In our last blog, we talked about the “Tough Stuff Planning” course that Attorney Robert S. Meyring is volunteer teaching that covers the importance of planning for end-of-life matters, and offers advice for handling legal matters in case you become incapacitated. In this blog, our seasoned estate planning and probate attorneys explain how you can save thousands, possibly millions in costs, expenses, time, and stress.
Estate Costs & Your Legacy
Savings, both in costs and legacy, can be captured by making wise choices, such as forming trusts or drafting other estate planning documents like a will, power of attorney, or healthcare directives. We believe that by considering and taking care of some estate planning basics, then a person’s incapacity or postmortem probate can be reasonably managed and organized. It also allows individuals to protect themselves against a will contest or preserve money or business interests during incapacity.
The millions that potentially could be saved from one’s estate or legacy are the same dollars that possibly were never intended to go to a specific family member but did, simply because the individual died without a will. Other times, the decedent’s estate that could’ve escaped probate litigation if a trust was properly set up and kept confidential from the probate-litigating family member.
If an estate has property in two or more states and requires probate to be filed in two or more states, then organizing into a trust-based estate plan can avoid probate in either state. This will save thousands in costs and years in probate time – as the assets and properties of a trust are immediately available for beneficiaries without the need for probate.
What Are Your Estate Planning Goals?
The point of estate planning is to exert control over your estate and to whom it would go and how after you die or if you would ever become incapacitated. With this primary objective in mind, estate planning is about who controls your financial and healthcare decisions when you are alive and cannot make those decisions.
In fact, just by establishing power of attorney and health care directives for a few hundred dollars, you can end up saving thousands of dollars in possible future guardianship and conservatorship probate court proceedings. Here are some estate planning tools that can help achieve our goals.
Guardianships & Conservatorships
Guardianships and conservatorships are litigated in the probate courts and are needed when a person becomes (suddenly) incapacitated and no one has authority to make financial or health care decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person.
Power of Attorney & Advance Directive for Health Care
Getting a power of attorney is like getting insurance to prevent a future conservatorship. Getting an Advance Directive for Health Care is like getting insurance to prevent a future guardianship.
Wills & Trusts
Establishing a will or a trust ensures the future decedent that assets like money, real estate, investments, and other valuable possessions will:
- Be gifted and specifically divided among specifically named family, friends, or charities.
- Be subject to specific conditions given in the will or trust document.
- Not be distributed to “disinherited” family members.
Getting a will or a trust addresses the actuality of death, whereas getting a power of attorney or health care directives deals with the possibility of incapacity. Whereas death is certain, incapacity is not. However, you should still take the time to carefully plan for both.
Are Trusts Good and Probate Bad?
When Attorney Robert S. Meyring gave the last lesson of his course, he asked the class, “Are trusts good and probate bad?” A lively discussion then ensued in which a few consensus points were made, such as:
- Trusts are generally known to be “good” and are known to be able to avoid probate. But it is difficult to get good information or become knowledgeable about trusts without being over-marketed. Trusts can be confusing.
- Probate is generally known as “bad” and marketed as such on the internet if you try to search for information about it. But there is confusion and lack of knowledge about how the probate process works, which can result in very frustrating interactions between surviving families and the probate court. This is especially true when there is a dispute, will contest, or drawn-out probate of an estate.
The main “takeaway” from this discussion is that trusts are only as good and probate is only as bad as your interaction with it. The more you plan, the less you have to worry about probate and can feel confident in the legacy you leave for your loved ones.