WHY CREATE AN ESTATE PLAN?
We live in a country of laws. From our birth to our demise, the law regulates how we own, hold and pass on our assets to our loved ones. Without an estate plan, most families may find that they are unable to immediately access the assets of their loved one who has passed away. Often times, a petition has to be made to the courts for the proper (and legal) distribution of inheritable assets. In many cases, the laws of the State where the decedent lives will determine how assets are distributed if there is no will. There are legal forms and proceedings to complete before the court decides who gets what. In short, without a legally recognized estate plan (be it a Will, Living Trust etc.), we leave our loved ones with a real challenge during an already difficult time. And for all of us, estate planning instruments such as Advanced Directives are vital for making sure that any life-sustaining efforts during times of incapacity or illness align with our personal wishes. Last but not least, the issue of legal guardianship of minor children must also be addressed; life is full of unfair and unexpected situations, and as parents, it is our duty to be prepared for them. When you create an estate plan, you are essentially creating peace-of-mind and protection for your loved ones.
WHAT DO PROBATE AND ADMINISTRATION ATTORNEYS DO?
Probate and Estate Administration Services. Our firm steps in to help people who are intended beneficiaries sort out a loved one’s estate, securing them their inheritance. This includes instituting the Probate & Administration process in Surrogate’s Court. In these cases, we file a petition to begin the legal process for estate distribution, whether there is a Will or the decedent has passed away without any estate plan (“Intestate Proceedings”). We hold your hand throughout the entire process, from filing legal papers, representing you at the hearing, to helping you secure the court order for estate distribution. Probate & Administration is a complex process that we’ve helped hundreds of families and individuals navigate in our firm’s 15 years of existence.
WHAT IS AN EXECUTOR?
Executors of Estates. An executor is the person chosen by a Will-maker to ensure that the terms of the Will are carried out. The Executor does this by submitting the Will for Probate in the court system (in New York state, the probate court is known as the Surrogate’s Court). Our firm represents executors, trustees and other fiduciaries in the probate and estate administration process. Read our FAQ on what is required to get a will approved for execution in the state of New York. If you’re an executor, take a look at a detailed checklist which can help you carry out your responsibilities. For a detailed overview of what Probate & Administration involves, take a look at our Blog.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MY ASSETS AND MY CHILDREN?
Families with Younger Children. Many associate estate planning with the elderly and/or those with substantial assets. Estate planning also benefits families with young children, families where one or both spouses have children from prior marriages or relationships (blended families), families involving same sex marriages, and single parent families. We help clients create plans and draft documents that reflect their wishes regarding the care and upbringing of their children in the event they are incapacitated or unable to care for them. You can also learn more about guardianship from this FAQ on Guardianship.
Single Parents. In some sense, estate planning for single parents is much more urgent than it is for two-parents families. When you’re raising children on your own, it’s crucial to ensure that all contingencies are considered. Read more here about the key points to bear in mind when you’re a single parent who wishes to plan for and protect your children, your family and your legacy.
For the typical family, a Will and a Living Trust are often the top must-have estate planning documents.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF AS A SINGLE ADULT
Single adults living alone and with no children need an estate plan to retain their independence and secure their well-being should they become incapacitated. For single adults, having both an Advanced Directive and a Will or Living Trust is perhaps the best way to ensure they remain independent, and their assets go to those they choose. If you’re single and living alone, and want to set up safeguards to protect your independence, you should consider estate planning for single adults.
OTHER ESTATE PLANNING SERVICES
Guardianship Proceedings for the Incapacitated. As court-appointed counsel and guardian for the incapacitated, our firm represents and advocates for those who are unable to make decisions for themselves.
Immigrants and Foreign Investors. Couples where one spouse is U.S. citizen and the other a Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders) also face estate planning challenges regarding the marital exemption, while and U.S. citizens with properties in a foreign jurisdiction must grapple with the issue of taxation in two countries. A non-resident alien who dies owning property in the United States or shares in entities that own property in the United States is subject to estate tax. A non-resident alien who owns property may also be subject to a gift tax if the individual transfers the property to a third party. These taxes can be substantial.
Elder Law. Our firm helps clients plan for their own disability and the issues related to planning for nursing home care or for the care of a spouse or special needs child. He creates plans designed to protect a client’s wealth and preserve a family’s assets while maintaining eligibility for government programs.
Pet Trusts. Our pets are our family. They are an integral part of our lives, and our well-being and daily happiness. That said, the law considers them possessions. If you don’t think there will be anyone who can afford to take care of your pet should something untoward happen to you, then consider a pet trust.