Your last will and testament is a key component of estate planning. It determines how your property is distributed after you die. However, after the assets detailed in your will have gone through probate and are distributed, what happens to those assets that don’t go through probate? Estate planning covers everything from the probate process to providing clear instructions on what to do in special circumstances. Learn how these together are indications that you need more than a will for estate planning.
Understanding the Probate Process
The probate administration process begins with appointing an executor. If there is no executor, the probate court will appoint a representative to file the decedent’s property. The probate court will then ensure outstanding debts are paid, and the assets are distributed according to the decedent’s will. However, there are steps you can take to ensure your assets – even those that don’t pass through probate – reach your love ones.
Create a Living Trust
A living trust is a document you create with a lawyer. By creating a living trust, you can avoid probate altogether. This is an alternative to a will in that you assign a trust to manage your assets and property. This trust becomes the legal owner of your assets in the event of your passing and will transfer ownership to your beneficiaries without the need for probate.
Appoint a Durable Power of Attorney
If you are ever incapacitated, entrust a durable power of attorney to avoid having your finances and medical decision-making handed over to a court-appointed guardian or conservator. To protect your loved ones from an unnecessary conservatorship proceeding, it is important to have a power of attorney in place.
Designate a Health Care Proxy
A health care proxy is a document detailing the types of treatment you are willing to accept if you become too incapacitated to make your own decisions. By appointing a healthcare agent, you are entrusting the agent to:
- Authorize medical procedures.
- Apply for Medicare, Medicaid, or other programs.
- Request or decline life-support treatments.
- Take legal action to advocate for health care rights and wishes.
To make your death as uncomplicated as possible for your loved ones, it’s important to have more than a will for estate planning. Be sure to take steps to create a will that can pass through probate and perform measures to ensure your wishes are met. If you would like to discuss wills, trusts, powers of attorney, or health care proxies with a caring professional, contact me at Paula Smith Law Office today.