The Most Important Estate-Related Mistakes to Avoid When It Comes to Probate
After you pass, your will must be legitimized through the probate process, whereby the judge reviews the estate inventory, confirms who is administering it, and validates that it is in fact the last will of the deceased. Until this process is complete (which typically takes between six months and three years), it is not officially legitimate. It is during this time that heirs have a chance to challenge the will and creditors can make their claims against the estate.
Below, we discuss some of the most important mistakes to avoid in an effort to lower the cost of probate:
Having No Will or Estate Plan, Or Having an Outdated or Out-Of-State Plan
60 percent of American adults still have no estate plan or will. An additional percentage has one, but it was done decades ago and, as a result, is outdated in significant ways. Others did their will while they lived in another state, which will either slow the process or invalidate it because each state has different requirements.
Without a will, the court appoints someone to administer the estate in accordance with state law, and this can turn into a lengthy, expensive process. With a will that is declared invalid or is otherwise successfully challenged, the deceased is similarly considered to have died intestate, and his or her estate is processed as though they did not have a will.
By failing to hire an attorney to draft an estate plan properly and in accordance with the right state laws, the costs will end up being even higher for your loved ones later on through the probate process. Also keep in mind that even small estates that are not subject to federal tax are still subject to probate and most likely state estate tax.
Easy Ways to Keep Some Assets Out of Probate
Also keep in mind that there are a few easy ways to keep some assets out of probate, which would reduce fees and paperwork for your heirs. This is because you may qualify as a small estate; given that some of your assets are likely jointly-owned and/or associated with a designated beneficiary (for example, your 401(k)). Although each asset is part of your inventory and may be taxed by the state, it does not necessarily have to go through probate. This is why working with an experienced probate attorney can help to decipher all of this in the long run.
In order to take advantage of this, make sure that your beneficiary forms are updated on your retirement and life insurance accounts and request Pay on Death forms for your bank accounts and Transfer on Death forms for your brokerage accounts. This allows funds to be more efficiently transferred to your loved ones upon your death.
In addition, working with an estate planning attorney to create a living trust (also known as a revocable trust) allows you to avoid probate altogether, but it must be done correctly and with the assistance of someone who is experienced, or else it is essentially useless.
Contact Our Florida Estate Planning Attorneys to Find Out More
The right attorney will make life easier for you and your loved ones both now and later. For more information, contact our Orlando estate planning attorneys at Gierach and Gierach, P.A. today to find out about our services.