Whether you live in New York or elsewhere, if you’ve been putting off estate planning for longer than you can remember, you are not alone. According to a recent report, only a third of Americans have at least a will, living trust or other estate planning document in place, and the primary reason for this is that just hadn’t gotten around to it.
Those who have begun estate planning recently experienced a critical health event in the past two years as well as Gen Zs and Millennials who are aged 18 to 34. It seems like a near-death experience or that of a friend or loved one has sparked significant interest among younger people, who are 41% more likely to create a will than much older age groups.
Regardless of your age or health, it is important to realize that estate planning isn’t there just for you, but for those you will leave behind when you are no longer there. For Brooklyn residents, having at least a basic will as part of an estate plan will prevent tax headaches and the burden of probate for your family.
What a will does
A will is a legal instrument that formalizes the wishes of the person who creates it, the testator, in matters of:
- Naming a guardian for minor children
- Directing estate assets on the death of the testator into a trust that will take care of the financial needs of the children, or for other concerns such as a pet’s care, charitable causes, or to minimize estate taxes.
- Naming an Executor who is a trusted friend or relative to oversee the administration of the estate, including assets to named beneficiaries and the settling of debts and taxes on the estate.
Without a will, the deceased passes intestate, which means that the court will appoint an administrator of the estate from a ranking of close relatives. If no relative steps forward, the court will appoint an administrator, with all costs coming out of estate assets.
The court will determine the distribution of assets by intestate succession, so your money and worldly goods may go to someone you do not like. Without a named guardian, the court will decide on a relative for minor children, and if there are no relatives, they will become wards of the state.
Legal requirements for a will
For a will to be valid in New York:
- The testator must be of sound mind and sign or acknowledge the will in front of two witnesses, who will also sign.
- The testator may make a self-proving will by appearing before a notary public with witnesses and signing an affidavit.
- Holographic wills are recognized.