5 Crucial Documents You Need to Have
Do you know what will happen to your assets and finances after you die? Regardless of your age or health, you should have an end-of-life plan in order. While many people believe a will or trust is all they need to ensure their last wishes are carried out, the process of estate planning is significantly more complicated than that.
New York is home to some of the most complex estate laws in the nation. It’s always advisable to consult with a legal expert when estate planning in New York, to ensure your end-of-life preparations are legally sound. In particular, you’ll want to seek legal counsel concerning 5 essential documents:
- Will/Trust: Even if you don’t have any substantial assets, a will helps your surviving family members and loved ones determine how to handle your heirlooms and debts. Your will should be consistent with any prior arrangements you’ve made in separate accounts. For instance, if your retirement account is bequeathed to your spouse, your will should mirror that fact. Otherwise, it may be contested.
- Durable Power of Attorney: If you are living but incapacitated, you will need to have assigned a trusted legal professional or family member with Durable Power of Attorney (POA) over your estate. This allows the selected agent to make decisions based on your prior wishes and your best interests. If you haven’t arranged for an agent to hold Durable POA, a court may end up presiding over your assets.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney: Similar to a Durable POA, a Healthcare POA arrangement allows you to select a trusted individual (typically a family member) to preside over your healthcare arrangements if you are incapacitated. You should select an individual who knows your worldview well, and who you can trust to act in your best interest. If you have any wishes regarding end-of-life care, you should make them known to whoever holds your Healthcare POA.
- Guardianship Designations: If you have or are planning to have children, guardianship designations are critical. Many wills may incorporate guardianship designations, however it’s always helpful to have additional documentation to back up your wishes in case any discrepancies arise. Choose a guardian that’s financially independent and familiar with your children.
- Beneficiary Designations: Many of your assets may be passed down to your family members and loved ones without being outlined in the will. Arranging beneficiary designations will make your last wishes completely clear and negate the possibility of your will being contested. All of your noted beneficiaries need to be over 21 years of age and mentally sound. If they aren’t, a court may intervene.
To learn more about estate planning in New York, consult extensively with Antony M. Eminowicz, Esq. Doing so will ensure you’ve got all of the proper documents on file, so your estate is handled properly should your own mental incapacity be in issue and after your passing.