Some local residents believe that they do not need to worry about creating a New York estate plan if they only want to divide all of their assets between their children equally. These community members are under the incorrect assumption that the default legal rules will ensure that everything works out as they wish. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.
This weekend My SA News discussed this all-too-common mistake of voicing intent to be even-handed with asset distribution but not taking the proper legal steps to carry out that intent. For example, the story used the real example of a family with two parents and five daughters. Both parents had been married to one another their entire lives with no divorces. They did not conduct any estate planning because they always explained that they wanted everything to be divided equally among their children at their death. They did not even have wills drafted.
However, their actions did not reflect that voiced intention, and there was no plan in place to protect the family. For example, after the father died, the mother deeded the family home to the first sister. Later, a second sister deeded another house to the mother, but upon the mother's death that sister wanted the home back. A third sister visited an attorney and asked for help. She wanted the family home and the second home to be divided equally among the children as the parents always wished.
Unfortunately, without any estate plan there is often little that can be done to enforce the verbal assurances of parents. Actions such as signing deeds over to others have important legal ramifications that cannot be undone. Failure to visit with an estate planning attorney to understand the consequences of these decisions often leaves those involved without legal recourse. In this case, the family home will likely remain with the first sister. The second home may be divided among all the children according to the intestacy rules of the state, because the second sister will likely be unable to force return of the house if she gave it to her mother free and clear.
An important take away from this convoluted story is that clear legal planning must be done to ensure that all vocal intentions are respected. Beyond that, it is important to remember that proper preparation in these matters does more than simply pass on property at death. By visiting a New York estate planning attorney those in our area can also keep certain assets in the bloodline, save on estate taxes, and provide for disability.
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