Q. HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO DO A WILL?
A. Most of the wills that we do are simple, and our clients are often surprised at how affordable it is. We are happy to give a free consultation and let you know how much it will cost, prior to opening a file.
Q. WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DIE WITHOUT A WILL?
A. If you die intestate (without a will), the laws of your state determine who receives your property. Each state is different, but typically the distribution would be to your spouse and children, or other family members. Intestacy laws are nothing more than a guess as to how you would dispose of your property. It may or may not reflect your actual wishes.
Q. WHAT DOES A WILL DO?
A. A will allows you to distribute the property owned by you at your death. Wills can be simple or complex, to achieve a wide range of family and tax objectives. For most of us, wills distribute property to surviving family members, provide for charities, and minimize taxes.
Wills address other issues. You may designate a guardian for your minor child or children. You may designate an executor for your estate, or a trustee for any trusts that you may have established.
Q. WHAT A WILL DOES NOT DO.
A. A will does not transfer non-probate property. Non-probate property passes by operation of law or contract on your death. For example, real estate owned by you and another person as “joint tenants with the right of survivorship” is non-probate property, and passes to the surviving joint owner on your death. Another example is an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or life insurance policy payable to a named beneficiary, which passes upon your death without going through probate.
Q. HOW DO YOU EXECUTE A WILL?
A. There are certain formalities in signing a will. In New York State, wills are not notarized, but must be witnessed. Good estate attorneys will have a regular routine for will signing, and the purpose of the routine is to minimize the chances of a successful challenge to the will.