Estate planning is a legal and strategic planning towards the management of one’s estate (assets, personal and financial affairs) during life and the efficient disposal of those assets after death, while mitigating risks, expenses and complications. Estate laws govern estate planning and these laws vary from state to state. The estate laws of New York ultimately would influence your decisions throughout your planning process. Knowledge of the laws is therefore required, hence the need for an estate planning attorney.
Who is an executor, trustee, estate administrator?
Your executor is a person who you name in your will to be in charge of disbursing your estate according to your will. His actions would be overseen by the court during probate.
If you have no will, then an estate administrator is appointed in place of an executor by the court. They have the same responsibilities as an executor.
A trustee on the other hand is a person named in a trust to manage the trust assets on behalf of the beneficiary. You can name yourself as the trustee of your living trust and use the assets while you are alive and well, but must name a successor trustee to take over when you are not.
Can I plan my estate all alone?
If your estate is a small one with simple assets, then you may create a simple will yourself to transfer those assets to whomever you please. You definitely would not need to plan to avoid estate tax since your estate would be tax-exempt due to its value, and probate wouldn’t be too complicated for such estates. For more valuable and complex estates such as those involving different businesses, real estate in multiple states, blended families, estate planning is a must as it becomes more complicated for you to handle alone.
However, one should note that estate planning do not end with asset transfer. Even if your estate is small, you still need to think about incapacity. Would you like to appoint someone in particular to manage that business of yours or make healthcare decisions for you when you become incapacitated? Then it is advised you get an attorney to create a power of attorney and healthcare directives.
Can estate plan document prevent probate?
Probate in New York is often expensive, lengthy and complicated, and so highly undesirable for many. The good news is proper estate planning can help you avoid probate completely. By holding your assets in a trust, such assets will pass on to the beneficiaries outside probate. Assets which cannot go into a trust such as IRAs will go to the designated beneficiary directly outside probate as well. If the remaining assets left in your name alone do not exceed $50,000, they will pass through a small estate proceeding instead of an elaborate probate.
What are estate taxes and can I avoid them?
Estate taxes are taxes payable to the government when a person dies leaving an estate. Not all states impose estate taxes, but in New York, every estate worth over $5.85 million will be taxed upon death. The amount must be paid to the state before beneficiaries can inherit. There are also federal estate taxes. If your estate is over this value and you do not wish for such considerable amount to simply go to the state, you can make your estate tax exempt by reducing its value through gifting, keeping part of your estate in trust, joint ownership, etc. Your estate planning attorney can help you with all of that.
You probably would desire such an amount to go to a loved one. Worry not; New York estate planning attorneys are proficient in helping you avoid estate tax through strategic estate planning. There are no inheritance taxes in New York.
How many documents do I need in my estate plan?
You need, as many documents as there are things to consider. This is largely dependent on your estate situation and goals. If you are only concerned with transferring your assets when you die, you could do with only a will. However, knowing what’s best for you, your attorney typically would recommend creating the following documents alongside a will:
Trust: This document has so many advantages. Holding assets in trusts for your loved one will enable them receive such assets immediately and privately without going through probate. If you become incapacitated, your named successor trustee would manage your affairs in your stead.
Power of attorney: this document is used for appointing an agent who you desire to take over management of your financial affairs when you become unable to do so yourself.
Power of attorney for healthcare: The person you appoint here will hold the authority to make decisions for you when you can’t make them yourself. This prevents conflict of opinions amongst your family members as to what your desires would be.
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