While many seek the advice of a New York City probate lawyer to establish a Will, trusts, or other estate plans, far too many will die intestate, without a Will or other directions for the dispersal of their estate upon their death.
As we wrote recently on our New York Probate Lawyer Blog, trusts can be made to keep your estate out of the probate process, which can be time consuming and unnecessarily public. Yet there are some things that cannot be accomplished by avoiding probate in New York. Avoiding Taxes: Certainly comprehensive estate planning in New York may save thousands in taxes. But the mere fact that an estate avoids probate does not mean that it avoids tax obligations. State and federal estate taxes, capital gains taxes and real estate taxes are just a few of the tax obligations that estates frequently face.
Rights of immediate family: Avoiding the probate process, in general, does not change the fact that your spouse has a right to inherit. A spouse who does not receive a “statutory share” may go to court to claim property you have put in trust. In most cases, you are not obligated to leave your children an inheritance.
Creditors’ Rights: Bypassing probate may not relieve you of your obligation to creditors or their right to collect upon your death. If you do not leave enough assets outside of trust to pay your debts and taxes, those assets may be claimed by creditors after your death.
Creditors have strict time limits for making a probate claim. This is one area where going through probate court has its advantages. A creditor that does not make a claim within the appropriate time limit, may be barred from attempting to collect.
Understanding your rights to probate — as well as the ways to avoid the probate process — can allow you to make informed decisions as part of your estate planning in 2011 and beyond.
New York City Probate Attorney Jules Martin Haas handles all types of probate cases, including Wills, estate planning, estate settlement, advanced directives and guardianship matters. Please call me at (212) 355-2575 for a free consultation to discuss your rights.