Estate Planning

Estate planning is a process that helps you make many important decisions that you may face in your lifetime. If you do not decide these things ahead of time, they may be decided for you by a New York court according to the Estates, Powers and Trusts law (EPTL). These laws control what happens if you become incapacitated without an estate plan or die without a will, which may not match what you would have chosen for yourself. If you plan ahead and make your wishes clear following New York procedures, your wishes should be honored.

A complete estate plan will have documents that cover the decisions listed below.

  1. How to protect and/or give your property and assets while you are capable.
  2. How to protect and/or give your property and assets if you become incapacitated.
  3. How to protect and/or give your property and assets after your death.
  4. How to make your healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated.
  5. How to make your end-of-life health care decisions, including whether to stop treatment in certain circumstances if you become terminally ill and/or incapacitated.

The documents that can be included in your estate plan are:

  • Will: A document directing to who and how your property will be given after your death.
  • Trust: Financial plans that protect and manage your property while you are alive and after your death, which can prevent the need for court proceedings after your death.
  • Durable Power-of-Attorney: A document that allows you to name someone to make financial decisions for you if you become disabled.
  • Healthcare Proxy: A document where you name someone to make healthcare decisions for you if you become unable to do so.
  • Living Will: A document that says what your wishes are regarding whether life-extending medical measures should be taken to prolong your life if you have a terminal illness and are permanently incapacitated or unconscious.

Legal Editor: Michael L. Kaplan, March 2015 (updated March 2016)

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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