Estate Planning Attorney Buffalo NY

Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning

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There are few things as inevitable as death and taxes, or so the saying goes. While you can’t change the fact that someday you will pass, you can change what happens to your assets when you do. It’s understandable that most people don’t want to think about these topics, but the last thing you want to do is leave your loved ones in a precarious financial or legal situation merely because you didn’t take the time to put your wishes in writing.

Have you finally decided to start thinking about your estate? Are you ready to write a will or form a trust? Do you have questions that only an experienced estate planning attorney can answer?

Estate planning is a broad term for the many ways of preparing, legally, for death, and especially the distribution of property and other assets. It also can encompass planning for any physical or mental incapacity you may experience while still alive. Our wills and trusts practice group empowers our clients to provide for their loved ones, after their deaths, through wills and up-front planning. Our staff is well-equipped to handle any estate, no matter the size or complexity.

If you’re in Buffalo or any other part of New York, you have the opportunity to create your own estate plan. A solid estate plan not only makes your wishes clear, but helps ensure they are enforceable by law. The experienced estate planning lawyers at Cole, Sorrentino, Hurley, Hewner, & Gambino, P.C., can discuss your needs and provide advice on the best strategy for you.

How Can Estate Planning Help Me?

Preparing the proper estate plan can give you and your loved ones peace of mind, and help minimize stress and contention after your death. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you avoid probate, or the process or “proving” a will, or arrange for a conservator to handle your finances and assets in the case that you become mentally incapacitated. A solid estate plan might also reduce any federal estate tax your family might face.

You might believe you don’t need an estate plan because you don’t have a lot of property. But estate planning isn’t about which relative gets the vacation house or which child gets the classic car. An estate plan can decide what happens if you become incapacitated and unable to make certain decisions about your medical care, family, financial assets, or legal obligations.

For example, if something happens to you and your spouse and you have young children, who will take care of them? You may have a particular family member or friend in mind to raise them, but if you don’t take the proper legal steps to make these wishes known, you children could end up in foster care.

Another reason to set up an estate plan is to avoid probate. Probate Court is the part of the New York court system that handles the transfer of your property when you die. It’s tough to completely avoid Probate Court, but if the right documents  are in place beforehand, most of your property distribution occurs without going through the Probate Court process, which is slow and potentially costly. Why force those who stand to inherit from your estate wait longer and pay extra money to get what everyone knows and agrees is rightfully theirs?

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What Estate Planning Documents Are There?

There are many legal documents you can use to create your estate plan – you’ve probably heard of a few. Some of the more common documents or legal devices used in New York for estate planning purposes include:

Will: A will is a legal document that sets out how you want to distribute your assets after you die.

Living Will: A living will, sometimes referred to as a document directing health care or an advanced healthcare directive, sets forth the medical care you are to receive and under what circumstances, should you be unable to communicate those decisions yourself.

Health Care Proxy: A health care proxy identifies the person you want to make your medical decisions for you in case you become incapacitated.

Trust: A trust is an arrangement where someone (the trustee) controls property for the benefit of another person (the beneficiary). One of the biggest advantages of having a trust is that it can keep your property out of Probate Court.

Power of Attorney: The purpose of a power of attorney is straightforward – to give someone the authority to handle certain legal matters for you, such as financial affairs. The power of attorney can set out limited tasks for another person to handle or it can be very broad, essentially allowing someone else to do anything you would be able to do.

Life insurance: Life insurance works by having an insurance company pay out a sum of money to a beneficiary when the individual insured under the policy dies. In return for this promise, the insurance company receives regular payments in the form of premiums.

Additional estate planning services on which we can advise you include:

  • Supplemental Needs Trusts
  • Guardianships
  • Conservatorships
  • Estate Administration
  • Trust Administration
  • Probate Administration

We can explain the misconceptions and misinformation about estate taxes so you’ll know exactly what will happen to your assets. We can also advise you as to the federal estate tax considerations of each option.

When wills and estates are contested, we serve our clients with aggressive probate litigation that addresses every practical issue possible, such as the disposition of personal and real property.

What Happens If I Die Without a Will?

Depending on your situation, dying “intestate,” or without a last will and testament, can create anything from a minor inconvenience to a significant and expensive conflict. New York State laws will govern the distribution of everything you leave behind. In these situations, what usually happens is that someone will get something you didn’t want them to get. As bad as that sounds, it can get much worse.

When there are important assets at stake, with several individuals claiming rights to the same things, it can result in very long court battles. These battles can become so expensive that the asset in question barely covers the costs of the legal fees. A properly prepared and executed will can avoid or reduce the legal fighting.

Our Estate Planning Attorney Can Answer Your Questions.  Contact Us

If you’re considering a will or trust, or you simply want to ask questions and get an idea of what your estate planning needs might be, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced estate planning attorney at our firm to discuss your will, trust or other estate planning issue. Thomas F. Hewner is an experienced estate planning attorney in Buffalo, NY who has handled thousands of estates during his many years as a partner in our law firm, and as counsel to the Public Administrator of Erie County.

We welcome the opportunity to serve you. We offer flexible appointment schedules and Spanish-speaking services if necessary. Offices are located in Buffalo, Batavia, Hamburg, Cheektowaga, and Niagara Falls, New York.

Download Our Free Estate Planning Guide