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Estate planning lessons from Lee Radziwill

New York residents might know the late Lee Radziwill as a style icon, princess, socialite or the younger sister of Jackie Kennedy. The way she handled her estate could be used as an example for others.

Radziwill used a will, which is subject to probate administration under New York law, and a revocable trust. Trusts are commonly used for distributing assets and not subject to the probate process. This could provide more privacy for a decedent's family. A revocable trust can be changed while a grantor is alive but turns irrevocable upon his or her death.

Families with large or important assets often take care to ensure their legacies stay in the family. Radziwill received a trust from her mother, had another trust with her sister and made a trust for her daughter. A special power of appointment allowed her to give the assets from other trusts to someone after her death. In this case, assets could only pass to charity or heirs, and she passed assets to her daughter's trust.

The revocable trust going to Radziwill's daughter was from 2017 while her will was put in place on September 20, 2018. Radziwill did not wait until the last minute to put her estate in order but likely updated her documents regularly. As her health declined, she may have wanted to review her plan and ensure everything was still up to date and how she wanted it.

Even individuals without large fortunes may need to use trusts. These documents may be used to distribute assets according to a schedule or could be needed when a person has a loved one with special needs. Even when using a trust, there are times when the probate process is still required. This could occur if a trust is challenged or does not comply with state laws, and an attorney could help minimize potential problems.

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