Designing Your Legacy: Strategic Tips for Crafting Effective Wills and Trusts in Estate Law

Posted by Scott HoltJun 24, 20240 Comments

Do you have an estate plan? You should. Every adult in New York City needs a personalized estate plan that effectively protects their rights and interests. Yet, many people lack any estate planning documents. Indeed, according to recent survey data cited by CNBC, two-thirds of American adults do not have a will or any other estate planning documents in place. 

Your estate plan is the best way to design your legacy. At McAdoo Estate Planning, LLC, we help people find peace of mind and personal security for themselves and their families with a personalized estate plan. Here, our New York City estate planning attorney highlights seven strategic tips to help you define your legacy with a comprehensive estate plan. 

Tip #1: Start By Understanding Your Needs and Your Goals

How do you use your estate plan to leave a legacy? For those who are just getting started, it can feel like a daunting process. As a best strategic practice, you should begin by assessing your needs (financial, family, health, etc) and clarifying your long-term goals. Are you planning for retirement, thinking about children's education, or preparing for possible healthcare needs? Your goals could range from ensuring financial security for your family to donating to charity. The purpose of estate planning is empowerment—and that starts with understanding what you actually want to achieve. 

Tip #2: Draft a Customized Will (the Foundation of Your Estate Plan)

A last will and testament is a foundational estate planning document. It is a core legal document that you can use to name your executor, explain your last wishes, name your heirs, and dictate how your property and assets should be distributed. A New York City estate planning attorney can draft a customized will that best protects your rights and achieves your goals. A formulaic will is not good enough. You need a well-drafted will that is legally valid, and that best protects your interests. Once your will is in place, you can build out a more comprehensive legacy plan. 

Tip #3: Consider Trusts to Better Protect Your Assets, Manage Wealth, and Achieve Goals

As important as a will is to set up, it is not always the best estate planning tool to promote your legacy. Indeed, trusts can often be more effective for asset preservation and wealth management. 

They provide greater control over your assets than a will. There are a number of different types of trust. They may be used to avoid probate, protect assets from creditors, preserve confidentiality, and provide for a charitable purpose. As trusts are complicated, they should always be set up by an experienced New York City estate planning attorney. Your lawyer can help you determine the best type of trust to protect your financial interests and achieve your objectives. 

Tip #4: Make Sure Your Health and Well-Being are Protected 

Comprehensive estate planning is about far more than determining who will get to inherit what. An estate plan should always protect your dignity—and your legacy—by including a structure that provides protection in the event of incapacity or other types of temporary/permanent health-related vulnerabilities. To start, you should generally name a trusted person as your power of attorney (POA). They can handle your financial and legal affairs in the event that you are not in a position to do so. You can also appoint a health care proxy (health care POA). In New York, a health care proxy allows you to appoint someone to make health decisions on your behalf. If you have specific wishes regarding your end-of-life care, it is best to put that down in a living will. 

Tip #5: Determine How You Want to Leave a Legacy 

What kind of legacy do you want to leave? There are a seemingly never-ending amount of options available. Deciding on your legacy is a profound aspect of estate planning. Beyond just distributing assets, think about how you want to be remembered. Whether it is funding scholarships, donating to charities, or leaving an endowment, your legacy can have a lasting impact. A New York City estate planning attorney who has experience with legacy planning can help. 

Tip #6: Communicate Openly—Ensure Close Loved Ones Understand the Plan

Communication is one of the most important—and often overlooked—aspects of estate planning. When leaving a legacy for yourself, your loved ones, your family, and your community, it is useful to ensure that everyone is on the same page. You do not want your instructions to be misinterpreted—or worse, serious conflict to arise—because of poor communication. Although estate planning can sometimes feel like a difficult subject to discuss, the reality is that it is part of life. Effective estate planning in New York City requires proactive, open communication. 

Tip #7: Review Your Estate Plan On a Periodic Basis and After Major Life Events

An estate plan is a living set of documents. Your estate planning needs today may change over time. Of course, that does not mean that you should wait to get started with building your legacy. Instead, it is crucial that you review your estate plan on a periodic basis once it is in place. A New York City estate planning lawyer can revise your estate plan when necessary. Additionally, it is always a best practice to reassess your estate plan and estate planning needs after a major life event. Some notable examples of major life events include: 

  • Marriage; 

  • Divorce; 

  • Birth of a child; 

  • Health changes; 

  • Career changes; and

  • Retirement. 

Set Up Your Confidential Consultation With Our New York City Estate Planning Lawyer Today

At McAdoo Estate Planning, LLC, our New York City estate planning lawyer is committed to helping clients secure their legacy with a personalized approach. If you have any specific questions about wills, trusts, or any other estate planning matter, we are here as a resource that you can rely on.

Contact us today for your completely confidential, no-obligation initial consultation. With an office in New York City, we provide solutions-driven estate planning services throughout the region.