What Happens if You Die Without a Will?

In a previous column we explained the many things you can do with a Will that you cannot accomplish without one. Nevertheless, by most estimates, fewer than half of all adult Americans have a Will. The reasons for not creating a Will are varied and often complicated. Is it because that although everyone has got to die, we harbor a secret belief that an exception will be made in our case? Is it because we… Continue reading

Your Last Will And Testament

A Will is the basic estate planning document. Anyone who wants to control how their property is distributed when they die, regardless of the amount of money they have, should have a Will; anyone with minor children NEEDS a will, regardless of their wealth. Yet it is estimated that less than 40% of all Americans has a Will. Why is this? Many regard the prospect of drafting of a Will as unpleasant. Others feel they don’t have enough money or property to justify a Will. Many people presume their property will be disposed of the way they want even without a Will. This information is designed to show that making a Will is an opportunity to ensure that you have provided for your family in a thoughtful way and that your property will be disposed of in accordance with your wishes. Continue reading

Wills: An Overview


You can disinherit someone, including a child (but not your spouse)

You can distribute your property in equal or unequal shares to persons of your choice. Continue reading

PROBATE: What Everyone Should Know, Part 2

In Part 1 of this Article, we addressed what happens to a person’s property after death and how a Personal Representative is appointed. We also examined the duties of the Personal Representative. In Part 2 we discuss the difference between Probate and Non-probate property, and address the Probate process from initial filing to the final accounting and distribution of assets.

What is Probate? Continue reading

PROBATE: What Everyone Should Know, Part 1

What Happens to Property After Death? 

You don’t have to be wealthy to have an estate. When someone dies, the property they own—whether it is real property or personal property—is said to be their “estate”. A Personal Representative will be appointed by the Court to administer the estate. In New York, that court is the Surrogate’s Court and there is one in each county. The proper County for filing is the County the decedent called their domicile. However, if the decedent owned real estate elsewhere, for example, a Florida condominium, a second procedure, called ancillary probate, will have to be commenced in that state as well. Most states have a streamlined process for ancillary probate. Continue reading

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a legal document where one person, the principal, authorizes another person, the agent, to act on his behalf. The agent has just so much power as the principal gives him. In legal terms, the agent is referred to as the principal’s “attorney in fact”. The principal can appoint the agent to act for him in many various matters or in just a single transaction. For example, if a husband and wife sell their house but one of them is unavailable to attend the closing, the absent spouse can appoint the other to act as agent for the sole purpose of signing documents at the closing. Continue reading

Is a Medicaid Trust Right for You?

What is Medicaid?
Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that helps low income individuals pay for the costs associated with long-term custodial care, such as a nursing home.

Does everyone qualify for Medicaid?
No. Because Medicaid is a so-called needs based program, it is only available to those whose assets and income levels meet the eligibility standards. This means you may have to spend down your assets before qualifying for Medicaid. Continue reading

Disposition of Remains


Advance Medical Directives are documents that allow you to express your wishes with respect to health care and end of life decisions in advance of when you need them. Although it is not medical in nature, there is another Advance Directive that is useful when putting together an estate plan: the Appointment of an Agent to Control the Disposition of Remains. Continue reading

Advance Medical Directives

The law recognizes that we have a fundamental right to consent to or refuse medical treatment. But what happens when we are unable to communicate our wishes with respect to medical treatment?

The law provides that we can execute certain documents in advance that can facilitate the process. Two types of advance medical directives, health care proxies and living wills, are discussed here. Continue reading