A National Tragedy Highlights the Importance of Estate Planning

By Leeds Brown Law | January 20, 2011

Six people were killed and fourteen others were wounded, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and a Federal Judge, when a gunman opened gunfire in front of a Safeway supermarket in Tucson, Arizona.  The congresswoman had been hosting a meeting with constituents Saturday morning when the attack began.  Since the shooting, Congressman Gabrielle Giffords remains in critical condition but her condition is stabilized.  President Barack Obama then led the nation in a moment of silence on Monday for the victims.  While the motivation for Saturday’s attack in Tucson, Arizona are still unclear, a concern in Washington and in the nation at large is whether or not the current political rhetoric has gotten out of control.  Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz warns that while “we cannot allow incidences like this intimidate” we still must remember that “words matter.”  Federal officers have charged Jared Lee Loughner, a 22-year-old suspect, with first-degree murder, attempted murder and attempting to kill a member of Congress.  Read More.

This national tragedy is an example of how suddenly life can be taken away from us and how our loved ones are left to pick up the pieces of their estates.  In New York, if someone dies without a will, the estate passes through intestacy in a New York Surrogate’s Court, and is subject to the powers of government tax as well as other risky losses to the beneficiaries.  Other forms of wills which are nationally recognized include Nuncupative Wills and Holographic Wills. Nuncupative wills are orally made wills with 2 witnesses and Holographic Wills are unwitnessed, but entirely done in the testator’s handwriting. In New York, a non-cupative will is accepted only if it was executed by a member of the Armed Forces, or a person accompanying Armed Forces during a declared or undeclared war. Additionally advance directives such as a living will, health care power of attorney, and health care proxy help to protect as individual should they become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for themselves.  A living will, for example, is a document signed by the creator which dictates what will happen in the event that the creator becomes sick, incapacitated, or face life support. A healthcare power of attorney gives someone else the power to make healthcare decisions on your behalf should you become sick and unable to make your own medical decisions.

The attorneys at Leeds, Morelli & Brown, P.C. handle a variety of intestate, probate and estate planning cases. For questions regarding estate planning, trusts, or wills please contact an attorney at the Leeds Morelli & Brown P.C. law firm for a free consultation at 1-888-556-2529 or visit the firm’s website at

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