What should I do to get my estate planning affairs in order, and how do I get around probate?
As we progress into 2016, it is important to get your estate planning documents together in the event the unexpected happens. Some considerations you may want to look into include drafting a will, assigning a health care proxy and assigning power of attorney to a loved one.
Drafting a will can be useful because it assigns your assets to specific individuals, helping you avoid an intestate estate. It eliminates the possibility that your assets will be distributed contrary to your wishes. While you can make your own will in New York state, consulting an experienced attorney is useful to ensure the will is properly drafted and to eliminate any questions or concerns you may have.
Assigning a health care proxy appoints someone to make health care decisions for you if you lose the capacity to do so yourself. This lets the person or people whom you have appointed make critical decisions in difficult scenarios, enabling them to abide by your wishes and guide healthcare professionals to make the best decisions.
Assigning power of attorney to a loved one enables you to determine how much of your affairs and transactions the loved one is enabled to decide, allowing you to make competent decisions with the assistance of your loved one. Consulting an attorney on the above issues will help clarify any remaining questions you may have and saves you from the hassle of a validity challenge in court, ensuring your goals are met.
Put briefly, probate can be avoided by holding your assets in joint name. Probate occurs when assets are left in the decedent’s name alone. There are three ways you can protect these assets from probate:
• First, you can put everything into an account with a joint account holder. This joint account holder should be an individual with whom you can entrust these assets.
• The second way to avoid probate is to make sure that any accounts that have beneficiary designations are finalized and therefore not payable to your estate.
• The third and final way to avoid probate is to have a joint tenant in your property, or to deed your property out and retain a life estate.
All of these methods will have the effect of sharing assets with another in name, and thus will keep these assets from going to probate. In the event you do need to probate the will of a loved one, it is important to consult an attorney experienced in estate administration to ensure everything is done properly.
Greg T. Rinckey, Esq., is a founding partner at Tully Rinckey PLLC, a full-service law firm located in Colonie. If you would like your legal question or topic answered in the next issue, please contact Greg Rinckey at 518-218-7100 or askthelawyer @1888law4life.com.