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A Firm Providing Knowledgeable Answers To Your Estate Planning And Probate Questions

It is perfectly understandable to have many questions when you are planning your estate or going through the probate process for a loved one’s estate. On this page, we’ve provided answers to some of the most common estate law questions we receive from clients and prospective clients. After reading, we invite you to contact Wheatley Pritchard & Associates PLLC with any additional questions you may have.

Am I required to include certain people in my estate plan?

Many people believe that they are required to leave assets to certain people, but this isn’t the case. If you are married, you will likely need to include your spouse in your estate plan (in part because you have so many jointly owned assets), but anyone else can be included or excluded as you wish.

Is a trust or a will better for an estate plan?

Wills are more common, but that’s largely because many people don’t understand what trusts are and how they work. Trusts have some distinct advantages over wills, which are described below.

They afford more privacy: A will needs to be probated, and it becomes a public document in the process. Instead of putting your titled assets in a will, you can place them in a revocable trust. You still have full control of the assets while you are living, and when they eventually pass to your heirs/beneficiaries, they will do so privately, largely outside of the court system.

They simplify probate: By having fewer assets go through the probate process, it is typically faster and easier than if all assets were listed in your will.

They protect your assets for beneficiaries: When you place assets into a trust, the trust technically owns those assets. If one of your beneficiaries (a son or daughter, perhaps) were to go through bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court could not seize those assets to partially repay creditors.

I have children to whom I intend to distribute substantial assets. How should I handle that?

If your children are over the age of 18, you can leave them assets/funds in your will. However, utilizing a trust will give you much more control over when, how and for what purpose the assets are distributed. For instance, if one of your children needs ongoing financial support but is not responsible enough to manage an inheritance themselves, you can create a spendthrift trust that distributes assets over years or their entire lifetime. You may also be able to designate that assets only be used to pay for certain expenses, such as housing or education.

Trusts are highly customizable, and that makes them ideal for ensuring that your beneficiaries have the assets they need without the risks of a lump-sum inheritance.

I have a small business. How will this impact my estate planning?

It is important to have a business succession plan in place. This is a formal plan for how your business will be transferred to your successor, including what happens if you become incapacitated or seriously ill. When our attorneys help business owners, we also take a close look at what their business assets consist of, as this could also be a factor in estate planning.

If I have a will, I can avoid probate, right?

No, probate is still necessary if you have a will. Unlike in movies and on television, distributing assets isn’t as straightforward as simply holding a will reading. Probate is the process by which a court proves the validity of a will, after which the assets can be distributed. By working with an experienced estate planning attorney like those at our firm, we will ensure that your will is valid and clear and will pass probate.

What are the duties of an estate executor?

There are many duties, large and small. But here is a very basic overview: The executor brings the will to the court and gets it filed. If it’s accepted as valid, the executor then gathers assets, pays final expenses and debts, and distributes assets as determined in the will (or inheritance laws).

Have Additional Questions? Discuss Them During An Initial Consultation.

From our office in Long Island City, Wheatley Pritchard & Associates PLLC serves clients throughout all five boroughs of New York City as well as Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties. To discuss your estate planning and probate needs in an initial consultation, contact us online or call 347-815-1219.