While many people in New York intellectually understand the importance of estate planning, many fail to take action. As a result, many New Yorkers lack even basic documents that indicate what they want to happen to themselves and their assets after they die or become incapacitated.
There are several reasons why people shy away from estate planning. Many are uncomfortable discussing death or even thinking about it. For this reason, reasonably healthy and young people may be more comfortable putting off writing a will for as long as possible. Another reason for not addressing end-of-life issues is that an individual or couple may mistakenly think that they don't have enough assets to justify an estate plan.
The reality is, however, that the risk of death or incapacitating accidents exist whether people want to think about them or not. Anyone, regardless of age or overall health, can fall victim to an accident or serious illness. In such cases, is up to family members to make decisions about medical care, life-saving measures and, in case of death, the distribution of the deceased's assets, no matter how small they may be. Failing to leave guidance can create additional stress and work for these loved ones.
At the minimum, individuals and couples should consider drafting living wills that dictate what they want to be done regarding life-prolonging treatments and powers of attorney. Other considerations include assigning and updating beneficiaries on life insurance policies as well as retirement plans.
Anyone who is interested in estate planning may benefit from speaking with an experienced attorney. A lawyer may be able to review a client's case and make recommendations regarding drafting a will, setting the terms of a living will, and assigning power of attorney to a trusted friend or family member.