New York Estate Planning FAQs

Amoruso & Amoruso, LLP • Serving New York, White Plains and the Westchester County Area

Are my assets taxable when I die?

While there is no federal estate tax for the year 2010, a gross estate worth over $1 million may still generate a significant estate tax for state tax purposes, requiring effective planning to minimize the impact. However, as of January 1, 2011, your assets WILL be subject to both Federal and the state estate taxes. In particular, the federal estate tax bracket will increase to 55% in January 2011. Given the fact that estate tax laws continue to be subject to dramatic changes, it is imperative that your plan is flexible enough to react to the changing laws. Contact A & A to discuss ways to minimize your Federal and state taxes.

Are Life Insurance Proceeds taxable?

While life insurance proceeds may be free from income taxation, are you aware that life insurance proceeds are includible in the gross taxable estate of the policy owner? Thus, while you may think that you have a modest estate, owning an insurance policy with a face value of $1 million coupled with any other asset you own will make your estate taxable without proper planning.

Can I avoid Probate?

Probate avoidance is a growing concern for many clients. Often, clients may wish to keep their assets private from the public files of a probate court, reduce the ability for a loved one to contest your wishes or reduce the legal costs associated with probating a will. These objectives can be accomplished utilizing a Living Trust funded with your assets. Such a vehicle will assist with the efficient management of your assets in the event of your incapacity and avoid probate when you die.

I'm not a millionaire so I don't need an Estate Plan, do I?

Failure to plan can lead to increased expenses to correct problems that a well designed plan could easily avoid. For example, which would you choose - the nomination of a guardian for your child in a Last Will and Testament or a long and expensive Court proceeding to have the Court appoint a guardian for your child? This is only one example of how a well-executed estate plan will allow you to preserve your hard-earned assets for the benefit of your loved ones.

I only need a Last Will, right?

No. While a Last Will and Testament may determine how your assets are distributed at your death, it offers no assistance to you during your lifetime. In particular, a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Proxy are essential to ensure that someone will have the ability to make health care decisions for you and pay your bills and manage your finances if you lack mental capacity to do so during your lifetime. If you do not have this documentation, your loved ones will be forced to commence an expensive and sometimes contentious guardianship or conservatorship proceeding just to be empowered to manage your financial and health care affairs. Avoid this stressful situation by executing a comprehensive Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy.

My first child was just born, can I begin to plan now?

YES! A life-changing event like the birth of your first child is an excellent opportunity to assess your priorities and plan for the future. Call us for an appointment as soon as you are available and we will work with you to create an asset plan that fits your family's needs.

What information should I bring to my appointment?

When you set up an appointment with our staff, they will email you our detailed data sheet for you to complete. This data sheet will provide us with important information that we need to assist you. Please fill out our detailed data sheet and send it in prior to your appointment so that our attorneys can be prepared to meet with you. For the appointment, please bring your most current available bank and/or brokerage account statements, property deeds, long term care insurance policy and any existing Last Will and Testament, Trust, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy or Living Will.