Comprehensive estate planning and probate attorneys
We guide clients in developing a detailed estate planning strategy and guide them through the probate legal process to protect their assets and leave behind a legacy.
We work our entire lives to accumulate all our assets and belongings, and we want them to be protected and to pass on according to our own wishes when we die. But we usually don’t want to think about the inevitability of our own death, and we probably don’t want to plan for it either. However, proper planning is essential to ensuring you keep control upon your death and your wishes are carried out. Proper estate planning requires an individual analysis of each client’s needs and wishes to develop a customized estate planning strategy.
What is Estate Planning?
Whether you know it or not, you have an estate, everyone does. An estate is the compilation of everything you own – checking and savings accounts, insurance, furniture, clothing, your home or car, and personal belongings – everything you own will become a part of your estate upon your death. Estate planning is simply establishing a plan now for whom you want to receive those belongs, and how and when you want your assets to be distributed upon death. But the simplicity of estate planning ends with its definition.
A Comprehensive Estate Also Includes:
- A living will with hospital instructions such as resuscitation orders.
- Funeral arrangements in advance, and provide a means to paying for such arrangements in advance.
- Minimized tax implications, court fees and costs, and any other unnecessary legal fees associated with the probate process – so your heirs receive as much as possible.
- Disability income insurance to protect your income and continue to provide for your family if you become seriously ill, injured, or disabled prior to your death, long term care insurance to pay for your cost of care if you experience an extended illness, injury, or need to be placed in a nursing home, and life insurance to cover final expenses and continue to provide for your family beyond your death.
- Instructions for how you would like to be cared for if you become disabled or incapacitated prior to your death.
- The name of a guardian for your minor children or provide for family members with special needs.
- Established protections to provide for heirs who may be financially irresponsible and require future protection and assistance in financial management and decision making.
- Guided instructions for how you want to pass along your personal values, such as religion and education, on to your heirs.
- Instructions for who your interest in business ownerships should be passed to and how upon your death.
Proper estate planning is an important step for everyone to take to protect their assets and best interests of their family and loved ones, and once established should be continually reviewed to ensure the plan is accurately reflecting your current wishes.
A will should be the primary building block at the foundation of every estate plan. Your will is a written legal document that is used to name an personal representative for your estate (the person who will be responsible for ensuring your wishes listed in your will are carried out), establish a guardian for any minor children, and determine what specific property and assets will be distributed to your heirs upon your passing. In a will your heirs do not have to be direct relatives, you can use a will to establish how property and assets will be divided among family, friends, and even charitable organizations that you want the assets to pass along to. While a will is the foundation of your estate plan, there may be other documents you need to include as part of your estate plan because a will does not avoid the probate process.
A trust is a tool that can be used to distribute assets during a person’s life, or at their death, instead of a will. Revocable living trusts are a popular method used for transferring assets to beneficiaries outside of the probate process. A revocable living trust can prevent the court from controlling your assets, bring all of your assets together into one plan (even ones with beneficiary designations), provide privacy a will does not, is valid in every state and can avoid ancillary probate (when there is probate in more than one state), and can be changed by the creator at any time. Generally, trusts are also more difficult to challenge than a will is, however a trust can still be challenged by trustees, beneficiaries, and other parties, so it is important to ensure the trust is properly written to prevent issues such as probate and challenges. The creator of a trust will name trustees who will be responsible for managing the trust and all assets controlled by it through the instructions you designate in the creation of the trust. A trust can be used to provide long-term care for a heir with special needs or to protect financial assets from creditors and spouses of irresponsible heirs.
Many comprehensive estate plans have a need to include guardianship plans within them. Guardianship is used to establish a person who will be responsible for making personal, legal, and financial decisions if a parent of a minor child dies or the person establishing guardianship becomes otherwise physically or mentally incapacitated and incapable of making decisions for themselves. There are many reasons establishing guardianship may be essential to completing your estate planning strategy.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process in which a person’s debts and taxes are paid, and their property and assets are transferred upon their death. If the decedent had a will when they died, probate is the legal process of the court administering the decedent’s property, assets, and wishes according to their will. If a will is not in existence when they died, probate is the legal process of the court administering the decedent’s property and assets according to the intestate succession laws of their state. Proper estate planning designed to avoid complications with probate are generally established in one of two ways – with a will or a trust. There are different types of probate, and our attorneys are experienced in handling:
- Formal Administration – in a formal administration a full petition is filed along with a formal “notice to creditors”, there are generally no shortcuts involved in the process, and the entire process can take quite some time to finish and allow the assets to be inventoried and distributed by the final court order.
- Summary Administration – a summary administration can be used in cases with assets totaling less than $75,000 in the estate, and typically takes less time and is less expensive to file and complete than a formal administration.
The basic probate process includes collecting all the decedent’s property and assets into the estate, paying all debts and taxes owed by the estate, collecting all rights to income and dividends, settling any disputes or challenges, and distributing the remaining property and assets to the decedent’s heirs.
Caring estate planning and probate attorneys provide clients with the individualized attention that a thorough and comprehensive estate plan requires.
The thorough estate planning and probate lawyers at The Law Office of Shamika T. Askew genuinely care for their clients and want to walk with them through every step of their estate planning and probate process. Whether you are looking to begin your estate planning process for the first time, review or change your current plan, or you need assistance with a current probate administration process, our estate planning and probate lawyers can help. It is our passion to help families through their most emotional legal challenges and aide them in finding the solution that is right for them. To schedule your free and confidential legal consultation with one of our skilled estate planning and probate attorneys to draft or revise your estate plan call us at 813-502-5520 or contact us online. We look forward to working with you soon.