It is not unusual to find oneself without immediate family later in life. This is when estate planning becomes particularly crucial. If a single adult without immediate family does not memorialize his or her wishes in a legal document, such as a Will or Trust, a whole host of challenges come into play. For example, let’s say a long-time best friend who knows your wishes petitions the court to administer your estate: the Court will not take that friend’s word that no other family exists. Great pains (and great expense) must be taken to locate certain family members to put them on notice of the proceeding and give them a chance to object to the appointment of your dear friend as the administrator of your estate.
A few things can happen next. Certain family members may have passed away, so now their children (or, in some cases, grandchildren) must be found. Your proposed administrator may even have to advance his or her own money to hire a genealogist or a private investigator! Someone actually could contest the appointment of your administrator. And, without a doubt, the Court will appoint a “guardian ad litem” (who will charge a fee for his or her services) to represent those of your family who are considered “heirs-at-law”. Depending on your circumstances, a long-lost first cousin once removed from an estranged branch of the family could actually contest your wishes, which could create protracted and costly litigation. Even if you have a Will, the Court will mandate that certain relatives be put on notice, although your wishes will be more clear cut. Creating and funding a Trust can allow your representative to bypass this arduous process as well as avoiding probate.
Contact trusted Elder Law Attorney Mark H. Weiss, serving Commack, Smithtown, Hauppauge, Huntington and all of Nassau and Suffolk Counties to create the best Estate Plan for your individual needs.