Spotlight on Elderlaw: Top Ten Reasons to do Estate Planning at Every Age

By Nancy J. Brady, RN, Esq.

As most people know, a Last Will and Testament is a document, prepared by an attorney, to serve as evidence of one’s last wishes regarding how assets and belongings should be distributed after the individual passes away. Most people think Wills are only for the elderly.  Nothing could be further from the truth- a Will can serve several other purposes, as summarized below:

  1. In a Will, the person of your choice can be named to represent you in distribution of your estate. This person is known as the “executor”. The executor can also act quickly to bring a lawsuit- in the event you passed away as the result of an accident, or medical malpractice.
  2. The Will can include certain clauses for estate tax planning- if the estate is large, language in the Will can delineate the plan for the surviving spouse’s estate- to ultimately minimize taxes on the death of the second, or surviving spouse.
  3. If you have minor children (under age 18), you can include provisions to name your preference for guardians to take care of them personally as well as trustees to manage their finances. You can also make provisions for children from prior marriages.
  4. If you have disabled children of any age, trust instructions can be included in the Will in order to have the disabled individual’s inheritance separate, and not jeopardize any government benefits they may be receiving when you pass away.
  5. If you are inclined to make gifts of your estate to charity, the charities can be named in the Will.
  6. Having a valid Will in place can streamline the probate process because your wishes are in writing. Without a Will in place, determining who is to inherit and petitioning court accordingly may take more time.
  7. In a Will you can make provisions for certain specific amounts to be gifted to people, who may not necessarily inherit from you otherwise.
  8. You should NOT document your wishes for a funeral in your Will -the Will might not be located or looked at until after your services and burial.
  9. You should have a Will because tomorrow is guaranteed to no one, and you should have your papers in place to ensure your wishes are carried out, and to make things a little bit easier for your loved ones.
  10. If you don’t have a Will, the New York State statute regarding laws of intestacy will determine who will inherit your estate.  The statute may not accomplish your wishes, and it is simple enough to have a Will completed.

While it’s simple enough to complete a “simple” Will, you should not rely on computer programs to complete something as important as your Last Will and Testament. This is not the time to “cut corners” – the little bit you save could result in thousands of dollars in legal fees and probate expenses if not properly completed.  You should consult with an attorney to discuss the details of your particular circumstances, and work together to complete a Will that will not result in delays in your intended loved ones accessing your hard earned life savings and property.

The contents of this article are in no way intended to be legal advice, are provided for educational and informational purposes only, and are directed only to those domiciled in the State of New York. Please feel free to call our office if you feel we can be of service to you.  Our attorneys can be reached at Brady & Marshak, LLP, Attorneys at Law, and (718) 738-8500.