An Estate Planning Checklist for Beginners

A house in Brooklyn passed on to a beneficiary through a probate

Preparing for the end of your life sounds challenging, but it’s something that you should do, notwithstanding. Having a well-thought-out will is not just essential for seniors but for the youth too. Life is uncertain. The best you can do for your children is to plan your estate carefully and intelligently.

Let’s cover the basics of estate planning:

Make a list of your belongings.

To get started with your estate planning, you need to begin to itemize your inventory or belongings. This may take a few days. Grab a paper and pen and start looking around for all the tangible and intangible assets you own. After you’ve enlisted the assets, you should also mention their estimated market value, date of purchase, purchase price, appraisal and valuation reports, and the number of years it’s been with you.

Your tangible assets may include real estate, property, homes, precious metals, ornaments, jewelry, antique collectibles, trading cards, cars, motorcycles, and boats. Intangible assets mostly comprise your investments, receivables, and bank accounts. Common examples of intangible assets include retirement plans (IRAs), savings accounts, mutual funds, stocks, bonds, certificates of deposits, treasury bills, and business ownership. When you’re enlisting these items, write down account details and the company/institution where your investments are held.

Consider Your Family’s Needs.

Your estate planning will also revolve around some important family decisions. If your children are still young, you need to name a guardian and backup guardian (if the primary guardian doesn’t survive). This will ensure that your children are taken care of and help avoid costly court fights. You don’t need to assume that your immediate relatives will share your child-rearing goals. Document your childcare-related wishes as explicitly as you can.

If you’ve remarried and don’t name a guardian, the child’s custody automatically goes to the surviving biological parent. If you’re not on good terms with your ex-spouse and don’t want this to happen, specify it in the will.

A probate courthouse

Review the Beneficiaries.

When you’re writing your will, don’t leave any beneficiary sections blank. In this case, when the will goes through probate, the assets will be distributed according to the estate laws. We also recommend contingent beneficiaries that get the property if the primary beneficiary dies before you do.

If you’ve remarried, you might want to update the beneficiary list. Let’s say your ex-spouse is still a beneficiary on your life insurance policy; your current spouse will not get a penny from the policy payout. The same goes for your retirement account. Keep track of and update the beneficiary designations as needed.

The last step is to select an estate executor who will in charge of administering the last testament. Choose someone competent, responsible, and possesses good decision-making ability. Your spouse isn’t always the best choice, especially if losing you takes a toll on their emotional well-being.

If the process sounds complicated, we recommend seeking help from a well-qualified estate and probate lawyer. If you’re based in Brooklyn, Queens, or Manhattan, and are looking for Queens Probate lawyer or Brooklyn Probate lawyer there is no better option than the law office of Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. We have over 20 years of experience in handling complex probate cases. You can contact online or give us a call at 347-395-4799 to arrange a consultation with an experienced New York probate attorney.


Here’s Why You Need to Consult An Estate Planning Service

Estate planning isn’t just for the rich. Irrespective of your current financial status, you should have an estate plan ready to help secure a financially stable future for your family after your demise.

If you’re under the impression that you can accomplish this all on your own, though, think again. Not only is that highly inadvisable, but it can also prove to be quite detrimental for you and your family.

Person shaking hands with an estate attorney representing a successful collaboration

For Legal Advice on Asset Naming

Here’s the thing: your will doesn’t automatically covers all your assets. You need to clearly state the different types of property ownership, retirement accounts, beneficiary designations, and life insurance terms. Otherwise, they’ll be considered to be independent of your will.

An estate planning attorney can review your assets and recommend asset titling options. They can also help you in changing beneficiary designations. This helps in time-consuming and costly procedures in the future.

For Professionally Drafted Documents

Another advantage of having an estate planning service handle your case is that you can be assured of professionally drafted documents and impeccable paperwork. You won’t have to worry about errors and inaccuracies in the documents, which can prove to be quite costly. They’ll take care of each and every aspect of the forms and applications, doing an immaculate job.

Moreover, an estate planning expert can customize your documents as per your specific situation and goals. They’ll arrange for the witnesses and required notary signatures, include all necessary details, and take care of the whole process without you having to worry about the piles of paperwork ahead of you.

