The alternative is to leave a judge to decide how your estate should be divided up. If you die without a valid will, your estate goes into probate, which can lead to everyone with a stake in or legitimate claim to your property into a long and acrimonious struggle over it. You can save your family, friends, and business partners the time, tears, and money that such a fight will cause by making a clear statement in your will of how the financial part of your estate is to be divided.
Wills do not cover financial matters exclusively. They are flexible legal tools that can be used to bequeath all sorts of things to specific persons after you are gone. Indeed, some of the bitterest fights among families are not about money at all; they are about precious objects and heirlooms that the deceased owned and desired to keep in the family.
This is an area that should be taken seriously, and nothing is too small or insignificant to overlook. What may seem like a minor thing to you may turn out to be of great value to your children or your spouse. Intra-family feuds have broken out over who is to inherit jewelry, wedding dresses, vintage handbags and other accessories. Even old books and libraries have been fought over.
If you have made the effort to keep certain items, and have encouraged your loved ones to view them as things of great value and worth, then you should spell out in your will the person who is to get them when you pass on.
A trust is another legal means of managing and distributing your money. A trust allows you to exercise control over when, how, and under what conditions the intended trustee gets the money. There are many different types of trusts. The main point of setting one up is that it makes the capital independent of the whims and desires of any one individual. The beneficiary of a trust can only receive the funds if they act according to certain rules and instructions. This can help you instill a certain rigor and discipline in how your money is spent when you are gone.
Health care is another important area covered by wills. In the unfortunate event that you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself, you can appoint someone to act on your behalf. You can even give detailed instructions on what actions you want taken in the event that your condition is terminal.
All of these issues are best resolved by sitting down with an attorney who specializes in wills and trusts. You may have a family lawyer that you know and confide in. However, if you want to draw up a sound and legally valid will or trust you must work with someone who has deep insight into what New York State law has to say about these matters.
Working with a wills and trusts lawyer will help you employ the kind of language in your documents that will state your desires clearly and that will enable you to avoid all legal difficulties in enforcing them. There should be no vagueness or ambiguity about how your property is to be distributed when you die. A wills and trusts lawyer will help give you and your family peace of mind.