Charlotte Cho-Lan Lee, Attorney-at-Law

Estate Law

Over the years Estate Law has become a major part of Ms. Lee's practice.  Matters handled include
  • Drafting of Wills and Trusts
  • Estate Planning
  • Health Proxies/Durable Powers
  • Probate
  • Estate Administration
  • Contested Estates


Charlotte C. Lee has drafted many individual Wills, trusts, health proxies, and durable powers of attorney.  She has probated many estates as counsel and has litigated estate issues.  Her experience in estate matters is enriched by her familiarity with related areas of the law, and especially by her extensive experience in the closely related area of Guardianships.

The All-Important Will

Every adult needs an up-to-date Will.  A Will is important even when there is little of value to leave behind or when assets are held in such a way as to avoid probate.  Without a Will, family or friends may have to contend with an unnecessarily troubling and obtrusive legal process even as they make funeral arrangements, deal with financial issues and cope with their personal loss.

People have been so sensitized to "avoiding probate" they sometimes think this means avoiding a Will.  But when someone dies without a Will his or her estate goes into a process called "administration," which in New York State can actually be worse than probating a well-drawn Will.  A properly drawn Will, combined if necessary with trusts or other legal devices, provides for a wide range of unpredictable circumstances.  For example, if circumstances at the time of death are such that significant assets wind up going to a minor or an incapacitated person, the consequences of failing to leave a Will can be serious.

It is true (and useful) that assets can be held in a form where they "bypass" the estate and are not part of probate.  But while such techniques are very helpful their limitations deserve consideration.  Often the precise form of ownership is very important in a way that is not obvious.  All such decisions should be discussed with a qualified attorney before a commitment is made, and reviewed periodically in the light of changing circumstances and changing law.

For those with substantial assets a Will is even more important.  A properly drawn combination of Will, trusts and other measures can sometimes largely avoid estate taxes which may run to 35% or more.  Although federal estate taxes are on their way down at the moment, their future is uncertain, and there are also state taxes to be considered.

A simple Will is quite inexpensive.  Even when a more complex Will or other estate planning devices are justified by the assets involved or by special circumstances the costs are often insignificant when compared to the advantages.


Either living (inter-vivos) or testamentary trusts can address a range of estate concerns.  Besides helping avoid probate, trusts can help assure the future of heirs or help control the portion of your assets that would otherwise end up going to federal and state governments or medical service providers instead of to your chosen beneficiaries.  Trusts are created by legal papers drawn up by a lawyer.  Some forms of trust that Charlotte C. Lee has created for clients are

  • Revocable Trust
  • Supplemental Needs Trust
  • "QTIP" Trust
  • Custodial Trust

Health-Care Directions

It is also important that everyone has documents controlling medical care in the event of a disabling illness or injury.  These documents take various forms: Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, etc.  Without the proper documents, a patient's family or other chosen representative cannot legally prevent doctors or institutions from imposing medical treatment which the patient would never wish or permit.  Fortunately, the right documents are generally easy and inexpensive to prepare, but only if they are prepared long before they are needed.

Consult Your Attorney

Exactly which estate planning techniques are best for you can only be determined by discussing your specific situation with a qualified financial advisor or attorney.  Although the considerations may be complex, often the solution is a simple one and the entire matter can be handled smoothly and at reasonable cost.

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