Estate planning is an essential part of financial planning and considered to be among the most vital steps an estate owner can take to ensure his/her estate is distributed among the heirs and beneficiaries according to the estate owners wishes. Estate planning can also be used to make sure that any last wishes of the estate owner are honored such as health care wishes, living will instructions, and that their loved ones will continue to be provided for after they are gone. An estate-planning attorney can assist an estate owner with a living will, last will and testament, and ensure proper distribution of his/her assets after they have departed.
Many people believe that estate planning is only for the wealthy but in reality, almost everyone can benefit from estate planning. Regardless of the size or value of the assets and/or property, an estate planning attorney can help reduce inheritance taxes and the costs associated with probate court. An estate plan can lay down a specific strategy for the maintenance and continuation of asset disbursement and trust management. This helps to provide the survivors a steady contribution of funds and financial support.
If there is a proper estate plan, the state where the assets are located will submit the estate to probate court for distribution to the heirs. Each state has its own particular inheritance laws for the distribution of a deceased person’s estate. A proper estate plan can ensure that the estate will be divvied up as per the instructions outlined by the departed. All aspects of an estate or concerns of the estate owner can be delineate and determined within the guidelines and parameters of the estate plan. Nothing need be left to chance or interpretation.
A properly executed estate plan can reduce time and expense of the probate process for the heirs and beneficiaries but the process cannot be completely eliminated. Upon the death of an individual, the estate is immediately transferred to probate court. This process ensures an orderly transfer of property and is necessary to protect the estate of the deceased. The affairs of the deceased have to be settled through the probate process. The probate court can also decide issues such as name changes and guardianship proceedings.
If the estate owner had an estate plan in place, the probate court merely oversees the process. If there was no estate plan in place, the probate court will appoint an administrator to make a list of all debts, inventory any assets owned by the estate, notify all beneficiaries, and alert any creditors. If the estate has outstanding debts or unpaid taxes, the administrator must liquidate sufficient assets to satisfy any outstanding debt. Any remaining assets are distributed according to local laws. If the deceased had a proper estate plan at the time of death, the executor named in the will proceeds with the duties assigned to him/her and the court only oversees the process.
The responsibilities of the executor include:
An estate-planning attorney can provide invaluable assistance to the estate owner at the time of estate planning and to the family and heirs at the time of probate. An estate-planning attorney can ensure that the property and assets are distributed accordingly to the appropriate heirs upon the death of the estate owner. Contact an estate-planning attorney for assistance with your estate planning issues or concerns.