Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen, P.A. - Elder Law

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The importance of avoiding probate when estate planning

It should come as no surprise to citizens of California that planning one’s estate is a very delicate matter, one where a single mistake can spell complications and heartache for all members involved. For instance, solely relying on a will to pass one’s properties can cause two kinds of problems: On the one hand, without the use of a power of attorney, it is never certain who will end up in control of a person’s assets in the event that said person suffers a debilitating accident. On the other hand, some assets such as annuities and retirement accounts are inherited outside the will.

Another common mistake that people are liable to fall into is failing to avoid the probate process when possible. Simply put, the probate process is how wills are verified to be authentic in public court. Besides being costly and time consuming, the entire process is convoluted and can cause beneficiaries to worry about the timeliness of receiving their inheritance as well as the portion of the inheritance they are entitled to. This is not to mention how having different assets in different states can subject each asset to different probate laws.

Fortunately, there are several ways to lessen the burdens that come with the probate process. First of all, the same assets that bypass a will when being transferred don’t have to go through the probate process. Therefore, retirement accounts, annuities, life insurance and jointly owned property can all be inherited without any hassle. Another way of avoiding the probate process is through the use of trusts, especially revocable ones.

Nevertheless, the probate process isn’t always a bad thing: Some states have modern probate processes that expedite the whole process, and the publicity that comes with probate may be advantageous in some cases. Anyone intending to plan their estate may wish to reach out to an estate planning lawyer for help tailoring solutions to suit their needs. Some individuals have unique situations that require special care, such as having more than one family or being part of an unmarried couple.