Estate lawyer drafting an estate plan for client

For Timely Updates

You can’t create an estate plan and then never revisit it. With changing circumstances, wills, trusts, and other types of estate plans need to be updated. This is necessary so as to keep the contents aligned with the current situation.

For example, you may want to change details in your estate plan five years down the road. Maybe a close family member got married; maybe you relocated; maybe your family experienced a financial setback or blessing. Your life events affect your financial situation, which in turn affects your estate plan. Therefore, it’s important to keep it updated.

An estate attorney will remind you timely to review your documents. Moreover, they’ll also help you update your estate plan in case of changing state laws such as the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act and changing governments.

Ledwidge & Associates offer estate law attorney Queens and Brooklyn. Call our Estate lawyer Queens and Brooklyn at 347-395-4799 today for further assistance.

Why Should You Sign a Prenuptial Agreement?

Not only are millennials getting married later in life but are also getting prenuptial agreements before they do. From using it to strengthen their marriage to creating a safety net for themselves, they haven’t shied away from signing prenups. In fact, there has been a significant increase in the number of millennials opting for prenups in recent years.

gold wedding bands representing the sanctity of marriage

Getting married soon? Here’s why you should consider signing a prenup:

To Clarify Your Financial Rights

One of the most common reasons for couples getting prenups is to get clarification of their individual financial rights once they’re married. You can decide how you wish to spend your money and what your financial responsibilities will be after marriage.

For example, if you earn more than your partner and want your income to be utilized a certain way, you can mention this in the prenup. Similarly, you can also determine the ownership of your properties, stocks, investments, bonds, bank accounts, and other assets.

To Avoid Conflicts in Case of Divorce

Many people are averse to prenups because of how unromantic they seem, especially if you just got engaged or are planning your wedding in full swing.

Signing a prenup doesn’t mean you already know that you’ll get a divorce. However, there’s no denying the fact that even the most successful marriages can end at any given point for whatever reason. Isn’t it better to be prepared for such circumstances than suffer disputes and arguments if you are to get divorced later?

With a prenup, you’re compelled to discuss the difficult and uncomfortable topics you’d rather not think about just yet. It may not be the most pleasant experience, but it’s definitely a safe option and comes very handy if a couple chooses to get divorced.

couple discussing their prenuptial agreement terms with a family lawyer

To Pass on Property to Children from a Previous Marriage

If you have a child from a previous relationship, you can use the prenup to decide what shares of your properties and assets are to go to them after your demise. A prenup agreement is a solid way of outlining exactly what you wish to happen to your property and how you wish for it to be divided among your children.

This is important as otherwise the surviving spouse will have claims to most of your property. If you have specific ideas about your wealth and property distribution among your family, prenup is the way to go.

Ledwidge & Associates offer Family Law Services Queens and Brooklyn.  Call our team 347-395-4799 for further assistance on prenuptials.


Understanding Contested & Uncontested Divorce

People get divorced for all kinds of reasons. Try as hard as we may, sometimes the relationship we invest so much in just doesn’t work out and the marriage has to end.

How a marriage ends is another topic altogether. There are different kinds of divorce proceedings, the two most common ones being uncontested divorces and contested divorces.

What’s the difference between the two? Let’s take a look.

marriage certificate being cut into two pieces with scissors, representing divorce

Uncontested Divorce

When both the spouses are in agreement on filing for divorce and go ahead with the procedure mutually, it’s considered to be an uncontested divorce. This means that neither party has an objection to the divorce itself and is willingly proceeding with it. In uncontested divorces, both spouses also agree on the terms of dissolution. They’re on the same page regarding the distribution of assets, sorting of debt, and custody of their children. Many couples also reach a settlement on their own without having to go to court for it.

While uncontested divorces are generally amicable, you should still have an attorney guiding you through the proceedings. Sure, the process itself is likely to be swift and easy, but you do want to ensure everything’s taken care of properly. Even if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse agree on the major points of discussion, having a professional lawyer with you is a safe and smart move.

