Estate Planning: The Basics of Estates, Trusts and Making a Will

Estate planning prepares you for your future needs in the event that you’re unable to take care of yourself. This process can include your family, charitable organizations and anybody else you’d like to be involved. Estate planning does not just include making a will, but also planning for your finances, taxes, medical needs and business. It’s best to have an estate planning lawyer help you through the process.

Living Trusts and Making a Will

A living trust is a sort of substitute for a will. While you’re alive, your assets (home, property, bank accounts, stocks, etc.) are put into a trust. When you die, they’re transferred to your beneficiaries. Usually, a person will name themselves as the trustee, and a successor trustee will also be named. The successor is the person who will be in charge of the trust if the owner becomes unwilling or unable to continue to manage it.

A will includes your instructions for what you want to occur after your death, including how you want your money and property to be distributed and who you choose to act as guardian to your children. When you die, your will becomes irrevocable.

Do I need an estate planning lawyer?

Yes! It’s definitely best to hire an estate lawyer. Here’s why:

  • If you get one word wrong or miss one signature on a trust or when making a will, the entire intent can be changed.
  • In New York, state law is extremely specific about what can and cannot be included in a will, trust, medical power of attorney or financial power of attorney, as well as who can and can’t serve as your personal representative, trustee or surrogate.
  • There are also strict rules regarding who’s allowed to act as a witness, and the formalities that have to be observed when signing a legal document.
  • An estate lawyer can help you navigate complex situations, such as estate planning when you’re in your second marriage, if you own a business, if you have assets in a 401K or if you are widowed.

For more information about wills, trusts and estate planning, contact us today.

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