When engaged in the estate planning process with an estate planning lawyer, you will have a number of considerations to make. While it can be difficult to plan for the unexpected, it’s an essential process that nearly every person should engage in. Most people have the best of intentions when it comes to estate planning, however, it’s important to note that many people actually fail to develop a will before they die. In fact, recent studies show that more than half of all people in the US do not have a will in place. This is a staggering statistic. Estate planning can not only help loved ones to decipher how you would like your estate resolved, but save a lot of time and money when all is said and done. Probate can be a dreaded thought, however, with the help of an estate planning lawyer, it’s possible that you can develop a plan that keeps much of your estate out of probate.
When a person has passed away, their will is required to pass through a process that is overseen by the courts called probate. The executor of your will is likely to initiate the probate process so that the will can be validated by the courts, giving the executor the ability to begin distributing assets to your beneficiaries. Prior to distributing assets, the executor will work to resolve any debts and paying any taxes that may be owed. However, with a well devised will, and estate plan, this process can move rather quickly. Making it important to work with an estate planning lawyer so that you can ensure a smooth probate process.
Without a will or estate plan when you pass, you are considered to have died intestate. This means that the courts will be responsible with making decisions over your estate after you have passed away. Because of this, you put the process of making decisions over your estate into the hands of the court. They will appoint an executor or administrator to oversee your estate and resolve any conflicts that arise. In many cases the court will refer to the laws of intestate succession to help decipher how to distribute your assets. Should this occur, familial conflict is nearly inevitable, making the process of probate lengthy and costly.
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Without the proper estate plan in place, probate can become a long drawn out process for your loved ones. Not only can it be time consuming, it can also be costly. In many cases, when there is no estate plan, familial conflict can ensue. Here are a few options your estate planning lawyer may recommend to mitigate complications from arising through probate:
- Make sure that all of your accounts have beneficiaries designated on them. This can include:
- Life Insurance Policies
- Bank Accounts
- Retirement Accounts
- Consider transferring property to a revocable living trust. This allows you to transfer your property to a trustee, while still remaining in control. You can put specific guidelines in place, and can revoke it at any time. You can even put expectations in place over what will happen to the property once you die. This can allow the property that you have transferred ownership to avoid probate because it will no longer be a part of your estate.
- Giving away small assets to your loved ones before your passing. However, you will want to speak with a lawyer to ensure that any of these assets are below a certain value, allowing you or your heir to avoid gift tax.
- Consider joint ownership of property. When property is owned by more than one person, it can pass directly to any living heirs, which can ensure that it will not have to pass through probate.
One of the primary reasons that people do not have an estate plan is not because they don’t think it’s important. Many have reported that they just haven’t taken the time to engage in the process. While hopefully you are able to live a long and healthy life, no one ever really knows what the future will bring. Because of this, it’s important to begin the estate planning process as soon as possible to not only mitigate the risk of probate, but to ensure that your loved ones have a clear plan to refer to in the event you become incapacitated or pass away. For more information on how an estate planning lawyer can help you, contact an experienced professional in your area to get started.
Contact an estate planning lawyer for more information.