What Families in New York Don’t Know About Wills and Living Trusts

Good news, New York: wills and living trusts are relevant and within reach

You don’t have to be an Astor, Trump or Rockefeller to have a personal stake in the laws that govern New York wills and living trusts. New Yorkers of middle age and middle income face different issues when it comes to property, taxes, wills, estates, trusts and probate situations. Though the amounts are more often in thousands than billions, the legal processes are no less complicated.

Wills and living trusts are not only for those in the upper reaches of age and income, but it is a popular misconception (which you will find throughout the country, not just in New York). Wills and living trusts are most necessary for all people such as those who own property and/or other assets, or have children.

In 2009, a Harris Interactive poll for Lawyers.com found that of the 1022 American adults surveyed, half “lacked basic estate planning documents, including a will, a living will and financial and medical powers of attorney.” The main reason cited was that they felt they did not have enough assets to warrant a will or living trust.

Here is what I have learned in over thirty years helping the people of New York: estate planning through the use of wills and living trusts prevents emotionally and financially draining disputes.

When the situation calls for more than Do It Yourself estate-planning

The difference between DIY (Do It Yourself) taxes and DIY estate planning is simple: one is done under the assumption that the person in question will be around to answer questions, while estate planning (e.g. the creation of New York wills and living trusts) anticipates a day when the person will no longer be able to clear up any inconsistencies in the document.

A will, a living trust, or any sort of trust and estate document should be reviewed by an estate attorney, and ideally, composed by one. Common sense and capability with language do not guarantee an air-tight will or trust that covers all the bases the creator needs to cover. Only legal expertise can ensure that the will you write is the right one for you.

With New York wills and living trusts—indeed, in all jurisdictions—a mistake or omission can be costly and divisive. Once you have a will or trust, you need to update it with major life changes (such as marriage, the birth of a child, the purchase of a home, etc).

Creating a will or trust is not a service most people require more than a few times in their lives; but when you need it, you need to be able to trust that it accurately represents your interests.

Who needs a will, and who needs a living trust?

Most adults who are attentive to their financial and medical decisions would benefit from drawing up a will. Wills must be probated, so a person whose assets or personal situation are such that probate would be a long process might consider a living trust to protect their property.

Additionally, a person looking for privacy in their financial matters would benefit from a living trust, which is not subject to the same public scrutiny as that of a will in the process of probate.

Whatever your specific trust and estate concerns are, consulting a probate lawyer will help you find peace of mind in your estate-planning decisions.

Attorney Jules Haas: your resource concerning New York wills and living trusts

New York City Probate Attorney Jules Martin Haas handles all types of probate cases, including wills and living trusts, estate planning, estate settlement, advanced directives and guardianship matters. Please call me at (212) 355-2575 for a free consultation to discuss your rights.