According to a report in a major New York media source, more and more people in Rochester and in other communities are writing wills earlier in life. What was once a ritual for people hitting their “empty nest” years is now an exercise even younger people with small children are taking on.
It is particularly common for younger people to write wills in areas where people make fortunes early in life, and it is also more common in New York, where the possibility of someone in the prime of life dying in an unexpected terrorist attack is on the minds of the public.
Indeed, wills are a good thing to put in to place, even if a Rochester family does not have a lot of money. For one, wills prevent fighting not only over big assets but also little pieces of property with largely sentimental value. Also, wills are vehicles through which parents can recommend a guardian for their children should they both die suddenly. Moreover, a so-called “living will” can help families make important medical decisions.
However, wills are not the cure all for estate planning needs and issues. For one, New Yorkers need to keep their wills up to date, reviewing them as a matter of course every 3 or so years, and always when there is a big life change, like a marriage or the birth of a child or even grandchild. Other assets which will not pass under the will, like a 401(k) or a life insurance policy, should also be reviewed and compared to the will.
Moreover, it is important that people, particularly when using a commercially available legal service, to be aware of the local rules and laws so as to ensure the will is valid. The best way to ensure this is to have an attorney draft the will and go through the estate planning process. Moreover, while, thankfully, probate is relatively simple in New York when compared to other states, sometimes staying out of probate court is best.
Finally, New Yorkers should resist the temptation to hand over property to their children immediately, even if there are some good financial reasons to do so. As much as a person might trust his or her children, the reality is that once that property is transferred, they can no longer count on it for support in their old age.