For those who have specific goals for their assets once they leave this world, an estate plan becomes an essential component of their financial plan. There are many benefits to having an estate plan, including ensuring that your wishes will be carried out and making the process of administering your estate much less of a burden on your heirs. One of the more important – and frequently misunderstood – benefits of estate planning is the ability to avoid probate. Probate is the legal process of distributing your estate after you die, and it can be both expensive and time-consuming. The fees from probate are deducted from the estate, leaving less for your heirs than you otherwise intended. Furthermore, since probate is conducted through the courts, administering your estate can be a lengthy process and, depending on the complexity of your estate, could take years to be finalized.
The Des Moines Register reminds us in “Unpacking the Perils of Probate” that if your estate is subject to probate, then it will become public record. If you want privacy – even after you pass away – and want knowledge of the contents of your estate to stay with your heirs, then make plans in advance for your assets to avoid probate.
With headlines of celebrity estates and the errors of the rich and famous, some people maintain that a will is all they need for their assets to be administered outside of probate. This is not true. A will “tells” a probate judge how you want your assets distributed through probate. To prevent your assets from going through the probate process, there are several steps you can take. Talk to a qualified estate planning attorney about them.
Designate Beneficiaries: Remember that life insurance policies and retirement accounts have beneficiary designations that direct who receives these benefits when you die. The will can’t touch them. The article explains that assets covered by a beneficiary designation don’t pass through probate. The designated beneficiary typically trumps what’s in your will. You should make sure you review these designations regularly. If there’s no beneficiary designated, that account may be subject to probate.
Set up a Trust: If you have quite a few assets that aren’t covered by beneficiary designations, you can create a living trust to avoid probate. A trust can allow for more control when your assets are distributed after you pass. This is a very good benefit for those with minor children, if you don’t want them to receive their inheritance in one lump sum. Trusts are more expensive to set up than just a will, so talk with an estate planning attorney to see if one makes sense for you.
No one wants to burden loved ones after we die. To be sure your estate plan is ready to save them money as well as migraines, work with an estate planning attorney to avoid probate.
Reference: The Des Moines Register (August 3, 2015) “Unpacking the Perils of Probate”
I heard Cindy’s presentation at a Senior Luncheon at my church, and was very impressed. She helped my daughter and me understand many aspects of elder law. Josh has also been very helpful in my planning to enter an independent living situation . I have told many friends about them.
The very best elder law attorney and staff anyone could ever ask for! I have referred a number of clients to Cindy and she never disappoints. She is kind, caring, and extremely thorough in making sure everything is completed as it should be. I highly recommend Cindy for anyone needing lawyer services; she truly goes above and beyond for every client she helps and has had a huge impact in so many peoples’ lives. Thank you, Cindy and staff, for everything that you do- I’m so glad to know you!
Cindy and the Nelson Elder Care Law team are trustworthy and helpful. They are the experts in elder care law. At Leaf Cremation, we entrust our families to the care of the Nelson team when their services are needed.
Josh Nelson, and his staff, have been amazingly helpful to our family. The ins and outs of nursing homes, the rules and regulations that govern Medicare and Medicaid are daunting and the folks at Nelson Elder Care Law have been informative, responsive, and above all, empathetic. I cannot emphasize enough how their service has taken a weight off of our shoulders especially during a world pandemic that has targeted nursing homes across our country. I highly recommend retaining Josh and his firm!
I had a simple legal question to them that I needed answered and they very helpful in giving me the information I needed. I highly recommend them and will reach out to them if I need more advice or assistance. Thank you for taking your time to just answer a couple of questions I had!