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New Yorkers Need to Know Estate Planning Basics


Many New Yorkers likely do not know who will inherit their property when they die. Even fewer people probably know what property may pass through a will. And these are just some of the most basic estate planning issues that New Yorkers may encounter. Although the process can be complicated, New Yorkers should plan for what will happen to their property and assets.

For one, New Yorkers may be surprised to learn that the contents of the will they draft will not necessarily govern everything they expect it to. For instance, if the drafter of a will jointly owns a home with a right of survivorship with someone else, the house will pass to the other owner, not to someone stipulated in the will. Similarly, any property that has a named beneficiary, for example, life insurance policies, retirement accounts and savings bonds, will go to the named beneficiary regardless of what the will says on the matter.

To make sure that surprises like this do not happen, New Yorkers should take several steps. First, they should provide their estate planning lawyer with a full list of all their assets which have a named beneficiary. Second, if they want to change how those assets get dispensed, they must modify the documents governing the disposition of those assets.

As the examples above highlight, while thinking about drafting a will may feel grim, it is important. Proper estate planning can help New Yorkers make sure that their wishes get carried out as intended. That certainty should give New Yorkers peace of mind that they have protected themselves, as well as their spouses, children and beneficiaries.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Planning an estate entails more than just drawing up a will," Elliot Raphaelson, Oct. 4, 2012