Will Attorneys in White Plains, New York
A will is the bedrock of estate planning documents. In a will, you can express your wishes for what you want to happen to your estate and who you want to benefit from it. Without a will, the probate court will make those decisions for you. It is basic document, but it is powerful.
Who needs a will? Every adult should have one, and it is never too early to execute a will. If you have been thinking about estate planning, you should start the process. If estate planning has not been a consideration, reconsider. Anchor your estate plan by drafting a will and build on it from there.
As estate planning attorneys at Rutkin & Wolf PLLC, we work with clients in all stages of estate planning, from putting it on their radar to executing a comprehensive plan. If you live in White Plains or the surrounding area, including the Bronx, New Rochelle, or Lower Westchester County, New York, we are ready to help, regardless of how much or how little you know about wills and other estate planning tools. Contact our team today.
What Is a Will?
Essentially, a will is a testamentary document in which you can specify who will benefit from your estate when you die. There is more than one type of will, with simple wills being used most often. They are typed, signed, and witnessed. Spouses often execute mutual wills because most of their estate is shared.
Another type of will creates a testamentary trust which establishes a trust for a beneficiary using the assets of the estate. These may be used to leave assets in trust for a minor child, for example. Similarly, a pour-over will directs that the assets of the estate be transferred to the ownership of a trust upon the death of the testator.
Rarely used are holographic and nuncupative wills. A holographic will is handwritten by the maker of the will, referred to as the “testator.” A nuncupative will is an oral will, written by someone else at the testator’s request. In New York, these types of wills are only recognized if written or spoken by a member of the military during war.
When you draft a will, you name the person you want to serve as your executor to administer your estate, satisfy debts, and distribute the residual to your beneficiaries. You name those individuals or organizations whom you want to benefit from our estate. Moreover, if you have a minor child, you can name a guardian in your will.
Personal assets are subject to probate, so those are the assets you address in your will. Commonly inherited assets include personal and household property and real property. However, assets with named beneficiaries are not subject to probate. These would include life insurance policies and retirement accounts, bank accounts with payable on death beneficiaries, and titles to vehicles with transfer on death designations.
One of the benefits of working with an estate planning attorney is learning what assets are and are not subject to probate and how to protect your assets.
Why Is Having a Will Important?
Who makes the decisions regarding your estate is the issue wills address. If you execute a will, you make those decisions. If you do not have a valid will when you die—referred to as dying intestate—the probate court will make them.
The court will rely on the law intestate succession to distribute the assets of your estate. New York law protects the inheritance rights of spouses and minor children. You cannot disinherit them in your will, and they are the first to inherit under intestate succession. Next under intestate succession are siblings and parents.
Wills are subject to probate. They are filed with the court, validated, and administered. Once all liabilities are paid and the remainder of the estate is distributed as specified in the will, the probate case is closed. Because probate is a court procedure, wills are matters of public record.
The Difference Between a Will & a Trust
Wills and trusts are both estate planning tools, and many people choose to have both.
To establish a living trust, you must transfer ownership of your assets to the trust. What that means is that those assets are no longer your personal property. Trusts are not subject to probate, which means the terms of the trust, its assets, and its beneficiaries are private.
If you draft a pour-over will, the assets will be subject to probate but will then be transferred to the ownership of the trust.
The one act a trust cannot accomplish is naming a guardian for a minor child. You can, however, do that with a will.
Will Attorneys in White Plains, New York
The benefits of having a will speak for themselves. Because you don’t know when you might die, creating one is a priority for every adult. You should decide who benefits from your estate, rather than leaving it up to the probate court. There is no reason to wait. Let us walk you through executing a will. Contact our team at Rutkin & Wolf PLLC in White Plains, New York today to schedule a time to talk.