Estate planning deals with what will happen to your property and assets during your lifetime and after your death.
The defining principals of a good estate plan are: "I control my property while I am alive," and "My loved ones are provided for after I am gone." There are many important considerations when planning your estate.
For example, who will make decisions for you if you are no longer able? Who will receive all of your worldly possessions and monies when you are gone?
If you have concerns about what will happen to you and your property in life and after death let us help you.
We offer several services that assist in planning your estate such as: Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and Health Care Directives. Each of these documents can help insure that your wishes concerning your estate will be carried out as you see fit.
Probate is the legal process by which property owned by someone who has passed is transferred to his or her heirs after their death. It is the settling of the deceased person's estate. This process takes place in a probate court and can often take from a few months up to a year to be completely settled. If there is a will in place the will is presented to the probate court by the personal representative of the estate, the court reviews the will and determines if it is valid, makes any objections to the Will, orders that any creditors be paid, and supervises the process to make certain that the property remaining is distributed according to the wishes outlined in the Will. Having a will, alone, does not mean probate is unnecessary. Although a will might make the process simpler, probate is still required for assets in the deceased's name alone. If there is no Will in place at the time of death then state law determines who gets what and how much. So overall the process of probate goes like this:
So you have probably been told that it is best to avoid probate procedures if possible, why is that? Well there are two major reasons why it is best to avoid the probate proceedings. The first being that it can take quite a long time, sometimes up to a year, before everything is settled and your dependents can actually claim what you've left to them. Secondly it can be very costly. Attorney fees and court fees can often cost 3% to 7% of the total estate value. So how do you avoid probate? The biggest step to avoiding probate is overall pre-planning. Pre-planning involves things like adding beneficiaries to your accounts, getting a Transfer on Death Deed recorded for your real estate, and possibly creating a Revocable Living Trust (RLT). What is an RLT? Basically, the RLT is an arrangement by which you transfer ownership of your property and assets into the name of a trust. You still have control, the property is still yours, it just changes names to the name of the trust. This type of trust is revocable so you can still access the property if your situation changes. The main benefits of these trusts is that they will help avoid probate, are able to be changed or amended and can help you have some control over who gets how much and when even after your gone.
A Living Trust is an arrangement by which you transfer ownership of your property and assets into the name of your trust. You still have control over all the assets in your trust, and the property is still yours. The trust just changes ownership from you as an individual to you as trustee of your trust. This type of trust is revocable, it allows you to amend, restate or revoke and to add or remove property, if your situation would change. The main benefits of this kind of trust is it allows you to maintain control and offers protection of your assets, it helps you plan for your disability and for your loved ones, it is private and confidential, it avoids probate, and it can be changed or amended.