Wills and Trusts Law Firm Pound Ridge, NY

Wills and Trusts Law Firm Pound Ridge, NY

Business Lawyer Bethel, CT

It goes without saying that the folks at Sweeney Legal, or any other good wills and trusts law firm in Pound Ridge, NY, would advise everyone to have a last will and testament in place even if they don’t think that they “need” one. You’ve probably heard this plenty of times, but you may be wondering exactly why it’s so important. Wills may not be something that you might think of as a priority, but if you want to ensure that your loved ones and estate will be taken care of when you are gone, you will want to create one sooner rather than later. Without a will, your estate will be distributed by the court. How they distribute your estate may not necessarily be in line with your preferences. In addition, without a valid will your beneficiaries may not have immediate access to their inheritance. 

The Importance of an Estate Plan 

Making an estate plan may not seem like something that should be urgently done or even necessary. However, an estate plan is recommended for anyone to make. You do not need to be a high-income earner or have many assets to develop an estate plan. When you have an estate plan, you have clear directions for how you want your estate to be managed. Having legal documents such as a will and advance directives can make it much easier for your family to determine how to move forward with your estate after your death. Creating an estate plan is one of the most considerate and beneficial things anyone can do for their future and their loved ones. 

When Someone Dies Without a Will

Let’s take a look at what happens when a resident of New York dies intestate (this means that they don’t have a valid will).
This is a common scenario for many people. If you don’t like the way this plays out, you should get in touch with a trusted attorney today. Creating a will properly can take a lot of time and you may need assistance, so having a lawyer at your side can make the process go much faster. If you have any questions about how to make a will correctly, you can ask a lawyer for help. 

For this discussion, we will assume that the estate is valued at over $50,000. Before anything else can happen, the probate court will appoint an administrator (the administrator has the same duties and responsibilities as a named executor). Probate is the court-supervised process during which a deceased person’s will is validated and their estate is formally distributed to their heirs. The Surrogate’s Court Protection Act sets out the order of precedence for who can be appointed administrator, starting with the surviving spouse followed by children, grandchildren, and parents.


There is already room for strife and hard feelings here, since the law only recognizes legally wedded spouses and not other types of life partnerships. It also lists “children” as one subset; many people have more than one child, but only one child can be appointed administrator. This can get complicated quickly, especially if you are not sure which child should be given the role. If you want to decide who will be in charge of administering your estate, you need to consult with a wills and trusts law firm in Pound Ridge, NY. They will help you develop a clear plan and help you make the best decisions for your estate.

Division of the Estate 

While the administrator does have a fiduciary duty to the estate, they do not have a lot of discretion in the distributees (the people who are entitled to a share of the estate). When a person dies without a will in place, their estate is divided according to guidelines set out by the state:

  • If the decedent was married at the time of death but had no children, the spouse inherits everything.
  • If the decedent had children but no spouse, the children inherit everything in equal shares.
  • If the decedent had both a spouse and children, the spouse inherits the first $50,000 of the estate plus half the remaining estate; the children inherit the balance in equal shares.
  • If the decedent had living parents but no spouse or children, the parents inherit everything.
  • If the decedent had siblings but no parents, spouse, or children, the siblings inherit everything in equal shares.

With so many guidelines that dictate how an estate can be divided, determining how they apply to your estate plan and inheritance scenario can be challenging. While it is easy to lay this out in bullet points, they don’t come close to capturing the complex lives that most people lead. As mentioned above, only legally wedded spouses count as “spouse” in an inheritance scenario. It’s also important to note that all legally wedded spouses count; if you haven’t talked to your spouse in twenty years, but never got around to filing for divorce, they’re still your legal spouse and still inherit. Since understanding these guidelines can be difficult for the average person, you can obtain help from a lawyer who can explain how they apply to your particular situation.


Children and Inheritances 

“Children” are also defined by the law and not by the heart. Foster children and stepchildren cannot inherit unless they have been legally adopted, and children born out of wedlock cannot inherit from their fathers unless paternity has been legally established.
If you want your children to inherit portions of your estate, you will need to formally list them as a beneficiary in your will. If you do not name them as beneficiaries, then it is not guaranteed that they will obtain the inheritance you wish to distribute to them. If you need more information about naming beneficiaries and heirs, a skilled lawyer from a wills and trust law firm would be happy to assist you. Understanding these laws is not easy, but with a lawyer at your side you can get peace of mind knowing you can make your estate plan correctly. 


In a lot of ways, it makes sense for the law to have a strict definition of family. No one wants a court to decide which potential distributee is the most deserving. It is efficient to have a predetermined succession of distributees. But, especially if you are a person whose life does not necessarily lie in line with the bullet points, it is imperative that you reach out to a good wills and trusts law firm in Pound Ridge, NY, such as Sweeney Legal, to make sure that your wishes are recorded.

Crafting a will can be a time-consuming process, and with so many guidelines and laws to comprehend it can be difficult to complete on your own. Go to a trusted estate lawyer so that they can help you navigate the complexities of estate planning. Schedule a risk-free consultation now if you need legal assistance so that you can accomplish your estate planning goals.  


What Are Wills?


Most people have heard of wills. “Wills” is the shorter way of saying “last will and testament.” A will is your instruction regarding what you would like to happen to your assets. Your assets are your real property and what you own in your name, such as your home, any vehicles, yacht, boats, jewelry, furniture, and liquid cash. Your will goes into effect only after you die. 


Wills aren’t just for the rich and famous. Everyone who has anything to her or his name should consider getting a will drafted. Wills give you a peace of mind because you can rest assured that your wishes will be followed, and your property will be disposed of just how you’d like for it to be. Without a will, your surviving relatives may argue and get into nasty fights over who gets what, especially if you forgot that you promised one item to one person and later promised it to another person without telling the first person of this change. Not to mention, cherished property or money of yours may go to the state rather than your family and friends.


What Makes A Will Valid In New York?

Now that you know a little more about wills, it’s crucial that you understand what makes a will valid in New York. Simply writing out your wishes and putting this piece of paper in a drawer does not validate your will, and a probate court judge is not obligated to follow it unless it strictly adheres to New York’s requirements. To be valid, your will must:

Be in writing



Observed, signed, dated by two witnesses who must include their addresses

The Wills and Trust Law Firm of Pound Ridge, NY are here to answer any questions that you may have.


Reasons My Will May Become Invalid


But there are several other reasons as to how and why your will may be contested and later deemed invalid by a judge. If someone disagrees with your will, she or he can argue one or some of these four things to invalidate your wishes.


You wrote your will at a time when you were mentally incapacitated. It may go without saying that, if you are not in your right mind, your will cannot accurately express your truest desires. The contester will likely have to reference medical records and expert medical opinions to prove that you were incapacitated. But bear in mind that, even people who have a record of mental unwellness experience periods of sanity where you could have written a legitimate will.


You wrote your will at a time when you were under undue influence. In other words, someone took advantage of your failing health, disability, or low emotions so that your will is more a reflection of your manipulator’s desires than your own. A judge will look to your relationship with your alleged manipulator, as well as your personality and health, and what you wrote in your will regarding your manipulator and the assets you leave her or him that may seem out of character or out of the ordinary for you two.