Three Estate Planning Documents You Should Have In New York
There are three basic estate-planning documents everyone in New York should have, regardless of their age, income or circumstances. These include a will, a power of attorney, and a health care proxy.
My name is Lorraine Coyle, an estate planning lawyer in the Bronx. Over the past 36 years, I helped thousands of families throughout the New York City area plan their estates. This page explains why these three estate planning documents are indefensible.
Why You Need A Will
If you die without a will, the probate court will distribute your property to the people who are entitled to have it under New York’s law of intestate succession. That might not be as you would have wanted.
A will allows you to decide not only who will receive your property but when they will receive it. Without a will that states otherwise, for example, children will receive their entire inheritance at age 18. At that age, they might be mature enough to use assets wisely.
If you have minor children, your will can name a guardian for your children if you and your spouse die before your children are adults.
Why You Need A Power of Attorney
Many people go through a period of incapacity before they die. Even people who are young and healthy can be incapacitated by an accident. Without a power of attorney to designate someone who can make decisions for you, your family might have to go through a long and costly guardianship proceeding to appoint someone to handle your affairs.
Why You Need A Health Care Proxy
A health care proxy allows you to name someone to make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated and can’t communicate your wishes. A health care proxy can include a living will to communicate your wishes with respect to end-of-life care. While living wills are not binding on health care providers in New York, they can still let your family members know what you want.
What Other Estate Planning Documents Should I Have?
Depending on your circumstances, you may need a trust to protect your assets and your beneficiaries.
There are many different types of trusts you can use to meet specific goals such as minimizing taxes, protecting assets and providing assets to a disabled family member. See Estate Planning for Real Life.