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.
With no will or trust in place, assets will be distributed to next of kin, but people might want to leave them instead to friends and other loved ones or to a charity. People may want to consider creating a trust. This is more private than a will because a trust does not pass through probate. However, it is necessary to appoint someone as trustee. This needs to be a responsible individual, and in some cases, the best choice might be a financial institution. Finally, people may want to make arrangements for someone to care for their pets as part of an estate plan.
An estate plan may include a number of other elements as well. People may want to create a living will to express their wishes for end-of-life care. Some people may want to plan their funeral. Once the estate plan has been created, people should review it every few years to make sure it remains current. Relationships may change, or someone who might have been a good choice as trustee or to have been appointed under a power of attorney at one time may no longer be right for the role.