Would a parent give her twelve year old child a million dollars? Most people would probably answer, “Definitely not!” What they might not know, however, is that in New York, if a parent dies without a will, the parent’s estate gets divided between the spouse and the children. The money will be held for the children in a custodial account, and the court will likely appoint a guardian to oversee that money until it is handed over to them on their 18th birthday.
Long Island Mamas Network spoke with Justin Meyer of Meyer and Associates, a Hauppauge law firm, to discuss family estate planning and why every family needs to do it.
Meyer stated that many families, especially new ones, don’t think that a will is important. “They figure, we don’t have much and what we do have is owned by both of us, so it’s no big deal,” he said. Unfortunately, that’s a misconception.
Meyer noted there are five main reasons why every adult in a family needs a will:
- It ensures that if a parent leaves money to his/her children, they only get it when they are old enough to use it responsibly. That is usually much later than 18 and definitely older than age 12.
- A will lets parents appoint a guardian for their children. Parents know best, not the state, who they would want raising their child(ren) in their absence.
- A will allows parents to plan for estate taxes.
- Without a will, the state will decide who gets parents’ money and possessions. This can lead to situations where a spouse actually has to share ownership of the house with the children.
- A will lets parents choose who will take care of and distribute their assets – letting them
choose the best person for the job.
Meyer also stressed that an estate plan is more than just a will. A Power of Attorney and Advance Directive are also necessary. The Power of Attorney gives someone the power to take care of himself/herself, financially, if something happens. An Advance Directive lets individuals dictate their wishes like how to be taken care of if something should happen. It also allows people to appoint others to make medical decisions for them if they are unable to make them for themselves.
“These documents all do one thing,” Meyer said, “they let you voice your opinion now, because when you really need them, you won’t be in any position to be heard.”
Meyer and Associates will be attending the Mama’s Expo on Saturday, May 5th at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. For any questions about estate planning or any other legal matter, feel free to stop by his table at the Mamas Expo as he is happy to help out fellow parents.
By Mikaela Walker
Photo: Grant Cochrane