“Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.” – Maya Angelou
As estate planning attorneys, our job is not to simply plan for best case scenario, but to include provisions in your plan for what will happen in the worst case scenario. Most of our clients decide to use a trust, which avoids probate (the court process for administering your estate), designates who will manage your assets when you’re gone, and directs where your property will go.
People sometimes ask, “Why would I want to spend the time and money to set up a trust when there are ways to avoid probate for free?” It is true there are several ways to avoid probate. You can make outright distributions of your property now. You can put co-owners on your assets. You can put death beneficiaries on your assets. With all of these options, in the best case scenario, your assets may pass exactly as you hoped.
Best case scenario, you will retain full mental capacity until you die. You will always be able to understand your finances and take care of your own affairs. You will live in your home with no assistance until you die. All of your children outlive you. Your children never go through a bankruptcy, divorce, or other legal problem. None of your children become disabled and need government assistance. When you die, all of your children get along and agree on what should be done, and they distribute everything the way you always told them to.
Life, however, is rarely perfect. People become incapacitated. People need nursing home care. Children predecease parents. Parents die when their kids are still young. Children have legal problems. Children waste their inheritance. Surviving family members don’t get along.
Fortunately, with a carefully drafted estate plan, you can save a lot of time, unnecessary expense, and family fighting by having provisions that prepare for the best, the worst, and anything in between.