People in New York who have not yet created an estate plan may be prompted to do so by a personal event, such as marriage or the birth of a child. Changes in assets or in tax law could also remind a person of the importance of creating an estate plan. While this process can feel overwhelming, breaking it down into a series of steps can help.

First, people should try to educate themselves about estate planning in general and specifically about state law, including understanding the limits on estate tax exemptions and gift tax. While it may be best to work with an attorney on creating the estate plan, it can be helpful to walk into the attorney’s office with some idea of what might be needed. People should also think about their objectives and make a list of who will have a role in the estate plan. This could include beneficiaries, an executor and more. People should also get a detailed list of their assets and debts. This should include reviewing a life insurance plan.

An attorney may be able to help a person determine what type of structures and documents are appropriate. This could include a will, a trust, powers of attorney and more. Documents should be finalized and should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they remain up to date.

One potential advantage of both research and working with an attorney is that people may discover estate planning vehicles they did not realize would be advantageous. For example, some people think trusts are only for wealthy families, but trusts might be a useful way to protect assets for a family member who might be irresponsible or to provide for a family member who has special needs. A living will or health care proxy may also be important to a person’s end-of-life care.