McCabe and Mack LLP has been serving clients throughout New York State and beyond for over 125 years. Day after day and decade after decade, the firm has advised individuals, businesses, and families on any number of legal matters.
And generation after generation, whatever the reason for seeking legal counsel, clients typically want nothing more than to protect the people they love. Trusted professionals like McCabe and Mack LLP Partner Rebecca M. Blahut know that the proper documentation can bring that wish to life – even after death.
As part of the estate planning and elder law team at McCabe and Mack LLP, Blahut drafts and updates wills, health care proxies, and powers of attorney, develops trusts and estate tax strategies, plans for nursing home care, initiates guardianship proceedings, and assists executors and trustees with estate administration.
While the scope of her services are broad and extensive, we wanted Blahut to help us learn more specifically about inheritances.
“For example, a mom or dad of a child with special needs may need to set up a trust to help protect that child after they have passed on. In other cases, parents may want to develop an estate plan that is focused on avoidance of guardianship, or simply mitigates the risk of sibling conflict, or preserves wealth. I always begin the process by asking the questions necessary to determine what factors will shape our plan.”
Those questions allow Blahut and her clients to review the big picture but may also lead to conversations that delve into details of family dynamics and other pertinent areas.
“Naming an executor, of course, is first and foremost. It is important to select someone who is trustworthy and reliable – but also someone who is generally on peaceful terms with the rest of the family and who has proven to be an effective communicator. Being an executor is a big responsibility – a leadership position of sorts – and you want the right person for the role. In some cases, it actually makes more sense to identify a neutral person (who is not a family member) to manage the estate – someone who gets along well with everyone in the family, who does not have any vested interest in the estate and can just get the job done.”
In some families, a parent (or parents) will want to assign the executor role to multiple children. When asked about a shared responsibility setup, Blahut quickly responded: “I generally prefer that clients NOT name co-fiduciaries, because that can make things more complicated. The estate can take longer to wrap up when you have more than one person weighing in on decisions or needing to authorize payouts. That said, however, if there are siblings who genuinely work well together, respect one another, and get along, the co-executor relationship can work well. In fact, in many cases those two people can provide much-needed support to one another (logistical and emotional) through the process of settling the estate.”
“It can be hard for people to be honest with themselves about this, but it is critical that they consider whether their beneficiaries have the financial literacy to properly manage any funds that they inherit. Are the kids old enough? And – even if they are – would they be financially responsible enough to manage an inheritance? If not, it might make sense to explore a trust. I encourage clients to be very careful and to consider what choices will lead to the best outcomes.”
“And sometimes parents are concerned about who their children have married or who they might marry. There is also often the fear of a future divorce impacting an inheritance – but a trust can protect funds from being split at some point with someone who was not originally part of the family or might no longer be part of the family, so that is another area we review when we are planning if a client raises such concerns.”
Blahut emphasized that trusts are a tool that allow for more control overall, regardless of the situation. “You can set up a trust with monthly or annual payments to a beneficiary so that he or she does not spend down the entire inheritance too quickly.”
In terms of other planning considerations, Blahut mentioned that many are “afraid of probate, and should not be. It can delay the process because anybody who can inherit from you has a right to see the will and come to court to object to it (such as an estranged child or spouse who was next in line to inherit) and creditors have seven months to file claims against the estate. The probate process is usually completed in less than a year and is not complicated. But again – a trust potentially offers an avoidance of probate.”
Trusts may be irrevocable or revocable, depending on the client’s needs, and can help with asset protection for Medicaid and/or estate tax purposes. “We also recommend revocable trusts for those who have properties that are vacation or second homes outside New York State. Upon death the property can pass to a beneficiary without having to probate a will in multiple states.”
Whatever an individual situation may be, Partner Rebecca M. Blahut and the estate planning team at McCabe and Mack LLP can help people from all walks of life plan ahead. “In the State of New York, without a Will, the State can dictate what happens to your estate. That means that your assets may be divided in a way you did not want or intend.”
And, when working with Blahut on a will, clients can also round out the estate plan by formally naming a power of attorney over property, finances, and business affairs, as well as completing a health care proxy so that medical decisions can be made by a trusted individual if needed. A living will should be on hand too, which gives physicians a directive regarding resuscitation, life support, and end-of-life care. Blahut assists clients with these important documents – and she really values the chance to do so.
“Estate planning is about so much more than leaving an inheritance and leaving a legacy – it is about empowering the people you trust with the ability to make decisions that align with what you most want to see happen upon your death or incapacity. By having the right legal documents in place, you can have the peace of mind you deserve, and you can help bring peace to the minds of the people around you as well.”
Reach out to McCabe and Mack LLP Partner Rebecca M. Blahut by calling 845.486.6800 or by emailing: email@example.com.