Attorneys are often asked by prospective clients, “Do I really need a Will”? Well, there certainly are methods for transferring assets “outside of a Will”, such as transfer on death designations for bank accounts. However, that type of planning should be supplemented by a Last Will and Testament to ensure that your wishes for the disposition of all your assets are followed.
The following are just some of the reasons why the execution of a Last Will and Testament should be considered.
- Maintain control over the distribution of your estate; otherwise New York State law will determine who will receive your property. For example, in the absence of a Last Will and Testament, if you are married with children, your spouse will receive approximately one half of your estate, with the balance distributed to your children, free of trust without any management plan in place, or restrictions on the use of any property received.
- Determine who will be in charge of the management of your estate.
- Designate a guardian for your minor or disabled children.
- Arrange for the care of a disabled spouse or child; and provide for an elderly parent.
- Create a management plan, such as a trust, for disabled family members to maintain eligibility for financial needs based government benefits.
- Devise plans for the management of property for family members who are unable by reason of age, inexperience or immaturity to make decisions in their best interests, or who may be subject to the claims of creditors.
- Provide for step-children in the case of blended families.
- Make gifts to friends or charitable organizations.
- Minimize estate taxes in your estate and in the estate of your spouse.
The above list is merely a sample of the reasons we should all consider executing a Last Will and Testament as an integral part of estate planning.