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 that 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 for finances, to name someone to take care of your finances if it’s ever necessary
  • a living will (in New York, called a document directing health care), 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 at your death you leave assets worth more than $1 million. That’s a lot of money, which means that most estates don’t owe any tax—but if you own real estate in New York, it’s not hard to bump up against the million-dollar threshold. State lawmakers are talking about raising the exempt amount, but it hasn’t happened yet. If you think your estate might owe the tax, 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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