If you have yet to create even a basic estate plan, the odds are good that it isn’t because you don’t know how important an estate plan is. Instead, your reason for procrastinating is more likely to be because you simply don’t know where or how to get started. Because estate planning involves terms and concepts not used elsewhere, the whole process can be a bit intimidating. To help you feel more at ease, and hopefully get started on your plan, the Hauppauge estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia explain some of the most commonly used estate planning documents.
Last Will and Testament
Most people use a Last Will and Testament as the foundation of their initial estate plan. Executing a Will ensures that you will not leave behind an intestate estate. Dying intestate means the state decides what happens to your estate assets using the state intestate succession laws. Instead, your Will allows you to make specific and/or general gifts to loved ones. In addition, your Will lets you appoint someone as the Executor of your estate. The Executor is responsible for overseeing the administration of your estate. Finally, your Will offers you the only opportunity you have to officially nominate a Guardian for your minor child should one ever be needed.
Although once used almost exclusively by wealthy families to protect and pass down the family wealth, trusts are now commonly found in the average estate plan. A trust is a relationship where property is held by one party for the benefit of another party. A trust is created by the owner, also called a “Settlor”, “Trustor” or “Grantor” who transfers property to a Trustee. The Trustee holds that property for the trust’s beneficiaries. Trusts are broadly divided into two categories, testamentary and living trusts. A testamentary trust does not activate until after the death of the Settlor whereas a living trust takes effect as soon as all the trust agreement is in place and the trust is funded. A living trust can be further divided into revocable and irrevocable living trusts. A trust can help achieve a wide variety of estate planning goals and can even serve as the foundation of you estate plan if probate avoidance is desirable.
Throughout the course of your lifetime you will make many decisions regarding your own health care. There may come a time, however, when you cannot make those decisions because of your own incapacity. An advance directive helps you plan for that possibility. The State of New York recognizes two types of advance directives, including:
- Health Care Proxy — allows you to appoint an Agent to make decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them yourself because of your incapacity at some point in the future. Your Agent will have the authority to do things such as consent, refuse to consent, or withdraw consent to medical treatment on your behalf.
- Living Will — lets you state your wishes with regard to life prolonging procedures in the event you develop a terminal condition and can no longer make your own decisions.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney allows you to appoint someone as your Agent to act on your behalf in legal transactions. There are two types of power of attorney, general and limited. A general power of attorney (POA) gives your Agent almost unfettered authority to act on your behalf, meaning your Agent can engage in financial transactions on your behalf, enter into contracts in your name, and sell your assets. A limited POA, on the other hand, only gives your Agent the specific authority indicated in the POA agreement. If you make any POA durable it means that your Agent’s authority will survive your incapacity. If you make any POA durable it means that the authority you grant to your Agent will survive your incapacity.
Contact Hauppauge Estate Planning Attorneys
Please feel free to download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning issues, contact the Hauppauge estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.