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What is Probate? And How Often Should I Update My New York Will?

The word probate sounds like a discount you might get at a store…”it’s not a rebate but it’s a probate, you know they give you the cash back right there at the register you don’t even have to mail it in” But seriously, a probate proceeding in New York is a Surrogate’s Court proceeding to judicially determine whether the testator’s will was validly executed and to distribute the assets and deal with creditors and other issues. Additionally this proceeding appoints an executor to administer the estate. I realize that’s a bit of a mouthful…In case you’re not familiar with the terms testator just means the person who passed away that had a will. And beneficiary means the person(s) who were listed in the testator’s will.

As a rule of thumb, you should update your will as often as you need to. There are certain types of things that might want you to change your will such as. A financial gain or windfall. If you win the lottery that might seriously alter your intentions about the gifts in your will…perhaps you want to add people or increase beneficiaries gifts. Additionally at that point you might want to consider other options such as an estate or trust.

Another such example is if you get married, divorced or have additional children. These are all things which can effect how your will is interpreted. Individual circumstances vary and that’s why it’s important to speak with a good estate attorney who will understand your needs and give you good estate planning advice.

If you need estate planning advice from a New York attorney, contact Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233.

Can I fund a trust with life insurance?

So you’re interested in funding a trust with proceeds from life insurance. There are two ways that a trust might be funded by life insurance proceeds. A trust might be funded life insurance if an unfunded revokable insurance trust is created and you name the trustee of the trust as the policy beneficiary.

Another way you might make life insurance payable to a trust is to have a testamentary trust and name the “trustee to be named in my will” as beneficiary.

The only way to know for sure what the best way to fund a trust with the proceeds of a life insurance policy is to contact a New York Estate Attorney.

If you are looking for a New York estate attorney with locations in New York City and Long Island, call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233.

What happens if a item I gift in a will isn’t there when I die?

The answer to that question depends on what type of gift in your will was left. Generally speaking, under New York estate law, if you leave something as a “specific gift” (my car to…) then the gift will fail and the person will receive nothing if the item mentioned in the “specific gift” is not available.

If the gift is a “demonstrative gift” (give John the $5,000 from the sale of my car), if the item is not available to sell then this gift is treated as a general gift and the gift does not fail. Instead, the money could come from a source as if it was a general legacy (gift).

General legacies(“$5,000 to bill”) or general gifts typically do not fail as long as there is some amount of money in the estate.

The only way to really determine what will happen regarding gifts in a will, in New York, is to speak with a New York estate attorney who can advise you on your specific issues. If you wish to speak to an NYC estate attorney, call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233. Also available at a Garden City, Long Island office.

Can I Make a Change In My Already Existing New York Will?

If you try to make changes to your will by writing in the actual New York will, the changes will most likely be disregarded at the time the will is probated.  It is important to work with an estate lawyer that will look at your particular situation and explain the best course of action under New York law for you. In New York there are only two ways a person can make changes to an already existing will. The first way is to write a new will which revokes and replaces the first will. This may be a good option if the changes to your estate distribution are significant. This subsequent will needs to be properly executed just as the first will was. The second way is to execute a codicil. A codicil is basically an amendment to the first will (it is duly executed just like a will). Codicils may be valid options to amend the first will if the codicil changes only part of the first will.

If you need to amend or change a will in a valid way, speak to a New York estate attorney with offices in New York City. Call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233.