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Avoiding common problems with the administration of your estate

Every family has members who often don't get along -- whether it's a sibling rivalry between your grandchildren or simply an aunt or uncle who seems perpetually at odds with the rest of the family. When it comes to your estate planning, it's important to remember that your incapacity or death is unlikely to change those family dynamics. That's why looking forward to the future and anticipating potential problems with the administration of your estate can be crucial.

Here in New York anyone who dies without first establishing a will is considered "intestate." Individuals who are deemed intestate will have to have their estates distributed among surviving family members by the Surrogate's Court. This process is called probate and is usually administered by the Surrogate's Court in the county where the intestate decedent had their primary residence before their passing.

The good news is that New York statutes allow residents to create living trusts. These can help you avoid probate while also limiting potential beneficiary disputes. A living trust, also known as an inter-vivos trust, is essentially an outline of your property and to whom you want it distributed in the event of your death or incapacity.

There are several benefits to establishing a living trust, but perhaps one of the biggest is that a trust does not have to go through probate and can remain private. Living trusts are also usually revocable. In other words, you can amend or alter your trust as you wish throughout your lifetime. Additionally, you can specify certain individuals whom you trust to look out for your interests as trustees. You can also specify the level of authority each trustee has as well as their specific duties. This can be particularly important with regard to the way that you would like your trustees to administer your estate.

If you are currently considering some form of estate planning you should know that you will probably never be able to prevent animosity among some of your potential heirs. However, with the help of your New York estate planning attorney, your living trust can eliminate many of the most common sources of familial disputes regarding your estate.

Source: New York Courts.gov, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed April. 20, 2015

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