Estate planning

What to know about a will: The basics of estate planning


Estate planning written on wooden blocks on a table.Most estate planning attorneys can help you craft an estate plan that minimizes or avoids bequests altogether. Probate proceedings are part of the public record and can be very time consuming and expensive. However, in almost every case, a will is more or less necessary. Therefore, it is important to understand how to navigate this process.

Probate proceedings seek to verify the validity of the deceased’s last will. In addition, this process returns the ownership of the assets of the estate to the names of the heirs according to the wishes of the deceased person. A court oversees these types of procedures to ensure that the estate pays its debts and that the heirs receive their assets.

After the loss of a loved one, family members generally look for a properly written will and other important estate planning documents. Without a well-organized plan, the relatives of the deceased may have to gather the information the court needs. This may mean that the will process takes much longer.

Probate court procedures

The petitioner, usually the estate port or personal representative, the process begins. First, they file a death certificate and last will with the probate court. It is also helpful to make a list of known creditors and the names and contact details of the deceased’s heirs. Smaller estates and those that are not contested by heirs can usually work through the process fairly quickly and efficiently.

Laws regarding wills are state-specific, and most states set evaluation thresholds. For example, if the estate is worth less than $75,000 and no one contests the will, the hearings may move more quickly.

For larger value properties, there is a much greater amount of paperwork needed. The process may include not only validating the will, but also the following:

  • determine the distribution of assets,
  • dispute settlement,
  • Pay off the remaining debts, and
  • Finally closing the estate by paying the deceased’s final taxes.

A checklist of documents to collect may include:

  • Death certificates
  • final will
  • Revocable trust documents
  • Contact information for the heirs
  • Designations of recipients
  • Pre- or post-nuptial agreements
  • The previous three years of federal and state income and gift tax returns
  • Life insurance documents
  • Real estate transactions
  • Vehicle titles
  • Financial statements
  • Contracts and business agreement documents
  • Appraisals for artwork, collectibles, or jewelry of high value
  • and other known assets
  • known debt
  • Ongoing bills
  • Medical and funeral expenses

Will procedures without a will

The country of residence of the deceased intestacy The laws will apply if a loved one dies without a last will (intestate succession). All personal property without specifying a beneficiary will be subject to a court-directed probate process.

Some assets will avoid the probate process under a state property law, a state contract, or a state trust law. These assets may include:

  • The beneficiary designates life insurance policies
  • The beneficiary appoints pension funds
  • The beneficiary appoints the annuity
  • Pay-on-death or transfer-on-death accounts
  • Shared leasehold property with rights of survival
  • Rent in total
  • All property trust

The cost of the bequest

Complex probate processes can be costly and take years to complete. It is for this reason that many individuals hire an estate planning attorney to reduce probate proceedings.

Lengthy procedures can be frustrating for heirs who are the rightful beneficiaries but must comply with the probate process. The average cost of a will varies by state. However, 5% to 10% of the property value in administrative costs and legal fees is typical. Some properties may lose up to 20 percent of their value as a result of this process.

Other fees may include executor compensation, court fees for filings and papers, and probate deeds. After the probate procedures are completed, the court may recover the probate.

The most common cause of high probate costs occurs when someone contests the will, as ongoing litigation can be costly. Issues with preparing and filing the deceased’s last federal estate tax return and any subsequent audit may add to the cost of the probate process.

Consult with an estate planning attorney

Most individuals create an estate plan with their attorney that allows their assets to pass outside of the probate process. This is usually possible by creating a revocable living trust. Depending on your situation, your estate planning attorney may recommend another Types of trust.

Be sure to review your estate plan with a qualified attorney as needed. Work with them to update the names of the beneficiaries on any of your accounts that will pass outside of the bequest. An attorney can also help reduce probate court interactions and streamline the process of inheriting your heir. Look for Estate planning attorney in your area today.

Creation date: 08/28/2023

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