We often see that people believe they do not need Will or do not want to go through the trouble or pay a lawyer to assist them in preparing a Will. After executing a Will at our office, many of our clients are astonished at how simple, affordable, and trouble-free the process we have made the process. During Will preparation, our attorneys are dedicated to keeping our clients informed regarding every aspect of the process; however, at the initial consultation stage, with prospective clients, we frequently hear the same questions over and over again: “What does a Will do?” and “Why do I need a Will?”
To answer the first question, a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) is a legal document which allows you (the “Testator”) to declare what your last wishes are at the time of your death; this can include: settling your debts; the distribution of any property you own (real or personal); establishing guardianship and trusts for any minor children; and any other final wishes that you may have. In New York State, you must be over 18 years of age and have the mental capacity to execute a Will. The Will does not have any legal effect until the time of your death and will be stored safely until that time. Additionally, you have the power to update, modify or revoke your Will at any time before your death.
To answer the second question, you need a Will for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, a Will ensures that the assets you have worked your entire life to acquire will pass in accordance with your wishes. A common misconception is that you need to have a large amount of assets for a Will to be necessary, however this is not the case. Even if you don’t have a large sum of money in the bank, or don’t own a house, you may want to leave other valuable or sentimental items such as art, jewelry, antiques, vehicles, or photographs to particular people.
Further, in the event you pass away without first executing a Will, New York’s intestacy statute (EPTL § 4-1.1) will govern the distribution of your estate. The intestacy statute outlines a list of scenarios in which your property will be distributed to certain individuals based upon their legal relationship to you; under this statute your property may not be distributed in accordance with your wishes.
Therefore, regardless of your age, income, or stage of your life, beginning the estate planning process is always a good idea. At Rosenstein Orapello, PLLC, we pride ourselves on making estate planning a simple and stress-free experience!