Planning an estate in New York requires that numerous factors be considered. The testator or creator of a Last Will or Trust should begin by making a complete inventory and review of his assets.
The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has many posts which discuss various rules regarding the disposition of assets. In its most simplest form, assets that are owned by a decedent in his name alone generally are controlled by the provisions in a Will. However, assets that are owned in joint names with rights of survivorship or which have designated beneficiaries such as life insurance or retirement funds, pass automatically and outside of a Will to the designated owner. Therefore, in order to effectively engage in estate planning, a person must know and understand his assets and the manner in which they are owned.
Secondly, it is imperative to have a plan for disposing assets to the beneficiaries that a person desires to benefit. Estate lawyers typically request that when preparing a Will a person provide detailed information regarding the prospective beneficiaries. The naming of Will beneficiaries is important especially when there are a number of individuals that are to receive dispositions and their intended benefits may vary. Also, it is essential that the Will provide specific details regarding the bequests that are to be made.
For example, a recent post at WealthManagement.com on October 11, 2016 entitled “The Danger of Unrestricted Bequests and Gifts” discusses a bequest of $4 million dollars that was made to the University of New Hampshire by a former university library cataloguer. The issue that arose was that the deceased library cataloguer did not specifically designate how the University was to spend the bequest. As it turned out, the University used $1 million dollars of the funds to install a video scoreboard at the University’s football stadium. Therefore, there was a question as to whether the library cataloguer would have intended his estate funds to be put to such a use. The article suggests that placing the funds into a trust where a trustee can oversee their use might provide more control over the disposition.
Another important consideration when planning an estate involves the financial impact that may arise due to person’s death. If the decedent had many claims and debts there may not be sufficient funds to satisfy all of the intended bequests. Additionally, consideration should be given to the effect of any estate taxes. As recently reported by Ashlea Ebeling at Forbes.com on October 25, 2016 in an article entitled “IRS Announces 2017 Estate and Gift Tax Limits: The $11 Million Tax Break”, the federal estate and gift tax exemption for 2017 will be $5.29 million per person. Thus, a husband and wife would have a combined Federal exemption of almost $11 million dollars.
I have worked with many clients to assist with their estate plans. Creating an effective and complete plan insures that a decedent’s intentions are fully accomplished. Also, a proper estate plan may avoid lengthy estate litigation in the Surrogate’s Court after a person has died. Call me now if you have any questions regarding estate settlement or planning.
New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to probate and estate settlement throughout New York City including Queens and Manhattan. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.