Wills, Trusts & Estates


What is a will?

A will is a legal document that includes your instructions for what you want to occur after your death. Wills can outline 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. Devising a will is just one part of the estate planning process.

What is a living trust?

A living trust is a partial substitute for a will. While you’re alive, your assets, including your home, property, bank accounts and stocks, are put into a trust. When you die, they’re transferred to your beneficiaries. For the most part, people name themselves as the trustee and are in charge of managing their own trust and assets. A successor trustee is typically named as well. 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.

What is estate planning?

Estate planning refers to the process of preparing for your future needs in the event that you’re unable to take care of yourself. This process involves your family, any other individuals you want involved, charitable organizations and your assets. Estate planning does not just including writing your will. It also involves planning for your finances, taxes, medical needs and business. Estate planning helps you to figure out:

  • Who will manage your assets and how they will do so for your benefit if you are unable to manage them yourself.
  • When and under which circumstances will you distribute your assets while you’re still alive.
  • The distribution of your assets following your death.
  • Who will manage your personal care and how decisions regarding healthcare will be made if you are no longer able to care for yourself.

Do I need an attorney?

Yes, for many reasons.

First, if you get one word wrong or miss one signature on a will or trust, the entire intent can be changed, which means that your wishes may not be carried out the way you want them to be.

Second, New York State law is 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. Without an attorney, you won’t know the proper procedures and guidelines to follow.

Third, if you draft your estate planning documents yourself and end up making a mistake, your family may have to spend thousands of dollars on a real estate attorney to fix your mistakes.

Lastly, an estate planning attorney 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 Lorenzo Angelino at (845) 214-1133 or langelino@angelinolaw.com.