7 things everyone should know about probate:
1. Have a will. Having a will means having an estate plan. As a New York probate attorney I hate seeing family come into our offices whose loved one died without a will. If you have a will, you have not only protected your inheritance against the threat of unknown persons claiming entitlement to your estate but you have averted an administrative nightmare. When you die without a will your estate is literally up for grabs. In other words, a long lost relative claiming they were your non-marital love child can claim title to your estate. At an already emotional time this is not something you want your heirs to have to deal with. Our firm is made up of the best New York estate lawyers with over 40 years of probate experience drafting and admitting wills to probate. Without question, a will is where every estate plan should begin.
2. Keep the original will safe. When you come in for a will, your NY probate attorney will offer to send you home with both an original copy of your will and a conformed copy of your will. Most people do not realize that the original will is the only version that a court will admit to probate if you choose to keep the original. Our extensive experience probating New York estates has provided us with unique insight into this matter. Our firm’s NY probate lawyers have seen instances where wills are lost or even intentionally destroyed by family members before being admitted to probate. Once destroyed or lost, the Surrogate’s Court presumes the testator destroyed their will on purpose and will deny probate of any conformed copies absent a showing of fraud, which can rarely be proven at trial. As such, our NY estate lawyers extend the courtesy of keeping your original will for safe keeping upon request.
3. Do not take the staples out. As intuitive as this sounds you would be surprised how many times wills are rejected probate because someone took the staples out. Any NY probate lawyer who knows what they are doing will tell you this is a no no. A will is one of the most powerful legal instruments in existence in that it has no expiration date, can transfer tens of millions of dollars of wealth and can stand up to any scrutiny if executed properly by experienced, qualified New York estate attorneys. However there is a strict, ancient protocol, which the Surrogate’s Court directs every New York probate attorney to follow. One of these protocols is not to tamper with a will’s staples. Once a will has been tampered with there is a strong presumption of misconduct and the Court may reject it as a fraudulent document.
4. $10,240,000.00 Unified Credit Federal Estate Tax Exemption. The current Unified Credit for The Federal Estate Tax Exemption is $10,240,000.00 for married couples and $5,120,000.00 for each individual. This means that if you pass, your simple will can pass up to $10,240,000.00 free of the Federal Estate Tax to your beneficiaries without any need for complex estate planning. If you don’t believe me this is a link to the history of The Federal Unified Credit Estate Tax Exemption. To put this in perspective, in 2008 the Unified Credit was only $1,000,000.00 per individual and $2,000,000.00 per married couple. This dramatic increase in the Unified Credit is an unprecedented windfall for beneficiaries and testators alike. In 2006 alone, the Federal government collected $27.8 billion dollars in estate tax revenue comprising 1.2% of all annual taxes levied that year. Under the current Unified Credit most people no longer have to fear this dreaded death tax, which previously cost estates nearly 50% when coupled with State Estate Taxes.
5. Portability of the Unified Credit. Although it sounds complicated it is not. Portability just refers to the enactment of new legislation allowing spouses to utilize any unused portion of the other’s estate tax exemption after their death. With a few easy steps, our New York estate lawyers can draft a will that incorporates portability into your estate. As such, if spouse A dies with $3,000,000.00 in assets then spouse B will be able to utilize any unused portion of spouse A’s unified tax exemption. Thus when spouse B passes, they will be able to pass $7,240,000.00 to their beneficiaries without any Federal Estate Tax liability.
6. Make someone you trust your executor. As New York probate lawyers we can tell you this is much easier said than done. Often time’s people will name someone they like as executor without giving it a second thought. However, it is much better to name someone you trust in your will as executor rather than someone you like. The shameful truth is money changes people and a prime example is when a will is admitted to probate. Time and time again our New York probate firm will litigate cases against irresponsible executors who decide to help themselves to estate assets when nobody is looking. Luckily NY estate attorneys are always looking and can often attempt to reclaim any and all assets stolen. However this is often a lengthy and costly process that can be circumvented by naming a trustworthy person executor in the first place.
7. Have your will executed by experienced New York estate lawyers. Unfortunately people are frequently taking matters into their own hands by drafting and executing their own wills online. A will is a testamentary instrument and should only be drafted by attorneys who are experienced New York estate attorneys. Many attorneys themselves are unaware of the exact steps and customs required when drafting and executing a valid will. Furthermore, a simple will is a very economical estate tool and should not cost more than a few hundred dollars. Should you have any questions about your estate, please feel free to contact an experienced New York probate lawyer at the Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates at (718) 261-2444 for a free consultation.
Your recommendation to hire a probate attorney to execute your will so that they know the right steps and customs ensure it’s valid. When choosing one, you’d probably want to look online to see what lawyers work in your area. Finding a local probate lawyer could ensure they know the local laws and can help you if you ever want to make any changes to your will.
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