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Our Estate Planning Lawyers Can Answer All Your Questions

Estate planning involves a series of decisions. Everyone’s situation is unique, so the answers and solutions will vary from one person to the next. Corliss Law Group, P.C., addresses some frequently asked questions about estate planning in New York. To discuss your specific concerns, you can reach out to us to set up a time to talk.

How do I know if I need an estate plan?

We believe everyone should have, at a minimum, a will and powers of attorney. These basic documents assure your assets pass to the right people when you die and appoint someone to take over your financial affairs if you become incapacitated. Some people may need more advanced strategies such as irrevocable trusts to protect vulnerable assets.

What is a living will?

A living will, or advance directive, records your specific wishes regarding life-threatening situations and end-of-life care, such as resuscitation and artificial life support. Without this document, your doctors’ hands may be tied or your family members may be forced to make wrenching decisions. In New York, you can also appoint a health care proxy to make medical decisions on your behalf.

What’s the difference between a will and a trust?

The key difference is that a will must go through probate before assets are distributed to your heirs, while assets held in a trust pass directly to the beneficiaries. There are some things a will can do that a trust cannot, and vice versa. An estate planning lawyer can address whether you need a will or a trust or both.

What’s the difference between a revocable trust and an irrevocable trust?

A revocable trust can be altered or canceled while you are living and only passes to the beneficiary upon your death. An irrevocable trust is more ironclad. Once created, it’s out of your control. You cannot alter it or revoke it or rescind those funds. Both types of trusts have their place in estate planning.

Is a power of attorney still valid if I relocate?

Powers of attorney (POA) are generally recognized across state lines. However, if you recently moved to New York (or out of New York) it’s still a good idea to have your estate plan reviewed, including any POAs, to make sure your documents are aligned with local laws and are up-to-date.

What happens to my estate if I get divorced?

Most estate planning provisions that mention an ex-spouse are revoked by a divorce decree. Your estate would pass to your children and/or your new spouse. That said, it is highly recommended upon divorce to revoke your will, powers of attorney, health care proxy and beneficiary designations (trusts and life insurance policies) and create new ones. This updates your family circumstances and removes any doubt about an ex-spouse.

Does New York have an inheritance tax?

Inheritance tax? No. Estate tax? For some estates, yes. When a person dies, the state of New York may take a certain percentage off the top, but heirs and beneficiaries do not pay any taxes on the remaining money or assets they inherit. Most families need not worry about New York estate taxes – the 2023 threshold is $6.58 million. Even fewer families are subject to the federal estate tax. For those who would be taxed, we can provide mitigation strategies.

What Other Estate Planning Questions Do You Have?

Marie Corliss has practiced estate planning and elder law for over 30 years and leads a team of highly knowledgeable lawyers and staff. We spend the time to educate clients and follow through to make sure their estate plans are properly set up. We serve Westchester County as well as Putnam, Dutchess and New York counties (Manhattan). Call 914-712-6404 or email us to arrange a meet-and-greet.