Wills & Trusts

Protecting What Matters Most

A will is a testamentary instrument, meaning a document that directs how and to whom the proceeds of one’s estate should be distributed to at the time of one’s death. Once you pass, your attorney drafted and supervised will is quickly admitted to probate and your executor appointed. Unfortunately many people do not think they need to draft a will in NY until it is too late.

New York estates without a will are called intestate, the proceeds of which pass through the court process known as Administration. Not only is this process complex, frustrating, but it is also timely and costly. Estates that pass through Administration and not probate, often invite feuds amongst heirs who may all be posturing to act as fiduciary, Administrator of the estate. To make matters even worse, people whose estates pass through Administration are required to post an often expensive bond securing the proceeds of the New York estate assets.

In addition, without designating your beneficiaries in your NY attorney drafted and supervised will, the court will automatically distribute your estate amongst your next of kin, regardless of whether this was your intended recipient or not. Unfortunately, under the NY estate laws, it is not uncommon for minors to inherit large sums of money when a parent dies and the estate proceeds unwittingly passes through Administration.

How do I make a will?

Drafting a will is the simplest, cheapest, and easiest way to transfer one’s estate to their heirs. Under the current tax codes, a will can transfer up to eleven million ($11,000,000.00) dollars in estate proceeds as an individual or up to twenty-two million ($22,000,000.00) dollars with a spouse –– free of the cumbersome federal estate tax. A will can be created by The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates in a matter of hours, after a free consultation from a highly qualified NY estate attorney.

However, at the New York State level if your estate is above $5,250,000.00 then your entire estate may still be subject to the 16% NYS estate tax.  This is where there is some confusion.  While in 2014 New York’s Estate Tax was scheduled to mimic the Federal Estate Tax exemptions which in 2019 would be $22 million dollars, the laws did not count on the recent hikes at the federal level.  As such, New York State’s Estate Tax exemption is only scheduled to be $5,600,000 this coming year per individual and possibly $11,200,000.00 for married couples.  I say possibly because unlike their federal counterpart which provides for portability New York State does not.  What this means is for a married couple to avail themselves of the full $11,200,000.00 estate tax exemption at the NYS level they will have to preplan with the formation of a will that includes Generation Skipping Trust language, also known as an Exemption Trust.

While New York State makes you work for it, the current levels of estate tax exemption at both the State and Federal levels are still tremendous improvements from prior years.

Most people do not realize, only the original copy of the will is valid in court. If an original cannot be produced to the court, it is presumed destroyed by the decedent and the estate is once again thrust into administration proceedings. Therefore, it is always advisable to leave the original copy in the hands of a trusted NY estate attorney for safekeeping. We maintain a guarded safe deposit box in a convenient bank downstairs from our offices to ensure your will is never lost, stolen or destroyed.

Although a properly executed will does not expire, it may become outdated. As people come in and out of our lives and we acquire or sell off assets or portions of an estate, one may need to revise their will so that the proper portions of their estate are bestowed to the proper recipients. This can be done as frequently as needed with little cost to the client.

Give us a call now if you would like to schedule a free consultation.