Justin, My daughter keeps telling me that I need to see an attorney to make sure my “affairs are in order” and I’m getting sick of it. Several years ago I signed a last will and testament. Shouldn’t that be enough to get her off my back? – Paula
Paula, it is far better to have a will than to not have a will. A will is your opportunity to leave instructions on how you want the court to handle your probate process. Those who die without a will leave no instructions, leaving their families and the probate judge with nothing more than general probate statutes to guide them. In many cases, general probate statutes do not match up with how a person would really want his or her estate to be managed.
But don’t miss what I said—a will is a set of instructions to the probate court. A will does not keep you out of probate court. I don’t want to upset you, but I’m with your daughter on this one. Just having a will does not mean your “affairs are in order.” You must do more to ensure your estate does not go to probate court when you die.
Depending on the types of assets you own, the steps to avoid probate can vary. The way in which you should handle your checking account, your IRA, your home, and your vehicles are all different. With most clients, I recommend a trust as a superior replacement for a will. You don’t need a lot of assets to benefit from using a trust, and the process doesn’t have to be complicated.
Want more? In chapter two of my book, You Need A Plan, I discuss in detail several different ways to avoid probate court, including the use of trusts. Order your free copy at yourplanmatters.com. And as always, a no-charge strategy session with one of our attorneys is just a phone call away.