I Don’t Need a Will! – Or Do I?

Aside from the metaphysical question of whether anyone really “needs” something, there are several reasons why someone would conclude that establishing an updated & professionally prepared estate plan: Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Health care proxies – would be a good decision. Let’s focus for this discussion on Wills. NOT having a Will and passing away with “probate assets” – assets titled in the name of the decedent alone & without beneficiary designations – would result in New York State Law and not yourself deciding who gets your probate estate assets and in what amounts. Dying “intestate” – without a Will – in New York, with a surviving spouse and children, leaves the decision to New York State law, which states that as to probate assets the first $50,000 goes to the surviving spouse, with the balance split 50% to the surviving spouse & 50% to be shared equally by the surviving children. Perhaps that is what you might have chosen to happen – more likely it’s not. A Will allows you to decide who gets what and in what amounts. Another scenario that can result is that your probate assets could go to your underage children. “Underage” could mean whatever you decide it to mean – under 18 years of age, under 21, under 25, under 50 years of age. You also can retain your probate assets in special Trusts to protect a beneficiary from the consequences of receiving the assets – in addition to being too young, perhaps a child has disability issues, or addiction issues, which you feel receiving assets from you upon your death would be best held indirectly for their benefit in a Trust. Or perhaps there is a close relative of yours that you would NOT want to receive any of your assets, or less that they would otherwise receive under New York law. A properly drafted Will can make that decision happen. In summation, a properly drafted Will can make whatever intentions and decisions you have with regard to your probate assets happen. An attorney who focuses on the estate planning practice is the right person to talk about these and other planning issues.