Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 3, 2020

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Estate planning involves issues such as wills, trusts, healthcare proxies, guardianship and more. Every state has its own, often complicated, rules – and New York is no exception. We asked Elliot Schlissel, a New York attorney for over 30 years whose practice focuses on estate planning and several other areas of the law, to explain what you need to know about estate planning in New York. Here’s what he told us:

In New York, estate plans generally involve the preparation of a will. Sometimes they involve the preparation of trusts depending on the size of the estate. Trusts can deal with taxable issues, Medicaid planning and issues involving special needs for children. They also involve preparing a healthcare proxy which authorizes someone to make medical decisions in the event the person preparing the document becomes incapacitated.

The documents used for estate planning are basically wills, which can be either simple or more sophisticated, various types of trusts, healthcare proxies, powers of attorney and living wills which deal with advanced directives concerning medical treatment.

To view a video on this subject, click here.

Benefits of a New York estate plan

What are the benefits of having an estate plan in New York? According to Schlissel, one of the benefits of having an estate plan is that your intentions are clearly laid out as to what you want to happen to your assets at the time of your death. He explained, “There’s no question at that point as to who receives what. It also states who the executor would be, the person in charge of your estate, and it avoids difficulties among family members as to who will carry out those responsibilities.”

To view a video on this subject, click here.

“An estate planning power of attorney authorizes a specific person to assist you in the event you can’t pay your bills or handle your affairs as you get older. The healthcare proxy deals with issues concerning medical treatment should you become incapacitated or unable to make decisions on your own. It gives you peace of mind and again, avoids problems among family members and loved ones as to who should fulfill those responsibilities.”

Anyone who doesn’t have a proper estate plan dies intestate, which means without an estate. Schlissel continued, “Their assets are inherited under blood lines and one family member has to bring a proceeding to be appointed the administrator of the estate. It’s a bit more of a cumbersome procedure and it leaves some questions up in the air to possibly be dealt with by a court.”

What is guardianship?

Guardianship, which used to be called conservatorship at one time, occurs when a family member or loved one grows incompetent. Schlissel explained, “In many cases, there will be no estate planning power of attorney. They may need someone to help them with their finances, their medical treatment and things of this nature. It often involves people with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or seniors.”

For estate planning needs such as wills, trusts, healthcare proxies, powers of attorney or probate matters, contact an experienced New York estate planning attorney to discuss you situation and evaluate your options.