When considering whether the preparation of a Will or Trust is necessary, I always urge my clients to think about the issue of control. You have worked your entire lifetime to amass the property that you now own. Now that you have this property, who do you want making the decisions about how it should be distributed after you are gone, you or some stranger?
I remember a story I heard during law school, about a local judge who was running for reelection. He was asked whether he would continue to appoint his friends as guardians on estates. He replied, “Of course I will appoint my friends, you don’t expect me to appoint my enemies.” He went on to explain that he picks his friends because he knows that they are of good character and that they will do a good job.
Thinking about the issue of control, who do you want in charge of your property, your trusted friends and relatives or the friends of some judge that you never met?
If you don’t make a will, trust or use some other legal method to transfer your property when you die, New York State Law will direct what happens to your property. The first people entitled to inherit are your spouse and children. If you have no spouse or children, it will go to your other closest relatives, but only after a lengthy process entailing the appointment of an Administrator for your estate. If no relatives can be found to inherit your property, it may go to the state.
In addition, if you have young children and die without a will, a court will have to determine who will care for your young children and their property if the other parent is unavailable or unfit to do so. Obviously you want your wishes to be respected on such an important decision. Also, if you have a child or other relative who is disabled, you may need a Supplemental Needs Trust to protect the assets you want to leave for their benefit.
With regard to your house and other property, the form of ownership may determine how your property is distributed after your death. For this and other reasons, you need to speak to an experienced attorney to explain your options and, after a thorough consultation, prepare an estate planning strategy best suited to you and your family’s specific needs.
For many clients your Last Will and Testament is prepared as part of a package of documents, including a Health Care Proxy, a Living Will and a Durable General Power of Attorney.
Please call me today at the law office of Michael Swaaley so I can put my experience to work for you on your estate planning needs.