Many testators err on the side of simplicity when putting together an estate plan. They may end up only drafting a will and no other documents, and even the terms within the will itself may be very basic. It is common for a testator to simply address the distribution of their property after they die and the care of any minor children they have rather than to put together a thorough estate plan.
There is value in simplicity, but it is also important to consider the details when thinking about something as important as a person’s final legacy. There are numerous additions people could integrate into wills to strengthen the protections for their loved ones and/or to better achieve their personal wishes. The two clauses below are useful in a large number of scenarios and are, therefore, popular inclusions in many New York wills.
A remainderman clause
Even if someone is very thorough, they will likely have personal property that they don’t include specifically in their will. Their family members may end up fighting with one another about what should happen with those personal possessions not explicitly addressed in the will or may get rid of valuable assets by mistake. Many people choose to include a clause that names a remainderman to receive the rest of their estate after the major assets go to specific beneficiaries. In some cases, testators leave instructions for the sale of those remaining assets so that their beneficiaries can share their value.
A no-contest clause
In New York, as in many other jurisdictions, probate court judges do frequently uphold no-contest clauses. Also called penalty or in terrorem clauses, no-contest clauses penalize beneficiaries or family members that challenge someone’s estate plan. Stripping an individual of their inheritance is the most common penalty imposed in such clauses. They serve as a powerful deterrent to unnecessary challenges that would cause division in a family and consume estate resources.
The other special inclusions that someone may want to add to their estate plan will vary drastically depending on their family and financial circumstances. Seeking legal guidance and establishing clear legacy priorities can help people more effectively take the necessary estate planning steps to achieve their goals.