If you do not yet have an estate plan in place it is likely not because you are unaware of the need for one. On the contrary, well meaning friends and family have likely “suggested” more than once that you need to get started on your estate plan. Like many people, however, your failure to create an estate plan is not because you fail to understand the importance of having one — it’s just that you don’t know where to start. The best way to educate yourself about estates and Wills is by consulting with an experienced New York estate planning attorney. To get you started in the right direction though, it may help to learn some of the basics about estates and Wills.
Why Is Estate Planning So Important?
Contrary to what you may think, an estate plan is much more than simply a way to decide what happens to your estate assets when you die. An estate plan can, and should, help shelter and grow those assets while you are here, protect you and your loved ones, and provide for your loved ones when you are gone. In fact, given everything an estate plan can accomplish, creating a well thought out estate plan is likely the most important endeavor you will undertake during the course of your lifetime.
What Is a Last Will and Testament?
You undoubtedly have a general idea of what a Last Will and Testament is and what it is intended to accomplish; however, your Will likely does more than you realize it does. For example, when you create your Will you will also appoint someone as the Executor of your estate. This person is responsible for overseeing the entire probate of your estate. Your choice of Executor can dramatically add to the success, or failure, of your estate plan. In addition, your Will is the only opportunity you have to nominate a Guardian for your minor children, should one be needed when you are gone. Finally, your Will can provide for the entire distribution of your estate assets or it can make only minor gifts, depending on how you have decided to structure your estate. Without a Will, however, the New York State intestate succession rules will decide what happens to your estate assets, meaning only close family member will benefit from your estate. Unless you want the State of New York to decide what happens to your assets, at least a basic Last Will and Testament is essential.
Why Is a Will Often Not Enough?
Although a Last Will and Testament typically serves as the foundation of an estate plan, it is often insufficient as the entire estate plan.As you move through life, you will realize that you have assitional goals and objectives that you need to include in your estate plan. Those additional goals often require additional estate planning tools and strategies to achieve. For example, if you have children you will likely want to create a testamentary trust to protect their inheritance because they cannot inherit directly from your estate. Incapacity planning may also require the creation of a revocable living trust and/or the execution of advanced directives.
What Are Some Other Common Components to an Estate Plan?
Although every estate plan is unique, there are some common components that people choose to include in their estate plans, such as:
- Incapacity planning
- Tax avoidance
- Medicaid planning
- Pet planning
- Probate avoidance
- Business succession planning
- Retirement planning
- LGBT planning
- Special needs planning
As you add components to your estate plan, your plan will grow. The key to a successful estate plan is to make sure that the individual components of your estate plan interact with one another in a way that increases the overall success of the plan.
Why Working with an Estate Planning Attorney Is So Important
In today’s electronic age it is tempting to simply download a Last Will and Testament form, and/or other estate planning forms, and try to “DIY” your estate plan. The vast majority of the time, however, the time and money you save by doing this will cost you, and/or your loved ones, considerably more time and money down the road trying to untangle the mistakes and interpret the intentions of your plan. Just as you would not try to “DIY” your own surgery, don’t make the mistake of trying to “DIY” your own estate plan.
If you have any additional questions or concerns regarding estates and wills, or you wish to get started on your estate plan, please contact the experienced New York estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.