Probate is a scary word for many people. However, it doesn't have to be. There are several easy things you can do to ensure your estate avoids probate after you are gone. Some of these tasks require the assistance of a competent estate planning attorney, but others can be easily handled by you from the comfort of your own home.
Create or Update Your Will
If you don't have a valid Living Will, this is a huge problem that should be corrected immediately. Schedule an appointment with your attorney and get your wishes put in writing with regards to your money and other assets. Your lawyer will draft up the necessary documents, procure your signature and that of the proper witnesses. The document will then be notarized and you will be provided with the necessary copies, while your attorney will keep a copy on file. If you do have a Will already, make sure it is up-to-date. You should check everything over yearly, and contact your lawyer as needed to make updates and changes to beneficiaries and other areas. This is the single most important thing you can do to avoid probate.
Update Your Beneficiaries
Update the beneficiaries on all of your insurance policies and other assets. If a beneficiary is not listed, this can cause your estate to go through the probate courts and the money you leave your family and friends can be chipped away at by estate taxes and probate fees. Designate a beneficiary right away, and then look over your policies yearly and make changes as needed.
Establish a Trust
Establish a trust now that holds your assets in solid investments. Your money will then earn income for you while you are alive; all the funds will be protected by the trust. Your trust will distribute money to you as you need it to cover your living expenses. Once you are gone, the trust will then distribute your money to the heirs you designate now. Your estate planning attorney can assist with the creation and administration of your trust.
Spend It While You've Got It
If you can, start gifting money now before you are gone. Many people don't have that option, but those that do should use it. Just consult with your attorney to determine how much money you can gift to each friend or family member without your loved one being assessed gift taxes or fees by the state.
Don't let estate taxes and probate fees eat up the balance of your estate. Take care of your money before you are gone, so it can take care of your loved ones after you are gone. To learn more, contact a law firm like Wilson Deege Despotovich Riemenschneider & Rittgers.
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