Avoid Estate Plan Pitfalls: Strategies for a Smooth Probate Process

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Estate planning can be a daunting process, but with around two-thirds of Americans without a will, it can leave your loved ones with a difficult role. Without putting any probate steps in place, they then have to handle your affairs while potentially unprepared to take on such a task. So, do you want to help them out by doing the best job possible before it is too late?

Below, we lay out some of the most common probate process mistakes and offer estate planning tips to help you overcome them. At the end of the article, we also explain how we can work with you to make the whole thing as easy as possible.

Common Estate Planning Mistakes

Making errors during the estate planning process can lead to huge financial and emotional problems for everyone. This is without mentioning the legal issues that may crop up, leading to lengthy and harmful litigation.

One of our main probate tips is to ensure you avoid the following mistakes. This will protect your estate and the interests of your beneficiaries.

Not Making a Detailed Asset Listing

When listing all your assets, make sure to go into as much detail as possible. Also, ensure you do not miss any item that others may want for any reason. You do not always know the sentimental value others have placed on your property.

A well-crafted asset list will also help with tax calculations during distribution. It also helps to ensure things are less likely to go missing if they are on a list.

If you are unsure how to perform this process, you can often find guides for making an asset list online.

Forgetting Joint-Ownership of Property

If several people own a single item, it will often bypass the will and any probate process. This will mean people get things you did not intend.

Instead, ensure your ownership documentation is in order, and co-owners agree to the movement of assets ahead of time.

Not Updating Estate Plans

Significant life changes can often affect plans people have for their estate. It may be their assets change over time, or they may want to move where they assign things if specific people happen to die before them.

As such, conduct a regular assessment of what you have to ensure the plan stays effective over time.

Ignoring the Effects of Taxes

Depending on the state, your estate may not make it to its beneficiaries in the form you expected. People may even be liable for paying tax on some things they receive.

Make sure you speak to a professional about what this means for you and what you can do to mitigate its effects.

Not Choosing a Professional Executor

Choosing professional representation to handle your estate can mean all the difference. Experts in the field will have the experience to know how to ensure everything resolves as you expect it to.

They will also act as an objective third party in the case of difficulties and will avoid conflicts of interest. If the probate process ends up in litigation, they can then handle the whole issue with familiarity in the legal process.

Shoring Up the Probate Process

By having everything sorted well ahead of time, you can protect your estate from unnecessary costs. This will help everything much smoother, preventing trauma for your loved ones.

Consolidating Assets

When possible, try to consolidate any assets you have. This can not only speed up the whole process but may make it more efficient for tax purposes. It is also much less likely there are going to be conflicts between beneficiaries if everything is clearly defined.

Hiring an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer

An expert in estate planning law can help you understand what you need to do to ensure the probate process runs without as much chance of problems. For example, they can help to debunk common myths about assigning items in your estate, so you can have a will that is both clear and legally sound.

Gifting Assets While Still Alive

It can be very beneficial in many cases to gift assets while you are alive. For example, you are likely to need to pay fewer taxes on the transfer of some assets. It may also be a less emotional situation for people to receive your estate in this way.

A probate expert can advise you on what is best to transfer while alive, and what you should wait to pass on instead.

Setting Up a Trust

You can choose to set up a trust and avoid the whole probate process in its entirety. If you place your assets in a trust, they can pass to your beneficiaries without going through other channels, which can save both time and legal fees.

There are other positive points to this process too, including a higher level of privacy, as well as several tax benefits. You can also have a little more control over them, ensuring people only get the assets once they come of age, for example.

Have All the Right Estate Planning Documents

There are several documents you need to have together to ensure the probate goes off without a hitch. Your attorney can run you through these if you do not understand them. They include:

  • The will
  • The living will
  • Revocable living trust documents
  • Power of attorney records
  • HIPAA release forms
  • Beneficiary designation documents
  • A letter of intent

This list is not exhaustive. As such, ensure you discuss what else you may need with a legal professional.

More Estate Planning Tips and Guidance from Knowledgeable Estate Planning Attorneys

Proper estate planning can ensure your loved ones do not need to stress about what happens when you pass. These estate planning tips should take away a lot of the stress to get you to that position so you can move forward knowing everything is in order. Still, there may be intricacies we have not covered here.

Here at Boyler Law Firm, we can work with you to ensure you dot every “i” and cross every “t”. So, get in contact today to ensure everything is in order and learn more about what we can do for you.