Things To Do Now To Avoid Disputed Estates Later On
When thinking about what will happen when we are gone, the last thing we can imagine is our loved ones, friends or family, fighting with each other over who will get what. The idea of one family member getting a lawyer, and all of them spending thousands of dollars to fight over what you left, didn’t leave, or meant to leave to them, is something we all want to avoid at all costs.
There are things you can do now, to eliminate or at least minimize the possibility of fighting over your estate later on. The key is to start now.
Early Transfers to Trusts
Making transfers of property early, while you are still around, and mentally competent enough to do so meaningfully, can be a great way to avoid family and friends fighting over your things when you are gone.
Transfers into trusts can be a great way to avoid problems because assets transferred into a trust don’t go through the court probate process—they’ve already been transferred long before you passed. Additionally, you are around to announce to people what they will and will not get from the trust, and thus, you are around to quell, explain, or diffuse any contentious situation between beneficiaries.
Trusts can also have asset protection benefits and tax benefits.
Bank and Retirement Accounts
Sometimes, money in bank accounts can get around having to be probated in court by using what is known as a payable on death account. You can also use payable on death accounts to distribute stocks, mutual funds, or other intangible assets.
The bank or financial institution will have you fill out a form. In many cases, the payable on death account will take precedence over anything in your will—although it is still always a good idea to make sure that your payable on death account, and your estate documents are in line, without any conflict.
You can designate beneficiaries for most kinds of retirement accounts, which can keep the proceeds of these accounts from having to be probated. Usually, the proceeds of any retirement accounts have to go to an actual person to avoid probate—they can’t be left to your estate, generally.
If you have a spouse but no children, your spouse will automatically inherit everything, which can avoid conflicts, and probate—if that’s what you want. If you have a spouse and children, things get a bit more complex, because a court will have to determine which property you own jointly as community property with your wife or husband, which will automatically be inherited by your spouse. Non-community property will be inherited by your surviving children.
Good communication can go a long way. Simply speaking to beneficiaries, and letting them know now what they are or are not getting, can go a long way to avoiding disputes later on. If there is a problem that you want to correct, early communication can ensure that you can make those changes while you are still mentally capable of doing so.
Call the Torrance estate planning attorneys at Samuel Ford Law today to help manage your estate the right way, and avoid problems later on.