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Will and Trust Preparation

Making use of trusts, wills and estate planning to guide the distribution of your wealth after you pass away will help you control the outcome and avoid legal fees associated with unplanned estate distribution. As a trusted estate planning law firm, Ledwidge & Associates, PC can help you plan ahead for the inevitable and lessen the hardship on your loved ones.

Probate and inheritance law in NYC is designed to distribute your assets according to state guidelines in the event you were to pass away without a trust or will in place. Clearly, most of us want the final say in how our assets are managed and distributed at all phases of life.

What Is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

It is relatively simple to make a will but more difficult to predict future events and to rest assured that courts in Queens or Manhattan will uphold all of your wishes when written in your own words. Working with a trust and estates attorney in New York can help you choose between the inheritance planning tools available to relay your wishes clearly and cover contingencies.

We will discuss the benefits of each path separately, but when deciding between a trust vs. a will, be aware of these basic differences:

  • Trusts offer more control of assets, including payment schedules or special arrangements for family long into the future, and will require active management by a family member or estate lawyer after your death.
  • Wills provide a clear outline of how your assets should be distributed when you pass on, but will require a probate court and an executor to facilitate the process, and it is possible that if a will has not passed probate ahead of time, the court may find it invalid.
  • If no trust is in place and your will is missing or deemed invalid, your property will be distributed according to the standard guidelines of the state in which you live.

What Is a Will?

Most people have more assets than they realize, and often work with a will attorney to make sure the document is complete, clearly written, and enforceable, or likely to pass probate. To make a valid will in New York, you must meet these criteria1:

  • Be 18 years of age or older, and of sound mind and memory.
  • Be signed by the testator (creator of the will) and acknowledged with two witnesses to the signature within 30 days.
  • New York recognizes wills written entirely in the testator’s handwriting as “holographic wills,” although such wills are easily contested if they are not witnessed.
  • Members of the armed forces (and others) may create an oral will which can be recognized in the State of New York as a nuncupative will, but only under specific circumstances such as during active duty during a war or armed conflict.

What Is a Trust?

A trust is a more complex legal document which outlines your wishes and may benefit people, charitable organizations, and even cherished pets with a lump sum or recurring payment to create a secure source of income from your accumulated assets. Creating a trust and estate planning strategy provides the most options for carrying out your wishes.

Some of the benefits of utilizing trusts as part of your inheritance planning include:

  • A trust is a legal document which does not need to be filed with the probate court, saving legal fees, taxes, and the possibility of multiple court appearances in the case of a contested will.
  • A trustee can be named to manage the funds to provide ongoing income for the beneficiaries.
  • A trust can be set up to take care of your pets or other domestic animals for their lifetimes, or for 21 years total.2
  • Certain types of trusts allow the assets to remain accessible to you during your lifetime.
  • Without the need of putting a will through probate and into the public record, trusts protect family privacy.
  • A trust can be used to help beneficiaries who are themselves in debt or lack money management skills.

What Types of Trusts Are Recognized in New York?

There are many types of trusts which can be set up by a New York estate planning lawyer. These options are typically broken down into one of these two types:

  • A Revocable Living Trust or Inter-Vivos Trust is generally used to describe a trust that you create during your lifetime. A revocable living trust becomes irrevocable when you die because you are no longer available to make changes to it.

A living trust can help you manage your assets or protect you should you become ill, disabled, or simply challenged by the symptoms of aging. Most living trusts are written to permit you to revoke or amend them whenever you wish to do so.

  • An Irrevocable Trust is a type of trust that cannot be changed by you after the agreement has been signed and the trust has been formed and funded. For the most part, it’s forever. You cannot take property back placed into it, act as trustee, or manage the trust’s assets. Although you’ll give up control over the trust property, you do have control over the rules that govern the trust and you can determine the uses of the trust assets.
    • You determine who serves as trustee and name the beneficiaries.
    • You can retain the right to change beneficiaries.

Additionally, an irrevocable trust gives you:

    • Asset Protection – Property placed in a trust is generally shielded from outside creditors, liens, and even a divorcing spouse.
    • Savings on Estate Taxes – The property is not included in tax calculations of the total value of property at the time of death because the deceased person no longer owned the property.
    • Medicaid Planning – By placing assets into an irrevocable trust five years ahead of the actual need to obtain Medicaid benefits to pay for a nursing home, the individual has secured their assets for the benefit of their beneficiaries.

How to Find an Estate Planning Attorney for Wills, Trusts, and Estates

When you are ready to talk about estate planning in NYC, scheduling a free consultation with us in Queens, Brooklyn, or Manhattan can provide the information you need to get started with securing your wealth for those you care about. The law offices of Ledwidge & Associates, PC are available to help you set up your own plan for the future of your family today.

While estate planning is complex, investing the time now will protect your assets and help eliminate disputes, fees, and the possibility that someone you care about goes without your support in the future. Even if you are already involved in a disputed will or need advice about probate, we are here to represent your interests. Give us a call at 718-276-6656 or contact us online for more information.