Formulating an effective, comprehensive estate plan and dealing with real estate matters are challenging in Manhattan. That’s why it’s critical to consult an attorney at Merlino & Gonzalez where we focus exclusively on estate planning and real estate law.
Estate planning is a way of taking control of the present and preparing for the future. It is important no matter what your income, your assets, your occupation, or your family configuration. At Merlino & Gonzalez, we serve a diverse clientele from our two offices, one right here in Manhattan and the other in East Brunswick.
The Purposes of Estate Planning
Estate planning is designed to accomplish several significant goals:
- Preserving and protecting wealth from unforeseen circumstances
- Minimizing taxes for yourself and your heirs
- Providing for a smooth transfer of assets to your loved ones when you die
- Protecting vulnerable beneficiaries, e.g. minor children, offspring with special needs, incapacitated elders
- Planning for the joys of retirement and the challenges of incapacity
- Preventing family squabbles by eliminating ambiguities in your last wishes
There are primarily two types of estate planning: will-based and trust-based. Our estate planning lawyers will listen carefully to the specifics of your situation so that we are able to customize whichever type best suits your needs and goals.
Will-Based Estate Planning in Manhattan
A will is a legally binding document that states your wishes about several important matters at the time of your passing, including:
- How you want your assets distributed
- Who you designate as the guardian of your minor children
- Whom you name as executor of your estate to make sure your wishes are carried out
In addition to drafting your will to your specifications, our estate planning lawyers will create and have you execute other documents that everyone needs in the face of the uncertainty of the future, such as a Health Care Proxy, a Living Will, a HIPAA release form, and a Durable Power of Attorney.
It is worth noting that if you die without a will (intestate), the courts will determine how your assets will be distributed according to New York State laws of intestate succession. These laws follow a strict order of asset distribution defined only by bloodline connections, not by emotional ones, and may contradict your personal wishes.
Trust-Based Estate Planning in Manhattan
Although will-based estate plans work well for many people, some of our clients benefit from using a trust-based plan. A trust allows a third party, the trustee, to hold assets on behalf of one or more beneficiaries. The trustee is tasked with managing, protecting, and distributing the assets as stated by the grantor (the individual who created the trust). Being a trustee is a fiduciary position in which the trustee must, by law, work in the best interests of the beneficiaries.
Trusts Serve Many and Varied Purposes
Often touted for their ability to avoid probate, trusts can serve many other purposes as well. Still, for those with high-net-worth and/or complex estates (for example if the estate owns property in various states or countries), preventing probate can represent a significant saving in both time and money. Trusts also protect your privacy since, unlike wills, they are not public documents.
Other purposes trusts serve include:
- Protecting your assets from excessive taxation, creditors, lawsuit settlements and claims of divorced spouses
- Protecting special needs family members while maintaining their eligibility for government benefits
- Protecting spendthrift beneficiaries from squandering their inheritance
- Planning for incapacity while maintaining the grantor’s eligibility for Medicaid
- Planning for a secure retirement
- Planning for smooth business succession
- Establishing a charitable, educational, or artistic legacy
Steps Involved in Settling an Estate in Manhattan
Whether you are considering naming your executor or taking on the role of executor for someone close to you, it is vital to understand precisely what the job involves. Below is a list of steps the executor is called upon to take:
- Having the will validated by the court
- Opening a bank account for the estate
- Investing estate funds carefully to preserve and increase their value
- Taking a complete inventory of assets, both tangible (e.g. real estate, collections, and vehicles) and intangibles (e.g. digital assets, stocks and bonds).
- Filing a final estate tax return
- Paying estate taxes if necessary
- Paying off debts and loans
- Distributing remaining assets to named beneficiaries or, if there is no will, according to the New Jersey laws of intestate succession
- Mediating disputes that may arise among beneficiaries, preferably without litigation
- Handling a will contest if necessary
Real Estate Transactions in Manhattan
Whether buying or selling in Manhattan’s competitive market, a clear understanding of contract terms, negotiations, and due diligence is crucial. At Merlino & Gonzalez, we have extensive experience assisting buyers, sellers, and developers, and can provide helpful insight no matter what real estate issue you are facing. You can depend on receiving well-thought-out, current, and carefully researched information from our dedicated professionals in regard to:
- Property valuations
- Real estate transactions
- Real estate development
- Land use and zoning issues
- Regulatory compliance
- Mortgage financing through banks, credit unions, other financial institutions, or private financing
- Title searches and insurance
- Transfer of real estate assets
Why Having a Skilled Manhattan Attorney Is Invaluable
For both estate planning and real estate, having a highly capable attorney can make all the difference when it comes to accuracy, efficiency, and meeting individual goals. Turn to us for:
- Excellent legal representation
- Protection from potential legal pitfalls
- Savings in time and money
- Peace of mind that comes from having professional support if complications arise
Contact Our Experienced Manhattan Attorneys Today
Whether your legal needs involve estate planning or real estate, if you are in Manhattan they are likely to be complex. Contact us for personalized attention and trustworthy guidance. Our accomplished, dependable attorneys will see you through.