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The major purpose of a will in New York

Many people misunderstand the need for a will. They see a will as something that individuals who are trying to save money in estate taxes or set up a trust would need. The real reason behind drawing up a will is to ensure that the people that someone wishes taken care of after their death will receive what they want them to.

When anyone dies without having a written will, an administrator that is court-appointed will probably handle his or her assets. In New York, the rules that govern those distributions are called the "Distribution Rules of Intestacy." Those rules were determined by the New York State Legislature and only reflect distributions of assets that are most likely to be considered preferable under most circumstances. The allocation of assets by this method could be quite different from what the deceased would have chosen for his or her assets. That is why a will is so important for enabling any individual the chance to ensure that those assets are distributed according to their express wishes, not those of the courts.

Another important consideration involves minor children. If a parent dies, leaving young children and no will, the court could appoint a guardian to manage an under 18 child's share of his or her parent's assets. If the deceased has a spouse who outlives him or her, there is no guarantee that the court will appoint that spouse as the child's guardian.

When anyone has questions regarding drafting a will to protect their heirs and their assets, they could consult with an estate planning attorney. An attorney could help not only with the will but also with overseeing its proper execution and making sure it is carried out as per the client's instructions.

Source: New York State Bar Association , "Why You Need a Will", November 18, 2014

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