Estate planning is essential to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of and that your property and assets are disposed of according to your directions.
Estate Planning is a very simple concept. Unfortunately, it is also the subject of many misrepresentations and misinterpretations. This confusion causes many to create an improper estate plan. To avoid this result, it is important to take the time to understand what estate planning is.
You have the following options to consider when planning your estate:
- Intestate Succession: The State of New York determines how your assets are distributed after your death. This should be avoided.
- Last Will and Testament: You decide how your assets are distributed after your death by executing a Will. Your Will is supervised by a court after your death.
- Revocable or Living Trust: You decide where your assets are distributed using a trust that you can easily change at any time without the consent of any other person. If properly implemented, court supervision after death is not required.
- Irrevocable Trust: You decide to protect your assets from long term care (nursing home) expenses and decide how your assets are distributed after your death. These trusts can be drafted to allow for changes with the consent of another person.
There are times when both a Will and a trust (revocable or irrevocable) are recommended.
In addition to the selection of either a Will or living trust, a comprehensive estate plan should include a Health Care Proxy and Living Will and a durable general Power of Attorney. The Health Care Proxy and Living Will address the termination of life support in the event of a terminal illness or injury, and who will make health care decisions for you, if you cannot. By executing a Living Will you can inform your family and the attending physician of your desire not to receive life support or to have heroic measures taken to prolong your life. Or it can be used to clearly state your desire as to the medical care to be provided. That is, you may want measures taken to prolong your life. A Living Will is basically a health care declaration.
The Health Care Proxy appoints an agent to speak for you. It is designed to entrust a loved one or close friend with the legal authority necessary to make medical decisions (including termination of life support) in case you are unable to personally communicate with the doctors.
By executing a Power of Attorney, you may grant to someone the legal authority to handle your financial transactions (pay your bills, manage your finances, and sometimes, plan for Medicaid eligibility). A Power of Attorney is only valid during your lifetime. If you die, the Power of Attorney automatically terminates. The Power of Attorney is intended to serve as a safety net to the estate plan to protect against lifetime financial emergencies. A Power of Attorney can postpone or possibly avoid a guardianship if you become mentally incapacitated.
We will work to tailor a Comprehensive estate plan that suits your needs. We offer an initial one hour consultation at no charge to begin the estate planning process. We work with you to determine your needs, whether it be a simple will or a more complex trust.