If you want your final wishes carried out after you pass away, then a Last Will and Testament is an important step you can take.
In New York State, there are several key factors to consider when drafting your will. Here are the six most important ones to consider:
- Identify Your Assets and Beneficiaries
It’s important not to go into this blind. Performing an accurate assessment of your valuables and who you’d like to receive same is pivotal in developing a successful estate plan.
Examples of Assets include: All of your personal property, all of your real estate, and all of your financial assets, such as bank accounts, investments, and retirement accounts. Take some time to chart your Assets out! While you may be able to list all of your real estate and financial assets within 10 minutes, it’s equally important that you do an inventory of your personal property, and see who you’d like to have it.
Beneficiaries are those people who you’d like to receive each asset or portion of your estate after you pass away. Examples of Beneficiaries include: Your spouse/significant other, your children/grandchildren, family members, and friends.
- Choose an Executor of Your Estate
An Executor is responsible for managing your estate after you pass away. They will be responsible for paying your debts, distributing your assets to your beneficiaries, and handling any other necessary tasks related to your estate.
It’s important to choose an executor who is trustworthy, organized, and capable of managing your estate—Particularly if your estate has several different Assets and Beneficiaries. We all have people in our lives who, while good-hearted, are not the most organized or trustworthy when faced with a big task. Make sure to select somebody who has your trust, the organizational skills, and the gumption to do what you’d like according to your estate plan.
- Consider Creating a Trust
If you’re flush with cash and/or own several pieces of real estate, a trust can be a useful tool. A trust can assist in managing your assets and ensuring that they are distributed according to your wishes.
Trusts can also provide tax benefits. Given where we live (New York State), I think we can all agree that this is an extremely important consideration for our Beneficiaries! Trusts can also protect your assets from creditors.
If you have specific instructions for how you want your assets to be managed or distributed, a trust can help ensure that those wishes are carried out.
- Be Specific!
When drafting your will, it’s important to be as specific as possible. This includes identifying your assets and beneficiaries, as well as any specific instructions for how your assets should be distributed.
As a lawyer, I was taught that ambiguity is the enemy! Do not leave ANY of your wishes open to interpretation. For example, if you have a special request, such as who should care for your pets when you pass away, be sure to include who that person should bel.
- After Executing Your Will, Update It As Needed
Your last will and testament should be updated as your life circumstances change. This includes changes to your assets, beneficiaries, and even to your executor.
For instance, let’s say you’re currently married. Your Will states that all your assets are to be left to your spouse.
Fast forward to 2025. You now have a couple of kids. They were not accounted for in your original Will. You’d like to give each of your children something in your Will. This is a perfect time to update your Will.
It’s a good idea to review your Will every few years to ensure that it still reflects your wishes, and is up-to-date with any changes in your life.
- Seek Legal Counsel
While it’s possible to draft your own Will, it’s always a good idea to seek legal advice to ensure that your Will is legally valid and properly executed. An attorney may be able to provide guidance on any tax implications or other legal issues related to your estate.
For the month of April 2023, Esagoff Law Group, P.C. is proud to offer an estate planning package to individuals and couples alike!
Each package will include:
- A Last Will & Testament;
- A Living Will;
- A Healthcare Proxy; and
- A Power of Attorney
The cost for an individual estate plan is $999. A couples’ plan is just $1499.