New York estate planning: What to do with the will

Many older residents of New York have a will. This most basic part of estate planning is important, but simply preparing a will is by no means the end of planning for the future, merely one of the first steps. From considering where to keep this important document to knowing how to go about making changes, there are many aspects to consider.

Once a will is completed, it is usually considered best to store it somewhere safe but accessible. This could include a bank safety deposit box or somewhere secure within an individual's home. However, if the will in any way deals with how property will be distributed after death, a secure location can be extremely important. If the will is stored somewhere outside the house, a photocopy can be kept at home for reference and review.

Individuals may choose to review and possibly modify their wills in cases of marriage, death, divorce, childbirth or other life changes. Likewise, if there is a significant change in assets, such as an inheritance or a nursing home stay, changes may be necessary. Individuals are advised to contact their attorney to discuss any changes and the methods involved in revising a will in order to ensure that any changes are legally binding.

If they decide to revoke an outdated will, individuals should keep in mind that it's considered best to have a new will prepared before destroying the old one. If a will is revoked and the individual passes away without a new will, property distribution occurs in accordance with state law and perhaps not as the individual would have wished. Most individuals find it useful to select a trusted personal representative or executor of the will; however, they must make sure this person is aware in advance of his or her role as well as the will's existence. This individual should also know the identity of the benefactor's New York estate planning lawyer to ensure the will is executed with as little hassle as possible after death.

Source:, "SENIOR SIGNALS: Next steps after creating a will, including changes, revoking", Daniel O. Tully, April 16, 2017

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