Estate planning in New York State is a necessary, but complicated process. One of the first things everyone should know about estate planning in New York is that it should always be done by a professional. There is a tremendous amount of paperwork involved, and one wrong letter in one document could cause a lot of problems. When you hire a professional, you are assured of getting everything done right the first time.
In many cases, estates go to probate court to have everything straightened out and to have the courts approve the distribution of assets. The problem is that probate is a long process that can put financial and emotional strain on your family. In New York State, you can avoid probate court and the entire probate process by establishing a trust that will handle your assets after you have passed on. Be sure to talk to your estate planner about a trust and help your family to avoid the frustration of probate.
Traditionally, New York State sets a limit of $1 million in assets before it starts assigning an estate tax to your estate. The tax can change from time to time, but it is still part of estate planning in New York. If you do not feel like you will ever have $1 million in assets upon your death, then this tax will not affect you. But if your estate does come to a value greater than $1 million, then your family could have a hefty tax bill to pay. Talk to your estate planner about ways to help lower or eliminate the estate tax for your family after you have passed on.
What happens in the state of New York if you pass away without a will? For one thing, the probate process becomes that much longer and that much more difficult. In the end, your closest living relative will usually be awarded your entire estate. By closest, the court would mean the person most immediately related to you. For example, your spouse would take precedence over your children. This is a way to help protect your assets from being distributed outside of your family, but it is definitely not a way to make sure that your final instructions are followed.
The state of New York requires two witnesses to your signing of your living will which dictates how you want your medical treatment to be handled if you can no longer speak for yourself. It is also a good idea, in New York State, to have a health proxy in place to have someone make immediate medical decisions for you. A health proxy is a legal document that allows you to designate your health decisions to one person or entity. If you are unable to speak for yourself in a medical emergency, your health proxy speaks for you. However, if you have a living will then your health proxy would not need to make any decisions regarding keeping you on life support.
There are many estate planning laws in New York State that do not apply in other states. If you want your estate handled properly and if you want your final wishes to be recognized after you have passed on, then you should hire an experienced estate planner to help you take care of all of the details of your estate.