Estate Planning

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is the process of arranging for the transfer of your assets upon your death. Effective estate planning will help preserve your assets and leave them for the intended beneficiaries, while giving you the ability to change beneficiaries prior to your death. Estate planning involves the preparation of a Last Will & Testament or a Revocable Living Trust, both of which are described below. By taking care of your estate planning proactively, you avoid leaving it up to the state to decide how your estate will be handled. You will eliminate the uncertainties and avoid leaving your loved ones the additional burden of dealing with an unplanned estate.


What is probate?

Probate is the legal process where a court manages the distribution of your assets that are left when you die. The probate process is the general administering of your Will or your estate if you die intestate (without a Will). The probate court will appoint the executor (male) or executrix (female) that was named in your Will, or it will appoint an Administrator if there is no Will. Either way, such personal representative will handle the collection of your assets, pay any outstanding liabilities, and then distribute any assets that remain to your heirs, as determined by your Will, if you have one, or by statute if not.

What are the benefits to avoiding probate?

There are some benefits to avoiding probate that you should look at. One big benefit of avoiding probate is the cost. Another benefit to avoiding probate is it can be a lengthy process. Probate fees are usually costly to your estate especially if you own property in other states. If that is the case, then you may likely have probate proceedings in multiple states. Avoiding probate altogether can speed up the process of settling your estate.

By having a written Will you can appoint the Administrator you want and direct how they are administer your estate. Everything still has to go through the probate process, however, which can involve disclosing information regarding the estate and everything is public record. There can also be significant delays in getting the probate process started, and nothing can be done until an Administrator has been appointed--that means bills might go unpaid, checks undeposited, funds inaccessible, and assets frozen in limbo.

If you use a Revocable Living Trust, you grant title to everything you own (why the person setting up a trust is commonly referred to as the “Grantor”) to the Trust while you are still alive, reserving the right to enjoy all of the benefits of everything (as beneficiary) and control everything as “Trustee” of the Trust. Probate is only needed to “pour over” any assets not put into the Trust prior to your death (using a simple “pour-over will”). If the Trust is properly funded and maintained--meaning title to everything is assigned to or taken in the name of the Trust, probating the pour-over will may be unnecessary. By properly establishing and maintaining your Revocable Living Trust, you can greatly simplify things for your loved ones upon your death.

Click here for descriptions of all of the documents that are used to create an effective estate plan.

Call 609-208-0999 or contact us online to schedule an appointment to discuss your estate plan.