We need Wills or Revocable Trusts. If we don't prepare and execute such documents, we may die “intestate.” That is, we leave no documentation to explain how our assets should be handled. Without a Will or Revocable Trust the disposition of our estate will be left up to our state’s laws. These laws designate that a person's next of kin (distributees) are to receive the estate. However, a person's next of kin may be difficult to determine or may include individuals that the decedent did not know or even want to receive an inheritance. Long lost cousins and more distant relatives may benefit from such a lack of planning. Wills and living Revocable Trusts enable us to provide for our beneficiaries and direct how our property will be distributed after we die. With living Revocable Trusts, we turn over some or all of our property to the trustee (that would be you or your spouse or a trusted friend) who will have full control of the property while you’re alive. With a Will, we keep our property in our own name while we are alive. Finally, living Revocable Trusts also let us spell out how we want our property managed if we become disabled during our lifetime. We can't do this with a Will.
One important advantage to a trust is that it can provide for lifetime management of property in the event the grantor or creator becomes incapacitated. Although the grantor can be the sole trustee when the trust begins, there should be provisions for an alternate trustee if the grantor is disabled or dies. If the grantor can no longer act as trustee due to an accident or illness the alternate trustee can manage the trust property in order to protect it and to pay for the grantor's expenses such as rent, utilities and medical expenses. If this type of advance directive is in existence, it may avoid having to obtain a property management Guardian if the grantor becomes incapacitated. In view of the great responsibility that a successor trustee may have, it is important to select these persons very carefully. In most cases, grantors select close relatives such as a spouse or children as successor trustees. Also, the trust can provide that the grantor will resume his role as trustee if he recovers from this disability. A successor trustee has fiduciary responsibilities and can be held accountable if he breaches his fiduciary duties.
An attorney can assist with preparing documents such as a Will or Revocable Trust so that a person’s intentions are accurately spelled out.
Regardless of the size of an estate, most adults — young and old — and their families benefit greatly from having a well-prepared estate plan consisting of documents such as a: Last Will, Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney and Living Will. I have many years of experience working with and advising clients in the creation and implementation of plans that effectively express the clients’ personal desires regarding the disposition and protection of assets while providing potential tax advantages and security for family and beneficiaries.
Please come in to my office for a free consultation and meet with me to discuss your options. To contact my office located in Manhattan call (212) 355-2575.