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Wills or trusts -- why is estate planning important?

People in New York often question the need for estate planning, and many think it is only required for those with significant assets. However, establishing wills or trusts is the only way to ensure that assets are passed to chosen beneficiaries rather than those determined by the state. An estate plan can be will based or trust based.

A will-based plan involves a document that details whom the beneficiaries will be to inherit the individual's property as well as naming the personal representative or executor of the estate. That person will have to settle the final affairs and ensure the correct asset distribution to the beneficiaries. The will must also state the powers of the representative and indicate when the beneficiaries must take ownership of the property. If there are minor children, the will must specify the identity of their chosen guardian until the children reach adulthood.

A trust-based estate will cover the same aspects, but the person responsible for distribution and management of the trust will be called the administrative or successor trustee. However, a last will and testament will also be required to ensure all assets are transferred into the trust upon the trustor's death. Different types of trusts can be created, the most frequently used being revocable and irrevocable living trusts. A trust can also bypass the probate process, which a will cannot.

The prospect of creating wills and trusts may seem daunting, but the assistance and advice of an experienced New York estate planning attorney can be used to simplify the process. The lawyer can assess each person's unique circumstances and explain the pros and cons of different options. This will allow the client to make informed decisions about the most appropriate estate plan to establish.

Source: thebalance.com, "Estate Planning: What is a Last Will and Testament?", Julie Garber, March 14, 2018

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