Trust & Estates Law Blog

Wills and Trusts in New York

Wills and trusts are both part of the estate planning processâ – a process which involves the legal structuring of the disposition of one’s assets. Well-drafted estate plans account for both expected and unexpected events, and they contain provisions addressing the distribution of assets in both life and death. Below is an overview of wills and trusts in New York.


A will details its maker’s final wishes. The maker of a will is also known as a “testator.” Following a testator’s death, the court enforces the terms of his or her will. While the primary function of most wills is to provide guidance regarding the distribution of a testator’s property, wills are also often used to:

  • Appoint guardians of children and property;
  • Address the payment method of debts and taxes; and
  • Identify an estate executor.

Remember, in the absence of a valid will, the court makes all decisions regarding asset distribution. When making such determinations, courts typically distribute assets to surviving blood relatives in a manner prescribed by statute. Therefore, estate planning is particularly important to individuals who wish to leave property, accounts, or other assets to people outside of their families.

In addition to the traditional will, New York recognizes a document known as a “living will.” A living will details an individual’s medical treatment preferences in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated. Living wills typically address matters such as:

  • The use of artificial nutrition and hydration methods, such as feeding tubes and IV drips;
  • The use of shock therapy;
  • Body tissue donations;
  • Organ tissue donations;
  • The use of artificial breathing devices; and
  • Surgical procedures.


A trust is a fiduciary relationship in which one party gives a trustee the right to hold title to property or assets for the benefit of a third party. Establishing a trust is an excellent way to ensure that one’s friends and relatives are cared for after death. The benefits to establishing a trust include:

  • Avoiding or minimizing probate – When one places assets in a trust, he or she can be confident that they will be distributed with little to no court intervention.
  • Control of assets after death – A trust outlines the manner in which property will be distributed to beneficiaries after death.
  • Prevention of waste – Trusts, by directing the manner and timing of asset distribution, can ensure that assets aren’t wasted by beneficiaries.

New York Estate Planning Attorneys

Estate planning can be complicated, so it’s important to consult with an experienced estate planning professional prior to starting the process. At O’Connell and Aronowitz, our experienced New York estate planning attorneys provide individuals in Albany, Latham, Plattsburgh, Saratoga, and upstate New York with sophisticated estate planning guidance, including the preparation of wills, trusts, and other essential services. Estate planning is essential for everyone, regardless of financial status, in order to protect oneself and provide for loved ones. Please contact us for a consultation.

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