Most people are not aware of the value of a certified estate planning attorney. Most people generally believe they have planned well if they have a will in place. A will may not be the best plan because a will does not avoid probate when you die. Interesting fact: a will must be examined by the probate court judge before it can be admitted to probate. A defective will not be accepted and your estate will be administered as though you don’t even a have a will!
Basic estate planning definitions:
- Will – Only goes into effect when you die. It is a legal document that names the beneficiaries who inherit a person’s assets and names a representative to administer and distribute the estate.
- Probate – Legal process used by the court to ensure debts are paid and assets distributed in accordance to your will. If you don’t have a valid will your assets are distributed according to state law.
- Living Trust – Legal document, similar to a Will in that it contains your instructions for what you want to happen to your assets when you die; however, it avoids probate at death because your assets pass to a trustee and then to your beneficiaries; an additional advantage is that it can provide for control of your trust assets while you are alive which prevents the court from controlling your assets if you become incapacitated. In other words, a living trust which provides for incapacity can avoid a Guardianship proceeding whereby you would become a Ward of the State!
The Simms Law Firm recommends a simple and proven alternative to a will which is the revocable living trust. It avoids probate and lets you keep control of your assets while you are alive- even if you become incapacitated – and after you die.
So what is the downside of probate?
Four simple points really.
● Expensive – Legal/executor fees and other costs have to be paid before assets can be fully distributed to your heirs.
● Time – Probate can take six months to two years to process an estate. Nothing can be distributed or sold without court and/or executor approval. Tough break if your family needs the funds for living expenses.
● No privacy – Probate is a public process. That means “interested parties” cull these notices and can slow down the process to contest the will.
● No control – The process is tied up internally in the court process – this takes the whole process out of your hands. Courts move slowly because of the court calendar; public information and claims on the estate.