Documents You Need for Your Estate Plan

Estate planning helps you protect your interests and provide for your family

For better or for worse, our lives can change at any moment. Because life comes with no guarantees, it’s important to have an estate plan that protects you, your family and your property. At a minimum, your estate plan should include these basic documents:

  • Will
  • Health care proxy
  • Durable power of attorney
  • Revocable Living Trust (please also add a paragraph about the living trust)

Wills ensure that your property will be distributed according to your wishes

A Last Will and Testament (will) is an estate planning document that specifies what you want done after you die. Your will should include instructions about how your property should be divided among your heirs, who should care for your children, and name an executor to carry out your wishes. You can also specify if someone is left out of the will.

New York State has the following requirements for wills:

  • The person creating the will must be at least 18 years old.
  • The person creating the will must be capable of making decisions and sound reasoning.
  • The will must be signed by and include the name of the person making the will or signed by a designated representative in the presence of the person making the will.
  • The will must be signed by two witnesses.
  • The will must be in writing (except in very limited cases).
  • The will should list the names and addresses of anyone who will receive property.

Though you can find templates for wills online, an experienced New York estate attorney can advise you if your will is the best option for distributing your property. You may be able to avoid taxes and court costs by moving property into a trust instead of including it in a will.

Your estate plan can help when you are unable to make decisions

A durable power of attorney and a health care proxy designate someone you trust to act on your behalf if you are incapacitated:

  • Health care proxy. This document appoints a family member or someone you trust to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to make them for yourself. For example, if you are unconscious, under anesthesia or mentally incapacitated (e.g. dementia, mental illness), a health care proxy allows a trusted person to act on your behalf.
  • Durable power of attorney. This document appoints someone to manage your financial and legal affairs if you become incapacitated. This document gives the person you appoint the power to act on your behalf. A power of attorney can be either a “general power of attorney” or a “limited power of attorney”
    • With a general power of attorney, the person who you designate can manage your finances without restrictions.
    • A limited power of attorney allows the person you designate to perform specific financial transactions at specific times, e.g., selling a house.

Unlike some states, in New York a health care proxy and durable power of attorney must be two separate documents. A knowledgeable estate planning lawyer can help you create an estate plan that enables your wishes to be followed if you are incapacitated.

Get knowledgeable guidance from a New York estate planning firm

The estate planning attorneys at Lissner & Lissner LLP provide skilled legal counsel to ensure that your will and estate plan protect you, your assets and your family. Located in midtown Manhattan, we have been helping our clients with their estate plans for more than 65 years. If you have questions about estate planning, call us on (212) 307-1499 or contact us online today.