When people think about reasons why they should have an estate plan, they often think of protecting their assets and documenting their wishes. However, having an estate plan also plays an important role for loved ones. In fact, without an estate plan, many aspects of a person's death can become much harder than they need to be.
One element in particular that benefits from an estate plan is the probate process. When there is a plan in place, probate can be much easier for loved ones in at least a few different ways.
- Probate will typically go faster. During probate, the courts and personal representative must accomplish numerous tasks, from verifying a will to distributing assets. An estate plan serves as a map or guide that can make this process go more quickly. And if a person utilized planning solutions like a trust, it could be possible to avoid probate altogether.
- It can be less contentious. Loved ones who do not have an estate plan or will to refer to can be at odds with each other over what a decedent might have wanted. While the courts will comply with state probate laws to make these determinations when there is no plan in place, the solutions may not sit well with loved ones who can wind up challenging court decisions and fighting amongst each other.
- It can be less expensive. An estate plan should provide detailed information, clarity and direction. This can leave fewer questions about a person's assets and fewer legal challenges over the administration of an estate, making the process potentially less expensive. When someone leaves a comprehensive estate plan, there can be fewer legal fees, representative fees and other expenses, such as hiring an appraiser.
Creating an estate plan is just as much for the benefit of your loved ones as it can be for you, so it is important to think carefully before deciding you don't need one or putting it off for another time.
Taking the time now to make some critical decisions about your property, your family and your wishes can allow everyone to breathe a little easier now and well into the future.