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Rochester Estate Planning Law Blog

What are the basic requirements for drafting wills in New York?

When a New Yorker decides to take the necessary steps to create an estate plan and craft a will, the basics will sometimes get lost in the process. However, it is imperative to remember that there are some baseline legal requirements for legal wills. The person who creates the will - the testator - must be a certain age, must be of sound mind, and there must be witnesses to its signature. This must be remembered when drafting estate planning documents.

A person who is making a will must be 18-years-old. The state does not recognize the rights of someone who is under 18 to make a will, nor do they have the legal capacity to do so. The person must also be of sound mind. This might be difficult to understand for some, but what it basically means is that the person is lucid and clearheaded. They will have a grasp of the reason the will is being created and understand the property they own and what will be in the will. Even those who are considered mentally disabled can make a will if they are deemed to understand what the will is and know the nature of their property.

Will health care be out of reach soon?

Health care costs have continued to rise at an alarming rate. Health care needs often grow as we age. For many of us, the potential cost of health care for our later years is enough to cause us to lose sleep. Long-term care insurance is one of the solutions some are turning to to address this situation.

The right choice at the right time

Understanding the consequences of dying without a valid will

Residents of New York might know that they should take the necessary steps to create an estate plan such as having a will. For all the good intentions that go along with will planning, it might be put off until later, repeatedly. Procrastination is a profound negative as failure to prepare for the inevitable future and not having a will can cause major problems for the loved ones after the person's death. There are multiple issues when a person dies without a will. Knowing and understanding the consequences should lead to a change of plans and the decision to create even a basic will.

When a person dies without a will, certain issues such as caring for a child will be left to the courts. This is particularly problematic if the other parent has problems that render him or her incapable of providing good care. The courts might give custody to another relative, but nothing is guaranteed if there is no document specifying how such a circumstance should be handled. This is also important with assets and personal items. A car, collectibles and more will be at the mercy of the court if there is intestacy.

Thinking about care decisions in advance

Estate planning covers decisions about financial matters and the creation of one's legacy. it also covers immediate and important decisions about health care and a person's preferences for the end of life. Advance care planning is not something that should be left up to chance. People need to understand what they do and do not want regarding medical treatments as they age.

Discussing an unpleasant situation

Preparing and avoiding the potential of estate litigation

When a person in Rochester and throughout New York State prepares for the future and crafts an estate plan, a nightmare scenario is that it will be vulnerable to a will contest. There might be a family member who will consider challenging a will. There are multiple reasons why this could be the case. For example, if the person does not get the assets and property that the he or she believes they are entitled to, a challenge is possible. When the document is created, there are strategies that the testator can take to avoid the will being challenged.

The reality is that successfully challenging a will does not happen particularly often. For it to work, the person must prove that the testator was mentally incompetent or subject to pressure by another person when completing the document. This is not easy. This does not preclude the attempt being made. It is not difficult to challenge a will. Even if it is frivolous, the estate must respond to the challenge.

Estate planning strategies for end of life care and treatment

For New Yorkers who are thinking about strategies for their estate plan, a factor that is often overlooked is what will happen if they become incapacitated or ill. This should be considered as part of the process. An example of the importance of this came to light with the musician Tom Petty and his estate plan that allowed for him to be removed from life support as per his wishes. Those who are concerned about family disputes, whether a power of attorney is necessary, how a healthy proxy works and more should know about all their options that can fit in with their desires.

End of life care can be exorbitantly expensive. Research from nearly a decade ago showed it to be nearly $12,000 in the final year of a person's life. In 2017, it would be around $18,000, but it might be more. People would be wise to begin thinking about end of life care and other eventualities as soon as they reach legal adulthood. The numbers show that only slightly more than 26 percent of adults take the steps to have a document detailing their desires if they cannot say so directly, known as an advance directive.

Collectors' tax implications can be lessened by tax changes

For New York residents who are taking steps to prepare for the future with an estate plan, having collectibles and striving to keep them in the family without burdening loved ones with onerous tax implications is one of the main considerations. Understanding the estate tax and how it can lead to complicated estate planning is imperative when organizing the documents. Having comprehensive strategies to shield loved ones is an integral part of a sound plan. One issue that is currently at the forefront is the president's proposed tax changes and how they might affect people who have valuable art collections.

President Donald Trump is working to implement his changes to the tax code. Part of that is having the federal estate tax repealed. The estate tax currently affects those who are inheriting estates worth millions. The ideas are being promoted as a benefit for family-run businesses but, if implemented, it will be a boon to those with high-priced art. Under the current circumstances, people who are married and inherit $11 million are exempt from the estate tax. Anything beyond that is subject to taxation. The amount that an estate is worth can be increased exponentially if there is valuable art. This is something that collectors and their heirs are thinking about as the changes are being proposed.

Self-made people must make certain an estate plan is current

New Yorkers who have created their own wealth and independence through entrepreneurship are often guilty of failing to keep their estate planning documents current. Much like creating a business, drafting estate planning documents is often viewed in the now with the future a consideration, but something to think about later. In some instances, later is pushed forward and pushed forward until the estate plan is hopelessly out of date. People who are vigilant about their estate plan have a better chance of passing on their assets to heirs and avoiding family disputes.

In the current political climate, the estate tax is up for debate. Assets and passing them along can be affected by how this debate goes and whether the estate tax is repealed or altered. People who are preparing their estate plan should be cognizant of this. The main idea for the transfer of wealth is to do so according to the desires of the testator. Every person is different and seeks to pass along assets in varying ways. Tax efficiency is vital regardless of the goals. This can be sabotaged if there is a failure to keep estate plans up to date.

Estate planning and aging alone

Many of the cues that get people thinking about estate planning are family related. New marriages, becoming a grandparent, passing along a family business or protecting family heirlooms can all be the impetus for starting an estate plan. A new trend may require a change in the way people consider legacy planning. A growing percentage of Americans between the ages of 45 and 65, prime years to complete an estate plan, are living alone.

Reasons to plan ahead

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Weinstein & Randisi
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Rochester, NY 14625

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