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What Can A Will Or A Trust Do For Your Family?

Wills and trusts are the backbone of an estate plan, providing a structure through which you can pass your legacy on to your family. Putting this structure in place helps protect your assets and your loved ones when you cannot. The key is to customize your documents so that they work together to meet your personal goals.

I am attorney John J. Leonard, and I have many years of experience assisting individuals and families throughout the Long Island area with their estate planning needs. I understand the importance of making sure that your estate planning documents are tailored to your circumstances.

The Role Of Your Will In Your Estate Plan

Anyone can and should have a will as part of a comprehensive estate plan that also includes powers of attorney, a health care proxy, a living will and a trust, where appropriate. You do not have to be ultra-wealthy. A will must meet certain legal requirements under New York law, including being in writing and signed before two witnesses, though they do not have to be notarized.

Wills allow you a good amount of flexibility in deciding what should happen to your assets after you die. Depending on your situation, your will may allow you to:

  • Give money to friends, family or a favorite charity
  • Decide to withhold money from one or more of your adult heirs
  • Hold assets in a trust for specified individuals
  • Transfer the family home to a loved one
  • Limit the amount your spouse receives, with certain restrictions
  • Name a guardian to care for any minor children
  • Name a trusted executor to administer your estate

Your named executor will probate your estate after your death, overseen by the New York State Surrogate’s Court. A well-drafted will ensures that your wishes are followed and reduces the chance of successful challenges to your will.

Is A Trust Right For You?

For some families, a will does not do enough to meet their planning needs. You may want to consider a trust to achieve specific legal goals, such as donating to charity, minimizing taxes and protecting assets. You may select a trustee to manage your trust or, in some cases, act as the trustee yourself.

There are many types of trusts. When we meet, I will explain your options to you based on those goals. A few common types of trusts include:

  • Living trusts – These are the most common type of trust. As the name suggests, you create this trust with any of the assets you choose while you are still alive and may maintain control of it until you are no longer able. You can choose to have it end at your death or continue on after your death.
  • Testamentary trusts – You can create a trust in your will. It does not go into effect until your death and allows for your named trustee to manage your assets. It must provide for how and when it will end and what will happen to any remaining assets.
  • Supplemental needs trusts – If you have a loved one with special needs who relies on government benefits for their care, you do not want to jeopardize those benefits by leaving them a lump sum of money.

The main advantage of a trust is that it does not have to go through the probate process, saving your family time and money. Because it does not go through probate, your trust also protects your family’s privacy.

Start Planning For You And Your Family

When you are ready to begin exploring your options in estate planning, please contact my office in Hampton Bays to arrange a consultation. You can reach out to me online or call the office at 888-367-0445.