Trick-Or-Treat: Which One Will You Leave For Your Family?

Posted by on Oct 19, 2017 in estate planning, Family Law, Probate | 0 comments

Some of the best Halloween memories come from trick-or-treating with your friends and family. When you go up to someone’s door and say, “Trick or treat!” you know that they will almost always give you candy, never a “trick” (unless you count getting raisins as a trick). When it comes to your family, you never want to leave them tricks either, but, unfortunately, that’s just what will happen if you die without an estate plan.

Probate court is the ultimate “trick,” and making your family go through that is not a fun surprise whatsoever. In this article, we’ll talk about what probate court is and how to avoid it, ensuring that your family will not get a nasty surprise after you die.

The “Tricks” in Probate Court

Estate planning has many benefits. It gives direction on where your assets should go when you pass on, and it allows you to take advantage of tax deductions and benefits so that you don’t saddle your family with the twin evils that are creditors and taxes.

Probate court is what happens when you die without an estate plan. The court manages the distribution of your assets and debts, often selling the former to pay the latter. Your family does not get anything and, if they do, they’re likely to not get it in the way in which you would prefer. Your creditors receive whatever it takes to pay off the debts. The point of probate court is to wrap an estate up by paying off debts, and it does so through an arduous, costly, and time-consuming process.

There is always the chance that the government will get your things as well, meaning that the state now owns your property and will likely sell it. These scary alternatives are what happens when you don’t have an estate plan.

Ramifications on Your Family

You may be wondering why you should care. You’ll be dead and won’t have to worry about any of this stuff; why not let the court just do it?

That’s where you’re wrong.

Your family and loved ones will be dragged into the probate process and saddled with court costs. Whoever is deemed administrator will be in charge of the process, which can take a long time. If you want to make sure that you don’t leave your family with a nightmare, create an estate plan that will give clear directions on how to manage your property, assets, and healthcare when you are incapacitated or dead. Save the tricks for Halloween, not your family.

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The Terrifying Truth About Probate

Posted by on Oct 19, 2017 in Probate | 0 comments

           

With this upcoming Halloween season, particularly with the release of the movie It, there is a lot to be spooked by. While probate court might not be as scary as killer clowns, it certainly is something you’ll want to avoid at all costs.

So, What IS Probate?

Probate is a legal process and not a fun one, either. Probate is often referred to as “probate court” because the process is supervised by a court. Probate is what happens when a person dies without an estate plan. The court decides how to distribute your assets and debts, leaving you with no control.

You may think, “What do I care? I’ll be dead,” but remember that your family is going to be the most heavily burdened by probate. Avoiding probate court is a must.

What Does a Probate Court Do?

Probate court handles many other functions besides simple property distribution. Probate courts determine the executor of the estate, will authentication (if there is one), identification of beneficiaries, heirs, and/or decedents, payment of debts, and other important processes that you could avoid dragging your family into court for if you take the proper steps.

The probate lawyers do most of the work, but the executor supervises. The administrator (AKA executor) obtains necessary documents, hires the attorney, manages the process, cancels credit cards, pays off debts, and more. It is not an enviable job.

While some states do allow an avoidance of probate if your estate is below a certain net worth (in California, for example, the bar is $100,000), you will probably still have to go through a process, albeit a simplified version, that would be better avoided altogether.

The Terrifying Truth

The terrifying truth is that probate court is NOT something you want your family and loved ones to endure, even if you aren’t going to be around to care. Avoiding probate court involves creating an estate plan. Estate planning will help you get organized and plan for your future in the event of your demise. A well-prepared estate plan will protect your family from the court fees and time-suck that is probate court.

Estate planning attorneys are here to help. We aid you in managing the process, drafting the necessary documents, and counseling you on the best course of action depending on your situation and what your goals are.

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Real Monsters: Taxes, Creditors, and the Government

Posted by on Oct 9, 2017 in asset protection, estate planning |

When you leave the theater after seeing the latest scary movie, you can rest assured that none of those monsters actually exist in real life (or at least, we hope not). However, taxes, creditors, and the government do exist, and they will make your life a real nightmare if you don’t take the proper steps to avoid them. If you don’t want your loved ones to have to go through a horror movie of their own, you will need to make an estate plan.

