Estate Planning to Avoid Contentious Probate
If you hope to leave your legal and financial affairs “in order” so that your loved ones are not overly burdened by them in the wake of your death, it is important to approach the estate planning process with that goal in mind. As an experienced probate lawyer – including those who practice at Theus Law Offices – can clarify, utilizing certain estate planning tools to your advantage will help to ensure that your loved ones can avoid a contentious, drawn out, and stressful probate process in the wake of your death.
The Probate Process – The Basics
The nature of the probate process varies by state. Probate is, generally speaking, the process of proving that a will (and other estate planning documentation, as applicable in a given situation) has been properly executed and is legally valid. Some states require virtually every estate to undergo some kind of probate process. Other states generally only require that probate commence when there is a question as to the validity of the will in question.
In either event, ensuring that your will has been properly constructed, is legally enforceable, and is up to date will help to ensure that your loved ones do not have to contend with an unnecessarily stressful probate process. Additionally, utilizing certain estate planning tools may help your estate to avoid probate altogether (depending upon where you live). For example, if you place your assets in certain kinds of trusts, they will pass to your beneficiaries without any probate-related interference. Working with an attorney will help to ensure that the structure of your estate plan meets your unique needs.
Estate Plans Are “Living” Legal Tools
There are only a few estate planning tools that are irrevocable. Meaning, that you can revise, update, and even revoke many estate planning tools as often as you need to. For example, while some kinds of trusts are irrevocable, wills are not. Meaning, that you’ll want to revise your will as often as you need to in order to ensure that it properly reflects your wishes and circumstances. If you don’t keep your will up to date, your loved ones could be left wondering what you wanted done with certain assets or if you intended to keep younger family members out of your will on purpose. It is critically important to speak with an attorney about how often you should update your will in order to ensure that it remains as “probate-proof” as possible.