Space is decidedly the “final frontier” for New Yorkers. We measure ourselves by the sum total of our square feet of space, and that may include a self-storage unit somewhere in commuting distance. In our precious space, we store the stuff of our lives. Some of us get very creative and use our kitchens for extra storage space!
While we are busy collecting stuff, we rarely have time to reflect upon the unintended consequences of this accumulation. When we die, who will dispose of our stuff? And to whom will it go? These questions are particularly significant for singles who do not have a Will. In New York, the statute that governs the distribution of the estate of a person who dies without a Will is EPTL § 4-1.1. For example, if you are single with no children and you die without a Will, New York State will award your property to your parents. If your parents are deceased, then your property will be divided among your siblings and their heirs. If you have no siblings, your property will go to the State of New York.
With a Will, a single person can create a special power of appointment that will allow him or her to control the disposition of his or her belongings. For instance, you may give a special power of appointment to a close friend or relative to distribute your belongings to your then surviving family members, with any remainder going to a charity named by you. The person holding the special power of appointment then has the discretion to choose who gets what.
There are two benefits associated with a special power of appointment. First, it prevents family squabbles over the division of your belongings. The person holding the special power of appointment makes that determination. Secondly, if a beneficiary refuses a gift for any reason, the gift reverts back to the estate to be distributed to other surviving family members. And your book collection or your collection of porcelain statuettes can be kept intact and given to a family member who will cherish it.
Having a Will with a special power of appointment will provide a single person with peace of mind, knowing that there will be a smoother distribution of their belongings lovingly acquired during their lifetime. An attorney can assist you with drafting a special power of appointment in a Will to suit your specific needs.
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