New York Will and Other Estate Planning Papers Should be Properly Stored

A New York Estate Plan can involve the preparation and execution of a number of different papers. To begin with, it is important that an individual consider advance planning documents which include a Durable Power of Attorney, a Living Will and a Health Care Proxy. Advance planning allows a person to select the agents that can make property and personal needs decisions and the documents can provide directions and an expression of intent as to the manner in which a persons affairs are to be handled. Additionally, such papers can help avoid the necessity of obtaining the appointment of an Article 81 Guardian.

Another consideration is the creation of a Living Trust which can provide both lifetime and post-death provisions for property disposition. Finally, a Last Will provides for the manner in which a decedent’s administration estate is to be settled and distributed. A Last Will can contain many different types of bequests and can provide for tax planning and the creation of testamentary trusts including the creation of a Supplemental Needs Trust.

Once the above-described documents are finalized and signed, it is important to keep and store them in a safe location. Moreover, a trusted family member or other individual should have information as to where these papers can be found, if needed. Very often a person puts these papers in a desk drawer or other place where they may either not be easily located or may be unknowingly disposed of. While placing documents in a bank safe-deposit box may seem like a good idea, in many cases family members may not be able to access the box without a Court Order. Using a home safe box or a secure business filing cabinet is much more convenient and accessible. Again, involving trusted family members with information as to the whereabouts of these papers is a good idea.

When the original of estate planning documents cannot be located problems arise. In a recent case decided by Bronx Surrogate Nelida Malave-Gonzalez on July 8, 2014 entitled Estate of Gramisci, the decedent’s original Last Will could not be located. The estate beneficiaries were able to find a conformed copy of the Will and sought to probate it in accordance with Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act 1407 (“Proof of lost or destroyed will”). In this case there was no opposition to the probate and the Court found that the original Will had remained in the custody of the estate attorneys and not the decedent so that it was not deemed to be presumptively revoked by the decedent. The Court ultimately admitted the Will to probate. Thus, as can be seen by the circumstances in the Gramisci case, it is not only important to prepare an estate plan, but it is equally important to make sure the papers and documents comprising the plan are safe and secure.

An experienced New York trusts and estates lawyer can assist with guidance for proper Will preparation and execution. New York Probate Attorney Jules Martin Haas, Esq. has been representing clients in New York in Trusts and Estates matters and Surrogate’s Court proceedings throughout the past 30 years in Suffolk and Nassau and other counties. If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about a New York estate matter, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 or email:, for an initial consultation.

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