Often, when there is talk about a will, a trust, or some of the other estate planning devices, it is often presumed that these devices are only for very wealthy, property-rich individuals. These planning devices, however, are for everyone.
1. What is a will and how does it operate?
If no estate planning has been done, then upon your death, property left behind will be distributed according to what are called the Laws of Intestacy in the State of New York. You can think about the Laws of Intestacy as a default will the State has drafted that dictates to whom and how the property you leave behind will be distributed. Although the laws generally will theoretically (explained more fully below) leave your property to the people closest to you, you may want to leave your property distributed in different amounts, or to different people. Although it is a difficult thing to think about planning property for when we die, it is crucial that we all do so to avoid problems and conflict among our families and loved ones, especially during the very difficult time that accompanies death.
In the most general sense, a will is an estate planning tool that you can use to help distribute your property according to your wishes when you pass away. A will must be a written instrument that disposes of property, but only has any effect when the creator dies. A will not only distributes property in accordance with how the creator wanted, but may also contain instructions on how property will NOT be distributed, or may also appoint particular individuals to serve certain functions when the will is being administered, such as an executor or a fiduciary.