By Alexander Bader, Esq.
As practicing attorneys at Brady & Marshak, LLP, we commonly assist clients in meeting their estate planning goals. We also have educational seminars for local communities regarding estate planning. In engaging with clients, prospective clients and seminar attendees in such a manner, we consistently hear: “My neighbor told me…”; “My cousin transferred her house to…”; “Suzie Orman said…”, etc. In some ways, being attuned to what others are doing, or advising, with regards to their estate planning is positive because it gets people thinking about this important subject and motivated to address it. However, there is no substitute to having a proper consultation with an attorney regarding what is appropriate for YOUR estate plan. Your unique circumstances (i.e., your income, assets, family structure, where you live) are so very important in determining the proper estate plan for you and only an attorney who practices in the area of estate planning knows how to best match the legal planning tools available with the facts of your life.
To exemplify why an estate planning consultation that tailors a plan to you is so key, the remainder of this article will address and debunk some of the myths we have heard that go against this notion:
“I’m not rich, so I don’t need estate planning”
FALSE! No matter your net worth, if you want to pass assets to your heirs as efficiently as possible, you need estate planning. This is even more important if you wish to direct that your assets be distributed upon your passing in a manner different than what the default statute in New York would call for if you did not have a Last Will & Testament (i.e., if you passed away “intestate”), which is very often the case.
Another reason all adults, no matter how much money they have, need to have an estate plan is to be certain they are best prepared should they require long term care due to illness or injury. This type of estate planning is even more important for those that are less than multi-millionaires.
“I’m too young to worry about estate planning”
FALSE! First, we have no crystal ball that tells us when crisis (illness, injury, death) will afflict us. In turn, there is no age in which an adult could not benefit from having the proper plan in place to address the possibility of such unfortunate circumstances occurring. Also, anyone with minor children that wishes to direct who would care for such children should something happen to him or her must be certain that a Last Will and Testament addresses this. Finally, if you have a relative that receives government assistance, without proper planning your death could make the relative ineligible for the crucial assistance that he or she receives.
“Owning everything jointly is the best plan”
FALSE! If only it were so simple…. There are too many reasons why employing “joint ownership” as your entire estate plan is not advisable for all to be addressed here. One such reason is that any assets you decide to place a joint owner on are then available to creditors of that joint owner. For example, if you put your child on your house or bank account as a joint owner, and then your child gets divorced, or files for bankruptcy, or has a car accident, that asset would be at risk. In addition, there are simply many better ways to make sure assets are distributed in the manner you wish for them to be upon your passing than joint ownership.
The contents of this article are in no way intended to be legal advice and are provided for educational and informational purposes only. Please feel free to call our office if you feel we can be of service to you in any manner. Our attorneys can be reached at Brady & Marshak, LLP, Attorneys at Law, and (718) 738-8500. This article may be considered an Attorney Advertisement.