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Syracuse Elder Law Blog

Using a trust to freeze a frozen person's assets

There seems to be a trust for just about everything, including one that allows a person to freeze his or her assets when he or she is frozen. The process of freezing a person is known as cryonics, which involves the use of liquid nitrogen to cool a body down to -328 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature, all cell activity is suspended. Proponents believe that advancements in science and medicine may someday allow preserved bodies to be revived.

Most of the cryonics in America is performed at one of two centers located in Clinton Township, Michigan, and Scottsdale, Arizona. It is estimated that approximately 400 individuals have been frozen in this manner since the 1960s, and as many as 1,500 more are planning to do so when they die. However, the process can be expensive, ranging in price from about $28,000 to as much as $200,000. Some celebrities have been frozen in this manner, including the late Ted Williams.

The most difficult element of estate planning

For many New York adults, the hardest part of putting an estate plan together is navigating through the family dynamics. This should come as no surprise considering that estate planning often involves having difficult conversations with loved ones. After all, family members won't always agree on what's fair, and sometimes fair and equal aren't the same thing.

By neglecting difficult conversations, estate owners might end up making several mistakes that could spell more trouble down the road. For starters, some adults may not have a plan at all, or they might think they are too young to worry about wills and trusts. Alternatively, estate owners who do have a plan could be hesitant to update it following major life events. Some individuals may also assume that a will covers the distribution of all assets, yet this is not always the case.

Are you up to date on the probate process in New York State?

As people make their way through a busy, eventful life, they may not give the subject of probate much thought. Perhaps they have an idea of how it works in New York, but is that idea accurate?

Here is an overview of the probate process in the state.

How trusts fit into an estate plan

There are many ways that New Yorkers can create a proper estate plan. One effective tool is the revocable trust. This type of document can live on until it has fulfilled the wishes of the deceased. If the deceased was also the trustee, it will be necessary to name a successor trustee to carry out its instructions after the grantor passes.

A key benefit of the revocable trust is avoiding probate. If an estate owner had property in multiple states, it could be necessary to go through probate in each of those states. With a trust, however, there is no need to do so as the trust owns the property and does not die. Another key benefit of a trust is the fact that an estate can be settled away from the public eye.

The most important estate planning documents

Whether a New York resident is single and childless or on a third marriage with multiple children from previous relationships, having an estate plan is important. While many documents may be involved in an estate plan, there are three that are essential to everyone.

The first is a will. Many people have what are called non-probate assets, such as an IRA or a life insurance plan, that are passed down using beneficiary designations or other methods. These funds can be easily transferred via designations; however, a will is for other assets. Without a will, the state must make the distribution decisions.

Estate planning with no children or close family

Some New York residents might think they do not need an estate plan because they have no children or close relatives or because their only close relative is a spouse. However, there are a number of other reasons to create one.

First, an estate plan is not just about who gets assets. An estate plan also involves making arrangements in case of becoming incapacitated. With powers of attorney, people can be appointed to take over medical and financial decisions. If there are no documents in place regarding this, then someone could be appointed guardian by a court. This can be an expensive legal process that leaves someone in charge the person would not have chosen.

Joint Tenancy Risky for Homeowners in New York

Many people wishing to leave their family home to their children after their death make their children joint tenants to the home. These people wish to avoid the time and expense of probate. As joint tenants, the children are considered part-owners of the home and upon the death of the parents, share equally in the home.

However, this estate planning strategy has many risks. As a joint owner, the children would have equal rights to the home as the parents even before they die. If the parents wish to sell the home, refinance it, or make any other financial transaction involving the home, they would have to get the permission of the children first.

Important estate planning steps for new parents

While creating and occasionally reviewing and modifying your estate plan is always a good idea, there are certain circumstances that may arise that make getting your affairs in order an especially good idea. Once you have your first child, for example, it may become particularly important for you to clearly dictate your wishes and plan for what would potentially happen to your child and affairs should something happen to you.

Maybe you have an estate plan already in place, but your needs have since changed now that you are a mother or father. Maybe you have not done much estate planning at all and are ready to start the process. Regardless of where you are in terms of your estate plan, there are some key elements you may advantageous to cover in your plan once you become a parent. So, after you have a child, consider:

How digital assets create unique challenges in estate plans

The way digitization has changed the world has brought new challenges to estate planning. Best practices and the laws pertaining to digital assets often lag behind technological advances. New York residents may be interested in learning why protecting digital assets is just as important as protecting physical assets.

Digital assets would include things like a person's email account, their website, credit card reward points, photos posted on Facebook and on other social media sites, cryptocurrency and software programs. These digital assets carry real monetary value. It is estimated that the average person has over $35,000 in digital assets. These also have sentimental value, like online photos or emails between family members.

Why DIY estate planning is a bad idea

We live in the age of DIY. Our culture encourages people to tackle projects on their own. This phenomenon ranges from home improvement to estate planning. There is a wealth of online tools and information about estate planning. This may make it tempting to bypass a lawyer and do your own estate planning. While a DIY estate plan may seem convenient and affordable, it has plenty of drawbacks.

Online estate planning tools and pre-made documents just do not cut it. No matter how much of a DIY person you are, here are some reasons why you should avoid going that route for your estate plan.