FAQs About Estate Planning
1. What is a last will and testament?
A last will and testament is a document that provides for the designation of who will inherit your assets upon your death. It also designates the person who will be authorized to administer your estate and may be used to name a guardian for your minor children.
2. Why do you need a will?
a. If a New York state resident has no will, the person dies intestate. This means that the court will appoint an individual to administer the estate and the laws of the state of New York will determine to whom the assets are distributed. The process may be more expensive and time-consuming than it would be if there was a will.
b. If you have children under the age of 18, you may appoint a guardian who will be responsible to raise your children in the event you and your spouse were to die. Otherwise, the court will designate a guardian for your children.
c. If you have children of any age, without a will your assets will pass to your spouse and your children. In many cases, it is preferable to have the assets pass solely to your spouse.
d. In the event you have children under the age of 18, any assets left to them will, regardless of the amount, become theirs at age 18. A will allows you to set up a trust so that the assets may be held back beyond age 18.
e. If you do not have a will, the court will require that a bond be posted by the personal representative of the Estate requiring a minimum bond fee of approximately $500.
f. In a will, you may designate the personal representative to handle your estate. Without a will, the court will determine who will handle the administration of your estate.
3. What happens if I own assets jointly with other individuals?
These assets will pass directly to the other individual by operation of law. Any assets that are held “in trust for” or name a beneficiary, such as life insurance policies or retirement plans, will also pass directly to the beneficiaries without going through probate.
4. What is a living will?
A living will allows you to inform your loved ones of your wishes in the event of a medical emergency or at the end of life.
5. What is a health care proxy?
A health care proxy allows your loved ones to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to do so.
6. What is a Durable Power of Attorney?
A Durable Power of Attorney allows another individual to handle all of your affairs other than medical related decisions and may be used even in the event you become incompetent.
MITCHELL P. SANDLER