Wills, Trusts, Estates Overview
People are sometimes hesitant to deal with their mortality and to talk about their family issues and what will happen to their property when they die. They let time pass until it is too late. Instead of controlling their property so that it passes according to their wishes (and the needs of their beneficiaries), it passes according to state law.
At Rosenthal & Markowitz, our attorneys assist you with all aspects of Estate Planning. It is important for you to put in writing what you want to happen with your assets after you die. Plus, there are some trust vehicles that can provide you tax advantages while you are living and that can pass on your assets outside of probate when you die.
A Will is a written document, properly signed, in which you, the writer (called a Testator), can state what you want to happen to your assets when you die. For example, you may say that you leave to your grandson Tom the vintage car you own.
You can itemize distribution of specific assets (the vintage car), or give dollar amounts ($10,000 to each grandchild and/or your favorite charity), or give percentages to of your Estate to each beneficiary. You can name alternate beneficiaries. If you are concerned about an heir’s ability to manage assets, you can make a provision within the Will for a Trust to be created, or make provision to distribute to a separate trust, so that a Trustee will be able to manage the beneficiary’s inheritance according to guidelines which you have set forth. You can also specifically disinherit someone who might have a right to inherit if you died without a Will.
There are numerous different types of Trusts – each with its own purposes and advantages. Estate tax planning requires a different type of trust than planning to avoid probate. A trust might be useful if your intended beneficiary is a minor, on governmental benefits, or cannot handle his or her own assets, or if your beneficiary has, or might have, creditor or spousal issues. A different type of trust might be useful for possible future Medicaid-impoverishment planning.
The term “Estate” refers to all the assets that are owned in your name at the time of your death. It includes all real and personal property and bank accounts. It includes property which you own jointly with someone else and includes property which names a beneficiary. An asset can be in your estate for estate tax purposes even if the asset doesn’t pass under your Will.
This includes the entire process of determining how you want your assets divided and distributed at the time of your death. It might include one or more of the following documents: a Will and/or a Trust Agreement. It also involves Powers of Attorney you prepare for someone you trust to manage your finances if you are unable to manage them for yourself. or if you just want assistance. It involves preparing a Health Care proxy and other advance directives for someone you trust to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions yourself.
A legal proceeding where the Surrogate Court appoints an Executor. The job of the Executor is to distribute your assets according to the terms of your Will. Probate is only the first step in the Estate Settlement process.
This is the process of making sure all the decedent’s property is distributed. If the decedent died without a valid Will, the property is distributed according to NYS law. If the decedent died with a Will which was admitted to probate, then the decedent’s estate is used to pay his/her debts and taxes and the property is distributed as directed by the decedent.
Part of the process is to ensure that title (ownership) is changed from the decedent to the new owner.
The Law Office of Rosenthal & Markowitz Can Help
For more information about Estate Planning and Estate Settlement, contact us at Rosenthal & Markowitz to schedule a consultation.