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Transcript - Jules M. Haas - Today's Verdict
DL: Hello. Welcome back to Today’s Verdict. I’m your host, David Lesch. We are always encouraging you to stay connected. Tweet us at Today’s Verdict. After the loss of a family member or friend, a will can make the transition a little easier. But so many of us do not take the time to create a will. Today we’ll discuss different ways to make the estate planning easier for you and your loved ones with Attorney Jules Haas. Jules, thanks for being here.
JH: Very, very well, David. Thank you very much for having me.
DL: It’s my pleasure. Why is it so hard to get those who are older than you and in the later stages of life to commit to either doing a will or doing some type of estate planning? What’s the fear?
JH: Well, I don’t know if it’s so much fear, David. And it’s also not people that are older, but younger as well. Because everyone really needs a will. I think it’s a matter of having to put in the time and the thought and the effort to doing a will.
DL: Is it the family members -- do they, do they, do they push dad or push mom? Or even for themselves, what gets somebody motivated to finally say, you know what, let me, let me do a will, let me, let me maybe create a couple of trusts? What can push people? Hopefully watching you will, will push somebody to do something like this.
JH: Well, in my experience, there are a few things that push people to do a will. Number one, having children.
JH: A lot of my clients come in and say, we just had children. We want to do a will because we want to make sure that what we have goes properly if something happens to us. That’s number one. Number two, for people that are older, they sort of have events in their lives that sort of make them think about the consequence of what they need to do to distribute their assets in the event something happens to them.
DL: I will tell you, you know, personally my wife and I, my wife and I basically said, we’re not travelling, you know, we, after, after we had our child, until we actually do wills, so we know who -- God forbid, if something happened to us, who might be, you know, our child’s guardian and, and so forth. So you’re right. Sometimes an event or something happens. So if somebody comes to you and they’re ready to do a will, what’s the first thing that you’re looking for in terms of acquiring information? What, what do you need from them?
JH: So the first thing I would talk to an individual or a couple about is to have them understand what their assets are and how those assets are owned. Because a will is only good to control assets that are in your name alone. So for most people, particularly married couples, their assets are going to be held jointly. A will is not going to control those assets. A will is not going to control assets where there are designated beneficiaries such as pensions, IRA’s, so (?) …
DL: Right. And these things would necessarily, as we say, pass outside of the estate.
JH: That is correct. They would pass outside of your probate estate by…
JH: ...what we call operation of law.
JH: So what you do not want to happen is to plan your estate and write a will and say, I leave everything to so-and-so and, as it turns out, you have all of your assets titled, so to speak, with someone else.
DL: And that could be a bank account, or that could be your home or something else, right? It’s, it’s in co, joint ownership. So you don’t necessarily own the whole thing. And, when you die, it, it goes right to the other side of the other person, and not necessarily to your, to your heirs, right?
JH: Right. And most often, the problem arises with things where you put designated beneficiaries such as IRA’s, pension plans, life insurance policies. I can’t tell you how many times couples come in, and I say, who’s the designated beneficiary on your IRA?
DL: And they don’t know.
JH: Or they sit there and they say, you know, I think it’s my parents, because they never went back and changed it or thought about it after they got married. So the process when I begin is to make people start to think about what they’re doing.
DL: Now do you also talk to them about end of life care, how they would like to be treated at, you know, when, when it comes right down to it, towards the very end? You know, whether or not they want feeding tubes, whether they want do not resuscitate orders… Are these things that are also discussed?
JH: These are discussed. But it has to be a certain situation. In most instances, when people are coming to me to do a will, they’re looking to do a will to plan, let’s say, for their children, whatever. They’re really not thinking about or concerned with an end-of-life situation, which of course we can discuss, because there are things that you need to do for that as well, where you can do powers of attorney, you can do not resuscitate orders. For every person that I do a will for, we do a health care proxy.
DL: You do? And what…
JH: That’s sort of standard.
DL: ...what, what is a health care proxy?
JH: A health care proxy is provided for by statute. And it’s basically a power of attorney to make health care decisions. So if you’re unable to make a health care decision for yourself, then you designate who’s going to make that health care decision for you. So it’s very basic. It’s very simple. And it’s provided for by New York statute.
DL: Now who carries out all the functions with respect to the will? ‘Cause obviously you’re not around anymore. So who’s going to do this and make sure that everything is, is taken care of?
JH: So the person that’s going to take care of your will is your executor. Right? They’re the people, they’re the person who will execute your will and carry out your intentions. So when you do a will, you’re going to designate, you’re going to name the person that’s going to ask as your executor.
DL: And should you know who this is before they come and see you? Or should you just, come and see you, and then talk about who you might recommend would be the best to carry out the duties? Or both?
JH: Okay. Well, when I speak to clients, I tell them to think about these things. Very often when we sit and talk, that’s when they start to think about it. I personally will never recommend to anyone. I will discuss the pros and cons of certain individuals if they ask me. But picking your executor is a very personal thing. It’s someone that you need to have trust in. It’s someone that you believe will carry out your intentions when you’re no longer around.
DL: What kinds, types of problems do you see that develop in the whole will creation process? What’s the biggest issue that ends up having to be resolved? Is it, you know, deciding what children are gonna get what, or creating trusts for grandchildren? Or what do you see is the, leaves the most amount of work for you on a, on a situation involving a will?
JH: Well, I think that the most difficult problem that folks need to resolve is who actually is going to carry out their intentions? Many times picking an executor is not easy. Most of the time folks come in; they have pretty set ideas as who, as to whom they want to benefit from their estate. There are instances where there may be questions that they have. But most of the time people know. And in most situations, people have close family; they have close friends; they have people that they really care for. And so, picking those people are not -- it’s not a difficult task. One thing though that is difficult or that may be difficult is that when I say, who’s going to take your property if that first person’s not around? Who’s going to be your alternate?
JH: ‘Cause they don’t think in those levels.
DL: Which happens.
JH: Which happens very often.
DL: Okay. Where do we find you, by the way?
JH: You can -- the easiest way to find me, is you could go to Google and type in my name, Jules Haas. You’ll see my website. You’ll see my blog, a New York Probate lawyer. You’ll see loads of information in my website about wills and trusts and all of the information you need.
DL: Any final tips about wills? Something you want to make sure everyone who’s watching right now knows or should know.
JH: Yes. The most important thing is to do a will…
DL: Do it.
JH: Because if you don’t do it, your estate’s going to be distributed according to the laws of intestacy which is under the New York statues. And your asset are going to go to people that either you don’t know who are members of your family, or that you certainly don’t want to receive them.
DL: Don’t want to have them. [laughs] Good advice, Jules. Thank you very much.
JH: Very good. You’re very welcome.
DL: Alright. We have to take a quick break. But don’t worry. We’ll be back with more of Today’s Verdict right after this.