When people in New York are writing a will, it is important to ensure that it is prepared correctly and that it does not contradict other elements of the estate plan. A will must pass through the probate process in most cases, but the process is usually faster than if there were no will.

However, there are certain types of property that do not pass through probate, and the asset goes directly to the beneficiary. This is the case with retirement accounts, stocks, bonds and money from life insurance policies. Some people own property with another individual as a joint tenancy, and on one person’s death, the property automatically passes to another person. Property can also be placed in a trust to avoid probate. If a will names a person as the beneficiary of an asset that is passed in one of these other ways, these designations override the will.

People should put funeral instructions in a separate document since the will is generally not addressed until after the funeral. In general, wills can only put certain conditions on gifts, and assets cannot be left to pets although it might be possible to establish a trust for them. Trusts should also be established for individuals with special needs. An attorney may assist an individual in creating an estate plan. This can be important in ensuring that an estate plan is designed to do what its preparer intends.

While there are a number of do-it-yourself estate planning tools available, there are many situations they do not cover, and it can be easy to make an error that renders the plan unclear. An attorney may make suggestions about how to design the plan based on an individual’s goals and particular family situation. Once prepared, estate plans should be reviewed regularly and updated if necessary.