Many married couples in New York assume that they do not need to write a will. Couples believe that when one spouse dies, everything will simply be passed to the surviving spouse. While this is in some cases true, these matters can be much more complicated when a couple has children. To ensure that there are no disputes between family members, it is always important for people to state their intentions clearly in a will.
When one spouse owns a house that the other spouse’s name is not attached to, it is important to add the spouse’s name to the deed . If this is not done before the homeowner dies, the surviving spouse will in some states only inherit the house as a ‘life estate.” This means that the surviving spouse may live in the home as long as they are alive, but they cannot sell it. After the owner of a life estate dies, the house goes to the original homeowner’s children.
Another problem that could arise when married people do not write wills involves financial accounts. If a family member puts their name on an elderly person’s bank account before they die, the family member could inherit everything in the account even if that was not the person’s intention before they died.
A lawyer may be able to help a married couple to write wills, set up trusts and create other estate planning documents to help them during their life. If a couple has not changed their wills for many years, an attorney may be able to help them update their wills so that they can take advantage of new estate planning tools.
One task that is often underestimated or ignored during the preparation of a will is the task of selecting an executor. A New York testator may believe that the person that has been chosen is qualified for the role, but that is not always the case. In some cases, the executor of a will is not even told ahead of time that he or she has been chosen to do so.
When choosing an executor , it may be a good idea to select someone who the entire family trusts or is at least comfortable with. This is because the executor may be able to distribute some assets at his or her discretion, which could cause problems. For instance, one heir may get a photo album that another heir had an attachment to or an asset that was worth a lot of money that another heir was hoping to have control over.
Good communication between the testator and the executor can make things easier for the executor when it comes time to do his or her duty when the testator dies. Executors should also understand how to value assets such as real estate or find experts who can place a proper valuation on an item. This is important when selling assets to pay bills or when determining how much tax an estate may owe.
The probate process can often be confusing, and it can also take more time than both the executor and the heirs who have been provided for in the decedent’s will expected. In order to reduce potential conflict, it can be a good idea for the executor to keep the decedent’s heirs and other family members posted as to the progress. An attorney who has estate administration experience can often assist an executor in avoiding potential problems and delays.
A New York resident who has a spouse and children might pay close attention to estate matters, especially in case of major changes to their financial or family situation. However, those who have never married may not worry as much about estate planning due to the fact that there aren’t dependents. The reality is that anyone who has assets should think about creating an estate plan to ensure that their wishes are documented legally. Failing to do so could result in the court system having to follow the state laws of intestacy while absorbing some of those assets to cover its costs.
In many cases, those with no marital or parental responsibilities will name a companion, parents, siblings, or nieces and nephews as beneficiaries. They may also designate close family or friends as those in charge of any necessary medical or long-term care decisions. They might identify certain assets to be donated to scholarship funds or for other charitable purposes, which can help in reducing the tax burden for an estate.
It may be helpful to provide an explanation of one’s decisions, especially if there is an unequal distribution of assets to persons with reasonably similar relationships to the testator of a will . It is also advisable to review one’s estate plan at regular intervals to identify areas in which changes are warranted. In some cases, friends might have been included at one time who are no longer close to the testator. In other cases, the financial circumstances of a beneficiary might change, warranting a larger or smaller portion of the estate being designated for that individual.
An estate planning lawyer can be helpful for coordinating a trust or will to ensure that a client’s intentions are clearly and legally documented. Additionally, a lawyer can provide appropriate guidelines for reviewing one’s plan if estate tax laws and other relevant issues change over time.
The administration of a wealthy person’s estate in New York is a big undertaking. Executors must be aware of the current estate tax laws, and they must determine which IRS forms they are obligated to complete with the deceased person’s final tax filing.
Right now, an estate is considered taxable by the federal government if its assets are worth $5.43 million or more. The $5.43 million exclusion amount is indexed for inflation and adjusts each year. In 2012, a new estate planning tool was introduced that allows married couples to pass their unused exclusion amounts to each other when they die. With the new law, a married person could essentially exclude $10.86 million from taxation if they use their deceased spouse’s entire exclusion amount.
If a deceased person had an estate that was worth more than the federal estate tax exclusion amount, the decedent’s executor will need to complete IRS Form 706 . On the form, the executor will report the estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes. The current federal estate tax rate is 40 percent while the generation-skipping transfer tax rate is an additional 40 percent. A generation-skipping transfer tax may kick in if the testator left a chunk of their estate to their grandchildren or unrelated people who are at least 37.5 years younger than them.
A person who has been named as a testator under a wealthy person’s will may want to work with an attorney. When a significant amount of assets are at stake, there is the potential for disputes to arise if beneficiaries believe there is a problem with the estate administration . An attorney may be able to help the executor in the performance of all required duties.