Two of the most common claims local seniors give for failing to visit with a New York estate planning lawyer are:
(1) I do not have much wealth, so I don’t need fancy planning.
(2) I just want my children to split everything and make decisions together.
Neither of these situations actually makes elder law estate planning unnecessary.
For one thing, this planning involves issues that affect everyone, regardless of how many assets they have. Keeping their affairs out of the courtroom, saving on taxes, ensuring family members won’t have complex paperwork to deal with, saving costs on long-term care, preparing for alternative decision-making in case of disability, and similar issues shouldbe a concern to everyone–not just the rich.
In addition, assuming that everything about the planning should involve splitting things equally between the children may not be appropriate. That doesn’t necessarily mean that all the children will not receive the same inheritance, but allocating assets is just one part of the New York estate planning effort.
For example, the plan will likely require naming an executor to handle various affairs after a passing. While it is possible to name all the children, it is usually best to name only the one who is best with these sorts of management responsibilities. The duties of the executor are not only confusing, but they must be handled at the most stressful of times. Forcing children to decide all of these issues jointly is setting them up for even more drama. In many cases, in fact, it may be appropriate to choose a third-party to take this role, like a trusted friend or professional.
It might also be appropriate to treat children differently in the form of their inheritance. For example, even though one wants to split an inheritance equally, it is rarely as easy or simple as writing checks for equal amounts to each beneficiary. Instead, it is often necessary for each child’s specific situation to be considered. Children with special needs are usually best served by receiving an inheritance via a special needs trust, instead of outright. Similarly, if a child has substance abuse problems or otherwise might have many creditors, it is often far superior to leave the child an inheritance via trust.
At the end of the day it is impossible to know for sure what strategies will be best in your situation without first talking to a legal professional about your family. In virtually all cases there is a benefit to planning ahead. Leaving issues to random intestacy rules and the probate process is more costly, time-consuming, and stressful.
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