Essential Workers Discount | Estate Plans | Wills and Trusts

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Essential Workers Discount | Estate Plans | Wills and Trusts

We hope that everyone is doing well during these unprecedented trying times.

We have been approached by numerous clients during this tumultuous time who wish to update or even create their estate plans, and with the help of video conferencing, we are able to offer our clients a way to check this important “to-do” off the list so they can focus on their families and staying healthy while maintaining social distance.

For those of you who have current estate plans in effect, now is a good time to reflect on whether you wish to make any changes.  If you do not yet have an estate plan, now is the time to think about your wishes concerning your health care and assets during your lifetime, and the distribution of your assets and decision-makers who will effectuate your wishes upon your passing.

Without a will, New York State intestacy law dictates who inherits from you upon your passing. A will is your opportunity to change the law’s automatic beneficiaries, and allows you the opportunity to choose who administers your assets on behalf of the beneficiaries, at what age a beneficiary can inherit, and in the case of those with minor children, to name a guardian.

Two examples: First, if a person is married with children and dies without a will, New York intestacy law dictates that the spouse inherits the first $50,000, plus one half of the remaining estate. The child(ren) of the decedent inherit the other remaining half. A child can inherit at the age of majority (18). It is very common, however, for people who are married with children to leave their entire estate to their spouse, and for the child(ren) to inherit only when the surviving spouse has passed, and usually at an age beyond 18.

Second, if a person is unmarried and without children, New York intestacy law dictates that the parents (if living) inherit the entire estate. Without any living parents, the siblings (or children of predeceased siblings, i.e., nieces and nephews) inherit equally. Having a will gives you the opportunity to pick and choose your heirs rather than have an entire class of people inherit.

There is no one-size-fits-all estate plan, as every family situation is unique. Your plan will be drafted in accordance with your express wishes and situation.

We highly recommend that our clients have the following basic estate planning in place:

  1. Wills;
  2. Powers of Attorney;
  3. Living Wills/Health Care Proxies; and
  4. Designations of Burial Agent.

The will designates who receives your assets upon your death.  The wills deal with probate assets (which are owned in your individual name without a joint owner or beneficiary).  In the case of a married couple with children, we suggest your will state that their assets pass to their spouse first, then, after the surviving spouse passes, to their children equally “per stirpes.”  Per stirpes means in the event of a predeceased child, that child’s children would “step up” and inherit the share.

The will also states at what age a child or grandchild can inherit (we suggest 25).  The will also names a Trustee who will manage the assets for any beneficiary under the age of 25, or for the surviving spouse if the survivor elects to establish a credit shelter trust.  You should name both an Executor (most appoint their spouse, if applicable), as well as an alternate Executor to handle the probate of your will.

The Power of Attorney gives very detailed authorizations to an agent to handle your finances in the event you are unable to do so.  Most people appoint their spouse, if applicable, as well as an alternate agent.  The power of attorney is “durable” which means it is not affected by your subsequent disability or incompetence.

The Health Care Proxy/Living Will designates who can make health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so.  Like the power of attorney, most people appoint their spouse, if applicable, as well as an alternate agent in the event the primary agent is unavailable and/or unable to make health care decisions for you.  The Living Will gives you the opportunity to decline certain treatments if there is no hope of recovery.

The Designation of Burial Agent appoints your agent (similar to the power of attorney and health care proxy, the spouse, if applicable), and allows you to make certain designations, such as where you wish to be buried or cremated, etc.  You should also appoint an alternate agent.

Once we receive the answers to the questions raised above, along with the full names, addresses and telephone numbers of all the children/decision-makers), we will e-mail drafts of these documents with a detailed letter of explanation.  Once the documents are reviewed and deemed satisfactory (or at any time prior), we can schedule a video conference to sign the documents before the required witnesses.

We are offering a 15% discount off our fee for the basic estate plan documents for our clients who are essential workers, as a thank you for your hard work and dedication to helping our community through this pandemic.

There are other estate planning tools available beyond the basic (although comprehensive) estate plan package detailed herein.  One example is a revocable trust, which is a vehicles to title assets where heirs are being disinherited or are unknown, and the goal is to avoid probate.  Another example is an irrevocable trust (also known as a Medicaid qualifying trust), where assets are transferred into trust to be managed by a trustee (NOT the grantors) to start the clock on the 5-year Medicaid look back period.  We are available to discuss these further.

Our trusts and estates partner is Christina A. Wilcox. She may be reached at cwilcox@hmylaw.com or 631.694.2400 x 232. Please feel free to reach out to discuss your estate plan. We are here to assist you.

This newsletter is provided by Hamburger, Maxson, Yaffe & McNally LLP to keep its clients, prospective clients, and other interested parties informed of current legal developments that may affect or otherwise be of interest to them, and to learn more about our firm, our services and the experiences of our attorneys. The information is not intended as legal advice or legal opinion and should not be construed as such

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