Avoiding Legal Trouble

Consider These Big Issues That Make Up A Comprehensive Estate Plan

You know you need to make a last will and testament, but an estate plan goes so much further. While the below list is not comprehensive, it may trigger you to call an estate lawyer and find out more.

1. Avoiding Probate — What if you could make things easier for your loved ones and address some estate needs at the same time? Ask your estate lawyer about using these probate avoidance moves:

  • Use a special deed: Real estate can be passed directly to anyone sharing the deed. When one party passes away, the home goes to the remaining named persons. There is no need for real estate to be probated.
  • Use a special account identifier: Bank and investment accounts can also pass seamlessly to named individuals by completing a bank form. Known either as a payable-on-death or transfer-on-death directive, the money in a designated account bypasses probate.

2. Addressing Pets — You might want to think twice about naming your pets as beneficiaries to your estate. Animals cannot legally inherit property. However, you can leave the pet to a person you trust and leave funds to that person for the pet's care. You might also consider a pet trust, which sets up arrangements for the ongoing care of your fur baby after your death.

3. What About a Trust? — Just as special deeds and account designations help loved ones avoid probate, so do trusts. Trusts can take the place of a will and are very similar but for several big exceptions:

  • Any property mentioned in a trust can be left out of probate.
  • Beneficiaries can take ownership of their inheritances right away whereas probate can take several months.
  • Trusts are private. Even the other beneficiaries don't necessarily know what other beneficiaries are inheriting.

4. Disability and Incapacity — It's not just about what happens after a death. A good estate plan can also cover issues that leave people incapacitated. For example, you may want to include these provisions in with your estate plan:

  • A living will.
  • Powers of attorney.
  • Long-term care plans.

5. Updating Your Plan — No matter how perfect your estate plan may be, it will need updating every few years or sooner if any of the following apply to your situation:

  • Tax changes by the IRS.
  • Marriage, divorce, deaths, births, and adoptions.
  • Changes in investment plans.
  • Changes in your bequests.
  • Businesses being sold, started, or partnership changes.
  • The buying and selling of real estate.

Talk to an estate planning lawyer about the above issues and many more. The plans you make now will only make things easier after your passing.