PROTECTING YOUR ASSETS : WILLS IN NEW YORK
Residents of New York, should have either a will, or a trust to ensure their assets are distributed among their heirs at the time of their death. Both legal documents have different characteristics which are important to understand. Typically, those who have only a modest estate will need only a will to designate their heirs; those with substantial estates may require one, or more trusts to distribute assets. Here are some of the things you should know about trusts and wills in New York.
Those who have specific ideas as to how their property will be distributed upon their death should always have a will. Under New York statutes, if a person dies without a will, known as “in testate” the state will decide upon the division of property. In nearly all cases, this means a surviving spouse will automatically be awarded the bulk of the estate, while the surviving children will divide the balance. It is also important to note that if you are divorced after you create a will, and you fail to update your will, your estate is protected. Final divorce decrees, in place at the time of death, automatically protect you from property going to an ex-spouse unless you have specifically acknowledged the divorce, and still leave property to them.
UNDERSTANDING NEW YORK WILLS
New York statutes have specific requirements for a will. The maker of the will must be age 18 or over, and must be considered of sound mind. A will is commonly known as a “Last Will and Testament” and is a legal document for distributing the assets of the maker after their death. In nearly all cases, a will also designates a person to handle the estate of the decedent; this person is known as the executor of the will.
It is important to note there are certain exceptions as to what property may be distributed in a will. For example, if the will maker has property that is held in joint tenancy, the property automatically is granted to the other property holder upon the death of one party. Life insurance policies, and most retirement accounts have named beneficiaries; unless the primary beneficiary dies, or the beneficiary is the estate of the decedent, they may not be distributed via a will.
NEW YORK LIVING WILLS
Unlike a will that is designed to provide for the division of your assets after your death, a living will is designed to protect you while you are alive. Drafting a living will allows you to designate the minimum standard of health care you are to receive in the event you are incapacitated, and unable to do so for yourself. A living will is not a DNR (do not resuscitate) order, nor is it to be considered a health-care proxy; these are very different documents which may be drafted in addition to a living will.
DON’T JUST TAKE OUR WORD FOR IT
Yonatan Levoritz is a tireless fighter: super-smart, no-nonsense, absolutely trustworthy. Unlike some attorneys, he listens and communicates. His fees are surprisingly modest and he takes care never to waste a penny of his client’s money. He out-lawyered my spouse’s fancy Manhattan law firm at every turn and won a settlement far better than I had thought possible. He’s got to be the best bargain in the city. With Yoni in your corner you feel confident and empowered.
Yonatan Levoritz is a super-smart, wholly committed, tireless advocate. He’s a godsend to his clients and a terror to the other side. For me he was a lifesaver: representing me in a bitterly contested divorce, he used brilliant negotiating skills to achieve a just settlement that far exceeded my wildest hopes. He listens, understands, and communicates. He’s scrupulous about never wasting a penny of client money. He’s got to be the best bargain in New York City.
Mr. Levoritz is top-notch; the staff is incredibly helpful. He is extremely thorough, conscientious and knowledgeable. Mr. Levoritz responded quickly and thoughtfully to all my questions. I am satisfied with the outcome of my case.