It is prudent to draw up a will in the State of New York, in order that your wishes upon death are undertaken and your loved ones are cared for. A will is a legally enforceable document describing details of property distribution, including naming an executor for the estate and a guardian for any living minor children. The person writing the will is referred to as the testator, and once that person dies, the executor will become responsible for probating the will which means they will have to file it with the court to determine the will’s validity. The executor must file the will in the county where the testator lived at the time of their death. After the court determines the will to be valid, the executor can legally administer the will. An experienced probate attorney may be a valuable guide to an executor as they go about the duties assigned with that title.
The Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) protects the interests of employee benefit plan participants and their beneficiaries. It requires plan sponsors to provide plan information to participants and establishes standards of conduct for plan managers and other fiduciaries. It establishes enforcement provisions to ensure that plan funds are protected and that qualifying participants receive their benefits, even if a company goes bankrupt. ERISA is administered and enforced by three bodies: the Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, the Treasury Department’s Internal Revenue Service, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
ERISA retirement plans are required to pay benefits upon a married participant’s death to the surviving spouse, unless the spouse has consented in writing to another beneficiary. Even though these funds are not usually considered probate assets, it is important to distinguish if the deceased left a beneficiary form that designated someone other than the surviving spouse. The terms of the participant decedent’s will (or state law if there is no will) must yield to the beneficiary designation form and, if applicable, ERISA.
The laws that would protect a named ERISA beneficiary from an implied beneficiary can be found under United States Code Title 29, Chapter 18. It is important to understand that there may be times when a probate action is contested with regard to ERISA funds that would normally follow a designated beneficiary, or spouse, then children, then parents and so forth. An experienced probate attorney can answer questions individuals may have regarding ERISA and New York Probate actions.
Seek legal counsel.
Make an appointment with Attorney Ron Meyers and take the time to write down exactly what should be done after your death by naming responsible individuals to handle business matters, and filling out proper insurance and other forms that name specific beneficiaries for financial matters that may be exempt from probate proceedings. It will reduce the stress on the remaining family and loved ones as they grieve.
Ron L. Meyers & Associates, PLLC
Address: 475 Park Avenue South, Suite 2100
Manhattan, NY 10016