1.Why do I need a will?

A will is important for a number of reasons. For one thing, it makes sure that what you own when you die passes to the people you want to benefit from your estate. Additionally, it permits you to select the people who will be in control of your estate, who will be the guardian of any minor children you have and when your children, grandchildren or other younger beneficiaries will have access to money from your estate.

2.What happens if I die without a will?

New York State law provides that the estate of a person who dies without a will (“intestate”) will pass to certain relatives. In the case of a person who is married but has no children at the time of his or her death, the entire estate will pass to the surviving spouse. In the case of a person who is married with children, the estate is divided among the spouse and the children even if the children are minors at the time of death. 

3.What does a Health Care Proxy do?

A Health Care Proxy appoints another person to make health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to communicate your own desires or in the event you are deemed incompetent to make decisions for yourself.

The document can and should be tailored to express your individual desires with respect to all aspects of life sustaining treatment and end of life decisions.

4.Why is a Power of Attorney important?

In the event you are disabled, injured in an accident or otherwise unable to make decisions on your own behalf, A Power of Attorney permits another person to make these financial decisions, gain access to your assets, pay your bills and generally keep your life rolling along.

If you become disabled, injured, are unconscious or otherwise unavailable and you don’t have a Power of Attorney, the only option may be to commence a guardianship proceeding against you, which is an expensive and time consuming proposition that could be avoided.

5.What is the difference between a Will and a Living Trust?

A Will only becomes effective at the time of your death, while a Living Trust is established and funded during your lifetime. Typically, when someone refers to a Living Trust, they mean a revocable trust, meaning it can be changed or terminated during the lifetime of the person who created it.

6.Who should have a Living Trust?

I strongly recommend revocable trusts for certain types of clients. For clients that have real property located in another state, a living trust into which the out of state property is transferred can avoid having to probate the will in New York AND in the state in which the property is located.

Another class of clients that can significantly benefit from a revocable trust is those that have no close relatives. For example, if a decedent has no spouse, no children, no living parents, no living grandparents, and no siblings, we end up having to contact aunts, uncles and cousins in order to get a will admitted to probate. This can be extremely difficult, especially if we don’t know where these individuals are or if they are in another country. For these clients, a revocable trust to which every asset that the client owns is transferred avoids probate completely and eliminates the need to contact people that may not have had contact with the decedent for years.