Long Island Estate Planning Lawyers Helping Clients Get Their Affairs in Order
Estate planning is an important part of ensuring your end-of-life affairs are in order, but it’s not only a consideration for those needing elder law services. An estate lawyer in Long Island can help you ensure that you have all of the necessary documents to handle any situations where you may be incapacitated or to ensure that your wishes are executed properly after your death. Having an estate plan is also important for anyone who has children or other beneficiaries or those who may have special circumstances such as a terminal illness.
Take a moment and think about what would happen if you passed. Do you have a will that specifies who gets your assets or possessions? Do you have a legal guardian named for your children? What about if you were to fall seriously ill and be unable to make medical decisions for yourself? Do you want to be resuscitated, and by what measures? These are all very important things to think about and make clear before they happen. And an estate lawyer can help you create the legal documents required in the state of New York to ensure that all of your wishes are upheld.
If you’re ready to put together a comprehensive estate plan that sets forth your end-of-life wishes and how you want your assets to be handled after your death, contact MontanaroLaw P.C. today to discuss your options further. Our team of extremely knowledgeable elder law attorneys can help you get a better understanding of your situation and how an estate plan can help. We also offer a free consultation so you can ensure our firm is a good fit and get an idea of legal fees before moving forward.
What Is an Estate Planning Attorney?
An estate planning attorney is a lawyer who helps clients navigate the legal process of creating end-of-life documents and provides other estate planning services. These could include changing the beneficiaries of a trust or reviewing already existing documents to ensure they are done properly and accurately reflect the person’s wishes. An estate planning attorney has passed the bar and has the knowledge and experience to provide legal counsel for clients in this practice area.
What Questions Should I Ask?
When you’re looking for an estate planning attorney to handle your affairs, it’s important to look for a firm that has experience in this practice area and the knowledge to assist you. You may want to ask questions like:
- What percentage of your clients involve estate planning?
- Do you have experience in drawing up and altering estate documents?
- Can you help me create custom documents for my circumstances?
You may also want to look for a firm, such as MontanaroLaw P.C., that offers free consultations, so you can ensure that the firm and its business attorneys are a good fit for you when it comes to communication and budget.
What Are Some Examples of Estate Planning Documents?
Estate planning matters involve a lot of paperwork and documentation because when it’s time for the documents to be executed, the person is usually either no longer living or is mentally or physically incapacitated to such a degree that it makes it impossible for them to communicate their wishes in real-time. What kinds of documents are included depends on the individual circumstances and other factors, such as the number of assets and number of potential beneficiaries, but the documents below are the most commonly used and are good choices to include in most estate plans.
When people think about elder law and what is involved, a will may be one of the first things that come to mind. In television shows and movies, the reading of the will can be an important plot point and come with lots of drama. However, in real life, it usually doesn’t happen like this. Below you can find details on the two main types of wills involved in estate planning and how they are used.
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament is the most common thing that people think of when considering their estate plan. This type of will is a legally binding document that contains all of your decisions about how your assets will be divided among your beneficiaries after you pass. Parents may wish to name a specific guardian in the will to care for any minor children if they should both pass. It’s important to note that a will has to go through the probate process, which can be lengthy, so anything that needs to be handled immediately after death — such as burial wishes — should be in other documentation. To be valid, a last will and testament must meet all of the New York state requirements. These include:
- Being signed by the maker of the will
- Being appropriately dated
- Being signed by two separate witnesses
Working with an estate planning attorney can ensure that your last will and testament includes everything that it should and meets the New York state standards to be legally binding.
A living will is an entirely different legal document from a last will and testament, and just like the name suggests, it is something that describes your wishes while you are still alive. Also known as an advanced directive, a living will is where you write out your end-of-life wishes in regards to things such as:
- Whether you wish to have life-saving measures, such as CPR, performed on you
- Whether you wish to be intubated
- How would you like your care to be handled if you are unable to make your own decisions?
Living wills are often used by those with terminal illnesses, but sometimes, people who struggle with certain mental health disorders also use living wills to ensure that their preferred treatments, medications, and practitioners are known.
Just like a last will and testament, a living will is only valid if it meets the New York state requirements, which include having two witnesses. A living will can also be revoked or changed at any time. It’s important to make your friends and family members aware if you have a living will so that they can ensure it gets communicated to your healthcare providers in an emergency situation.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is another important part of your estate plan. This is a legal document that allows you to name someone who can make decisions for you if you are unable to. A durable power of attorney is usually used in business, legal, and financial situations. Some of the things that a durable power of attorney can do for you include:
- Paying your bills
- Withdrawing, depositing, and transferring funds
- Managing investments
- Making real estate deals, including purchases and sales
- Filing your tax returns
A durable power of attorney is often used in cases where an older person has dementia or another health concern that keeps them from being able to make their own decisions. However, anyone can set up a durable power of attorney at any point and for any reason. It’s just important to talk with an attorney to ensure you understand how far the person’s decision-making power extends and any possible risks.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
Also referred to as a medical power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney works in a similar manner to the durable power of attorney. The difference is that it is focused on making healthcare decisions. It names a person who is tasked with making medical decisions for you. Often the healthcare power of attorney will be tasked with making any decisions that aren’t already covered in your living will or with ensuring that those wishes are carried out by the medical staff.
A living trust is called that because it must be created while you are still living. While a living trust isn’t something that needs to be included in every estate plan, it’s something to discuss with your attorney to see if it would be beneficial for your situation. A living trust is a legally binding document that puts one person in charge of managing the assets intended for another person. This is often used in cases where someone dies and leaves behind minor children, so consider the following example.
