When it comes to estate planning, most people often hear phrases like “the death tax” and other terms on taxation that don’t address the most important issue: Protecting your family from the stress and difficulties that losing a loved one often brings.
Without the benefit of a will or trust, navigating the emotional, complicated, and difficult process of estate administration often requires legal assistance because assets like houses, banking accounts, stocks and retirement accounts can end up in limbo for years if proper precautions are not taken.
Here are two things you can and should do to make certain that the people you most care about can deal with these difficult issues:
Create A Will
Wills can be relatively easy to set up, but they still require that the assets proceed through probate before they can be released to heirs. Probate is a legal process that validates the deceased’s will, locates and appraises the deceased person’s property, clears debts and taxes due, and distributes the remaining assets as the will directs. The probate process itself frequently requires loads of paperwork and court appearances with legal fees and court costs paid from the estate which further reduces the assets being passed to the heirs.
Establish A Trust
A trust typically requires professional assistance to set up, however, it provides significant benefits that a simple will cannot. For example, unlike a will which only works posthumously, trusts can protect you and your assets even while you are still living, helping you avoid guardianship or conservatorship should you become incapacitated prior to death.
Trusts, if completed properly, can also often avoid probate altogether which means your heirs and beneficiaries can sidestep court fees and long timelines to access your assets rapidly. And, if structured properly, a trust can help reduce any estate taxes owed and protect other assets of the deceased’s estate from creditors.
See one of our attorneys today if you need help. We’d love to be your trusted resource.