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Do you avoid thoughts and conversations about death and wills?

Having conversations with adult children about financial and other family matters is as important as having those "birds and bees" talks with young children or adolescents. Avoiding it is much easier, and authorities in the estate-planning field say a significant percentage of people nationwide, including New York, neglect to draft wills. Many of them only have these talks after medical emergencies -- but that might be too late.

Will Aretha Franklin's 3 handwritten wills resolve questions?

When a celebrity dies, New Yorkers are often curious to know whether the deceased person's estate planning was up to date, what is the size of the estate and who will inherit what. With the passing of Aretha Franklin last August, it was at first reported that she died without a will. However, it has since been noted that three separate wills, with different dates, were discovered among the belongings of the "Queen of Soul." Now, the question is, which of those wills, if any, will be deemed valid under the laws of the state in which she resided.

Estate planning involves more than wills and trusts

Not everyone in New York understands the importance of estate planning. It involves more than just wills and trusts, and many people are misled by the myths that exist about this process, the first of which is that only those who are wealthy need to concern themselves with this process. Anyone with investments, a bank account, a car, a home or other assets can protect their own interests and the interests of loved ones by proper estate planning.

Parents can appoint conservators and guardians in their wills

Parents in New York who establish estate plans will likely include plans for the physical and financial care of their children. This is mostly done in the wills of the parents by naming a person to take over the care of minor children in the event of the death of both parents. Courts will only dishonor the wishes of the parents if the conservator or guardian is deemed unsuitable or if that person is not willing to take on the responsibility.

Drafting wills is best not regarded as DIY projects

Estate planning can be complicated, and a process that is best done with the support and guidance of legal counsel. To underscore the fact that wills are not to be regarded as DIY projects, New York residents can look at a case in another state in which a woman had only a handwritten will when she died. The document stated that 65% of her estate must go to her life partner and the balance to an aunt.

Wills, estate planning and new parents

With a newborn child in the house, changes to familiar dynamic are inevitable. While new parents adjust to those changes, they might neglect to consider the changes this new member of the family brings to their legacy planning. Life is unpredictable, and lives can be lost in split seconds. New York parents might be wise to modify existing documents such as wills and beneficiaries and appoint guardians as soon as possible after such an event.

Legal guardians for minors can be named in wills

When parents of minors in New York establish estate plans, they would likely need advice about appropriate ways to provide for their children in the event of both parents' deaths. This is typically done by naming guardians or conservators in their wills. If a child inherits real estate, he or she will not be able to take legal ownership of it, and a legal guardian can be named in the will, or appointed by the court.

Wills and trusts need to keep up with technological advances

Many people in New York and across the country are moving most of their assets into digital storage. Business interests, financial assets, marketing materials and even photo albums are transferred online. This creates new challenges to ensure digitized assets, which could also include cryptocurrency, are included in wills, trusts and other estate planning documents.

Agricultural legacy planning requires much more than wills

Farmers in the Binghamton, New York, area may be considering the many years of hard work they put in and how they would deal with passing their legacies on to their successors. Transferring ownership, sharing management and control, and dividing assets require more than drafting wills and sitting back. The dynamics of each family who is involved in an agricultural business are unique, and looking at succession goals without emotion might be challenging.

Even if they appear legal, wills might be unenforceable

Many New York residents have carefully planned estate plans that might not be as legal as they appear. The language used in wills might render them legally unenforceable. Advisers say there are specific practicalities and rules to follow to avoid carefully crafted documents declared invalid, and those rules mainly cover things not to include in wills.

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