Contested Divorce

In contrast, contested divorces are those in which one of the spouses does not agree to the divorce, or the couple isn’t able to agree on the key issues pertaining to the divorce, for example, a spouse may object to getting divorced altogether and refuse to comply. In other cases, both parties encounter major conflicts on issues such as the division of assets, spousal support, child custody and support, and debt allocation. This creates a lot of turbulence, often leading to resentment and hostility between the spouses.

married couple arguing over the terms of their impending divorce, representing contested divorces

Unsurprisingly, getting legal support isn’t just recommended for contested divorces, but downright necessary. Neither party can move forward without having legal representation in a contested divorce, and no, you shouldn’t consider being your own lawyer in a contested divorce. It’s of the utmost importance that both parties hire professional divorce attorneys for their case so as to avoid losing out on the settlement and being negatively affected by the legal proceedings.

Our divorce lawyer Brooklyn and Queens at Ledwidge & Associates offer Family Law Services Queens and Brooklyn and Queens. Call us at 347-395-4799 for further assistance on navigating through your divorce proceedings.

How the Pandemic Is Impacting Divorce Rates

2020 has been a wild ride. Ever since the pandemic hit, the world has toppled upside down. The effects of the COVID-19 can be seen in all aspects of our lives, be it personal or professional.

For married couples, COVID-19 has proven to be especially challenging and has resulted in the deterioration of their marriage. In fact, it is expected that more and more couples are moving toward divorce considering new circumstances.

Why Are Couples Getting Divorced During the Pandemic?

Divorce is rarely a spur-of-the-moment decision. It’s usually based on underlying issues or conflicts that a couple couldn’t resolve or get past. Being locked down together due to COVID-19 has meant that couples who were already facing issues haven’t been able to escape their problems. In fact, being around each other constantly has made things worse.

married couple fighting in their house during the lockdown

Think of it this way: if you and your spouse haven’t been getting along too well lately, you’ll probably limit your interactions with them to some extent. Most of your conversations will either be neutral or negative. With the lockdown, however, you can’t really get away from each other. This means that all your worries, arguments, and issues are constantly present, ready to resurface at any moment.

This situation has led several couple to rethink their relationship and reconsider how they truly feel about their partners. For many of them, it has brought the realization that they no longer want to continue being in that relationship.

What Do the Statistics Say?

While there isn’t a foolproof way to actually track divorces during the pandemic, there has been an obvious surge in divorce filings. Of course, there’s no way of determining if these have come about because of the pandemic. Moreover, since the courts were closed in the initial months of the pandemic, there isn’t a record of divorce filings that would’ve been made if they were still operating.

Even as the courthouses in New York City reopen, there is a backlog of previously filed divorces to attend to. Thus, the surge in divorces shown suddenly cannot be entirely attributed to the pandemic, as they are not all new cases. There also are not sufficient statistics or surveys to prove that the couples who have recently filed for divorce have done so because of the pandemic specifically, and what it brought.

couple standing side by side with red crosses drawn on their hands, representing they’re no longer getting along and want a divorce

What Does the Future Hold?

It’s expected that divorce rates will soar after the pandemic. According to one email survey conducted in April, the current situation has highlighted couples who already had poor relationships and believe that the quarantine has further harmed their relationship. There has also been an increase in anxiety, depression, hopelessness, and domestic violence during the pandemic, which have also affected relationship dynamics among married couples. Thus, it’s highly likely that more couples will be getting divorced in the coming months than usual.

Our divorce lawyer Queens and Brooklyn, and other places in New York at Ledwidge & Associates offer Family Law Services Brooklyn and Queens. Call us at 347-395-4799 for further assistance on divorce proceedings.


Does New York Surrogate’s Court Have Authority to Evict Occupants of Estate and Trust Property?

When someone dies and leaves real property as part of their estate, such as rental property, commercial and retail buildings, and residential property, it becomes part of their estate. If they have a will in place, then the property is distributed according to the deceased’s wishes as outlined in the will.

In some cases, if the decedent also had a trust, then the property may be transferred to the trust as outlined in the will. One issue that arises as part of the probate processes in New York Surrogate’s Court is whether they have the authority to evict occupants of an estate and trust property.

Why Would New York Surrogate’s Court Need to Evict Occupants?

