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The Dirty Word of Estate Planning



In the minds of many people, the word probate is kind of a “dirty word,” because it means a lot of unnecessary time, money and frustration.


What exactly is probate? Probate is a court-supervised process of validating someone’s Will and distributing property as the Will directs. In simple terms, probate requires the legal system to oversee the handling of your estate. It is a long process, it can be a costly process and it is a public process.


For all these reasons, we encourage people to create an estate plan that is designed to avoid probate.


The best way, according to Attorney David Streese, is to create a trust-based estate plan. This ensures your possessions are handled according to your wishes, and it keeps your matters private and settles your estate with minimal costs.


Another option is to name beneficiaries and use TOD (transfer on death) and POD (payable on death) designations. Naming your heirs in this way also avoids probate, but there can be some related concerns to note.


A third option is an effective use of Marital Property Agreements. This, again, can have limitations, but it a method to address the perils of probate.


Having a Will is a good thing, but understand that a Will does not allow you to avoid probate. In fact, probate is related directly to your Will.


Some might then conclude that not having a Will is a good thing because it also avoids probate. That is absolutely not true. If you don’t have your own Will, the State will determine the way your assets are handled and then the courts will oversee the process. In effect, this is a “double whammy” from the government so this is the worst possible option for people to consider.


In summary, your best option to avoid the unpleasant process of probate is to create a plan that is customized for you. Contact Paul Snamiska (paul.snamiska@kmlhs.org) to learn more and take your first steps toward a plan that will save you and your loved ones a lot of time, money and frustration.


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