An estate planning attorney’s responsibility is to advise you and your family on making decisions and crafting legally significant documents related to your estate and your loved ones. They ensure that when you pass on the choices you want for your property and the people you care for are given full legal force. If these documents are not prepared properly, your wishes may not be carried out properly after death.
A good estate planning attorney will not only focus on your objectives such as who inherits your property and wealth, but also on issues that may be uniquely significant your situation. These issues can include important factors you may not have thought of such as citizenship issues and non-child dependents.
Overall, a good estate planning attorney will:
Help you and your family understand the situation you’re in.
Let you know what the rules are.
Guide you through the complex process of creating documents and making them official.
Ensures you have the say in who gets what at the time of your passing.
Come up with contingencies in case your beneficiaries aren’t around anymore at the time of your death.
Your Estate Planning Attorney in NYC helps you say who gets what AND who does what
Estate planning is not only determining who gets what at the time of death, but also who does what. The most common ‘who does what’ scenario is naming guardians for children, but there are three main flavors of who does what:
Executors- These are people in charge of managing your estate after your passing. They make sure your estate includes all the property you’re entitled to and that your obligations and debts are resolved. They are also responsible for distributing your property and assets according to your will.
Trustees- They hold inherited money for the benefit of another who cannot or should not hold it (typically minor children or incapacitated adults). This can also include asset protection and control features, even for adult beneficiaries.
Guardians- Those who take care of minor children after parents pass. You will know who you want to take care of your children in the unlikely event that you pass on before they become adults. If you do not specify, a judge will name a guardian for your child, and you (presumably) know who is fit for the job much better than he or she.
A good estate planning attorney advises and guides you on making intelligent choices, but these choices don’t mean anything if they aren’t memorialized and recorded in a legally significant way. For your will to be carried out correctly, it is not enough just to get it on paper and signed.
For a legally significant will you need:
At least two witnesses
Related statements on how document is executed
Proper document storage so it can used in the right way for when time comes.
Documents that meet all required qualifications.
Also, there are many choices that need to be made to protect against your own incapacity, such as in the event of an accident, stroke, or Alzheimer’s disease. Often you will give decision-making power of your estate to your spouse, but this is not the case for everyone. If you’re unmarried you can protect your estate from your own incapacity by naming a trusted individual through power of attorney and healthcare proxy.
When you need an estate planning attorney in New York
There is always what I call a ‘Plan B’ to estate planning. This is because if you don’t have an estate plan, New York state law has one for you.
New York State law has provisions that dictate what happens to your property when you die. Typically, it will go to your spouse, children, parents or otherwise more remote family. So, the real question is, when do you want to override this state law and come up with your own ‘Plan A,’ rather than the state’s ‘Plan B’?
Most often this comes into play when people start a family. New York doesn’t know who amongst the members of your family is best suited to take care of your child, or who is best to give proper guidance over your estate. This is when most people need a ‘Plan A.’
If you don’t have children, you may consider hiring an estate planning attorney to over-ride New York law when you start to acquire property and wealth. If you buy a house or an apartment, have earned yourself your first $1 million, or just have certain kinds of assets where it is better to make appropriate provisions, you can hire an estate planning attorney to advise and guide you on these decisions.
What your Estate Planning Attorney needs to know about doing business in New York
Much of the estate planning attorney’s job is done face to face. The initial interview, review, and signing are all done in person, which makes this is a personal business. Therefore, it is good to have an estate planning attorney in NYC who is part of your local community and to have a constructive working relationship with them.
Why go with someone in Chicago when could have an estate planning attorney right here in New York? Of course, there’s also the advantage of working with someone who understand New York State’s laws.
5 factors of state law that an estate planning attorney in New York should know about:
New York estate taxes. New York has a state estate tax along with a federal tax. Many states now do no not have a state estate tax, but New York still has does. Having an estate planning attorney in New York can help you properly navigate your estate tax situation. Currently, if you have more than $5.74MM you are subject to the New York estate tax, which can also affect your other assets such as a 401k and life insurance.
Spousal rights by state. If you’re married more than once, divorced, have kids from more than one spouse, have kids from a first spouse and not a second or want to leave money to someone who isn’t your spouse, New York state law will come into play. New York specific laws such as ‘elective share’ (a spouse’s right to one-third regardless of what the will says) will come up in these spousal situations and it is good to have an estate planning attorney who knows New York state law on your side.
Naming a foreign guardian. What if your chosen guardian for your children is in Canada, Japan or Israel? There are a ton of people with overseas connections in New York and state law comes into play when granting custody of children to an overseas guardian after death.
Cooperative Real Estate. Real estate in New York can be tricky. According to a New York Times article, around 75% of Manhattan high-rise housing is made up of co-operative apartments while 25% is condos. Unlike a condo, your co-op apartment is owned by a corporation. This means that you did not technically buy real property but bought shares of the corporation. This presents certain legal factors at the time your passing that are unique to New York state law and having a great local estate planning attorney in NYC is going to help.
Property in other states. Do you own a ski condo in Vermont, or a vacation home in Poconos, perhaps an investment property in Idaho? If you do, you will want the advice of an estate planning attorney in New York who understands how to handle these out of state properties within your New York Estate.
A good estate planning attorney keeps it as complex as it needs to be, but simple as it can be. We understand you didn’t come in to see us wave our law degree and you’re not there to get college credits. You need to know enough to make important decisions about your estate, not enough to become a tax lawyer. Our goal is to answer your questions and guide you through this complicated process, but we don’t need to show off how detailed our documents are.
Estate planning is not just making a few practical decisions, but a whole process. A good estate planning attorney will ensure you know the next steps, what your homework is, how much this will cost and who’s responsible for what. You should leave your initial interview with a good understanding of the legal relationship and how to get project done.
Looking for a great estate planning attorney in New York? Contact Bischof and Bischof LLP and we’ll get you on the right track.