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FAQs

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is critical to ensure your family’s security in the event of death or disability.

Futterman & Lanza, LLP can advise and assist individuals and families with all of your estate planning needs. Futterman & Lanza, LLP provides legal services in the following areas:

  • Wills
  • Living Wills
  • Health Care Proxies
  • Trusts
  • Durable Powers of Attorney
  • Pre-nuptial Agreements
  • Post-nuptial Agreements

Your individual estate planning needs must be met by a lawyer who spends time with you to understand and identify your particular estate planning goals and concerns.

Estate planning can be a confusing and overwhelming process. Let Futterman & Lanza, LLP skillfully handle your individual matter with the compassion, care and attention to detail. We understand the importance of your estate planning needs and our individualized approach will help put you at ease with the plan, documents, and process.

Put your family at ease knowing your wishes will be carried out and the appropriate people will be appointed in the event of your death or incapacity.

Why Do I Need A Will?

A Will is your opportunity to decide how you want to distribute your property after your death. Without a Will your property accumulated during your lifetime will be transferred according to a statutory scheme (the laws of intestacy) that may be inconsistent with your wishes. A Will is particularly important in the following circumstances:

To ensure that bequests made to your minor or adult children are held in trust until the appropriate age, which you decide. Without a Will, your children will receive their statutory share of your estate at age 18, with no restrictions or supervision. Also, with a Will you have an opportunity to select the person you want to serve as the Guardian for your minor children.

To protect a disabled child or loved one by leaving a bequest in a Special Needs Trust. This type of trust will allow the disabled beneficiary to preserve eligibility for government benefits such as Medicaid and SSI and still benefit from the assets in the Special Needs Trust.

To avoid paying unnecessary estate taxes. Married couples with a total estate above one million dollars should consider including provisions in their Wills to maximize their protection from estate taxes.

To protect your current spouse in a second marriage and your children from an earlier marriage. Second marriages can complicate your estate planning. It is important to decide how you want to provide for your current spouse and other family members and then specify those wishes in your Will.

What Is A Will?

A will is a legal document, drafted and executed in accordance with New York State law, which becomes irrevocable at your death. In your will, you can name:

Your beneficiaries. Those who will receive your assets as you direct.

A guardian for your minor children.

An executor.

DOES A WILL COVER EVERYTHING I OWN?

No. Generally speaking, your will affects only those assets which are in your name alone at your death. Common assets that are not affected by your will include:

  • Life insurance
  • Retirement plans
  • Assets owned as a joint tenant.
  • Assets titled “Transfer on death” or “payable on death.”
  • Assets owned with another with a right of survivorship.
  • Assets held in Living trusts.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DIE WITHOUT A WILL?

Contrary to popular belief if you die without a will, everything does not go to New York State. Instead, New York Law (the laws of intestacy) will determine who benefits from your estate.

CAN I CHANGE MY WILL?

Yes. You should schedule periodic reviews because, if it is not up to date when you die, your estate may not be distributed as you wish. Your will can be changed through a codicil, a legal document which must be drafted and executed in accordance with the same laws which apply to wills.

HOW THE WISHES EXPRESSED IN MY WILL CARRIED OUT?

The process by which the provisions in your will are carried out following your death is known as probate. Probate is the court-supervised process that has as its goal the transfer of your assets at your death to the beneficiaries set forth in your will, and in the manner prescribed by your will. It also provides for the determination of the validity of any claims by creditors against your assets at your death.

WILL MY BENEFICIARIES HAVE TO PAY ESTATE TAXES?

Assets transferred to either your spouse or to charitable organizations are not subject to estate taxes. From 2006 through 2008, assets passing to other individuals will be taxed if the net value of those assets is $2 million or more. That amount will increase to $3.5 million in 2009. Then, the estate tax will disappear completely in 2010. In 2011, however, unless Congress passes an extension, the exemption will revert back to $1 million. For estates which approach or exceed this value, significant estate taxes can be saved by proper estate planning.

WHY SHOULD YOU HIRE AN ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY TO HELP DRAW UP YOUR WILL?

  • Ensure the legality of your will
  • Minimize the prospect of will contestations
  • Asset protection and preservation
  • Address and minimize taxes on your estate
  • Choose an Executor or Guardian of your estate
  • Simplify the legal process

WHAT IS A LIVING WILL?

Not to be confused with either a Last Will or a Living Trust, a Living Will is a written statement of your wishes concerning the use of any medical treatments you specify. If you are unable to provide instructions yourself the instructions in your Living Will will be followed at the time medical decisions need to be made. Your Living Will will declare when you do not wish to have your life sustained under various circumstances, for example, if you have an incurable or irreversible mental or physical condition with no reasonable chance for recovery.

WHAT IS A HEALTH CARE PROXY?

The law states that you (assuming you are a competent person) can authorize another person to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.

WHY DO I NEED A HEALTH CARE PROXY?

Without a health care proxy, your doctor may provide you with treatments that you would have refused if you were able to. For example, if you are in a coma with no hope of recovery, or are terminally ill your doctor may be required to provide you with artificial nutrition and hydration or CPR even though this may not be your wish.

WHEN DOES THE HEALTH CARE PROXY TAKE EFFECT?

Only when you become unable to make decisions.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A HEALTH CARE PROXY AND A LIVING WILL?

A living will is a document that you sign in advance in which you specifically set forth your decisions about health care treatment; it does not authorize you to appoint an agent to make decisions that you did not anticipate. The health care proxy provides specific instructions and also designates an agent to make decisions when there are circumstances you did not anticipate.

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