At Sheryll Law, P.C., we are passionate about assisting our clients so they can feel as comfortable and at ease during the law process. We pride ourselves on our experienced and cannot overstate the importance to plan for the future and be prepared for potential life-changing events. Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone drafts a will. Before the beneficiaries (people) named in the will can receive anything the court has to probate to make sure it’s legitimate. There are significant steps one needs to take before getting to the probate portion of the end of life planning.
The steps go as follows:
- Check Your Inventory
In order to formulate a will, making a list of everything you own, including property will make it easy on you when deciding what to do with everything and who you want your beneficiaries to be. It’s important to emphasize what things you want to go to certain people. Your inventory should also include all of your non-tangible items. These are things you own on paper such as bank accounts, IRA assets, 401k plans, life/auto/home insurance, and more. Something to keep in mind when choosing beneficiaries is if you are married, it’s recommended that you and your spouse have separate wills and clear plans for surviving spouse. Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging during that person’s life for the management/disposal of that person’s estate. In simpler terms, it is decided where the personal assets will go after taxes, probate fees, and other expenses. This ties in with estate planning because while going through your inventory, you’re going to have to make those kinds of decisions.
- Compile A List Of Debts
When you’re leaving, it’s immensely important for your beneficiaries, family, and friends to know what you are leaving behind and this includes debts. The debt you may be leaving behind is open credit cards, loans, mortgages, medical bills, etc. If debts are handled through accounts, writing down to the account number, locations of specific payment agreements and the company’s information will make it easier for everyone around you. When handling with debts and finances, it is best to simplify them. If you have more than one
401k plan or retirement plans with past employees, it may be beneficial to compile one IRA. This will result in fewer documents to manage and hold onto.
- Formulate Memberships List
Along with your physical/non-physical assets and debts, you should write a list of withstanding memberships and organization you are apart of. Often times some organizations such as AARP, the professional accreditation association, college alumni groups have accidental life insurance benefits. In addition to this list, include any charity you support and want to continue supporting.
- Assign ‘Transfer on Death’ Designations
Probate is when your assets are distributed by the court, transfer to death (TOD) designations allows your beneficiaries to record your assets without having to go through the probate process. Many accounts such as brokerage accounts are unnecessarily probated however individual retirement plans and 401k are TOD.
- Draft A Will
Once these necessary steps have been taken and various lists created, drafting a will is next. A will is the ‘rulebook’ for the distribution of your assets. Most attorneys can help you formulate a draft if that is something you feel comfortable doing. Your estate administrator or executor will be in charge of administering you will so it is vital that this individual is someone whom you feel is responsible and trustworthy. We offer free consultations so don’t be afraid to reach out to us and ask any questions you may have regarding this topic. For more information, book an appointment.
- Visit An Estate Attorney
You may need long-term care insurance or need to protect your estate from a tax bill. Having an estate attorney accessible to you for reasonings such as these or more will be of great benefit and eliminate added worrying.
- Review Your Documents Over Time
As we recommend planning ahead as much as possible that can also come with some downfalls. It is likely that your life may alter in a way such as childbirth, marriage or divorce, new property, updating your documents on a yearly basis is a great way to make sure everything is still organized and fresh. Another important rule of thumb, when headed towards the probate process, is to many at least three copies of your will/lists and make sure to date and sign them. The originally should be given to your estate administrator, a second copy given to your spouse (if married) and then the third copy should be kept in a safe place. It is important to know that although you may have multiple copies of your will, the only one that is signed is considered eligible to file for probate. End of life planning can be a difficult topic to discuss, however leaving loved ones with clear and concise documents makes the process less worrisome for everyone involved. Our goal is to take care of your needs as best as we can For questions or concerns regarding probate or estate planning, visit our website at https://www.sheryll-law.com/.