Three Tips For Estate Planning and Probate
At Mishiyeva Law, we are consistently publishing articles on the subject of probate law and estate planning. If we could recommend one article for New York City residents to read, it would be this one.
While we are young and healthy, estate planning typically tends to take a backseat on our to-do list. The thought of mortality can make anyone nervous. As a parent or guardian of a minor or special needs person, estate planning is instrumental in achieving a peace of mind. Investing some time and dollars into an estate planning attorney, can help you avoid for example, depleting your life savings into long term care. As a young estate planning lawyer in NYC, I am all too familiar with the familial disputes that accompany improper or non-existent estate plans. The following are three estate planning tips you should consider for proper planning:
Review Your Documents Before Affixing Your Signature
I am too often approached by clients who wish to terminate or amend their existing estate planning documents based on their failure to read and understand the documents prior to signing. Trusts (as well as other estate planning documents) can be expensive. Typically a trust in NYC costs at a minimum of $3,000.00. When you finally retain your estate lawyer and make such a significant investment, the last thing you want to do is not read your trust and will before you sign it. By first hand knowledge, this is what most clients do – they sign trusts without any review. Clients often believe their work is finished once they hire a lawyer to prepare their estate plan. However, the client must remain engaged throughout the process in order to create an effective plan. As an estate planning practitioner, I welcome many in-depth discussions prior to the execution date. Clients often review and comment on several drafts before they are invited to sign their documents. When it comes time to execute documents, clients feel confident in that they know exactly what they are singing. You may have many good ideas that your lawyer can include in your planning. Express yourself to your lawyer and make sure to understand exactly what you are signing to avoid amending or major pitfalls in the future. Amending or terminating a trust for example, can cost you thousands of dollars on top of the thousands you spent to create one. Be mindful of what you sign, and don’t sign something just because your lawyer tells you to. Approach estate planning the same way you would when buying a home. Make sure you know all the miniscule details and perform your due diligence as if you were an attorney.
Once all documents have been formed and executed, it is equally important that the client and their estate lawyer review the estate plan from time to time. Clients often make the error of signing documents and then filing them away just to forget that they even exist. Estate planning that made sense when they were married will not meet their goals if they are going through a divorce. Similarly, an estate plan that provides only for their children, will not mirror their goals if they get remarried.
DO NOT Hire Legal Zoom or Utilize Any Do-It-Yourself Service to Create Your Will
A common error made by many individuals is the do-it-yourself method of preparing their own will. For those individuals that don’t retain a lawyer to prepare their will, the possibility of their will being disregarded is very likely. A will is not relatively expensive even when it is prepared by an attorney. Depending on the complexity, an attorney drafted last will and testament should cost less than $1,000. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, contact a law school clinic or a pro-bono organization near you. During your will signing, make sure to follow the instructions of the attorney or law school student. Most importantly, make sure that there at least two witnesses that watch you sign your will and sign the will after you. If you are unfamiliar with the witnesses, make sure to introduce yourself and ask that they be witnesses to your will. The will signing process should not be informal. The details of the will ceremony are imperative in determining whether your will is valid. Any small technical error and that will is now void. What happens when a will is voided? People you may not be so fond of, such as your siblings or first cousins, inherit your entire estate. In short, invest a little in ensuring your wishes are fulfilled. Do not attempt to navigate the will execution process on your own, especially if you are planning to disinherit family members. Historically, wills that are not attorney-drafted are denied probate.
Choose Your Executor and/or Trustee Wisely
Once a will is determined to be legitimate by the Surrogate’s Court, it is admitted into probate. At this time, the nominated executor in your will officially becomes the personal representative of your estate. The executor bears the responsibility of making sure that all designated beneficiaries named in your will receive their inheritance. This may come as a shocker but not all executors are particularly benevolent or profound. Take extra care in choosing the executor of your estate. Choose someone that you trust and have known for some time. Most people designate their spouse or children as the executor of their estate. As an added layer of protection, you can name a trust protector in your trust or appoint two executors to act simultaneously. In some instances, naming your attorney as a trust protector or executor is a good idea. The fact is that lawyers have their license on their line, making them less likely to act astray.