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Estate planning basics

Creating an estate plan is crucial for people in New York who want to pass their assets on to their children or other beneficiaries. When a person dies without a will, the distribution of assets is governed by the state's law of intestacy, which may produce a different result than the decedent had in mind. A probate judge will be responsible for naming a guardian for minor children when a parent dies with no estate planning documents covering this eventuality.

The bulk of a person's estate may be left in a revocable living trust that can be passed to heirs outside of probate. Using a revocable living trust will allow heirs to collect their inheritance without the waiting period and costs that are associated with the probate process. Even with a trust in place, however, a person should be sure to write a will that reiterates how they would like their other assets to be distributed, names guardians for minor children and specifies any other wishes that they might have for their estate.

Another crucial aspect of an estate plan is making sure that designated beneficiaries on financial accounts are up to date. Regardless of what is written in a person's will, the beneficiary designations on certain types of accounts will govern. That means that a person could potentially leave the proceeds from their life insurance policy and retirement account to an ex-spouse if the designation has not been updated.

Many people decide to seek help from an attorney while they are considering these issues. While ensuring that a person does not forget to plan any crucial aspect of their estate, an attorney may also provide valuable advice about trusts and other tools that could serve to protect and preserve property for the client's heirs.

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