It is quite exciting to enter the time in one’s life that is commonly referred to as “middle age.” This is due to the fact that you are now established in your career and have begun accumulating assets. Being through the struggles of early adulthood can feel like a great relief. This is also a time in your life at which you must begin taking the idea of estate planning very seriously. Having a proper estate plan in place can help to ensure that, in the event that something unforeseen happens, your friends and loved ones are spared as much aggravation and stress as possible.
The Long Island estate planning lawyers of Davidow, Davidow, Siegel & Stern are devoted to ensuring your affairs are in order. Read below to learn more about the benefits of estate planning while you are middle-aged.
The Consequences Of Not Having An Estate Plan
If you die without a proper estate plan, which begins with a last will and testament, then you are considered to have died “intestate.” This would mean that many of your assets would be subject to administration and would be distributed to various relatives in an order of priority that has been predetermined by state law. Whether this order of priority is consistent with your actual wishes is irrelevant. Dying without an estate plan, therefore, means your assets potentially being distributed to individuals that you did not wish to receive them or in the wrong percentages. It can also mean that individuals whom you wish to inherit may find themselves “left out.”
Unfortunately, creating an estate plan is something which many middle-aged people realize they need to do, but put off. This delay tends to come from a feeling that creating a plan is something that can wait “just a little while longer” while some other task is completed. This habit of putting off the creation of an estate plan leads to a large number of people in the United States dying without a valid last will and testament each year. Life happens!
An Estate Plan Begins With A Last Will And Testament
The first step in creating a proper estate plan is to prepare a last will and testament. This document will dictate how your assets are to be divided in the event of your passing. It allows you to ensure that your assets are divided in a way that is consistent with your wishes. An “Executor” will be named in your will. This is the person who will be responsible for settling the outstanding debts, and other affairs, associated with your estate. The executor will also oversee the distribution of your assets to your named heirs.
Your last will can be used for more than dictating the final distribution of your assets. It can also be used to name guardians for minor children you may have. Moreover, it can be used to leave a pet or animal to an individual whom you know will provide them with a good home.
A Trust Can Allow Your Heirs To Skip The Probate Process
A trust is an estate planning tool which can provide you with greater efficiency in the distribution of your estate. A trust is a mechanism in which your assets can be placed and overseen by a “Trustee.” This individual is then placed in charge of managing and/or distributing the assets in a way that is consistent with the terms of the trust. These terms can include, for example, the distribution of assets over time as opposed to all at once. Assets being distributed or otherwise managed as part of a trust are generally exempt from probate. Utilizing a trust, therefore, can mean that your heirs can avoid having to go through the probate process.
There are multiple types of trusts. These can include a “living trust,” which involves placing your assets into the trust before your death. They can also include a “testamentary trust,” in which the trust is named as the beneficiary in your last will and testament. The type of trust which best fits your particular circumstances will depend on the specifics of your situation. An experienced attorney can help you to develop a document that fits your specific needs.
A Last Will And Trust Needs To Be Kept Up To Date Over Time
A number of significant life milestones occur during middle age. These can include the birth of new children, the aging of your other children, and the making of new acquaintances. These changes can also include life events such as divorce, the loss of a loved one, and more. It is, therefore, crucial that your last will and trust be kept up to date as life circumstances change. Failing to keep your estate plan up to date can mean assets being left to individuals whom you would have otherwise preferred to receive nothing. Also, an out-of-date estate plan can result in individuals not being provided for in a way that is consistent with your final wishes. By keeping your plan up to date, you ensure that your current wishes are carried out.
Your Estate Planning Documents Must Be Clear, Unambiguous, And Enforceable
While it is never anyone’s goal to create conflict with loved ones, the fact of the matter is the distribution of a deceased’s assets often creates infighting among family members. This tension can become much worse when a last will or trust is ambiguous or, worse, contain clauses that make them unenforceable. By retaining an experienced attorney, you increase the chances that your documents are specific and enforceable.
Contact An Attorney If You Are Entering Or In Middle Age And Need An Estate Plan
Creating and maintaining a proper estate plan can assist those who are entering, or already in, middle age with ensuring that their wishes are honored and that their loved ones are spared as much aggravation as possible. It is vital that your documents accurately represent your final wishes and that they be drafted in a way that will be enforceable under New York law. Call our Long Island estate planning attorneys at (631) 234-3030 or schedule a consultation to get started.