Yes, You Should Have A Will

Yes, You Should Have A Will


~ By Michelle Hutchinson

Most of us do not want to think about or face the fact of our own mortality. This aversion seems to become greater the older we get, just when we
should be considering it even more or better yet, already have our estate matters in order. Many of us know the emotional turmoil the death of a loved one brings. Add to that the squabbling over who gets what that inevitably follows and you have a recipe for lifelong resentments and family divisions. Although nothing can prevent the hurt, loss and even anger upon the death of someone we cherish, that loved one, meaning you, can make your family’s transition easier by having your affairs taken care of in advance. A will is a crucial part of this process.

Basically speaking, a will is merely a legal document that sets forth the disposition of your assets upon your death; a so called who-gets-what document. A will also designates who will be in charge of your estate assets to ensure that your wishes and desires are complied with. Many of us believe that wills are only for rich people; those with a lot of money and/ or property and other significant holdings. But truth be told, if you have anything you would want someone to have upon your death or have children who would need a guardian, you should consider having a will prepared. Wills can be updated as often as necessary to account for any changes in your life such as marriage, divorce, children, asset acquisition, etc. and
they become effective only upon your death.

In the event one passes without a will (dies intestate) whatever assets they have at the time of death will be distributed amongst their family members according to New York Law (intestate succession) generally in the following order (first five levels):

√√ A spouse and children: 1/2 to the spouse and the
remainder to the children to be divided equally.
√√ A spouse and no children: all to the spouse.
√√ Children and no spouse: all to the
children to be divided equally.
√√ One or both parents, but no spouse or children:
the whole to the surviving parent or parents.
√√ Siblings and no parents, spouse or children: all
to the siblings.

After these five levels come more distant relatives, but the point is that without a will, your assets may not end up in the hands of those loved ones you would desire. Finally with respect to distribution, if you are married your spouse cannot be disinherited whether by will or intestate succession. Under New York Law, a surviving spouse (whether a husband or wife) has what’s called a “personal right of election” to take a share of the decedent’s estate.

What this share is and how it is calculated is beyond the scope of this article, so just know that no matter what, your spouse will receive a portion of your estate upon your death unless THEY choose to waive their share. Preparing a will need not be an overwhelming nor arduous task. An attorney familiar with New York Estate, Powers and Trusts Law can guide and counsel you along the way. Consider putting your affairs in order today.