Q. Is owning my home jointly with my wife a substitute for having a NY will?
A. No. If you and your spouse bought your home together, she automatically gets ownership of it upon your death. But what if you both die together? The home that you worked so hard for might be sold and the proceeds controlled by a stranger until your children reach the age of eighteen (18), at which time they could spend the proceeds as they wish. A person's major assets is usually the home. With inflation rapidly driving up home values and life insurance covering the mortgage, many homeowners have a much larger estate than they may think.
Q. What happens if I die without a NY will?
A. Dying without a will may result in your estate going to someone you didn't intend to receive it, unnecessary estate taxes, delays in settling the estate, added estate expenses and leaving your estate assets without proper management and protection. If you die without a will, state law makes the decision as to the distribution of your property. If you die leaving a spouse and children, your spouse receives $50,000 and one-half of the estate and your children receive the balance.
Q. What does a will do?
A. A properly drawn will is the only way to be sure that your property at your death goes where you want it to go. By executing a will, you may dispose of real estate and personal property at your death in the proportions and to the persons you wish; appoint competent and trustworthy executors, trustees and children's guardians; and create trusts. If you will be leaving large sums of money to your minor children, the will should provide for a trust with a trustee who can provide proper money management until your child reaches the age of eighteen (18) or older. Making a will is a privilege and if it is not executed in strict compliance with state law, it may be declared to be invalid and your property will pass as if you had no will.
Q. Can I disinherit my children?
A. Yes, you can disinherit your children but you cannot disinherit your spouse. Your spouse has a right to the greater of $50,000 or one-third of the value of your estate.
Q. When should I update my NY will?
A. You should review your will with your attorney every few years or when there is: a birth or adoption; a change of residence; the executor, guardian or trustee named in your will become unavailable; you or your beneficiaries' financial worth increases dramatically; a change in your marital status or that of a family member; a change in the status of your business; a change in the tax laws; or the death or disability of anyone named in the will.