The time, financial and emotional commitment involved with contesting a will can often be much more expensive than the value of the estate in question. The process could deplete the estate itself, leaving little remaining of the estate for the heirs and destroying family relationships.
While death is pretty certain for all of us, nobody is quite prepared. This includes those we leave behind, who must deal with the pain and grief of losing a loved one and with legal matters, insurance companies and contentious family members. The Huffington Post’s article, titled “5 Ways to Plan Your Estate,” says you can make this process a lot easier for your loved ones with these estate planning tasks.
- Pay all your bills. This includes debts and taxes. Your beneficiaries won’t receive a dime until your bills have been paid. The probate court will notify the public, including creditors, of your death and will pay all debts of the deceased before distributing what’s left of the estate to beneficiaries.
- Get your will created and executed with an estate planning attorney. Although it might seem unpleasant planning for your death, if you fail to do so, the court will do it for you. A will guides the process and provides clear instructions for your executor. Without a will, the judge appoints an administrator to your estate and decides who gets what based on state law.
- Create a living trust. This document is not subject to the probate process, is private, is controlled entirely by the family and can be resolved very quickly. Probate can run from nine months to two years, and it could go as long as ten years if there’s a contested will. The probate process is also public. Anyone can discover the value of your estate and how it was distributed at the courthouse.
- Joint ownership. Typically, if there’s more than one name on the title, the property is deemed to be jointly held, especially if the magic words “joint tenants with rights of survivorship” are used. As a result, the probate process is avoided as long as there is a surviving joint owner. This property is automatically transferred to the other owner.
- Pay-on-death (POD) accounts. You can complete a form on your retirement or regular bank account designating the beneficiary who inherits the account. Then the money is automatically transferred to him or her upon your death.
Speak with an estate planning lawyer to analyze your situation and to determine what’s best for you.
Reference: Huffington Post (July 11, 2016) “5 Ways to Plan Your Estate”