No one wants to think about their death and the uncertainties that come with it. However, preparing a will can actually be a reassuring experience that allows us some measure of control over what happens to our assets and our legacy after we are gone. By working with an estate planning lawyer now, you can give your loved ones some measure of peace knowing that your affairs are in order.

Effective estate planning requires an understanding of a client’s individual needs and goals. At Pierro, Connor & Strauss, we take the time to understand your objectives and put custom-tailored tools in place to achieve them.

Why draft a will?

A will, or “last will and testament,” gives you the chance to make decisions about your end-of-life affairs. With a will, you can:

  • Direct what people and/or organizations will receive your property after your death;
  • Name an executor who will carry out the distribution of property as outlined in your will;
  • Choose a guardian to care for your minor children.

A will is not only for those with sizeable estates. Rather, it is for anyone who wants their wishes to be taken into consideration when it comes to how your property and/or family will be managed after death. If you are not sure what benefits a will can offer in your situation, speak with an experienced wills lawyer for a personalized analysis.

Who can create a will?

State laws dictate what makes a will valid. In New York, the individual creating the will – who is also known as the “testator” – must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind and memory. When a will faces a contest, it is often based on an allegation that the testator was not of sound mind at the time it was drafted.

Each state adopts formal requirements for a valid will. According to the New York statute, a will must be written on paper (rather than left as a recording or digital file). It must be signed and dated by the testator in the presence of two witnesses who are at least 18 years old. Witnesses should sign a self-proving affidavit in the presence of a notary pursuant to the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act.

New York’s wills statute does not allow the testator to modify the document by crossing out or adding in changes. Instead, a new will should be written and signed with the same formalities as the original. An alternative is to write a codicil – an update – and attach it to the original will. However, this is a risky alternative because it is as much work as creating a new will while adding in potential ambiguities that can lead to a will contest.

Call us today for a FREE consultation

The will planning lawyers at Pierro, Connor & Strauss are happy to review the estate plans of clients in the Albany area to ensure that their wills and other documents comply with state requirements and are tailored to achieve their desired goals.

What happens if I die without a will?

New York has adopted what is known as intestacy laws. These determine how the property of someone who dies without a will is distributed. For example, if someone who has a spouse and children dies without a will, the spouse will inherit the first $50,000 plus half the balance while the children inherit everything else. If someone who has no heirs as determined by the intestacy statute dies, his property will become the property of the state.

Drafting a will rather than relying on the rules of intestate succession offers several benefits. First, it accounts for the testator’s wishes, even where they conflict with the intestate laws. Second, a will can offer clearer instructions, avoiding ambiguities that can arise from intestate succession. For example, where New York statute calls for a child to inherit from a parent, the law requires a legal parent-child relationship. This excludes stepchildren and others who the decedent may count as full members of their family and who can be included in a will if so intended. Finally, if the decedent has no family, a will can allow them to choose other beneficiaries of the estate, like a favored charitable organization.

Get personalized guidance for your estate planning

The will attorneys at Pierro, Connor & Strauss offer high-quality, individualized estate planning services to clients throughout Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Greene. Whether you are in the beginning stages and need your initial will or are ready to review and update your plan, we are here to offer guidance. If you have a question about the administration of a will, you can also speak with a probate lawyer. Take a step toward peace of mind and call us today.

Life Happens…..Are You Prepared?

Contact us today for a FREE consultation and we’ll be happy to help take the worry out of tomorrow so you can live today.

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