Supreme Courst NY Exterior

It is quite common for a deceased landlord to have renters in rental properties in NYC and the surrounding boroughs. The estate executor would continue to collect rental payments as part of their responsibilities for protecting the estate’s assets.

However, if the decedent indicated they wanted to sell the property, or if it was being transferred to a trust or another beneficiary, then the recipient does not have to honor existing lease agreements. Rather, they can give notice that tenants will need to move out.

If they refuse, then eviction proceedings would need to occur. Instead of filing in New York City Civil Court, which handles landlord-tenant issues, the new property owner could file their request with the New York Surrogate’s Court.

The Surrogate’s Court is tasked with overseeing that a decedent’s estate is distributed according to their will and/or transferred to their trust. As such, they have the power to issue eviction orders of occupants in a property that is part of the decedent’s estate.

Furthermore, the Surrogate’s Court has the power to evict occupants from residential properties that are part of the estate. For instance, the deceased may have had a caregiver living with them at the time they died. The caregiver may not have another home.

Yet, if they are not named as the beneficiary of the property, then they need to move out. If they refuse, then the estate executor or estate administrator could request an eviction order from the Surrogate’s Court.

How to Address Probate Issues Relating to Estate and Trust Property

Eviction notice document, pen, glasses and calculator on   desk

If the occupant refuses to vacate the estate or trust property, then the task of having to start eviction proceedings must occur. It is not that the estate executor or estate administrator necessary wants to evict; they are simply fulfilling their duties of gathering, securing, distributing all estate assets.

If the property has already been transferred to the trust or beneficiary, then the eviction task falls to the new owner. In either case, it is a good idea to get help from a New York estate lawyer with eviction proceedings through New York Surrogate’s Court. Eviction as this point can be rather complex and detailed. The beneficiary often needs expert legal representation.

If you have further questions or need assistance with estate and trust property eviction proceedings in Jamaica, Queens, Brooklyn, New York City or Manhattan, please feel free to contact New York estate lawyer, Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C. at 718-276-6656 today!

What Type of Information Is Entailed Concerning the Discovery of Estate Assets?

Whether someone dies with or without a will in New York, there are set probate court processes and procedures that must be followed to determine the state assets. If the deceased left a will, this duty falls to the executor of the estate. If the deceased did not leave a will, then this duty falls to the administrator of the estate, who is assigned and selected by the Surrogate Court.

Step 1: Identify Estate Assets

The first step is to identify all estate assets. Estate assets can include but may not be limited to:

  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Bank Accounts
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Real Property
  • Retirement Accounts
  • Business Ownership Rights

In the digital age, some estate assets may not be easily discerned. The executor or administrator may have to obtain access to the deceased’s email or other electronic accounts to fully discover every asset.

Step 2: Review the Will and Other Essential Documents

A business man sitting at his desk in dark jacket suit

If there is a will left, it is a good starting place to begin the discovery of estate asset process. The deceased will often have included all known assets in the will and their intentions on the distributions of said assets.

Besides the will, other documents that should be reviewed include bank statements, tax returns, stock ownership dividend statements, and so on. One could also do title searches to help discover property ownership and vehicle ownership.

Keep in mind, not all assets may be listed in these documents. Sometimes, the deceased may have left cash, jewelry, artwork, and other such assets that are considered physical property.

Step 3: Secure the Estate Assets

As the executor or administrator is discovering estate assets, they have the responsibility to secure the assets. Securing the assets means they are required to collect and protect the assets until they can be distributed according to the will or following New York State estate administration processes.

Failure to do so could result in interested parties seeking to remove the executor or administrator of the estate.

Step 4: Prepare a Detailed Statement of Estate Assets

Another essential task that is part of the discovery of estate asset process is to make a detailed statement of all estate assets. This statement needs to be accurate. It should contain current balances of cash accounts, as well as current market values for other assets.

The statement of estate assets may be relied on when it is time to distribute the asset. For instance, the deceased wished that the cash balance in their savings account be distributed to their four grandchildren. As such, the balance would be equally divided by four.

Step 5: Distribute Estate Assets

The final process the executor or administrator has is to distribute the estate assets. When there is a will, assets are typically distributed according to the deceased’s wishes as contained in the will. However, there can be exceptions, as when they had a trust or named a different beneficiary on a life insurance policy.

