If you have worked hard over the years and amassed a sizeable estate, you will want to make sure you have a definite plan for passing it on to your heirs. If you don’t have a will, your estate will run the real risk of going through costly and time-consuming litigation, and whatever does end up going to your heirs may not be nearly as much as you had hoped. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re putting together an estate plan.
Make sure that you actually have a will
Some people think that writing a note regarding how they want their assets to be divided is the same thing as having a will. Depending on the laws of your state, this may not be enough to make sure that the way you want your estate to be handled is how it is actually distributed. If you die without a will (known as dying “intestate”) then your estate will be divided according to some standardized rules in your state.
So get a will. They are not overly expensive: you can usually get an attorney to make a simple will for around $300. When you consider what’s at stake, that really is a small amount to pay to make sure things go smoothly after you’re gone.
Consider using a trust to avoid probate
After you die, if you have an estate, it will usually go through a process called probate. This is a process where the court ensures that your estate is divided according to your wishes.
If you wish, you can avoid probate—and the associated costs and delays—by setting up an entity called a trust. There are different kinds of trusts, but some kinds will allow you to retain control over your assets while you live, but will, immediately upon your death, transfer everything to your heirs without the need of going through probate.
Besides the cost and delay of probate, there is another reason to consider using a trust: privacy. When an estate goes through probate, this is essentially a court proceeding, meaning that it is open to the public. That means everyone will know who gets what. On the other hand, if you use a trust, the specifics of your property division remain private.
Save yourself, and your heirs, some trouble
Nobody likes to think about the possibility of dying. However, it happens to everyone, and if it’s something that you have to do, it’s best to be as prepared as possible. Following these tips will help ensure that your estate is divided the way you want.