Experience in Protecting Your Legacy
Careful estate planning is essential to protecting your assets and legacy. At Hazlewood Lawrence, we understand that estate plans are unique because every family is unique. Our experienced attorneys will work hard to create a plan that best suits the needs of your family.
Estate planning arranges for the transfer of an individual’s property after death and may involve a will and/or trust, or the application of state intestacy laws.
An estate consists of all property owned at death before it is distributed by will, trust, or intestacy laws. An estate may contain both real property (real estate, including houses and investment properties) and personal property (all other property, including bank accounts, securities, jewelry, and automobiles).
A trust is a legal agreement that names someone to hold property for the benefit of others. The trustee is the person or company that manages trust property, and “beneficiaries” are the people who benefit from the trust. A living trust—the most common type of trust—is a trust created while the property owner is alive, and it’s revocable during the lifetime of the trust maker. Some people use a will in addition to a trust to distribute their property.
The main advantage to using a trust is that a trust helps to avoid probate. Probate is the court process that oversees the transfer of your property and payment of any debts after you die. The process can be expensive and time-consuming for your loved ones. There are some other advantages to a trust as well. They include:
Privacy. A will becomes public after the property owner dies, but a trust stays private. Only the beneficiaries and the trustee are informed of the trust and its contents.
Flexibility. A trust can be more flexible than a will, which can be especially useful to those who have complicated relationships or estate planning needs. For example, a husband in a second marriage might want his current wife to be able to live in their house before the house passes to his children from his first marriage.
Timed distributions. A trust doesn’t have to transfer all the property at once, and can instead transfer property over time. A parent could set up a trust to take care of the bills of an adult child with special needs rather than giving their child a lump payment. Similarly, parents of young children or young adults may want to provide payments monthly or yearly until the children become mature enough to handle their own money. Tax avoidance. Some trusts can be designed to reduce estate taxes. However, most estate taxes affect only the very rich.
A revocable trust is one that can be modified or revoked at any time. A simple living trust is a revocable trust that becomes irrevocable when the trust maker dies. In contrast, an irrevocable trust cannot be changed once it has been made. Trusts that are made to avoid estate taxes are typically irrevocable trusts.
A Will is a basic document that upon your death sets out a scheme with regard to who will receive your property, who will be the guardian of your children, and who will handle and control the management of your estate and the distribution of your assets to your beneficiaries.
A living trust is a common type of trust used to transfer property to beneficiaries without going through probate. Typically, after you make a living trust, you transfer property into the trust, and you become the trust’s trustee. A living trust is revocable, so you can change it during your lifetime. After you die, the trust becomes irrevocable and your successor trustee distributes the trust property to the beneficiaries following the terms of the trust.
When a person dies without a will, state law determines who gets the decedent’s estate. Typically, the spouse and children take the estate when no will is present. If there is no spouse or children, then the estate goes to the parents, and then to the brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and then cousins. If the person has no close relatives, then the property goes to the state of New York.
There is no legal requirement that your will be drafted by an attorney, but wills drafted by non-attorneys tend to be incomplete and often invalid under New York law. Legal requirements must be followed for the will to be valid.
Your will should be changed whenever a milestone is reached in your life or your life circumstances change, such as the birth of a child, divorce, change in financial status, etc.
Probate is the formal, court supervised procedure to identify all assets owned by a deceased person, identify the person creditors and beneficiaries, and the distribution of assets accordingly. Probate is required whether you have a Last Will.
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Careful estate planning is essential to protecting the assets that you have worked so hard for. At Hazelwood Lawrence we understand that estate plans.