Make Things Easier for Your Family With Help From a Probate Attorney

Probate Attorney

As a probate attorney, I understand how difficult it can be to both plan for your future and to consider the inevitability of death.  While no one wants to face this eventuality, life will eventually demand it.  What you can do is prepare for it so that your estate and your family are in the best position possible.  This is important because, upon your death, your family should be allowed to grieve, rather than deal with complex legal issues.  Unfortunately, this is often the case, and the stress of the situation can drive a wedge between family members. You can help to prevent some of this conflict by planning ahead. 

As an estate planning and probate attorney, I often recommend taking the time to set up a Living Trust.  A Trust is an entity just like a person or a business.  When you establish a Trust, you can transfer most of your assets to it while you are still alive. There can be explicit instructions for how the assets are to be kept or distributed and any assets that you transfer into the Trust will be exempt from the probate process upon your death.

What a probate attorney does?

As a probate attorney, I work with families (heirs) to take an estate through the probate process.  This is done at the state level.  The estate is presented to the court, and both creditors and heirs have the opportunity to make a claim.  The court will generally designate funds to be paid to the creditors that make a legitimate claim.  The funds that are left will be available for paying taxes and distribution to heirs.  This is where much of the conflict comes in.  If, for example, you have a vacation home and three children, they all may lay claim to the home, even if your will says otherwise.  While a will is good for directing where your assets should go, the court will listen to arguments from your heirs and may make adjustments based on what they hear.  This poses an issue because it can interfere with your wishes being carried out.  When funds are moved into a Trust, they do not go through probate and this part of the process is largely avoided.  There are, however, some assets that cannot be held in the Trust so in many cases the probate process is still necessary though only slightly.  If you hire me as a probate attorney now, I can work to preserve your wishes by representing the estate after your passing. 

A probate attorney can help to keep more money in the estate.

As an estate planning and probate attorney, I can also work with you to identify various strategies for saving your estate money in both taxes and fees that may be incurred after your death.  I can help you to develop a sound legal strategy that ensures your wishes are protected both in life and in death.  

Tips From a Probate Attorney For Avoiding Conflict

Probate AttorneyA well-written will makes it easier for a probate attorney to sort through a person’s affairs, after they have passed, and often leads to avoiding uncomfortable situations. Unfortunately, at times, the dividing of assets can bring out the very worst in people. Add to this the grief of losing a loved one; along with some sentimentality attached to certain objects, and attorneys often find themselves in the middle of angry feuding families. Nobody wants that. A loved one’s passing should be a time of memories, laughter, crying and sharing as a family rather than feuding over material things. However, feuds do happen.

The best way to ensure a family war does not ensue over who gets the china, is to have a well-written and detailed will. A detailed will lays out the division of assets, leaving little room for legal maneuvering. Listed below are a few elements that should always be included in a will, to ensure that it will be executed smoothly:

  • Name an executor: An executor is tasked, specifically, with executing or carrying out the instructions in the will – to the letter. This person takes charge of the property and ensures that it is distributed as directed by the will and in accordance with the deceased. As a probate attorney, we also recommend having a secondary executor named, in the event that the initial choice is unable or unwilling to carry out the instructions.
  • Direct beneficiaries: Often, when making a will, people like specific items or property to go to specific people. It is important to specify to whom specific property goes. These kinds of specifications are called specific benefits and can include personal property, cash, and even real estate. There are no limits to specific benefits, other than they need a level of clarity when allocating them to a beneficiary.
  • Personal and business assets: Remember that personal assets and business assets are often viewed very differently. Business owners tend to have clear set ideas of what they want done with the business, ideas which need to be articulated in the will. As such making sure that there is a clear distinction between what assets are personal and what assets are business related, and then allocated accordingly is important. Laying out clear directions for what should be done with a business can alleviate confusion later.  There are no limitations on who can be a beneficiary to what kind of asset, as long as there is a clear set of instructions surrounding both sets of assets.
  • Debts and Expenses: Very few people pass without leaving some level of debt. At the very minimum, the cost of the funeral and probate attorney costs will be lingering. It is a good idea to write, into the will, where the money for these expenses should come from with specific bank accounts and other detailed information. This avoids having any one beneficiary from feeling like they have to bear the entire burden. Estate and inheritance tax should also be covered under debts and expenses.

As a probate attorney, we can help you to plan for what will happen when you pass in order to ensure that all of your assets are distributed according to your wishes.  If, however, you are currently involved in managing an estate and need assistance, we can help with that as well.