By having a will, you can retain more control over the distribution of your estate. Without a will, the state you live in determines how your property is distributed.
Under New York State law, if you are an unmarried individual with no children, and you have no will, your parents will automatically inherit everything upon your death — even if you might prefer someone else, such as your siblings, to inherit. And if you were on Medicaid, then Medicaid — not your family — could receive your inheritance.
The process of creating a will is neither time-consuming nor expensive. While there are standardized wills available through companies such as LegalZoom, I strongly recommend utilizing the expertise of an attorney because there are complex legal and tax variations between states.
Many situations can make a will especially important:
- You have children from different marriages.
- You have significant assets, which may create an issue with state or federal estate taxes.
- You have a minor child who would need a guardian.
- Your beneficiary struggles with handling money well.
- You want to make charitable contributions.
- You have property in other states or abroad.
Once you have a will, it is important to revisit it with your attorney periodically and make sure it still suits your needs. For example, if your executor has become elderly and is no longer in the best position to handle the task, you may wish to consider changing the executor. If you move to another state, you should have your will checked by an attorney in the new state in order to make sure the will takes advantage of all the benefits of local laws. If the will is valid in another state, it will be honored in New York.