Take a look at some of the most common questions we get from customers looking for estate planning guidance here in Long Island:
What assets can I put into a Trust?
A trust can be started with any assets of value with the exception of IRAs and Life Insurance policies. Because of this flexible nature, there are thousands of laws and tactics that apply to Trust creation, management, and growth here in Long Island. That of course means plenty of opportunity as well!
Why use a Trust at all? Why not just transfer real estate to my children?
While it may seem simple on paper, transferring any asset of significant value to a loved one puts that asset a huge risk of fees and taxation. Gifts are taxable, as is the property itself immediately upon receipt, meaning you can lose money twice in the process of transfer — turning this gift into a liability for the recipient. That is why it is critical to work with an experienced Long Island estate planning lawyer who can use things like trusts to save you big dollars.
Can I be my own trustee?
Yes! Most of the time in Long Island, revocable living trusts are actually assigned to the person who creates them who is acting as their own trustee. If you’re married, you and your spouse can act as co-trustees, but there is no legal reason why you cannot be your own trustee!
Once I start a trust, what happens to my assets?
What happens to your assets all depends on the trustee you choose. If you are the trustee of your own trust, you can effectively do anything you want with the trust assets. In this case, you will have complete control to spend, save, invest or gift the assets of your revocable trust at your discretion. You can also amend or revoke your trust at any time.
What is a difference between a Trust and a Will?
The main difference between a trust and a will is that the Will typically needs to go through a “Probate” process before assets can be accessed. A Trust does not need to go through probate and allows beneficiaries access an estate immediately after the death of the settlor. Trusts typically cost more to set up a Will, but can be a cost effective way of owning your assets and negates extra expenses in Probate. Our estate planning lawyers can help you determine what path is right for you.
What if I die with no will? What happens to my estate?
Typically in Long Island, if you die with no will your property will be granted to nearest relatives in a pre-determined order (spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandchildren, etc.), but in the end your assets are at the mercy of the state. Unless you properly document your wishes, your property may all go in a lump payout to your nearest of kin who will then be responsible for distributing the wealth at their discretion.
If you have no family, your property may also become property of the state of New York. This is why it is so critical to work with a team of will and testament experts!
Why not just draft my own will?
Legally, you are allowed to draft your own will however unless you have a law degree or a few hundred hours to do your research, we don’t recommend it! The interpretations and laws related to dispersal of final assets are incredibly complex. By going it alone, you risk putting all of your assets at the mercy of a single loophole in NY state law, thus potentially losing everything just on the basis of poor paperwork — don’t make this mistake!
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When you are facing an estate planning question problem, you need calculated advice, compassionate support, and unwavering determination from a trusted partner.
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