Careful and informed estate planning is beneficial for just about everyone because there are a number of ways you can go about things, and there is a lot at stake depending on the course of action you choose. Some people take the approach that there is no real need for any intricate planning because a will is a will. You state your wishes in writing and that is it, end of story. However, this perspective is a bit shortsighted because there is more to estate planning than drawing up a will, and you can save your heirs a lot of time and money if you consider the totality of your options.
If you leave behind a will as the only instrument of asset division after your death, the matter will have to go through probate. A probate court will examine the will and its contents, and a personal representative will have to take control of the legwork. This includes paying any outstanding debt, including taxes, and then setting about the task of distributing the assets in the manner stated in the will. If the estate was to be contested for any reason, the matter would be heard in probate court.
The two primary reasons why someone would want to avoid probate are the cost involved in the process, and the time that is takes to run its course. The estate is responsible for a fee to the probate court itself, and there will also be attorney fees, and personal representative fees in some instances. These costs can typically add up to at least between three and seven percent of the total value of the estate. Plus, the process of probate is time consuming, typically taking six to nine months and sometimes even longer in complicated cases.
The good news is that there are strategies that estate planning attorneys can implement to avoid probate in many instances. Revocable living trusts are one of them, and many people choose to go this route, but there other actions one can take to avid probate as well, such gift giving and joint ownership. If you are interested in setting up your estate to avoid probate, we would be glad to help. Simply give us a call at (904) 672-7600 to arrange for a free consultation.