Everyone talks about preparing a Last Will or engaging in estate planning. Particularly now, with the advent of the pandemic, there is the reality of facing the need for post-death and advance directive documents. It is easy for an individual to view planning as the simple function of disposing of assets to named individuals. However, the actual process and considerations needed encompass much more thought and preparation. Estate lawyers in New York City are familiar with this more rigorous examination.
Some of the more fundamental, yet highly important, considerations are listed below:
- Designating Beneficiaries: While identifying beneficiaries in a Will or Trust is important, it is equally necessary to consider alternate or contingent designations in the event the primary persons are pre-deceased or even renounce their bequest. As a Will lawyer, I am constantly surprised when clients have not even considered alternate beneficiaries. Another aspect of selecting beneficiaries concerns assets that pass outside of the administration estate such as pay on death accounts or life insurance or retirement funds where a beneficiary is named as the pay on death recipient. The estate planning process necessitates that all of these types of assets must be considered so that there is no conflict with Will provisions or the goal of the plan as to the values each person is to receive.
- Minors: Another often overlooked area is whether an asset may be distributed to a minor. Since individuals under the age of 18 cannot legally own property in their own right, provisions need to be made for assets to be placed into a trust or for the appointment of a guardian. The Surrogate’s Court can appoint a guardian for personal needs or property management of a minor. A provision for the designation of a guardian should be made in a Will. However, the appointment is subject to the discretion of the Court.
- Uncertainties: Another vital concern is to consider possible issues that can affect dispositions, either before or after estate planning is completed. For example, if a major asset of an estate is a parcel of real estate or perhaps an interest in a business, what happens if the asset is sold or its value is diminished. A testator or creator of a trust needs to understand the long-term outside conditions which may have an effect on dispositions. It is not good planning to dispose of assets in a Will today where assets can be anticipated to be valueless or even sold or disposed of shortly after planning documents are finalized.
As a trust and estates lawyer in New York, I work with clients to develop plans that are sensible and reflect their wishes and desires. Once again, knowing and understanding the nature of a person’s estate and the situations and needs of beneficiaries is essential. Also, a well-organized and clearly stated estate plan and documents such as a Last Will or Living Trust can substantially diminish Surrogate’s Court litigation in the form of Will Contests or other estate disputes. As an estate litigation attorney I have seen the strife such proceedings can cause to a family.
Call Me Now for a free confidential review if you have a question or concern regarding an estate or Surrogate’s Court matter. We provide reasonable and flexible fee arrangements and personal representation.
New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 40 years resolve issues relating to guardianship and probate and estate settlement throughout New York City including the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Nassau and Suffolk County. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial free consultation.