The term “Estate Planning” covers a wide range of legal planning services and strategies. As your attorney, Matthew will work with you and your spouse, family members, financial advisors and other relevant professionals to create a plan that best suits you and the needs of your family. The following is a list of the estate planning strategies and documents typically used by the office and a brief explanation of each.
WILL. Also known as a “Last Will and Testament,” a Will controls what happens to the majority of your property and who will manage your property upon your death. Your Will is revocable and/or amendable at any time as long as you demonstrate that you have capacity to understand and sign the document. Your Will may include planning for federal and state estate taxes, trusts or other planning strategies that meet the specific needs of those who will inherit your estate. Such trusts and planning strategies include basic support and maintenance trusts, special needs trusts, education trusts, testamentary guardianships for minor or disabled children or other strategies to address your individual preferences. If you die without a Will, the intestacy statutes of the State of New York determine who receives your estate without consideration of your individual needs and preferences. While many people assume that all of their money would pass to their spouse or other specific close family members were they to unexpectedly pass, this is often not the case and preparation prior to the unforeseen can both alleviate family stress and ensure the distribution of your estate in 100% accordance with your specific wishes.
TESTAMENTARY TRUSTS. A Testamentary Trust is a Trust that is included in your Will. The Trust does not come into existence until the event stated in your Will. Most commonly this event is your death or the death of your spouse. Such Trusts are utilized in specific situations to permit the distribution of estate proceeds according to specific wishes of the deceased.
INTERVIVOS/LIVING TRUST. An Intervivos or Living Trust is a document that controls the management of the assets transferred into the Trust during the lifetime of the individual creating the Trust. A Living Trust differs from a Will in that a Living Trust takes effect prior to your death and is typically drafted with one goal being to avoid probate. A Living Trust may be used for management of personal and real property assets during your lifetime, and subsequent to any disability or incapacity.
SPECIAL NEEDS TRUST. A Special Needs Trust (“SNT”), sometimes referred to as a Supplemental Needs Trust, is a specialized type of trust that provides financial management and preservation of asset sensitive government benefits for individuals with a disabling condition. A SNT provides a source of funds to pay for extra and supplemental needs during the individual’s lifetime. The Trust can be set up as a testamentary or intervivos/living trust. Funds in a SNT are not considered “available” to the beneficiary for purposes of benefit eligibility and are considered an exempt resource, ensuring the continuing availability of vitally important government benefits to those in need.
POWER OF ATTORNEY. A Power of Attorney (“POA”) allows you to grant certain specific financial powers to a designated person. When you sign a Power of Attorney, you designate the individuals of your choice as your agents to act as you would act when you are unwilling or unable to do so. You may grant this person (your agent) powers which are as specific or broad as you determine. For example, you may grant the agent the authority to manage your financial affairs, arrange for your acute and long term care, and/or make other important decisions for you. You have the authority to revoke a power of attorney at any time as long as you are not determined to be incapacitated.
GIFTING. Lifetime Gifting may reduce the size of a taxable estate at death. Tax planning through gifting is highly dependent on each individual’s specific circumstances and the estate and gift tax laws