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Greenwich estate planning lawyerNo matter what your financial situation is, you have an estate. Your estate is made up of everything you own. Many people think this only includes real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, etc., and therefore, if they do not have these types of assets, they do not have an estate.

However, an estate also includes your furniture, personal possessions, vehicle, and even your digital property, such as music and photographs. The bottom line is that no matter how modest your estate is, you should still have an estate plan in place to specify what should be done with these items when you die. The following are some of the components you may choose for your estate plan.

Last Will and Testament

Wills can still be a useful tool in estate planning. If you have young children, you are able to name the party or parties you wish to be your children’s legal guardian. A will allows you to address how you want personal belongings, collections, furniture, digital assets, and other property to be divided among your heirs, as well as which relatives you do not want to receive anything.

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NY estate lawyerA key part of the estate planning process involves making decisions about a person’s end-of-life care. This can be especially important for people who are elderly, although addressing medical decisions may be beneficial at any age. Advance medical directives will allow a person to decide what types of medical care they do or do not want to receive in different situations, and they can ensure that their wishes will be followed if they encounter health issues that make it impossible to make their preferences known. Residents of New York will need to understand how the state’s laws address these issues, and they can take steps to prepare for the future and avoid uncertainty for themselves and their loved ones.

Advanced Directives in New York

A person can address their medical care by naming a person who can make medical decisions on their behalf and creating documents that detail their decisions about treatment. A Health Care Proxy will allow a person to appoint a Health Care Agent who will be authorized to make decisions for them if they cannot make decisions on their own. These decisions may include whether life-sustaining treatment such as nutrition or hydration will be provided and whether the person should be resuscitated if their heart stops beating. A Health Care Proxy can detail a person’s wishes in these matters, but if these wishes are not specified, the agent may make decisions based on what they believe would be in the person’s best interests.

In addition to or instead of a Health Care Proxy, a person can create a living will that details their wishes for the types of end-of-life treatment they want to receive. This document will address situations where the person has been diagnosed with an incurable condition that will result in their death, and they cannot make their wishes known. A living will can specify that a person does or does not want to receive certain types of treatment. For example, it may state that a person should be kept alive as long as possible, or it may state that life-sustaining treatment should be withheld and treatment should be limited to palliative care such as medication meant to ease pain and provide comfort.

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CT probate lawyerWhile dealing with the death of a family member may involve difficult emotions, legal and financial issues can also play a role in these situations. During the probate process, the person named as the executor in a deceased person’s will is required to file the will in court and oversee the process of distributing their assets to their heirs, while also handling other issues related to their final affairs. Our attorneys provide legal help with probate matters in Connecticut and New York, and we are prepared to help an executor or a person appointed as the personal representative of an estate complete this process successfully.

Understanding the Probate Process

When creating a will, a person will name someone as the executor of their estate. This is usually a family member or close friend who the person trusts to make sure their wishes are followed correctly. After the person’s death, the executor will begin the probate process. In Connecticut, this process must be followed if the deceased person had assets totaling $40,000 or more or owned real estate property, and a case will be handled in the Probate Court in the district where they resided. In New York, probate will be necessary if the deceased person owned assets worth at least $50,000, and a case will be handled in the Surrogate’s Court in the county where the person lived.

The executor will file the deceased person’s will in court, and a hearing will be held to verify that the will is valid and officially appoint the executor as the administrator of the estate. The executor will then take an inventory of all of the assets owned by the deceased person, and if necessary, appraisals may be performed to determine the value of certain assets. The executor will notify the beneficiaries named in the person’s will, and they will also publish a notice of the death in a newspaper to allow any creditors or presumed heirs to come forward and make a claim against the estate. Once the executor has paid any outstanding debts and taxes, they will distribute all of the deceased person’s assets to their beneficiaries according to the instructions provided in the will.

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Greenwich CT probate lawyerThere are a variety of situations in which adults may not be able to fully care for themselves. In some cases, an elderly or disabled adult may be looking to create a legal arrangement in which someone they trust will be able to provide them with the care they need and help them manage their finances. In others, a person’s loved ones may wish to give themselves the legal authority to make decisions on the person’s behalf. While these types of arrangements are usually referred to as guardianships, the state of Connecticut uses the term “conservatorship,” and different types of conservatorship may be appropriate depending on a person’s circumstances.

Conservatorship in Connecticut

A probate court may appoint a person as the conservator of someone who is incapable of caring for themself or managing their own financial affairs. A conservator of the person will supervise the person’s health and personal needs, ensuring that they receive the proper food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. A conservator of the estate will supervise a person’s finances, including managing their property and assets and determining how any income or benefits earned by the person will be used. A person may serve as both types of conservator, or one person may be appointed as the conservator of the person, while another person, organization, or financial institution may be appointed as the conservator of the estate. However, a nursing home or hospital cannot serve as a person’s conservator.

A conservatorship may be either voluntary or involuntary. Any interested party may file a petition to establish an involuntary conservatorship that alleges that a person does not have the capability to manage their personal needs or finances. In these cases, a hearing will be held to determine if conservatorship is appropriate, and the court may consider medical evidence related to examinations performed by a doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

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Metro New York area Estate Planning attorney

Many people equate estate planning with creating a last will and testament. While a will can certainly be a useful estate planning tool, several other estate planning instruments may also benefit you and your loved ones. Trusts are commonly used to transfer assets without needing to go through the probate process. Trusts are especially beneficial for individuals with minor children or wish to leave an inheritance to someone with a disability. Utilizing trusts in your estate plan can also help you protect assets from creditors and minimize estate taxes.

How a Revocable Living Trust May Benefit You and Your Family

There is a trust for almost every estate planning objective a person can have. However, most trusts fall into two main categories: revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts. A revocable living trust is a trust that you establish during your lifetime and use to transfer assets to heirs upon your death. You maintain control over the property in the trust until you pass away. At this point, your successor trustee takes control of the assets and manages the distribution of those assets. Living trusts are revocable or adjustable. Assets transferred through a living trust do not have to pass through probate, meaning that the assets are transferred to beneficiaries more quickly than assets transferred through a will. 

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