Most of us have seen conflict arise after a family member passes or is unable to make decisions. The estate will likely go to probate where, despite the existence of a will, there is some discontent among the living heirs who question the intention of the will and the disbursement of the deceased’s assets. In fact, the language, in many wills, is often open to the interpretation of the judge reading it. Probate can be a lengthy and quite costly process that involves court dates and legal fees that are usually expected to be immediately paid. Very often, during the probate process, the value of the estate dwindles; the fees associated with the court, assessors, lawyers and other costs associated with the probate may be taken from the estate. The surviving family members are left to decide how to deal with assets and debts, or the decision is left to the court. Small familial conflicts have a tendency to become big conflicts, resentment and even terminated relationships among family members are the result of such cases. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the following will provide an idea of the issues that are often created from probate court as a result of poor estate planning:
- Time consuming- most probate cases can take 6-9 months to resolve, some even longer
- Very expensive
- Allocation of assets and debts as supervised by the court
- Prove validity of will
- If no will exists, it may be up to the court to allocate assets and debts
- Language of the will can be open to interpretation
- Court appointed representative (usually next of kin) if there is no will
- Abundant amounts of paperwork
- Family dispute of will can cause family conflict
Proper estate planning can be a way to avoid probate altogether. Hiring a estate planning lawyer Allentown, PA trusts that has experience in estate planning, specifically setting up a trust that is tailored to the needs of each unique individual and family, may be beneficial. In many cases, a trust can virtually eliminate all of the aforementioned issues and conflicts. Very often, having a will is not enough to avoid conflict after you die or are unable to make decisions.
What to expect from a trust:
- Minimized estate taxes
- Clear distribution of assets
- Flexibility to distribute assets immediately or over time
- Likely to avoid probate
- Avoid lengthy probate process and fees
- Maintain privacy of financial matters
We acknowledge that it can be very uncomfortable thinking and planning for the aftermath of one’s own death. Many people tend to avoid the thought and therefore avoid the opportunity to prepare for it. A trust eliminates all ambiguity and misinterpretation of your wishes after you pass. A decent estate plan and a well thought out trust ultimately sets your family up for the comfort of knowing exactly how you would like your estate to be distributed.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Klenk Law for their insight into estate planning and trusts.