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Gift Tax Increases Starting April 1

Governor Cuomo has proposed a slew of changes to New York's estate and gift tax law that may affect you.

Under the new law, all taxable gifts made by a New York resident after March 31, 2014 must be included as part of the gross estate for purposes of calculating the New York estate tax, according to WealthManagement.com.

How does this differ from the current law?

3 Need-to-Knows About the NY Estate Tax

Are you familiar with New York's estate and death tax system? New York is one of 14 states with an estate tax -- a tax on the cash, real estate, stocks, bonds and other property left by residents who have died. But the law might soon change.

The taxation of wealth transfer is a complicated area of law, but a basic introduction to estate taxes and death taxes can help you start thinking about this pressing financial planning issue.

Here are three things to know about estate taxes and death taxes in New York:

What Is a Health Care Proxy?

The New York Health Care Proxy Law allows you to appoint an agent you trust -- for example, a family member or close friend -- to make health care decisions for you if you lose the ability to make decisions yourself. The document legally authorizing that person is called a health care proxy.

A health care proxy is a completely voluntary way to eliminate confusion among loved ones and health care providers about your health care wishes. Hospitals, doctors, and other medical providers must follow the agent's decisions as if they were your own.

Here are a few answers to questions commonly asked about health care proxies:

Battle Continues Over Tony-Winning Actress' Estate

Legendary actress Julie Harris' estate battle continues. This time Harris' former lawyer is claiming that the actress wasn't of sound mind when she named Francesca Rubino as co-executor of her estate.

Rubino, who may be better known by her stage name Francesca James, was Harris' caretaker before she died. As a result of being named in Harris' will, Rubino stood to inherit at least $250,000 from Harris' estate, reports Playbill.

However, Harris' former attorney alleges that the actress didn't have the mental capacity to leave a chunk of her fortune to Rubino.

New York Testators: Incompetent or Just Eccentric?

New York is home to many, shall we say, vibrant personalities. From The Naked Cowboy to Amanda Bynes, it's often hard to tell the difference between incompetence and mere eccentricity in the Big Apple.

Fortunately, from a legal perspective, there are certain factors courts use to separate the weird from the legally worrisome.

What Happens When There Are Two Wills?

Two wills can cause many problems -- take Huguette Clark's wills, for example. A feud over the $300 million dollar copper mining fortune of the late heiress has finally come to a resolution in late September 2013. The final result benefits mostly arts charities and some distant relatives, The Associated Press reports.

The late Clark rarely made a public appearance after the 60s, and she died estranged, with no close relatives. What exactly was the issue with her wills?

5 Steps to Prepare for Probate

How should you prepare yourself for probate in New York?

Probate is the legal process of transferring property after a person's death. Usually, the terms of the transfer follow the intentions of one's will, but there are other sources that can come into play. In a nutshell, property is gathered and collected, debts are paid off, and then the rest of the assets are distributed accordingly.

It's always smart to think about how you'll want to prepare for the future. So, with that said, here are 5 steps to prepare for probate in New York:

3 Must-Haves For a Formal Will in N.Y.

What is required for a formal will in New York? The will requirements for every state will vary, so it's important to know what is required in your state. Otherwise, you run the risk of your loved ones and those named in your will running into legal trouble, or the possibility of your assets falling into the wrong hands.

There are a few different kinds of wills in New York, and a formal will is only one type. However, it is the most common one. The other kinds are only accepted in very limited circumstances. These include holographic (handwritten) wills and nuncupative (unwritten, e.g. video or audio) wills.

Most wills in New York are going to be formal. So, with that said, here are 3 must-haves for a formal will in New York:

Are Handwritten Wills Legal in N.Y.?

Are handwritten wills legal in New York? Otherwise known as holographic wills, handwritten wills are not usually the preferred way of entering a will into the legal system for validity.

While formal will requirements vary from state to state, they generally encompass some combination of being signed by the testator, with witnesses present at the time of execution.

New York's formal will statute in particular has the following requirements for a formal will:

Lottery Winners: 7 Estate Planning Legal Tips

Think you've got the Mega Millions, Powerball, or New York Lottery jackpot in the bag? Before picking out the color of your dream jet, consider dreaming more long-term. Lottery winners are notorious for losing it all, as Business Insider reminds us.

If you're one of the fortunate few to win the lottery, here are seven estate planning tips to lengthen the rainbow to your pot of gold: