Some New Yorkers eschew an estate plan because they assume their wishes are very simple. “I just want the kids to split it” is a common refrain. For one thing, default rules in the state do not automatically mean that children will split a parents’ assets. The only way to do that is by ensuring you have a properly updated will, or, even better, use trusts to protect assets and streamline the process.
Even when residents wish to split their assets between the children, mistakes are made all the time. Take, for example, the recent high-profile passing of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. The 46-year old passed away tragically earlier this year inside his New York City apartment. Recently, his will was made public and problems were quickly pointed out.
Perhaps most notably, the will was written ten years prior. The provisions specifically created a trust for Hoffman’s oldest son, who was then an infant. After the will was drafted, Hoffman had two additional children, but there is no mention of them in the older will. As a result, it is unclear what, if anything, they will inherit directly from their father’s estate. New York law provides some protection for unintentionally disinherited children, but the law can be murky in some cases.