Oftentimes, parents will utilize an estate plan to protect finances and preserve their legacy for future generations. A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that a person can establish to express his or her wishes as to how their property and finances can be distributed after they pass away. While establishing a Last Will and Testament is an important aspect of estate planning, many parents overlook the need to address what will happen should a conflict over the estate arise.
In addition to establishing an estate plan, it is important that parents have conversations with their children or other family members to go over the contents of the estate and their designations in order to maintain trust among the beneficiaries after they pass away. While parents often name one of their children, a friend, or another relative as the executor of their estate or as trustee, some may want to consider appointing someone outside the family for the position.
An executor of the estate is a fiduciary, meaning that he or she has the highest duty of care in administering the assets of the estate to beneficiaries in accordance with the testator’s wishes. The administration of an estate may take anywhere from nine months to two years or longer. Similarly, a trustee has a duty of care to invest and administer the assets of a trust. If the executor of the estate or trustee acts in an irresponsible manner when administering the assets, he or she may be held liable.
The administration of an estate or a trust can be complex and many individuals may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility. An alternative to naming a loved one is to name a professional such as a lawyer, corporate trustee, or accountant. While oftentimes naming a professional as an executor or trustee is not free, it may be an ideal option when there are complexities, significant tax liability, or contention that exists among beneficiaries.
In addition, individuals should consider setting up estate planning documents like trusts with provisions that name a substitute trustee or executor or allow for the trustee or executor to be replaced. However, the provisions must be in place ahead of time and may require the beneficiaries to agree on the terms.
Another consideration would be whether to create separate trusts for children who may be unable to work through issues with one another after their parents pass away. This option may help to reduce conflicts as each family member will have their own trust for which separate trustees can be selected. Separate trusts may also help siblings protect their privacy.
An estate plan can benefit from a legal professional’s thorough consideration and careful eye. Just as you would consult an experienced medical professional to address a medical need, estate planning needs should be addressed with the assistance of an experienced estate planning lawyer.
Whether you are looking to update a current plan or establish a comprehensive estate plan for the first time, it is imperative that you consult the guidance of an experienced New York estate planning lawyer. The attorneys at Wingate, Kearney & Cullen, LLP are experienced estate planning lawyers who can help you create an estate plan that can carry out your wishes and protect your legacy. Our estate planning lawyers are available to assist individuals throughout the five boroughs of New York City, as well as Nassau County and Suffolk County, with their estate planning needs. To schedule a free consultation, call (718) 852-5900 or fill out our contact form.