There are those who question why they would need a trust or a last will. They are under the impression that the state of New York will take care of things and the result will be perfectly in line with their wishes.
There are significant flaws to this line of thinking. If you die without a last will the Surrogate’s Court will be forced to take control of the situation. The estate will be responsible for paying final debts. Ultimately, the assets that comprise the estate will be distributed to the heirs as defined by the state according to intestate succession laws.
Doesn’t it seem more logical to execute a last will or a trust that provides for everyone on your inheritance list in exact accordance with your true wishes? Why make things difficult for your family as they wait for the court to sort everything out?
Let’s look at some of the details of the New York succession rules. If you had children but no living spouse, your children would split the assets that comprise your probate estate. This may sound great on the surface, but are you sure that you want to give each child an equal inheritance?
Perhaps you have one child who is a wealthy real estate developer or a lottery winner. You have another child who has significant financial need because he or she suffers from a medical condition that limits his or her ability to put in time on the job. Should they receive equal inheritances under intestate succession rules?
If you had descendents and a surviving spouse and you died without a last will or a trust the surviving spouse would get the first $50,000 and half of what is left. Your descendents would get the other half.
You may well want to leave all or most of your assets directly to your spouse to ensure his or her financial well-being. Your spouse could then leave the remainder to your children after he or she passes away.
These are just a few things to think about, but there are many other reasons why you would not want to die intestate. You may have estate tax exposure, and you can mitigate it by implementing the proper estate planning techniques.
Probate is another factor. Even if the intestate succession rules would result in inheritance distributions that you would approve of, the heirs to the estate won’t get their inheritances until the process of probate has run its course. This can take months in normal cases, and sometimes it can take years.
If you plan your estate properly you can arrange for the distribution of your financial assets to your loved ones after you pass away outside of the time-consuming process of probate.
Intestacy is something that can yield innumerable negative consequences, and it can be easily avoided through a simple consultation with a licensed New York estate planning lawyer.