What Makes a Will Effective?
A will is a legally binding document that allows an individual to determine how they would like their estate to be handled upon their death. A will may include instructions for the funeral, can name a guardian for minor children, and tells the court how the person making the will wants their estate distributed to beneficiaries. Wills must go through the probate process; the estate of a person who dies without a will must also go through probate, although the court, rather than the decedent, will determine how assets will be distributed. If you die without a will in the state of New York, there are no guarantees that your wishes for your estate will be carried out. An attorney for wills in Long Island, NY can save your loved ones from guessing – or fighting over – how you wanted your estate distributed. Davidov Law Group’s attorney for wills in Long Island, NY can make the entire process much simpler while ensuring your will is legal and valid.
What Happens When You Don’t Have a Will?
If you die without a will in the state of New York, your assets will pass in accordance with state intestacy laws—other than assets that go directly to named beneficiaries, such as life insurance proceeds, retirement benefits, or any property held jointly with the decedent and another individual. A person that dies without a will is said to have died intestate. In the case of no will, a New York court will determine, based on probate laws, how the estate will be divided. If there are no children, the surviving spouse inherits the entire estate. If there are children, the surviving spouse is awarded the first $50,000 and the balance is divided one-half to the spouse and one-half to the children.
If there are children, but no surviving spouse, the entire estate passes to the children to share equally. The grandchildren of the deceased will inherit their parent’s share of the estate if their parent is also deceased. If the decedent left no surviving spouse and no children, the estate goes to the decedent’s parents. If no parents are alive, siblings of the decedent are next in line. Absent a surviving spouse, parents, siblings, or children, the estate will pass one-half to the deceased mother’s relatives, and one-half to the deceased father’s relatives, beginning with grandparents on each side. If no relatives of the decedent can be found, the estate could pass to the state of New York.
What are the New York Requirements for a Will?
Each state has its own requirements that must be in place for the will to be valid. In the state of New York, the person making the will (testator) must be at least 18 years old. The testator must be considered to be of sound mind and memory. A will must be in writing, signed, and witnessed. The testator must sign the will, or a person must sign for the testator in the presence of the testator. If a person signs for the testator, that person must also sign the will and provide his or her address. Two people must witness the signature—these witnesses must sign their names on the will within 30 days of one another.
The testator must verbally state to each witness that the document they are signing is indeed his or her Last Will and Testament, made of free will, with no coercion or duress. An individual could conceivably have memory issues (dementia) yet as long as he or she knows the property owned, knows the people he or she is leaving property to, and understands the disposition being made, the will is considered valid. New York statutes provide for oral or nuncupative wills or handwritten wills only under very limited circumstances.
What Do Attorneys for Wills Do?
Although you can prepare a will on your own, it is generally not advisable. Not only can an attorney for wills provide critical advice on estate-planning strategies but; when you prepare a will on your own, the validity of the will could also be at risk. One simple mistake could invalidate your will, making it as though you died without a will, and putting the burden on the state to distribute your estate. Having an experienced, knowledgeable attorney prepare your will also ensures that your will is updated on a regular basis as your life changes. Marriage, births, deaths, new jobs, or moving to a new state can all require changes to your will. It is simply smarter to have an attorney help you plan your estate—including your will—than to make it a do-it-yourself project.
What are the Benefits of Having a Will?
One of the primary benefits of having a will is that it allows you to name a guardian for minor children or name a caretaker for your pets—things you cannot accomplish with a Trust. Although a will must go through probate—a time-consuming, potentially costly, and public process, it can provide a clear roadmap for detailing how the decedent wants his or her estate distributed.
A will can also give instructions for funeral arrangements, and generally names an executor who will ensure the will is properly probated, that all creditors and taxes are paid, and that the estate is distributed according to the decedent’s wishes. Having a will can also:
- Allocate money or assets for Trusts
- Plan a Living Will in the event of incapacitation
- Prepare for coverage of burial costs
- Allocate money for taxes
- Protect inheritances for heirs
- Streamline the entire process for loved ones
Do I Need a Will If I Have a Trust?
In many cases, you could benefit from having both a will and a trust. For example, if you have assets or properties that you did not have an opportunity to include in a trust before you pass away, having a will can ensure those assets or properties are transferred to the intended beneficiaries. Otherwise, they will be left to the closest relative as determined by New York law. A comprehensive estate plan typically includes both devices for more holistic protection. Speak to an experienced attorney for wills in Long Island to determine what is beneficial in your specific situation.
How to Select the Best Attorneys for Wills to Meet Your Family’s Unique Needs
Our mission at Davidov Law Group is to empower you to make smart choices about your future. We will explain all your options, explore various strategies, and explain what estate planning is truly about. We take a comprehensive approach to estate planning by incorporating all the necessary components—including wills—required to protect your legacy. Davidov Law Group maintains the highest level of professional knowledge and integrity in order to better serve you and your family. We have an in-house CFP and a depth of experience in financial matters rarely seen. We understand that you have choices when choosing an attorney for wills in Long Island. We believe choosing Davidov Law Group is the best choice for your future. For more information, take a look at our book, “Keeping it in Your Family—Protecting Your Family and Leaving a Lasting Legacy.”
How Davidov Law Group Will Protect Your Family and Preserve Your Legacy
The Davidov Law Group will take the time to explain the foundational role of an effective will in your overall estate plan. If you are considering a Last Will and Testament, a Living Will, or a comprehensive estate plan, we can help get where you need to be, giving you peace of mind for the future. With offices on Long Island, serving Nassau County, NY, and Queens County, NY, we are a family-owned firm that strives to help other families plan for the future. We are immigrants, and children of immigrants, whose parents sacrificed to provide a better future for us. With more than 21 years of client service and 2,500 families protected by our firm, we invite you to contact Davidov Law Group.