Estate Planning Frequently Asked Questions

While D’Oro Law is always prepared to take your calls and answer your questions, you may want to research some of the basics of estate planning on your own. Please find below some helpful questions about estate planning law in New York.

If your question is not addressed here, please call D’Oro Law at (917) 693-4247 or contact the firm online to schedule your free initial consultation.

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is the accumulation and disposition of an estate, typically to minimize taxes and maximize the transfer of wealth to the intended beneficiary. Estate planning tools include the will, trust, power of appointment, power of attorney, medical power of attorney and living will.

Do I need a will?

A will protects your property and can especially be helpful if you want to distribute your property to people other than your relatives. Without a will, New York State law and the Surrogate’s Court dictate the distribution of your property. The default plan normally distributes property to relatives.

Is it necessary for a lawyer to draft my will?

While it may seem straightforward for you to draft your will yourself, personally-drafted wills tend to be incomplete and are, therefore, invalid under state law. An attorney familiar with your specific state laws can legally draft a will that is valid under your state’s law.

The process of going through the Surrogate’s Court to dispense your assets can take an extremely long time and accrue court costs and other legal fees in that time. In order to fully protect your loved ones in the future, contact D’Oro Law to create a legally binding estate plan and valid will.

What happens if someone dies without a will?

New York State law and the Surrogates Court use a default will for anyone who dies without a will. Typically, the spouse and children of the person who died inherit the property. If there is no spouse and no children, the decedent’s parents inherit the property, followed by siblings, grandparents, and children of the grandparents. If no close relation can be found, the property eventually belongs to the state.

What is a trust?

In a trust, a party known as the trustee has legal ownership of property transferred to him by the person making the trust — the grantor. Trust assets are invested and or managed for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. A trust can be living, that is, established during the grantor’s lifetime, or testamentary, established in a will. A trustee can be either an individual or an institution, such as a bank.

What are the duties and obligation of an executor or personal representative?

The executor or personal representative follows state law to wrap up the decedent’s affairs, including the following:

  • Giving the proper notices to proper parties
  • Collecting the decedent’s property
  • Receiving claims against the estate
  • Paying valid claims and disputing others
  • Distributing estate property according to the will or state law

Selling estate property to cover debts or allow for proper distribution may also be necessary.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process of administering an estate after someone dies. In this way, your property passes directly to your beneficiaries. Probate includes the following:

  • Proving in court that a deceased person’s will is valid
  • Identifying and inventorying the deceased person’s property
  • Property appraisal
  • Paying debts and taxes
  • Distributing property as directed by a will
  • Transferring title and ownership of assets to the proper beneficiaries

Can you contest a will or trust?

Yes, when the person who wrote the will or trust was forced, deceived, mentally incompetent or duly influenced. D’Oro Law can assist you in determining if you have a claim and fight for your rightful inheritance. Contact the firm for representation today.