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 Proxies.
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 family member.
Photo credit: Ken Mayer
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.