When there is not a will, then the administrator will follow the prescribed New York State estate administration distribution guidelines.

Amazing Manhattan skyline aerial view with Empire State Building.

The discovery of estate assets process follows somewhat similar steps whether an executor or administrator is tasked with closing an estate in NY. Please keep in mind this is a general overview of the discovery of estate asset process and should not be construed as actual legal advice.

It is highly recommended you consult with a qualified New York State estate lawyer like Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C. if you have further questions or need assistance with the discovery of estate assets process.

To schedule a consultation appointment in Jamaica, Queens, Brooklyn, New York City or Manhattan, please call 718-276-6656 today!

Do Life Insurance Beneficiary Rules Supersede Those of a Will in New York?

Life insurance can be a great investment to alleviate the financial burden on your surviving family should you die unexpectedly. The policy can help cover the costs of your funeral, pay off outstanding debts, and ensure your family is provided for financially.

However, there can be issues that arise regarding wither your life insurance beneficiary rules will supersede those of your will. When you die, whether you have a will or not, your estate must go through the New York State probate process.

last will and testament in a court

If you have a will, then the Surrogate Court will use probate rules to ensure your estate is handled according to your will. If you do not have a will, then the Surrogate Court will use an administrative proceeding to handle your estate and its distribution to surviving family members.

Yet, if you have a life insurance policy and a will, the Court will follow the beneficiary rules of the insurance policy and not your will, in most cases. So, if you named your wife as the beneficiary years ago when you got the policy and then named your children as beneficiaries in your will, your wife would receive all the proceeds from the life insurance policy.

Exceptions When Your Will Supersedes Life Insurance Beneficiary Rules

There are a few different exceptions where you will supersede the life insurance beneficiary rules:

Exception Example #1

You named your wife as beneficiary of your life insurance. However, you got divorced but forgot to update your life insurance. Your divorce decree included a statement where your ex-wife gave up all rights and claims to life insurance, retirement accounts, and other such assets. In this situation, then the beneficiary or beneficiaries named in your will would receive the life insurance proceeds.

Exception Example #2

You named your wife as beneficiary of your life insurance. Your wife passed away before you. You forgot to update your life insurance. Upon your death, if you had named beneficiaries in your will, they would receive the proceeds of the life insurance. If you did not, then the proceeds become part of the cash assets for your estate and are distributed according to your wishes.

Exception Example #3

You named your two children as beneficiaries of your life insurance. One of your children passed away before you did. Upon your death, the percentage that was to go to the child that died would either be distributed based on the beneficiary named in your will or become part of the cash assets of your estate and distributed accordingly.

Please keep in mind, these are very general examples to demonstrate when a will supersedes a life insurance beneficiary. There can be complex situations that can and do vary from one family to another.

In addition, for other types of accounts that have named beneficiaries like savings accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, etc., the beneficiaries named on these accounts would also supersede those named in a will in most cases.

happy Couple planning investment With Financial Consultant

Therefore, it is essential to get into the habit of reviewing named beneficiaries listed on life insurance and financial accounts annually. Updating beneficiaries is not difficult, and you may even be able to do so online.

You should also make it a habit to review and update your will annually, as necessary, with help from a New York probate attorney to ensure that the will reflects your current intentions and wishes.

For further assistance with creating or updating a will or assistance with updating beneficiaries on life insurance and financial accounts in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Jamaica, or New York City, please feel free to contact Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. at 718-276-6656 today!

What Is Legal Separation in New York?

When a married couple is having marital issues but they are not sure if divorce is the answer to their problems, they can choose a legal separation in New York. Getting a legal separation is also beneficial when the couple cannot financially afford to get a divorce, for religious reasons, or to continue to enjoy financial benefits like joint tax returns and health insurance.

A couple is not legally separated just because one person moves out of the marital home or the couple starts living separate and apart lives while remaining in the same home. Living separate and apart means each person is living their own life without the normal obligations associated with being married like sleeping in the same bedroom and being intimate with each other. In other words, the couple essentially becomes roommates who have their own separate lives.

To be considered legally separated, the couple must start the process of filing for separation in NY and sign a legally binding separation agreement.

