Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ways to Make Probate Easier on Loved Ones

Probate pertains to a legal process which is necessary for authenticating and reconciling decedents' estates. In the U.S. there are two types of estate settlement proceedings. Testate is the process used when decedents' execute a last Will which is presented to the court upon death. Intestate is used when a person dies without leaving a Will.

Neither form of probate is enjoyable, but the process can be less difficult by participating in estate planning. The types of strategies needed depend upon personal circumstances. At bare minimum, every adult should prepare a last will and testament, durable power of attorney, and healthcare proxy.

Wills provide essential details about estate assets. They are also needed to designate an estate agent to take care of settlement proceedings, as well as set up legal guardianship for minors.

Power of attorney forms are needed to authorize a personal agent to perform tasks on your behalf. POA can be used for many reasons, but the most common are to manage personal finances or run business operations.

In essence, any act that requires photo identification and signature probably needs a power of attorney to give permission to another. This could include signing checks, using credit cards, buying or selling titled property, or entering into business contracts.

Healthcare proxy is very important as it provides directives regarding medical care if a person is unable to speak for their self. Also known as medical power of attorney, this document authorizes an agent to make decisions when a person is declared incompetent by a physician.

Not every estate has to endure the probate process. When estates qualify for state exemptions they can avoid the lengthy process as long as a valid Will is recorded through the court. Exemptions are provided when the estate's gross value meets state guidelines. Although these amounts vary by state, it is usually under $50,000.

One of the best ways to entirely avoid probate is by setting up a trust. Essentially, people transfer ownership of property to the trust and assign a Trustee to oversee their estate. Most often, Trustees are the person who sets up the trust. A successor Trustee is named to reconcile the estate upon death.

There are many types of trusts which offer different types of protection. Nearly all can be customized to suit the needs of each individual. A few of the more well-known include family trusts, children's trust funds, and revocable trusts. It's advisable to consult with a lawyer to ensure the right kind of trust is setup and that it is properly funded.

Anyone who has gone through the probate process will likely tell you it takes a substantial amount of time and can become quite expensive. Avoiding probate isn't difficult, but does require people to be proactive in putting together a complete estate planning portfolio.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/7487097

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