Planning for what happens after your death is very important. Many people understand how essential it is to create an estate plan, but fail to go far enough. Simply creating a do-it-yourself will, or even going to a lawyer to get a will written, is not necessarily going to be sufficient to protect your assets and ensure that you leave a legacy behind. A more advanced plan with the help of a New York estate planning lawyer may be necessary in a variety of situations. Five examples of situations where a will is insufficient to protect your future legacy include the following:
- Your estate is large enough to trigger estate taxes. In 2015, the federal estate tax exemption is $5.43 million for individuals. If your estate is larger than this amount, you need to do more than just create a will or a big portion of your assets will be lost to taxes. Many people who own farmlands or a family business find themselves with an estate that exceeds the exemption. Your heirs could end up having to sell the business or sell off land to pay the taxes unless you’ve taken strategic steps to protect your estate.
- You have a special needs child or relative with special needs you want to care for. Leaving money to someone with special needs can be a challenge, because a disabled individual may be reliant on means-tested government benefits like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The gift you leave behind to give someone a better life could actually be detrimental if it causes a loss of access to benefits. The creation of a special needs trust ensures this does not happen.
- When you want control over how money or assets are spent. You may have spendthrift children and may be concerned they will squander their inheritance, or you may want to make sure your grandchildren’s education is provided for. Whenever you want to make sure that money or assets goes towards a certain purpose, you need to create the appropriate type of trust.
- When you want to protect property and assets from creditors. A judgment against you or a judgment against your heirs could lead to the loss of money and property you have worked your whole life to acquire. Creating certain types of trusts can put your property beyond the reach of creditors so your assets are protected.
- When you are concerned your will may be contested. When a will is contested, this can lead to family fighting after your death. You do not want the gifts you have left behind to your loved ones to be a cause of disharmony and unhappiness. Money spent to contest a will can also deplete the value of an estate and your heirs may end up losing out on money you intended them to have. If you believe your will may be contested, using other methods of estate planning like joint ownership or the creation of a trust can help you to make sure this does not happen.
These are just a few of many situations in which an estate plan needs to go beyond just writing a will. Your estate plan should also address who will make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated; what types of medical care you want in the future; how your assets can be protected if you need to go into long-term care; and many other issues. An experienced NY estate planning lawyer with advanced knowledge of the laws applicable as you age can be an invaluable assets as you prepare and plan ahead to protect your legacy. Contact an attorney today to learn more.