Estate Planning and Probate Tips

Sat, Mar 26, 2016

Estate Planning, Guardianship, Probate

6137322675_45653e724f_bYou can’t take it with you. So you have to be sure what you leave behind is well organized, realizes its potential, and distributed as you wish.

The best way to accomplish this is through good estate planning and a good will. The biggest probate tip is to avoid it as much as possible! You can do a lot to lessen the time and expense of probate and create a smoother process.

The most qualified person to help with this is an estate planning attorney who deals with probate issues. They can help you organize your assets in a way that lessens probate and make a smooth distribution to others upon your death. They can help you figure out what you have and how you should handle its distribution. They can make clear instructions in your will and make the process smoother for your heirs.

In addition, talking about this issue when you are of sound mind and able to concentrate on these decisions makes so much more sense than waiting until you are sick or being hounded by your heirs about your arrangements. Planning puts you in control.

A popular way to avoid probate is to create a trust. Trusts are created so that real estate and other assets transfer almost seamlessly to other individual(s) when the time is right.  With a trust, your property can by-pass the time and expense of probate.

There are various ways to accomplish something like a trust, one example being a Ladybird deed. This type of deed is used in Florida and a few other states as a way for property to pass more smoothly to heirs, but allows more freedom than a traditional life estate. It is another way you can try to avoid Medicaid taking a home prior to qualification for payment of long-term nursing care.

Another way to do avoid probate is to have proper life insurance, retirement and investment account arrangements that pass directly to the beneficiary without having to be examined by the court.

However, estate planning is not all about dying. It can also help you create financial arrangements for end of life decisions like long-term care, power of attorney, health care surrogates, and guardianship decisions. Making these decisions now can be a good way to make them the way you want, instead of being made by a judge in the event you are incapacitated.

As the name implies, power of attorney (POA) allows the POA to make financial decisions for someone else if the circumstances are right. Health care surrogates are similar, but only for medical decisions. These are two decisions that don’t need to be made only at the end of your life but can be helpful throughout your life…because these people can make decisions on your behalf when you cannot. As you know, sometimes accidents happen when you least expect it, so at least you would have a plan in place.

Guardianship comes into play when you have reached the point when you lack capacity to make decisions on your own, and may be ripe for exploitation or unable to care properly for yourself. Not only for the elderly, guardianship  can also be established for others who are deemed incapable to make decisions. Nevertheless, guardianship decisions often come up at the end of life, when a parent is in need of good advice and help to run their life. A guardian does not have to be a family member… it can be an attorney, a financial institution or a professional guardian. Each party involved in a guardianship must have legal representation.

Overall, it is never too early to start making decisions that will help your heirs and loved ones. As soon as you have some assets and people who depend on you, consider making decisions that will benefit them when you are gone or unable to care for yourself. They’ll thank you. Make sure you research your decisions carefully. More information can be found on our website, SmithLaw.

Attorney Christopher D. Smith, Sr. is designated a Board Certified Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyer by the American Board of Certification.  SmithLaw is located in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.  Attorney Smith concentrates on bankruptcy, civil litigation, probate, family law, estate planning, real estate, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area.  Call 941-202-2222 to learn more.  SmithLaw offers free consultations in certain areas, including consumer bankruptcy, probate, and personal injury matters.

Image: Some rights reserved by JBrazito

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