Trouble British singer Amy Winehouse’s passing brought much news media attention to her use of drugs, including the song she wrote about not attending rehab.
But what has been lost in the news coverage is her smart estate planning before her death. And as a 27-year-old, it’s important to note that anyone — rich or middle class — should lay out documents that tell what should happen to their assets when they die. A will should be laid out now rather than waiting so your family can avoid a New York contested will upon death.
According to a recent U.S. News & World Report article, Winehouse’s assets topped $16 million and she has a will in place that directed her assets to her parents and brother rather than her ex-husband, who is in prison. Many consider the ex-husband the man who introduced her to hard drugs. But the English legal system favors ex-spouses in probate matters.
As the New York Business Litigation Attorney Blog reported this summer, a survey found that 60 percent of Americans believe that all adults should have a will or estate planning documents in place. But the survey also found that only 44 percent of those surveyed followed their own advice.
The media have reported on celebrities who have left their estates in shambles, but it can happen just as easily to the everyday citizen. Regardless of how much money a person has or what they have left to leave to surviving relatives, these documents are critical.
The U.S. News & World Report article provides five strategies to help avoid financial stress:
Write a will: A recent AARP survey found than a third of Americans over 50 don’t have a will, living trust or power of attorney in place. There are many valuables a person can leave to survivors, from a retirement account, house, nice car or collectibles that should be put down on paper. It should be updated once every couple years.
Create a trust: A living trust may help people avoid New York estate tax as well as federal taxes that can take a huge chunk of value out of a person’s assets.
Specify funeral preferences: One of the most contested issues of dealing with a family member’s death is how to distribute their remains and it can cause turmoil. A will is a good place to lay out the preferences, which can vary greatly in costs.
Get help online: Web-based help is available for estate planning, but many websites lack all the specific pieces that a New York Estate Planning Lawyer can ensure are handled. Having something is better than nothing, but it may not be complete. Consulting an experienced lawyer can be done economically and is the best option.
Work with a pro: A New York Will and Trust Lawyer can advise the best way to set up a living will or trust and help determine who should be executor of the estate.
While planning for death is no one’s idea of a great day, it is essential. For parents, it is even more essential. These documents should lay out where minor children upon death of the parents should go and for adult children, what they will inherit. Left undetermined, these issues can cause strife and turmoil that can linger for years.