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Estate Planning Probate

Estate planning probate is a technique used to document your final wishes in the event of your death. Many people procrastinate about estate planning; particularly when they enjoy good health and are living an active lifestyle. However, death has a tendency to strike unannounced. Inadequate planning can create a tremendous financial burden for your loved ones should you die unexpectedly.

Estate planning probate usually requires the assistance of a qualified probate attorney. This type of lawyer is adept at estate planning and can help keep many of your assets out of probate. It is important to realize that everything you own must be transferred to probate in order to ensure your wishes are adhered to and rightful heirs inherit your belongings

Probate lawyers can guide you in setting up transfer-on-death (TOD) and payable-on-death (POD) beneficiaries; executing a Last Will and Testament; and all other aspects of estate planning. Depending on the size of your estate, probate attorneys might suggest setting up a living trust or irrevocable life insurance trust.

Trusts are usually reserved for estates with a value of $100,000 or more. However, trusts provide numerous benefits including avoiding probate altogether. Funds held in trusts are usually tax-free. Additionally, trusts remain private and are not a matter of public record. Without a trust, Wills filed through the probate court become public record and can be accessed by anyone who wishes to view the documents.

Probate laws are governed by each individual state. In most states, financial and real estate holdings are automatically transferred to your spouse. Assets held by decedents who are unmarried typically transfer to direct lineage relatives such as parents, children, brothers or sisters.

Assets and personal belongings can be gifted to anyone you choose. However, if you do not have estate planning in place, a judge will determine who receives your assets based on probate laws. The probate process can be quite lengthy. In some cases it can last for two or more years. This is particularly true when there is no Will in place.

Estate planning is not difficult. All that is required is to legally document what you own and who you would like to receive it when you die. An estate administrator must be designated within the Will. Experts recommend designating two individuals as Administrators. This is helpful because if the intended estate executor is unable or unwilling to perform duties, the second designated Administrator can quickly step into the role without the need of court approval.

Estate planning probate is an ongoing process. Wills and trusts should be updated when assets are added or deleted. Updates should also be made if intended heirs or designated Administrators die. Typically, probate lawyers charge a fee when changes are made. However, it is a small price to pay to be certain your family is protected when you depart this world.

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Published on January 10, 2009 at 07:19 PM

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