When a person dies in New York, decisions have to be made regarding the distribution of his or her assets. The New York Surrogate’s Courts are tasked with ensuring that a decedent’s estate is properly distributed amongst his or her beneficiaries. Typically, this is done via a legal document known as a will.
A will is little more than a written declaration of how an individual would like his or her estate to be distributed upon their death. The person forming the will is known as the testator, and those family members and friends who are intended recipients of those items are known as beneficiaries.
Most wills also contain a person identified as the individual tasked with helping to administrate the execution of the testator’s intentions. This executor or executrix is someone who is trusted to carry out those functions.
Sometimes, after a person’s death disputes arise between family members whom the testator may have excluded from receiving portions of their estates. There may also be disagreement among beneficiaries as to how the executor or executrix is performing his or her duty in distributing the estate.
That is why individuals who are considering forming a will should first take some time and assemble a list of their assets that identifies each item to be transferred as well as those persons who are their intended recipients. For example, an asset list might contain residences, mortgages, stocks and bonds, important family heirlooms next to the contact information for their intended recipient.
Your New York estate planning attorney can assist you in preparing your will so that it more accurately reflects your true intentions. Taking the time now to assemble a thorough and well-documented asset list can save your intended beneficiaries both time and money in the future.
Source: New York State Unified Court System, “Erie County Surrogate’s Court, frequently asked questions” Dec. 15, 2014