the distribution of shares to your children to provide incentives for them to pursue higher education; or you may have an interest in making charitable bequests. The variety of plans is almost endless, but you cannot accomplish any of your personal goals without an estate plan.
Additionally, you may want to avoid the public aspect of probating a Will. Lifetime trusts will allow you to avoid the public knowing the details of your financial affairs. You can also accomplish this by designating beneficiaries on your bank and investment accounts.
At the same time that you make decisions directing how your estate will be distributed you should be aware of how you can take steps to minimize federal and New York State estate taxes.
Finally, when you address your estate plan you should consider signing advanced directives, including: a Living Will, to inform your loved ones of your preferences for end-of-life medical care and treatment; a Health Care Proxy, to designate individual(s) to make health care decisions for you when you are unable; and a Durable Power of Attorney, to choose individual(s) to manage your financial affairs if you no longer have the capacity to do so. Having these documents in hand is the most important factor in avoiding the necessity of a guardianship proceeding and the associated costs should you become incapacitated.
Consultation with our firm will allow for a thoughtful evaluation of your unique needs so that you may address your personal concerns, protect your loved ones, preserve your assets, and most significantly, self-direct your estate plan.