Whether you are currently thinking about drafting an estate plan of your own or you’re encouraging your elderly parents to start getting their legal affairs in order so that they don’t have to worry about this daunting task anymore, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.
First, the very act of engaging in the estate planning process is both courageous and an act of love. You’re facing some tough truths in order to better ensure that those who survive you aren’t unduly burdened and stressed due to the challenges that are associated with losing a loved one who has no estate plan in place.
Second, there is more to estate planning than simply listing your assets and determining who should receive those assets in the event of your death. As an experienced probate lawyer – including those who practice at Davis, Johnson & Kallal – can explain in greater detail, you’ll need to craft an advance healthcare directive, name power(s) of attorney, detail your digital estate planning instructions, etc. as part of a comprehensive estate plan.
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that unless you take certain steps proactively, your loved ones will be compelled to navigate the challenges of the probate process. In a nutshell, probate consists of proving that a will – and other relevant estate planning documentation – is legally valid. The probate process can be lengthy, stressful, and potentially contentious. As a result, you’ll want to consider taking specific steps to avoid probate, if you’re concerned about how the stresses of this process will impact your loved ones.
You may need to craft a will in order to detail certain wishes that have nothing to do with your property. For example, if you have minor children, you can name a guardian for them within the text of your will. You can also use your will to name a power of attorney, an executor of your estate, a guardian for your pets, etc. But, if you choose to deal with your property by crafting a living trust instead of detailing your wishes concerning your assets within your will, those assets will almost certainly bypass the probate process.
Essentially, the detailed process of crafting a trust – from placing assets within the trust to naming a trustee and beneficiaries – legally proves your intentions without judicial intervention. It is fairly difficult to argue that someone didn’t intend to leave assets to specific beneficiaries when they have taken the time to craft a trust. For this reason and other technical reasons, living trusts generally aren’t subject to probate. Instead, the assets contained within the trust simply pass along to the creator’s intended beneficiaries once the creator has passed away – or per alternative circumstances as outlined by the terms of the trust.
By taking the time to craft a trust now, you could save your loved ones significant time, stress, and even money after you’ve passed away. As a result, it may be to the benefit of many people that you explore the idea of bypassing probate as a primary goal of your estate planning process.