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The Importance of Having a Will

A will allows you to decide who will get your money and property upon your death; otherwise, New York State directs which relatives will inherit under what is called “intestate succession.” If you have no relatives, and do not leave a Will, your estate will go to New York State, and will be administered by a Public Administrator. Hence, it is important for you to have a Will, so that you can decide who will administer your Estate, and who will receive your assets upon your death.

If you are married, and have children, and do not leave a Will, anything solely in your name will be divided in accordance with the percentage provided by law between your spouse and children. This may not be what you intended to happen. Perhaps you thought that everything would go to your spouse, and you didn’t need a Will.

If you don’t leave a Will, distant relatives that you never saw, or never liked, may be entitled to your estate. You may prefer that a non-relative receive your estate, but they cannot without a Will, unless you name them jointly, or as specific beneficiary of the property. For example, you can set up a bank account as a totten trust, which means that it will go to the person named upon your death. Life insurance usually names a specific beneficiary, but it is possible to name your estate as well. Individual Retirement Accounts are another example of property that names a beneficiary. However, even if you think that you have taken care of all your property by naming someone jointly or as a beneficiary, it is a good idea to have a Will, in case something is not covered. In addition, it may be helpful to have someone you trust named executor, since they have powers that can only be given through a Will, or by being named administrator if you do not have a will.

When doing your Will, let your attorney know your wishes for burial and cremation, since your family may not know your wishes, or may have wishes different than your own. If it is specified in your Will, then it is more likely to be honored.

I don’t advise using a self-help Will kit. A Will that is supervised by an attorney is presumed to be valid in a will contest. There are witness requirements, and a formality to signing the will that needs to be observed to ensure that there won’t be problems at the time of probate. In addition, an attorney will be able to tailor the will to your specifications, and find out if there are any special circumstances that need to be provided for in your Will.

Honorary Pet Trusts

New York State recently enacted a law that allows for the creation of an Honorary Pet Trust in a Will. This means that you can leave money in a trust and name a trustee to make sure that your pet(s) are taken care of after you die. You can name a friend, or look into naming an organization that takes care of animals. One such organization is Best Friends Animal Society, 5001 Angel Canyon Road, Kanab, Utah 84741.

Categories: Estate Law