What is an "estate" anyway? Many local residents mistakenly assume that they have no use for New York estate planning, because they don't really have a large cache of assets to pass on or save from being consumed by taxes. After all, when most people hear the word "estate" they think of a palatial home surrounding by lush gardens and filled with shimmering treasures and majestic antiques. Not many have that kind of estate.
But it is crucial to understand that no large "estate" is necessary to get value out of meeting with a legal professional to plan. That is because even if you do not own a big house, virtually everyone has some estate to protect: including personal property, bank accounts, retirement plans, life insurance, and more. Failure to conduct any estate planning means that when you die your estate will pass to others via intestacy laws. These are default rules in each state which essentially give priority to certain individuals regarding inheritance. A recent Forbes article shared a helpful new website (www.mystatewill.com) which outlines intestacy rules in each state. You can visit the site and see how the default laws in the state would divvy your property depending on your family situation.
For example, in New York if you have an estate worth $100,000 and had a living spouse and two living children, then the spouse will receive $75,000 and each child will receive $12,500. However, it is unlikely that the $100,000 is in the form of a big pile of cash that can be easily divided. Instead, it might take the form of a home, retirement plan, or other physical property. That means splitting it up as required will present serious problems. Not only does estate planning allow one to decide what percentage of an estate each person will get, but the exact form of the inheritance can be decided--such as the spouse getting the house, the child getting the second car, or whatever other combination fits in your case.
Beyond inheritance designations via will or trust, our New York elder law estate planning lawyer also help many clients with issues that affect everyone--preparing for long-term care. Receiving advice on Medicaid applications, Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts, and long-term care insurance and similar issues can mean the difference between being forcefully moved into a substandard nursing home and aging in place. These are important issue for the rich and poor alike.
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