Do you want to pass along your own assets... or have the state do it for you?
Intestate: it basically means dying without a will. It also means subjecting your estate to your state's intestacy laws, which include "instructions" pertaining to how your assets will be distributed. In New York, for example, that law is found in EPTL 4-1.1, and includes directions for various situations, such as if the decedent is survived by a spouse, a spouse and kids, kids and no spouse, and more. So no, if you pass withou
t a will, the state doesn't seize your assets, despite the misinformation to which you may have been subjected. However, your cash, house, personal effects, etc. may not end up at your desired destination.
A will can fix that. Well, let me be more specific: a properly drawn will can fix that. Your estate plan can essentially direct your assets in a way that has absolutely nothing with what your state's laws have mandated.
Including trusts in your plan can provide you with additional tools for efficiently passing along your financial legacy. Trusts are commonly associated with advantages such as reducing the need for probate as well as the cost of getting your assets to your intended beneficiaries. There are numerous types of trust and associated estate planning devices that a qualified estate lawyer should be able to employ in order to help you fulfill your distribution goals.
It is also fairly common for one to include "advanced directives" with one's estate plan; these are legal orders pertaining to should be done in the event of the client's incapacitation. You may have heard of the term "living will," which can be misleading because it is nothing like a last will and testament; a living will basically informs medic
al professionals on what kind of care you want when you cannot express them yourself. It may, for example, spell out the extent to which you would like to be kept alive while in a vegetative state. Coupled with you living will may be a healthcare proxy, who you can legally empower to make certain health-related decisions when you can't make them yourself. Finally, you may have a power of attorney, appointing an agent for not only medical decisions on your behalf, but financial and other areas as well. POAs are very customizable with respect to the scope of powers, when they take effect, and even when they can lose their effect.
So first ask yourself this: do you care about whether you or your state has control over the aforementioned areas? You probably care, and you probably want to do your own thing; hey, I don't blame you. Once you've answered that question, then it may be time to find someone who can help you achieve the associated goals. Abessi Law, of course, deals in estate law (I mean, would the Firm really be blogging about estate planning if it didn't do it?), and believes it can handle most individual or family estate matters both effectively and affordably. Give the Firm a call, demand (or politely request) a complimentary consultation, and we will determine together whether we're the right firm for you.