A survey conducted by Caring.com in 2016 showed that only 56 percent of Americans questioned had either a living trust or will in place at the time.
Many legal experts suggest that individuals delay drafting estate planning documents because they want to avoid having financial or emotional conversations with their loved ones. Doing so ensures that your estate is handled according to your wishes. The creation of an estate plan takes tremendous pressure off of your loved ones at a time when they're grieving.
Essential estate planning documents that everyone can benefit from drafting and then storing in a safe place are wills, power of attorneys and health care proxies.
In the absence of a will, any assets you have will be passed on down to beneficiaries as prescribed by New York state law. The intestate estate process may result your belongings and earnings going to someone different from whom you would have wanted it to go to. When drafting a will, you'll get to choose the people that you want to leave your assets to, even if your wishes aren't in alignment with how the state would divide them up without a will.
As part of the process involved in drafting a will, you'll need to appoint an executor or personal representative for your estate. They'll ultimately be the person the probate court judge will require to handle paying off any remaining debts you owe when you pass on. They'll also be responsible for distributing any remaining assets to your heirs.
Individuals with minor children should draft a will so that surviving relatives and the judge will know the guardian(s) you wish to step in and care for your children if you're gone. If you don't explicitly state this in your will, then you children may potentially become wards of the state.
Drafting a power of attorney is also important. It ensures that a person that you trust will be able to act on your behalf in responding to tax inquiries, taking money out at the bank or handling other financial matters if you're unable to do so yourself.
Having a health care proxy in place gives someone else you trust the ability to make health decisions for you on your behalf if you're unconscious or otherwise not deemed competent enough to handle making them on your own.