Every Father's Day we celebrate Dads and express our gratitude for all they do year round for their families. Today's modern day father (and mother) has to wear many multitasking hats and bares a multitude of responsibilities in taking care of their families. But those responsibilities, which fathers willingly accept, do not necessarily end when they have passed on. Although we don't like to think about and plan for our own demise, if you have children and want to help insure that they are taken care of in accordance with your wishes after you are gone, it is a necessity. In order to reach that goal, if you have children you should have a Last Will and Testament.
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that upon your demise directs, among other things, exactly how you want your assets and money to be dispersed and appoints Guardians and Trustees for the care of minor children. If a parent or parents are to suffer an unfortunate tragedy and leave behind minor children, the Will is the document that will help insure that the people entrusted to care for your children are those hand picked by you (not a Judge), who love your children and who willingly accept the enormous responsibility of being their caretaker. In addition to and in combination with a Will, it is recommended that a parent also have a Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy and Living Will.
The Power of Attorney essentially appoints a fiduciary to conduct your financial affairs should you become incapacitated, the Health Care Proxy appoints someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself and the Living Will essentially directs what type of care you want administered to you if you are in a grave medical condition. Accordingly, all of these documents are considered essential to your legal plan.
Perhaps one of the other main factors to consider, is whether or not any extensive estate planning is needed relative to estate tax purposes. However, recent changes in New York State law has the New York State resident exemption level currently set at $3,125,000.00. On April1, 2016 it will increase to $4,187,500.00, on April 1, 2017 it will increase to $5,250,000.00 and on January 1, 2019 it will increase to match the federal level which is currently set at $5,430,000.00. Therefore if your total taxable estate is less than the state and federal exemption levels, extensive and expensive estate planning documents to protect against estate tax may well be unnecessary.
Today's modern day father appears to no longer emulate the role played by Robert Young in the popular 1950's television show. However with all your proper Will planning in order, you may still hear your children say,"Father Knows Best."
Long Island Lawyer
Paul A. Lauto, Esq.