If you have yet to create a comprehensive estate plan you are not alone. Despite understanding the importance of estate planning, surveys show that over half of all Americans do not have an estate plan. When you do finally create your estate plan you will likely include a number of goals in your plan. One of those goals should be probate avoidance. To understand why probate avoidance should be included in your estate plan you first need a basic understanding of the probate process.
When you die your estate will need to go through the legal process known as probate. In Wisconsin, if your assets are more than $50,000 you estate is exposed to probate.
The primary purpose of probate is to ensure that your creditors are paid and that your assets are transferred to those that are legally entitled to receive your assets. Creditors have the legal right to file a claim against your estate in probate.
The probate process begins shortly after your death. The executor of your estate, known as your Personal Representative in Wisconsin, must file the necessary documents, including the original copy of your Last Will and Testament, with the appropriate court to begin the process. After that, your executor must locate, inventory and value all estate assets. Everything you own at the time of your death, or have an ownership interest in, typically becomes part of your estate for the purpose of probate. Next, creditors must be notified via publications and/or personal notification. Creditor claims are then reviewed by your executor and paid if approved. In some cases, estate assets must be sold to pay creditor claims if sufficient liquid assets are not available. If a challenge to your Will is filed, that must also be handled through litigation during probate.
Once all claims have been addressed and any litigation completed, your executor must prepare, file, and pay estate and income taxes on the estate if any are due. Finally, your beneficiaries will receive the inheritance you left them in your Will at the end of the probate process.
This process can take months, even years, to complete which is one reason why probate avoidance is such a popular estate planning goal. The fact that a lengthy probate also incurs significant costs is another reason. When you create your estate plan, be sure to ask your estate planning attorney about including probate avoidance strategies in your plan. Not only will you save money for your loved ones, but you will also leave them a gift of convenience saving them from the lengthy and very complicated court process known as probate. Krueger Hernandez & Thompson SC offers free consultations for your estate planning needs. To find out more information or to schedule an appointment visit our website at KH-LAW.NET.