Although few people want to think about the worst-case scenario, as the old saying goes, only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. With that in mind, it simply makes good sense to plan for certain eventualities in life, including the possibility that you may become incapacitated by an accident or injury.
Estate planning is particularly important when you start a family, or start to accumulate assets. Regardless of your level of wealth, having a plan for what to do with your assets is critical to ensure that your wishes are followed — and your finances are protected — in the event that you die or are unable to make decisions for yourself.
In addition, an estate plan can allow you to set forth your desires for medical care should you be unable to make those choices for yourself. Through a healthcare proxy, you will be able to designate a person to make decisions for you, and lay out your preferences in advance.
At Winkler Kurtz, LLP, our Long Island estate planning lawyers have helped New Yorkers plan for their futures for more than 30 years. We work collaboratively with our clients to help them detail their goals, and then draft the legal documents necessary to achieve them. Contact our office today at 631-928-8000 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.
What Type of Estate Planning Do You Need?
Each individual has different estate planning requirements, as we all have our own goals when it comes to our estates. We might want to maximize the amount of assets that we pass onto our heirs by minimizing taxes, transfer assets to qualify for Medicaid assistance, or make sure that our children are provided for after our death. Regardless of what your desires may be, a well-drafted estate plan can help you achieve them.
In New York, an estate plan may consist of a number of legal documents, including:
Last Will and Testament
A will is a legal document, generally drafted by an attorney, which goes into effect after you die. A will names an executor to act as the personal representative of your estate; he or she will “probate” your will after you die through the New York Surrogate Court system. Through probate, the executor will ensure that your financial matters are settled, and that your property is disposed of in accordance with your wishes.
If you pass away without a will, then you are said to die “intestate.” Your assets will be then distributed based on New York laws on intestate succession. With a will, you can make sure that your wishes are followed after death. A will can also be used to plan your estate in order to minimize taxes.
If you have minor children, planning for what will happen to them if you die or become incapacitated is critical. Appointing a guardian as part of your estate plan allows New York parents to ensure that their children will be cared for if they die or are incapacitated. This can often be done through a will, as a Long Island estate planning lawyer can explain.
A trust is a legal arrangement that allows a person (trustee) to hold property or assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. There are many types of trusts, each with different advantages that can help you achieve different goals such as maintaining privacy, qualifying for Medicaid assistance, reducing estate taxes, providing for loved ones with special needs, or avoiding probate.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney designates a person (known as an agent) to handle financial or other affairs for an incapacitated person. A financial power of attorney can be particularly important as part of an estate plan, as it gives an agent the ability to access your bank accounts and pay bills, if you are unable to do so. For a power of attorney to be effective, it must be made before you become incapacitated due to illness or injury.
Health Care Proxy
A health care proxy appoints a person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot due to illness or injury. In this document, you can also decide if want life-saving treatment such as resuscitation, intravenous fluids or nutrition, and life-support. Because you can become incapacitated unexpectedly, having a health care proxy can ensure that your wishes regarding medical treatment are followed.
Contact a Long Island Estate Planning Lawyer
Winkler Kurtz, LLP understands that the estate planning process can be emotional and complicated, as you make decisions regarding your own death or incapacitation. We are here to help guide you, offering our counsel and extensive knowledge on New York law. With our experience, we can help make sure that your wishes are followed regarding your assets, children, and your medical decisions.
The idea of estate planning may be intimidating, but with a skilled Long Island estate planning lawyer to shepherd you through each step, it can be relatively simple. Contact our office today at 631-928-8000 or contact us online to learn more, or to schedule an initial consultation.