You want to leave $50,000 to your child, but they are still a minor at the time of your death. If you have the money in a trust, you would have a named person — called the trustee — who is responsible for managing that money appropriately until the child is 18 or hits another milestone age, as outlined in the trust creation. If you think that a living trust is something that might be a good fit for your estate plan, an attorney can help you set one up, decide on the parameters and name a trustee.
How Can an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Help Me?
Getting professional help with your estate administration is important to ensure that everything is done correctly and there aren’t any issues or arguments when it comes time to execute your instructions. Estate planning attorneys in New York can talk with you to better understand your unique situation and help you develop a plan to ensure your rights and wishes are protected and executed after you pass or if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself in the future. Below are just a few of the benefits you get when you hire an experienced estate planning attorney.
Get Professional Perspective From Estate Planning Lawyers
Estate planning is unique in that it’s not a situation where a lot of people get to experience the outcome firsthand. It’s possible that you’ve gone through the probate process after another relative’s death or heard stories about what happened with a will or trust, but estate planning lawyers can give you a different perspective on the process.
Estate planning lawyers deal with estate administration, probate, wills, advanced healthcare directives, and powers of attorney on a regular basis, and they have the advantage of being able to see the before — and after — in many different situations. This gives them a unique perspective when advising you about your own needs. An estate planning attorney may be in a better position to point out potential issues, inconsistencies, or overly vague points in your estate plan and help you put together a strategy to ensure things are as clear as possible. Estate planning lawyers are also invaluable when it comes to making changes to an already existing estate plan.
Provide Peace of Mind That You Have a Comprehensive Estate Plan
Proper estate planning hinges on two main factors: accuracy and thoroughness. Many people only think about a last will and testament when developing their estate plan, but there’s much more to estate administration than just this. When you work with an estate planning attorney, they can help advise you on what needs to go into your estate plan, including:
- A traditional last will and testament
- A living will
- An advanced healthcare directive
- Powers of attorney
When you’re meeting with your elder law attorney, it’s a good idea to let them know what your end-result wishes are. This can make it easier for them to suggest certain estate planning documents or strategies to ensure that your wishes are executed. If you think that your children may fight over certain things after you’re gone, your attorney can help you ensure that your estate administration plan covers every possible scenario and makes it very clear how you want your assets divided or end-of-life wishes handled.
Have All of Your Estate Planning Documents Done at Once
One of the best benefits of hiring an estate planning attorney is that they can help you get your estate administration documents done quickly and efficiently at once. Your lawyer can help you understand what documents and plans are relevant to your situation and then create a list of everything that needs to be handled with your estate. This lets you set up a living will, last will and testament, power of attorney, and healthcare proxy all at once so you know that you’re covered no matter what might happen in the future.
Ensure All Documents Match Up
If you already have one or two documents, such as a will or healthcare power of attorney, an attorney can ensure that everything matches up between the existing documents and any new documents or plans you choose to have drawn up. For example, if a previous will indicates that your monetary assets are to be divided equally between your children, but you are wanting to set up a trust for a different beneficiary, it’s a good idea to update the will to reflect this. This reduces the chances of any disagreements about your wishes and helps ensure they are executed correctly.
What Do I Need to Bring With Me
When you’re ready to meet with an elder law attorney, it can help everything go smoothly and get started more quickly if you come prepared.
Personal Identification Documents
First, you’ll want to bring all your personal information, such as a driver’s license, proof of address, and anything that indicates your marital status, such as a marriage license or divorce decree. While your attorney may not need these things to handle your estate directly, these documents can help ensure that names, addresses, birthdates, and other important information are recorded correctly.
Financial Account Information
You’ll also want to ensure that you have all the information related to any financial accounts that will be part of your estate plan. You may need things like account numbers, names of financial institutions, proof of who is currently the listed beneficiary of any life insurance policies, and account balances. Bring documentation of all of your accounts, including:
- Checking accounts
- Savings accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Investment accounts
It’s also a good idea to think about any fringe financial things, such as small amounts of money kept in crypto trading apps or significant amounts of cash kept in the house.
A List of Material Possessions
Make a list of any material possessions you know you want to go to a certain person. For example, if your engagement ring is to go to one child and your wedding ring to another, that’s something specific that should go in your estate planning documents. For anything else that’s not being specifically bequeathed, you may be able to list something like “any unnamed possessions are to be divided equally as agreed upon between the beneficiaries.” Your attorney may have recommendations for how to handle this to reduce the risk of unforeseen disagreements when the estate is executed.
Contact Our Estate Planning Attorneys Today
Now that you know more about what’s involved in handling your estate planning needs and how an elder law attorney can help, you can start taking the next steps to plan your estate and draw up your end-of-life wishes. Our estate planning law firm has the knowledge and experience you’re looking for to handle your case. Just some of the aspects of elder law that we can help with include:
- Preparing a last will and testament
- Creating a living will
- Naming a durable power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney
- Revising and updating existing estate documents
- Providing counsel on a comprehensive estate plan
Whether you are just now considering how you want your affairs handled after your death or you need to make changes to an existing document, our firm can help. At MontanaroLaw P.C., we know that estate planning is an important part of life, but we also know that it’s one that can seem overwhelming. We focus on providing our clients with practical counsel and effective solutions to help them develop comprehensive estate plans that meet their specific needs. If you’re ready to sit down and get your affairs in order or would like to discuss your options at a free consultation, contact our team at (516) 809-7735 today.