Lucy Berkman, an attorney at Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria,
wrote a guest column that appeared in the December 26 issue of the Buffalo
Law Journal. In “Put estate planning on the list for 2017”, Ms. Berkman
outlines the different elements you may wish to have in place as part of your
estate plan, such as Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and Health Care
Read the full article on the Buffalo
Law Journal website.
Last Will and Testament
When planning your estate, it is important to have a Last
Will and Testament drawn up. Your Will allows you to specify how and to whom
your assets should be distributed. A Will must be in writing and meet other criteria
in order to be valid in New York State. Wills must also be admitted through
Surrogate’s Court. If you are interested in updating your Will or having a Will
drawn up, it is beneficial to assess what important life events have happened
that may alter how you wish for your assets to be distributed. These events
could include a wedding or a divorce in the family, or the birth of a new
Ms. Berkman also recommends considering setting up a trust,
which can be created while you are alive or upon your death if specified in
your Will. When this happens, your assets are transferred into the trust and
they will be managed by the trustee on behalf of a beneficiary whom you select.
You may consider a trust if you are concerned about privacy regarding your
assets, if you have beneficiaries in your Will who are minors or disabled, or
if you own real property in another state.
Power of Attorney
If you are setting up an estate plan, you may also want to
consider establishing a Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney allows someone
else, known as your “agent”, to act for you if you are ill and unable to manage
your affairs. Your agent will be able to pay your bills and medical expenses,
manage your accounts, and collect retirement benefits for you. They will only
be able to take these actions while you are alive; upon your death, their power
will be extinguished.
Health Care Proxy and Living Will
A Health Care Proxy is also an important option to consider,
according to Ms. Berkman. A Health Care Proxy allows someone, known as your “proxy”,
to make medical decisions for you should you become incapacitated. These
decisions could include what types of medical treatments you receive and which
doctors you should see. If necessary, your proxy can also go to court over the
treatment you receive. If you have strong feelings about any of these issues,
you may want to express those desires in a Living Will. This will allow you to
communicate your medical preferences even if you are unable to express yourself
verbally and are in a condition from which there is no hope of recovering.
About Lucy M. Berkman
Lucy M. Berkman is a member of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Estates, Wills, and Trusts department. She offers legal assistance to individuals, families, and corporations to help make the most of clients’ end-of-life wishes.
This article does not purport to give legal advice and is for informational purposes only.