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Westchester County Estate

The idea of estate planning may be a little unpleasant. After all, most of us do not like to think about our mortality. However, planning for your financial and personal future and for the future of your loved ones is not only a wise idea, but it will likely give you peace of mind. Estate planning is the process of planning for the orderly distribution of your assets after your pass away, as well as preserving your assets and planning for your care later on in life. Common goals of estate planning include clearly setting forth your final wishes, selecting a guarding for your minor children, making sure that your minor children have the legal guardian that you select, making sure the loved ones if your choosing receive the assets of your choosing, minimizing conflict among family members over your estate, minimizing taxes and legal expenses associated with your estate, preserving wealth for your beneficiaries, and planning for incapacity. If you die without an estate plan that includes a will, you are considered to have died intestate, and state law will determine who gets your assets. The last thing you want to do is to unintentionally disinherit someone you care about and how may be relying on your gift because you failed to execute a proper estate plan. To help you create and execute an estate plan that is consistent with your goals, contact an experienced Westchester County Estate Lawyer who will be able to educate you on the types of estate planning tools that you should consider and who will help you implement a plan.

Why is a will important?

A will is important if you want to make choices about your estate and your family's future. There are many reasons why you should create a will. You will need a will if you want to specify who gets your property upon your death. A will is also especially important if you have minor children and would like to make the decision of who would be their guardian of them financially and physically in the event of your death. If you don't have a will the state will make these choices for you. The state's decisions may be quite different from your wishes.

What are the legal requires for a will to be valid in New York?

Under New York Estates, Powers, and Trusts law, for a will to be valid, the following conditions must be met:

  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • You must be of sound mind at the time the will is executed
  • You must understand what it means to prepare a will and the nature and extent of the property you own
  • You must sign the will at the end. Your signing of the will must be witnessed by at least 2 people

There are two types of wills that are valid in New York even though they are not created with the general requirements of New York law: holographic wills and oral wills. A holographic will is handwritten by the testator, but is not witnessed. An oral will is spoken and witnessed by at least 2 people. Holographic and oral wills are only valid if made by a member of the armed forces, someone accompanying the armed forces or a mariner at sea.

What is a trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement that you as the settlor create that describes how assets will be managed and held for the benefit of another person known as the beneficiary. The trust assets are made up property that you transfer to the trust. The trustee is responsible for managing the property according to the terms of the trust and must do so in the best interest of the beneficiary. There are several different types of trusts, designed for different purposes.

What are the different types of trusts?

There are several different types of trust. The type of trust that you should create depends on the purpose of your trust.

  • Living trust. A living trust is created by the trustor during his or her lifetime. Typically the trustor retains the power to change or terminate the trust. However, when the trustor passes away, a living trust becomes an irrevocable trust and cannot be changed.
  • Testamentary Trust. A testamentary trust, also referred to as a will trust, is a trust that is created by a will. It goes into effect upon the death of the trustor. A testamentary trust is often created to hold the property of a minor, to protect a surviving spouse's finances by providing lifetime income, ensuring that a loved one with special needs is taken care of, and gifting to charities.
  • Funded Trust. A funded trust is a trust that has property. Trust property can be cash, or it can be other types of property such as real estate. A trust can be funded by the trustor during his or her lifetime or after death.
  • Unfunded Trust. An unfunded trust is a trust without assets. Some trusts are created, but remain unfunded until after the trustor's death.
  • Revocable Trust. A revocable trust is a trust that can be amended or terminated at any time by the trustor. Upon the trustor's death, a revocable trust becomes irrevocable.
  • Irrevocable Trust. An irrevocable trust is trust that cannot be changed. In other words, the trustor has no control over the property in the trust.
How can I plan for my incapacity?

Estate planning is not just about taking care of loved ones. It is also about planning for your personal and financial security in the event you ever become incapacitated.

  • Health Care Proxy. A health care proxy is a legal document that allows you to name a specific person, called your health care agent, to make healthcare decisions for you in the event that you are unable to make those decisions on your own because you are in some way incapacitated. If you do not appoint a health care agent typically decisions about your healthcare defaults to your spouse, your adult children or your parents. In some cases, a conservator may be appointed by the court to make these decisions for you.
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Finances. A financial power of attorney allows your attorney-in-fact to make financial decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. Oftentimes a spouse is given such a power of attorney. However, you can name whomever you want as your attorney-in-fact. It is wise to name someone who is trustworthy and who you know well.
  • Living Wills. A living will is a document that sets forth what you would like to have done if artificial means are required to keep you alive. This is an important document because not only will it ensure that your wishes are known, it also prevents your family from having to make these difficult personal choices for you.

Estate planning is a process that should be well-considered and not entered into lightly. Mistakes can be costly to you and to your loved ones. On the other hand, proper estate planning is the best way to protect your interests and those of your loved ones but while you are living and after your death. Everyone needs an estate plan, even of your assets are not substantial. However, the more substantial your assets, the more complicated your family situation, the more complex your estate plan will be. To learn more about writing a will, trust, and other estate planning tools, contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC. We will help you develop an overall estate plan that reflects your individual goals. We have extensive experience drafting wills and other estate planning documents and will help you develop an overall estate plan that reflects your individual goals. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your estate plan.

Client Reviews
Mr. Bilkis handled both my father and mother's estate issues through very difficult times he was compassionate kind and understanding. In fact the whole firm showed great empathy. Despite the emotional hard time we were having that quickly and efficiently handle all the matters that were necessary to get us the result we desired. Can't recommend them enough. B.B.
From the very first phone call to Stephen Bilkis' office, the staff was extremely polite and helpful in assisting me. Mr. Bilkis was honest and upfront with me from the beginning in what he projected the outcome of my case would be; in the end we got better results than either of us anticipated. He was very genuine and compassionate in understanding my situation and how this legal matter could effect not only myself but my family as well. I highly recommend this law firm and will most definitely continue using them for any future legal needs. Jarrett
Stephen has handled numerous estate matters, criminal matters and family court matters effectively and with a goal-oriented approach. He gets great results and is a results-oriented attorney. Dustin