New York Estate Planning

Everyone should do some basic estate planning—that is, planning to make sure that your wishes are followed after your death, your family is spared unnecessary expense and delay, and someone you trust will be in charge if you are ever incapacitated and unable to manage things on your own.

The basic estate planning documents that most New Yorkers need are:

  • a will, to leave your assets and name your executor
  • a durable power of attorney (POA) for finances, to name someone to take care of your finances if it’s ever necessary
  • a living will (called a document directing health care in New York), to spell out your end-of-life wishes, and
  • a health care proxy, to name someone to make sure your health care wishes are honored.

Many New York residents should consider two other estate planning topics as well:

Avoiding probate after your death. Unless you do some planning ahead of time, your family may have to conduct a probate court proceeding after your death, to get court approval to transfer your assets to the people who inherit them. For many people, probate is a waste of money, easily avoided with a living trust or other simpler methods.

Minimizing New York estate tax. Currently, New York imposes its own estate tax if you die leaving behind more than a certain amount of property. It's a high threshold (see below), but it's lower than the federal estate tax threshold. So even if you don't have to worry about federal estate taxes, your estate might still owe New York state estate taxes. If you think this might apply to your estate, talk to an experienced lawyer about methods of reducing the bill.

The articles below cover the basics of estate planning in New York.

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