Separation agreement on a table

What Is the Process for Getting a Legal Separation in New York?

The first step is for each party to consult with a separation agreement and divorce lawyer. To be considered legally separated in New York, the couple must create and draft a separation agreement and both voluntarily sign the document so it can be legally enforced should one party violate the agreement.

What Information Needs to Be in a Separation Agreement?

The best way to decide what information to include in a separation agreement is to look at what matters must be resolved if you were filing for divorce. You want to include details about such aspects, including but not limited to:

  • Child Custody: How will you and your spouse share custody of your minor children? Will you split parenting responsibilities equally with equal time with each parent? Will one parent serve like a custodial parent, where they have the children more often and the other parent less often?
  • Child Support: How much will you pay or receive for child support? If you are agreeing to equal parenting time, then child support may not be necessary, as long as you include in your separation agreement that each parent is responsible financially for the children while they are in the care of that parent.
  • Child Access and Visitation Schedule: You and your spouse will need to decide how you want to split parenting time. This is referred to as child access. You will want to create a visitation schedule that details who gets the children on weekends, holidays, school breaks, and other such times throughout the year.
  • Spousal Support: If one person is a “stay-at-home” parent, you need to decide how much, if any, spousal support you should pay or receive. You could also include special terms and conditions, such as the person receiving spousal support will make an effort to find gainful employment in a specified period of time.
  • Division of Marital Assets: You and your spouse need to decide how you will split and divide marital assets such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, investments, real property, real estate, and so on. If you and your spouse are not sure, you can still include wording that addresses liquid assets.
  • Marital Home: Who will get to remain in the marital home? Is the home large enough so both parents could remain in it with the minor children, but live separate and apart lives?
  • Decision-Making for Minor Children: Who will be responsible for making major decisions for your children? Do you need to consult with the other parent first, or are they okay with letting you make the decision and informing them of it later?
Gavel in the foreground, couple talking in the background

In addition to these details, there are other details specific to separation agreements that you will want to include, such as:

  • Health Insurance: Who will pay for health insurance? If you are on your spouse’s policy, will you remain on it or do you have to get your own?
  • Social Events/Activities with Children: Who will attend school and social events and activities? Are you agreeable to allowing the other parent to attend as well or would you prefer you take turns?
  • Vacations and Travel with Children: Do you or your spouse need to obtain permission from each other before taking children on vacation or traveling with them out of New York?
  • Division of Marital Debts: How will you split and decide who is responsible for which bills and debts you have incurred together, such as the house payment, car payment, utilities, and credit cards?
  • Home Maintenance and Upkeep: Who is financially responsible for maintaining the marital home?
  • Insurance Policies: Who is going to pay for homeowner’s insurance, auto insurance, and life insurance?
  • Wills and Trusts: Do wills and trusts need to be updated to reflect changes because of the separation?

Please keep in mind, this is just a general overview of the different types of details you will want to include in a separation agreement. The exact details of your agreement can and will vary based on the specific circumstance you and your spouse are filing for separation in NY.

Are We Still Legally Married After Obtaining a Legal Separation in NY?

A legal separation in NY does not dissolve your marriage. You are still legally married while separated. Should you and your spouse decide while living apart that you want to try to save your marriage through counseling, dating, and other such interactions, you are free to do so.

In the event you decide to start living together and reconcile, then your legal separation agreement can be written so that it becomes void. However, some couples choose not to do this, but rather require both parties to sign another agreement dissolving the separation agreement. This way, if the reconciliation falls through, the couple does not have to go through the process of filing for separation in NY again.

Furthermore, some couples legally separate but have no intention of ever reconciling, as when they are not allowed to get divorced due to religious reasons. Even though they are still legally married, the couple will need to decide whether they can date and see other people since they are no longer living together and have no plans to reconcile.

What if We Decide We Want to Get Divorced?

Getting a legal separation can be a precursor to getting a divorce in the future. However, you must have lived apart for a period of one year from the date your separation became legal in New York. Once you have met the waiting period, the divorce process can often be resolved quickly and in a matter of months.

Do We Have to Create a Divorce Agreement to Get Divorced?

