Articles Tagged with new york estate planning attorney

While serious illness and death are certainly difficult topics of conversation, they are nevertheless extremely important. If you do not express your wishes regarding healthcare in situations where you cannot make such decisions yourself, choices about your care will often be left to family members. When a loved one becomes too ill to make decisions about their care, there are many questions that arise about medications, procedures, and other treatment options. That’s why it is extremely important for you to communicate your wishes to those close to you.

Not only does doing so help to ensure that your specific wishes for your healthcare are carried out, but it can also provide a great deal of relief for family members that may have otherwise had to make such decisions on their own. However, while talking about such things is important, you may also want to include options like a living will and healthcare proxy as part of a comprehensive estate plan to legally memorialize your wishes. The following information may help you decide if one or both options is right for you.

What is a living will?

The estate planning process is individual and unique to each person that goes through it. There is no one-size-fits-all template that will work for everyone. There are various tax concerns to think about, familial relationships, and many other factors that influence how we decide to distribute our assets after we die. The process can be confusing, but an experienced New York estate planning attorney can help simplify it for you. However, assets transfer in four ways common for almost everyone.

Transfer Via Last Will and Testament

Most people are familiar with the concept of a Will. A Last Will and Testament is a written document that expresses your wishes as to how your assets should be distributed upon your death. While many assets simply require nominating a beneficiary, which is discussed below, other assets require you to specify how you wish your assets to be distributed upon your death. A Last Will and Testament generally only includes property that is individually owned and is subject to validation by New York’s Surrogate Court.

Many single mothers often overlook estate planning. It can be easy to put off these important decisions. Life is busy and making plans for your demise is something that no one wants to make time for. Well laid estate plans are the greatest possible gift you can leave your family.


According to the U.S. Census Department, 81.7 percent of custodial parents are mothers. For single mothers, planning for the care of their children is one of the primary concerns of their estate plan. While no mother wants to even consider what will happen to their children if they aren’t around to raise them, not having control over that decision is even more alarming.


Recently this blog touched on some of the issues related to leaving an individual retirement account to your heirs in a will, as found here. There are many options that people have to leave their IRA to others in a will. If you are leaving your IRA to heirs in your will but want to also put some protections in place regarding that IRA, leaving the IRA to a trust may be the best option. You may want to leave the IRA to a minor or to insure that the benefits of your IRA are not able to be attached by creditors. Even if your intended heir is not in need of spendthrift protections, there may still be a need to protect the IRA (and other money or property in the will) from creditors of the heir just the same.

While inherited property is generally excluded from equitable distribution in a divorce, it can still be considered income for purposes of alimony. Certain protections in the form of allowing a trustee to cut off the flow of money from the trust will insure that the beneficiary will not have to worry about this issue. Trusts are very flexible, which can allow you to build certain protections into the trust, such as choosing the trustee and giving them a free hand on distributions. If you leave the money to your heir in a will, unless the heir is a minor, in which case you will likely leave the money to a guardian, you have limited ability to insure that there will be protections put into place, since a will passes property or money outright, while a trust insures that there will be rules in place to protect the distribution of that money or liquidation of the property.

Think about this, you were born to your mother and father. At a wee young age your mother and father separated and your mother raised you. Nothing unusual there. Say then your mother later married another man and he started to raise you as his own; while your stepfather may have always been known as a stepfather, he still loved you and treated you as his own without distinction as to his own biological children. Then at a certain point your stepfather moves to adopt you. Adoption can be a lengthy process, with a mandatory minimum three month waiting period. During that process your stepfather passes away intestate. You are not legally his child so there are no inheritance rights; so what do you do?

Perhaps you seek various government benefits that you would be entitled to if you were adopted, such as Social Security benefits if you are still a minor, benefits through the Veterans Administration, et cetera. This scenario is entirely plausible and actually happened in the case of Matter of Mazzeo, 466 N.Y.759 (A.D. 3rd Dept 1983). Mazzeo shows some of the problems that goes beyond what was outlined above, in that in Mazzeo after the necessary parties filed the adoption petition for an adult adoption, the stepmother (Rose Mazzeo, hereafter Mrs. Mazzeo) passed away intestate and her niece filed for letters of administration, claiming that under New York’s intestacy statute, Mrs. Mazzeo’s only surviving heirs were her five nieces. The stepson (Joseph Mazzeo, hereafter Mr. Mazzeo) opposed this move and claimed that he was equitably entitled to be considered the child of the deceased. The New York Appellate Court agreed with Mr. Mazzeo and found that under principles of equity, or, fundamental fairness, an adoption should be construed for purposes of considering Mr. Mazzeo as the heir to Mrs. Mazzeo.


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