If you are relatively young and in great health, then making plans for what will happen to your estate after you die one day may be the last thing on your mind. However, now is actually the perfect time to make arrangements, because if a sudden illness were to strike, your mental clarity may become compromised and lead to you having to delegate your estate planning to a legal power of attorney who may or may not make choices that you would have if you had created your own will.
Also, if you were to die suddenly and intestate, which means without a legal last will and testament, your assets would be divided among your heirs with a process called intestate succession. This division of your estate only keeps the law in mind and not your personal relationships with your heirs, which could lead to your assets going to the wrong family members.
Estate planning takes many steps, so read on to learn four tips for planning division of your estate now, so your heirs can deal with as little legal stress as possible after your death while they are mourning.
1. Choose a Personal Representative or Executor Wisely
One of the biggest decisions you will make when preparing a last will and testament is who you will name your personal representative, often called the will's executor. This person should be someone you trust, is intelligent,and in the event that you forget to name an heir of a specific asset in your will (such as a purchase you make late in life and forget to add to your will), will use judgement similar to yours when choosing who the asset will go to.
There are state laws that dictate who cannot serve as the personal representative of a will, so you should look into those closely before naming your personal representative. Some states do not allow convicted felons to serve as personal representatives and others only allow relatives of the deceased to serve as representatives.
Choosing a personal representative who your heirs trust will help when your assets are distributed, as well. If, after your death, your other heirs do not feel that you chose the right personal representative, they can contest the representative in court, and this can lead to a long court trial that would be very stressful for everyone involved.
Your personal representative will be responsible for paying off any existing debts you have before probate, hiring a good probate attorney to get the probate process started, and immediately distributing any assets you have that are not subject to the probate process. They will also need to file your final tax returns, although of course, they will need the help of a good CPA to file them.
2. Recommend a Good Probate Attorney to Your Personal Representative Now
As you can imagine, your personal representative will have a lot of responsibility after your death when they will also be in the midst of mourning. This makes it important to make as many decisions as you can now about what will happen after your death to help ease their burden of responsibilities. That makes it a good idea to find a good probate attorney now, so your personal representative will have more info on your preferences after your death.
The probate process is lengthy and filled with legal proceedings, and an experienced probate attorney knows how and when to file all necessary documents with the courts to help speed up the process and help your family get through it without any hassles.
Your personal representative's probate attorney will lead them through the probate process from start to finish, so your loved one can feel confident that your last will and testament is followed precisely. Directly after your death, the probate attorney will determine which of your assets are subject to probate and which are not. Next, they will obtain appraisals of your property, and then promptly file all court papers needed to get the probate process started.
Once probate is in action, the attorney will help your personal representative ensure that any taxes owed on your estate and any debt you have are both paid before your assets are distributed and then help your representative fulfill all of their remaining duties in confidence.
If you are young and healthy, then now is the perfect time to begin preparing to make life easier for your heirs after your death. Along with completing a last will and testament which, of course, can be modified as you earn or purchase more assets, choose your personal representative wisely and find a good probate attorney to help lead them every step of the way through the probate process.