If you already have a legal separation agreement in place, you can request that this be converted into your divorce agreement. However, the courts may deny the request in cases where the separation agreement favors one party over the other.

To illustrate, let’s assume the separation agreement is written so that you will retain the marital home and a sufficient amount of marital assets which would give you a financial advantage over the other party. The court will not allow this and could preclude certain aspects of the separation agreement from being converted into the divorce agreement.

Alternatively, some couples choose to request their separation agreement be kept apart from their divorce decree and divorce agreement. In this case, the separation agreement is said to survive the divorce decree. The terms and conditions of the agreement continue to remain in effect after the divorce is granted.

Woman staring at her wedding ring - divorce concept

As you can see, filing for legal separation vs. divorce in NY can be beneficial in certain situations. Before deciding whether separation is best for you and your spouse, you each should consult with a qualified lawyer to fully understand legal separation laws in New York.

To decide whether getting a legal separation or divorce in NY would be best for you, including Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Jamaica, and NYC, please feel free to contact Joseph A. Ledwidge PC at 718-276-6656 to schedule a consultation today!

Naming Beneficiaries on Life Insurance While Having a Trust in New York

Many people consider creating a trust either to complement their will or in place of a will. There can be several tax benefits to using a trust for certain types of assets, as well as avoiding hefty inheritance taxes and estate taxes.

If you are considering creating a trust in New York, there are several key things you need to know about naming beneficiaries on life insurance, 401(k)s, IRAs, and other such financial accounts with named beneficiaries.

To begin with, there is a difference in how insurance policy beneficiaries can be named, depending on whether you want to create a revocable living trust or irrevocable living trust. In a revocable living trust, the grantor of the trust can continue to make changes and update the trust until their death. They also can draw distributions from the trust.

In an irrevocable living trust, once it is established, it cannot be updated, changed, altered, or modified without the beneficiary’s or beneficiaries’ permission. All rights and claims the grantor previously held to the assets moved into an irrevocable trust are given up.

Revocable Trusts and Naming Beneficiaries on Life Insurance

Business photo showcasing money that is being held by the trustees for the beneficiaries

If you want the proceeds from your life insurance to go directly into your revocable trust, then you need to update the policy to name the trust as your primary beneficiary. There is no need to add secondary beneficiaries since you have a trust.

On the other hand, let’s assume you wanted your wife to have access to the life insurance proceeds immediately, without having to wait for a distribution from your trust. Then you would want to name her as the primary beneficiary and your trust as the secondary beneficiary. This way, if your wife passes away before you do, then the proceeds go directly to your trust upon your death. 

Irrevocable Trusts and Naming Beneficiaries on Life Insurance

The process of naming beneficiaries on life insurance policies with irrevocable trusts is similar to that of revocable trusts. You could list your trust as the primary beneficiary. Then the person designated as the beneficiary of the trust would receive the proceeds from your life insurance.

You could also list a person as the primary beneficiary and the trust as the secondary beneficiary. If the primary beneficiary is still alive upon your death, then they receive the proceeds from the life insurance policy. If they are also dead, then the proceeds are transferred to the trust and the beneficiary of the irrevocable trust.

What About Naming Beneficiaries on Other Types of Accounts?

For any type of account where you name a beneficiary, like a 401(k), IRA, savings account, etc., you would want to list your trust as the primary beneficiary when you want the proceeds to be transferred directly into the trust.

Or, if you wanted all or some of the proceeds to go to a named beneficiary, then you would list them as the primary beneficiary or stipulate the percentage they would receive upon your death. You would list your trust as secondary or as a co-benefactor and what percentage should be transferred into the trust.

What if I Named Beneficiaries of My Life Insurance in My Will Too?

Senior couple planning their investments with financial advisor

The New York State Probate Process would ensure that the beneficiary or beneficiaries named in your insurance policy received the proceeds regardless of the beneficiaries you named in your will. If you named your trust as the beneficiary, then the trust would receive the proceeds.

For further questions about revocable and irrevocable trusts, naming life insurance beneficiaries, and naming beneficiaries on 401(k)s, IRAs, and other financial accounts in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Jamaica, or New York City, please feel free to contact New York probate attorney, Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. at 718-276-6656 today!