What is probate and how can it be avoided?

During probate, the executor will gather and safeguard estate assets. The executor also will use estate assets to pay valid claims, such as funeral expenses. The executor must publish notice of the probate to inform all possible creditors, and must directly notify known creditors. Creditors then have six months to file claims. To close the estate, the executor must submit a final report for the court with receipts from the beneficiaries who received assets.

Do I need a will?

Every person who is 18 years old and is of sound mind and memory can create a will. A Will must be in writing, signed, and attested by two or more credible witnesses.

How do I know if I need a legal Estate Plan?

Estate Planning can be confusing and emotional; it doesn't have to be! For many families, having an estate plan is critical. It can save thousands of dollars, prevent hurt feelings among family members, and avoid year manageable when you understand the basic concepts and terms. Then you will be able to decide if estate planning will benefit you and your fas of headaches. Like many things, estate planning becomes more mily.

Common Estate Plans

The last column discussed probate and how to avoid it. Did you notice that none of the suggestions for probate avoidance was a Will? That's because Wills don't avoid probate.

10 Myths and Truths About Living Trusts - Part 1

Many individuals and families choose to use Living Trusts in their estate plan, along with Wills. Before you decide whether to use a trust, you should understand what living trusts can and cannot accomplish.

10 Myths and Truths About Living Trusts - Part 2

Last month I explained five myths and truths to help you choose whether to use a Living Trust in your estate plan. Here are five more myths and truths about living trusts to increase your understanding.

Make tea, not war.

One of the issues that can result in hurt feelings on the death of a parent is the parent's neglecting to effectively gift the family's personal property. Personal property can be valuable - like an art collection - or it can be sentimental and of little value - like the cracked teapot Mom used every day. It's a shame that one sister's receipt of the cracked teapot may cause hard feelings for years, but how can this situation be avoided?

Transfer on Death Instruments to Avoid probate on Your Residence

Many families set up living trusts to make sure their residence does not have to go through probate on their death. Other methods also exist to avoid probate of the residence, but some of them have drawbacks.

What Does an Executor Do?

In every estate planning file I discuss with my client who they will name as their Executor. I often receive, in a quick answer, the name of the client's oldest child. It's as if being named as Executor is a birthright and a privilege. Some clients seem to believe that they would insult their oldest child by naming someone else Executor. I think choosing an executor should take a different route.

What is a Power of Attorney - and When do I need one?

A Power of Attorney is an extremely powerful piece of paper! It is a document which allows another person to sign your name and/or conduct business or manage health care decisions on your behalf, with the same legal effect as if you had signed or acted in person.

Power of Attorney for Health Care

As discussed in the last column, a Power of Attorney is a powerful tool. It is a document which allows another person to sign your name or manage health care decisions on your behalf, with the same legal effect as if you had signed or acted in person. The last column addressed the uses of a Power of Attorney for Property. This column will discuss the Power of Attorney for Health Care.

How do you know it is time for an Estate Plan review?

You already may have an estate plan with a Will, a Trust, Powers of Attorney, and perhaps other documents. It is a good idea periodically to review the estate plan documents, your beneficiary designations on retirement assets, and your other assets and family situation, to see if your estate plan still fits. How do you know it is time for a review?

Estate Planning Must Include Business Succession Planning

Family businesses are a staple of America, from small home offices to large manufacturing concerns. All family businesses present unique issues for the estate plan. Research shows that only 30% of families successfully pass the business to the next generation. Because running a business is hard work, most business owners find themselves too absorbed in the business to address longer term issues like planning for succession.

Special Needs Trusts For Disabled Persons

Families that include disabled children and adults must navigate a complicated system of laws concerning healthcare, housing, guardianships, and government benefits, all while providing the daily care and support that their disabled family member needs. The task is daunting. Family and friends can make the situation worse by directing an inheritance or gift to the disabled person. A gift could disqualify the disabled person from government health care and supportive service programs for which it took years to qualify. This discussion of special needs trusts may help both the special needs family and well-meaning friends and relatives to plan appropriately to enhance the quality of life of the disabled individual without endangering eligibility for government assistance.

A Quick Review - and Naming the Beneficiary of your IRA

It is still a common belief that the Will is the cornerstone of an estate plan. When naming a guardian for minor children is not an issue, the Will is a "just in case" document. It is included in the plan, but it should not be used to transfer title to assets after a death. If it is being used in this way, then the goal of avoiding probate has been missed.