Estate planning encompasses a wide range of things you can do to prepare for retirement, disability, or death. With a comprehensive estate plan, you can grow older knowing that your family will be cared for after your death.
Memorializing your plan means your family can receive what you wish them to inherit without fighting through probate. You can know that your doctors will respect your healthcare wishes if you are incapacitated or at the end of your life. You can also rest easy knowing you have a succession plan in place for your business. To get the most out of your estate planning, you should be familiar with some essential questions to ask an estate planning attorney.
If you are in need of any assistance or have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today.
What to Ask an Estate Planning Attorney
New York attorney Andrew M. Lamkin at the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. can help you with your estate planning needs. Andrew’s practice includes wills and trusts, estate administration, Medicaid planning, special needs planning, residential real estate transactions, and probate. In this section, Andrew will address some of the common estate planning questions asked by new clients.
What Is Included in an Estate Plan?
Your estate plan should be tailored to you and your family’s specific needs. A one-size-fits-all plan won’t work for everyone. That said, most estate plans start with a few critical documents. Then, you can add other mechanisms to protect your special needs family members, assets, or business. Everyone’s estate plan should have the following:
- A last will and testament,
- A durable power of attorney,
- A living will, and
- A health care power of attorney.
These documents outline your wishes for healthcare, after-life decisions like a funeral or burial, and asset distribution. These documents must meet legal requirements, or they could be subject to a dispute. For example, if you die without a valid will, your estate must be distributed according to New York’s intestate laws. Additionally, if your will is not correctly drafted or authenticated (signed), a family member could dispute the validity of the will in court. An invalid will could be thrown out or partially disregarded.
Other significant estate planning documents include supplemental needs trusts for your disabled or handicapped family members, a guardianship provision and minor’s trust to provide for your children, and other trusts to preserve your assets and business.
Who Needs Estate Planning?
Estate planning isn’t just for the elderly. It helps you protect your hard work and meet your long-term financial goals, such as paying for college, providing for your kids, and saving for retirement. While you will make plans for what happens when you die, your estate plan also documents your wishes for healthcare. If you are incapacitated, from a car accident or work injury, for example, your family won’t be left to make those decisions uninformed. While talking about your death is never easy, it’s important to let your family know what to expect. Addressing questions about your intentions early can reduce your and your family’s stress in an emergency.
How Much of Your Practice Involves Estate Planning?
While many lawyers provide estate planning for their clients, it’s vital that your estate planning attorney understands the relevant laws in your state and how to apply them. Missing an important estate planning tool can leave your family’s inheritance in jeopardy or subject to a large tax bill. Andrew has dedicated his practice to estate planning and meeting the needs of New Yorkers and their families. If you have questions about your estate plan, Medicaid, or any other legal aspect of getting older, Andrew likely knows the answer.
Will My Estate Have to Go Through Probate?
When a person dies, their estate must go to probate, called Surrogate’s Court in New York.The probate court ensures the will’s validity and oversees an executor’s appointment. The executor or personal representative will manage the estate, including paying off creditors and distributing the estate according to the will’s terms. Probate is usually not a quick process and can take six months or more to complete. While most estates must go through probate, small estates (those with less than $50,000 in personal property) may use a simplified process called voluntary administration. Additionally, if your estate consists solely of nonprobate assets, you may be able to avoid probate altogether. Non-probate assets include those held in trust and accounts with a named beneficiary, like a 401k, IRA, or life insurance policy.
What Is a Trust?
A trust is an essential estate planning tool used to protect your assets. It lets you say how you want your assets managed and given to your beneficiaries. To form a trust, you first create a legal document that governs the trust. The trust document names a person or organization to take care of the trust’s assets, called the trustee. When you die or can’t take care of yourself, the trustee can take over the trust and make sure your spouse and other dependents are taken care of. There are three types of trusts to be aware of:
- Revocable living trust—the trust holds and manages your assets, but you can change or revoke it during your lifetime.
- Testamentary trust—your will creates the trust, which becomes active upon your death.
- Charitable remainder trust—an irrevocable trust that provides payouts to you during your life and gives the remainder to charity after your death.
Trusts are an essential part of estate planning because the assets held by a trust avoid the probate process. Your beneficiaries can take possession of the trust’s distributions as soon as possible, according to your wishes.
Lamkin Elder Law: Answering Common Estate Planning Questions
If you have important questions to ask an estate planning attorney, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. Since 2007, Andrew has been helping New Yorkers navigate their estate planning needs. As a member of the Elder Law and Trusts and Estates sections of the Nassau County Bar Association and NY State Bar Association, Andrew is up to date on the current changes in the law. He is here to listen and provide the advice you and your family deserve. Don’t leave your estate planning up to chance. Meet with Andrew to start your estate plan today.