A lot of people in the Rochester, New York area visit an estate planning attorney because they want to make a last will and testament. A will, as these documents are most commonly referred to, is an essential estate planning tool. It’s also something that is relatively limited. Wills are not sufficient to address every estate planning need you have, but they do address some very specific issues. Here is what you need to know about what your will covers.
Personal Property Under a Last Will and Testament
Perhaps the most important part of the last will and testament is its ability to allow you to choose how you want to distribute your property after your death. As long as your will complies with all relevant New York laws, you can decide to leave your property in almost any manner you wish.
However, not all of your property will be subject to your will. A will covers personal property you own as an individual. For example, you can use your will to distribute money, family heirlooms, personal cars, real estate, and anything else you own as an individual. You can give your property to anyone you like, including relatives, friends, charities, or others.
Transfer-on-Death, Joint, and Trust-Owned Property
It’s important to understand that a last will and testament doesn’t apply to all the properties you might leave behind. Jointly owned property, property you have transferred to a trust, and property that allows you to name a transfer-on-death beneficiary will not transfer in accordance with the terms of your will. This property automatically transfers outside of the probate process, and is thus is not subject to distribution through your last will and testament.
Your Estate Executor
Another key element of every last will and testament is the naming of an executor. Your executor is the person you appoint to represent your interests after you die. Once you die and leave behind property, your executor will be responsible for beginning the probate process and representing your estate throughout.
Your executor will also have the duty to distribute your property in accordance with your wishes, as well as pay any outstanding bills you left behind by using estate property.
Through your last will and testament you can also nominate a guardian who will have the legal authority to care for any minor children should you die. Though the Surrogate’s Court will have to approve your nomination, you can select a person of your choosing. If you die and leave your child without a surviving parent, the court will usually approve the guardian nomination you make through your last will and testament.