Attorneys capably handling wills and estates for clients in New York
While we do a good deal in the way of real estate transactions, the Wexler & Kaufman, PLLC has developed a significant estate planning law practice, providing wills, trusts and probate services, counsel and litigation for all kinds of estates. This practice is a natural offshoot of our residential and commercial real estate practices – after all, real estate is a significant, if not always the largest, component in most of our clients’ estates.
Wills make a great beginning
Wills are crucial if you hope to leave certain assets behind for certain beneficiaries. Dying without a will, or intestate, means the state decides who will administer your estate. If you are not survived by a spouse and children, the next closest relatives are considered your beneficiaries. If no living relatives by blood or marriage remain, the state steps in to claim your property.
Dying with a will gives you control over how much gets left to those you specify, including friends and nonprofit organizations. You can set up your own chain of beneficiaries. You can name someone to look after your children or to look after the assets and land you leave until your children come of age. You can also specify who will administer your estate when you pass.
Trusts can add greater control
Trusts give you greater control over portions of your estate, specifying when and how assets may be used. Most trusts are considered separate from your estate, so they are not subject to estate taxes and they don’t have to go through the two- to three-year process of probate. And if you value privacy, you may appreciate that trusts remain private affairs, unlike wills, which become part of the public record when they go through probate.
There are many types of trusts in our estate planning arsenal, including ones that provide sustenance and care for incapacitated loved ones, but the most popular is the living trust. So-named because its grantor is alive, this type of trust can be either irrevocable – that is, set in stone – or revocable. A revocable trust allows the grantor to change the trust’s mission, assets and administrator — even terminate the trust — at any time while alive. You can make yourself and your spouse its trustees, able to use and manage trust property as desired, and make your children successor trustees. The trust automatically becomes irrevocable once the grantors pass – and once irrevocable, it is an entity separate from your estate and exempt from estate taxation.
It’s very much like a will, although we also advise leaving a will as well, so any assets not assigned to your living trust also go to those you designate. Just remember that will assets will be subject to probate, meaning taxation and public mention.
Probate and trust administration
Probate is the legal process of transferring property in accordance with a will or, if no will is present, intestate. In probating a will, the will’s executor liquidates the estate according to the spirit of the will and state law. If intestate, someone, typically a member of the deceased’s immediate family, petitions the state to act as the estate administrator to liquidate the estate.
The responsibilities of a trust administrator — or trustee — are similar to those of will executors and administrators. Fiduciaries are all are obliged to do the following:
- Locate and contact beneficiaries
- Pay any state or federal taxes or other obligations
- Arrange for the distribution of property as directed by the will or trust
Typically, a will executor’s or administrator’s job is done once liquidation is complete. A trustee’s job may be ongoing if the trust is set up to dispense assets over a prescribed number of years or in perpetuity.
Estate laws can become complex, and wills and trusts are sometimes contested by either beneficiaries or those who believe they should be beneficiaries. That is why will executors and will and trust administrators often seek help from Wexler & Kaufman, PLLC to counsel them or litigate in their defense. Indeed, several of our attorneys currently serve as will executors and trust administrators for client estates.
For sound estate planning services, advice and litigation, start with us
At Wexler & Kaufman, PLLC, we bring the same attention to the details and deadlines of real estate transactions that we offer in our estate planning and probate practices. Whether you’re creating an estate plan, administering a will or trust, or contesting an estate document, we help you navigate state and federal laws and represent you in court. For more information on how we can help, call us at 646-561-4758 or contact us online.