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CAN I WRITE A WILL AND PLAN MY OWN ESTATE? NOT IF YOU WANT IT DONE PROPERLY, ESTATE OF HOLMES

26
Nov

By Jason Stern

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Each year in this country 30,000 Americans are critically injured and an additional 6,000 are killed falling off their roofs. People attempting to fix their own roofs by climbing onto ladders accounted for nearly all of these accidents. The point being, while doing things yourself is definitely admirable it may not always prove to be the smartest course of action. Estate planning is no different.

As a NY estate lawyer drafting wills for many New Yorkers in our Forest Hills, New York offices, I can tell you this is never truer than in the planning of your New York estate. To an experienced NY estate lawyer, I can tell you there is no document as powerful as a properly drafted and executed Last Will & Testament. Your will can transfer great amounts of wealth to the heirs, distributees and beneficiaries of your choosing in a single pen stroke. However, drafting a will is only part of it. Equally important is the execution ceremony at the hands of your experienced NY wills & trusts lawyer.

What’s the difference?

In the same way one should not attempt to perform the dental extraction of an impacted second molar, neither should one draft their own will without the supervision of an experienced NY estate lawyer. The above-mentioned Queens estate case, Estate of Holmes , involved the estate of Clayton Holmes. Clayton went online to utilize a form in which he attempted to draft his own will leaving his entire estate, a $400,000.00 house in Queens, to his stepdaughter.

Unfortunately for both Mr. Clayton and his stepdaughter, the Queens County Surrogate’s Court found that the will had not been properly executed and refused its admittance to probate. The house was transferred to his natural born children whom he had no relationship with while his stepdaughter, the intended beneficiary, was evicted from her home accordingly.

In NY the estate law is a complicated web of NY statutes and doctrine. One should not attempt to navigate this area of law without the help of an experienced NY estate lawyer.

Recently a growing trend among certain television personalities to sell people financial and estate planning advice has raised some concerns. Many of these personalities even go so far as to provide available “Estate Planning Packets”. For a nominal fee, these packets include several blank forms in which anyone can simply place their home in a revocable trust or draft their own will in the comfort of their kitchen.

While it may sound good in principle in practical terms it is not unlike extracting your own wisdom tooth. For the couple hundred dollars or so it may cost to have your experienced Queens estate lawyer draft your will properly it may save your heirs immeasurable financial and emotional hardship in the future. If you draft your will properly the first time, you will most likely never have to think about it again.

Additionally many of these personalities have neither the background nor credentials to be providing any estate planning or legal advice to their viewing audience. For instance, upon a visit to one such television personality’s website, her first directive is for her audience to place their homes in revocable trusts using her simple forms. Any NY estate lawyer should find this legal advice most distasteful. First, the advice is provided by someone whose only qualification other than having a television show is a Bachelor’s Degree in the Arts. Secondly, most attorneys themselves could not tell you how to place an asset into a revocable trust let alone instruct a layman to do it themselves. And perhaps the most disturbing part of this legal advice is this television personality offers no foundation for her audience to place their home in a revocable trust. If you are going to place the biggest asset you own into something as complicated as a revocable trust wouldn’t you want to know why?

The answer is simple. Television personalities are not legal professionals and do not know why you should or should not have your home in a revocable trust. In fact I am an experienced NY estate lawyer with extensive probate experience and I cannot tell you why they think you need to place your home in a revocable trust. The fact of the matter is, with the Federal Estate Tax allowing for the transference of $10,680,000.00 in wealth for married couples in 2014 without any Federal Estate Tax liability, a simple will should do the trick for most Americans.

That is not to say there are not special circumstances that merit advanced estate planning requiring trust formation such as Medicaid Planning and reducing New York State Estate Tax liability. However if you require either of these you definitely should be doing so with the guidance of a NY estate lawyer. Coincidentally, placing your home in a revocable trust does not really help you do either of these.

If you or a loved one are thinking about planning your estate and would like to speak with a New York estate lawyer feel free to call The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates at (718) 261-2444 for a free consultation. Our Queens estate lawyers have nearly 45 years of combined NY estate law experience drafting and probating the wills for families like yours in the counties of Queens, New York, Kings, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, Orange, Dutchess as well as in the State of New Jersey.