In this article, we will discuss what taxes, creditors, and the government do with your property if you pass on without an estate plan.

But First, what is an Estate Plan?

After reading the above section, you may be wondering what an estate plan is. An estate plan is a set of documents and legal tools that aid in the distribution of a person’s assets and property during their life (when they are ill) and after their death. An estate plan usually contains three main documents, though there may be others. These three documents are a living will, power of attorney for healthcare, and a power of attorney for financial matters. These three will help you manage your healthcare when you are sick, your finances when you are incapacitated, and your property and assets after you die.

Some people choose not to plan their estate because they feel like it is too much work or unnecessary. They couldn’t be more wrong. Failure to plan your estate will result in probate court, which be a million times more work for your family, who is already grieving after your death (for more information on probate court, see our article: The Terrifying Truth About Probate Court).

What Do the “Real Monsters” Do?

Let’s say you don’t take our advice and, like every horror movie victim ever, make the wrong decision to not plan your estate. There are three boogeymen who are going to get you: taxes, creditors, and the government.

  • Taxes. You can reduce taxes when you plan your estate. There are many different tax deductions and financial maneuvers you can engage in that will make the tax burden on your loved ones far less heavy. If you die without an estate plan, however, probate will take over and they will not care how many taxes your family is stuck with (and it will likely be a lot).
  • Creditors. Creditors take over collection of your debt. If you die without an estate plan, your case will go to probate court. The main goal of probate court is to pay off creditors. Your family will get nothing, and your creditors will get everything. If you want to creditor-proof your estate, avoid probate.
  • The government. If you die without an estate plan and don’t have decedents, beneficiaries, and other individuals listed, there is a good chance that the government will get at least some of your property.

Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into who the real monsters are and where they are hiding. The clown in It may have been lurking in the sewers, but taxes, creditors, and the government are hiding in probate court.

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Are You Digging Your Own Financial Grave?

Posted by on Oct 9, 2017 in estate planning, Trusts, Wills |

When you think of October, you might think of witches, warlocks, pumpkins, and cooler weather. However, what you may not know is that October is also Financial Planning Month, during which you can make a commitment to getting your affairs in order and tidying up your finances.

You can dig your own financial grave by doing nothing. You don’t even have to pick up your metaphorical shovel. Simply sit back and make no estate plan, and you will have dug your own financial grave, along with your family’s. In this article, we’ll talk about how you can commit to financial peace this October.

Estate Planning: The Horror Movie Antidote

The real monsters are taxes, creditors, and the government, and they all are lurking at probate court. If you die without an estate plan, your case will go to probate court. Probate will pay off your creditors and saddle your family with estate taxes in the event that they distribute your property to them. The process is lengthy, time-consuming, and expensive. October may be the month for scary surprises, but let’s avoid the unwelcome surprise that is your family having to go to probate court.

Estate planning will safeguard you against the horrors of probate court. Here is a brief overview of estate planning:

What to Know about Estate Planning

An estate plan allows you to decide where your assets will be distributed. It also gives directives on how to manage your care and finances if you are incapacitated. Here are the main documents included in an estate plan (though by no means is this list exhaustive).

  • A living will. If you become incapacitated, chances are you don’t want the state to make your decisions for you. The government might not make the right choice when it comes to pulling the plug or not. A living will gives the hospital healthcare directives and information on your care that doctors can follow. Even if you are unable to give these directions yourself, the living will tells them how to manage your care.
  • A financial power of attorney. If incapacitated, you will also want to ensure that your finances are managed appropriately. Appointing a financial power of attorney means you can pick someone you trust and know is responsible to be in charge of your money when you are unable to do so.
  • A power of attorney for healthcare. A power of attorney for healthcare will also help you make healthcare decisions when you are unable. If your living will doesn’t cover something, this person (who you also pick), will be assist in making these decisions.

While estate planning isn’t the most Halloween-ish topic to discuss, it certainly is spooky to think about what happens if you don’t have a plan. Hopefully, this brief overview helped you to get a sense of what estate planning is and the many benefits that come with it.

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