By some measure, more than half of all adults will die without a will. In some cases, the consequences for those left behind can be quite severe. Proper planning can ensure your estate goes to your loved ones, that you are protected from excess taxation, and that you can enjoy life with the peace of mind that comes with knowing your affairs are in order.
New York City Probate Attorney Jules Martin Haas and the staff at his law office wish each of you a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend with friends and family. These gatherings may be the perfect opportunity to open a general dialogue with relatives about such planning.
These conversations do not have to be morbid. Nor do they need to be prying or invasive. By starting a conversation that includes younger relatives, our older loved ones will feel more comfortable and may be more apt to share. It will become apparent rather quickly whether they have done the proper planning, and whether the issue has been on their mind in a way that such a conversation provides the necessary outlet and relief.
At the very least, it can help put a loved one’s wishes on the record in front of the whole family. And it may be the catalyst necessary to prompt more thorough and proper estate planning. Here are some basic issues and talking points.
Intestate Estate: This is what happens to an estate without a will. It is distributed by probate court in accordance with state law, which means your estate will pass to your spouse and/or other close relatives in outward concentric circles (children, parents, siblings, etc.) The drawbacks are many and include an inability to choose heirs or to divide your estate in a manner of your choosing. Those omitted from an estate typically include step-children, former spouses, friends or domestic partners.
Trusts and Living Trusts: Trusts are not just for the rich and famous. Establishing a trust may allow your estate to bypass the probate court process. If your Will is probated it will become a public record for all to see. Establishing a trust may also have certain tax advantages.
Powers of Attorney: Powers of Attorney can serve a purpose but can also be ripe for abuse and are best narrowly tailored for a specific circumstance.
Living Will: Advanced Directives, Health Care Proxies and other similar documents allow you to make your wishes known and designate a person to carry them out in the event that you become incapacitated.
Guardianship: May be established to assist a person with managing their personal and/or financial affairs.
Special Needs Trust: Can be established to care for a loved one with special needs after your passing. Establishing such a trust can be critical to ensuring that an inheritance does not disqualify them from receiving government health care or other assistance to which they are entitled.
New York City Probate Lawyer 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.