Estate planning can be an emotional task for people in New York as it involves dealing with emotional and complex issues about the end of life and relationships with one's heirs. However, it can also be critically important to ensuring a smooth transition and protecting the assets one has worked so hard to develop over the years.
A person's estate includes all of the property that a deceased person owned; it can include both their assets and their debts. The net assets of the estate are available for distribution after settling remaining liabilities. The standard process for dealing with an estate is called probate, and this legal procedure transfers the title of these assets from the estate to the heirs of the decedent. Probate, however, can be a costly, slow process and consume a great deal of the assets remaining in the estate. This means that avoiding and minimizing probate can be important for people who want their heirs to benefit from the estate, not for its value to be lost in lengthy court procedures.
Estate planning can focus on avoiding probate through a variety of mechanisms. These can include joint ownership for various types of property, which means that the remaining joint owner controls the whole property after the other owner's death. Some accounts, like life insurance policies, retirement accounts or 401(k) plans, can include a transfer on death designation that allows the property to pass immediately without probate. Creating trusts is one of the most popular means of flexibly dealing with the property of an estate while avoiding probate.
People deciding to make the move toward an estate plan to create a positive environment for their heirs and beneficiaries may benefit from professional help. An estate planning lawyer may be able to help a person draw up a will, trusts and other instruments as part of an overall estate plan.