The last will is the most common estate planning vehicle, and everyone knows what a will is intended to accomplish. However, when you are planning your estate you don’t have to use a last will. There are a number of different vehicles to transfer assets; and depending on the nature of your assets, the dynamics of your family, and the specific details of your wishes, a last will may not be the best option for you.
One reason a lot of people look for alternatives to a last will is because your estate must go through the probate process when you rely on a last will. Probate is the period of time during which the probate or surrogate court determines the validity of the will and supervises the process of estate administration.
During this time disgruntled parties could step forward and challenge your wishes. This in itself is one reason why some people choose to avoid probate. They know that some interested parties may not be happy with their decisions and they don’t want to leave the door open to will challenges.
Another reason why people avoid probate is because it is potentially costly. By the time you add up court costs, attorney fees, accountant expenses, appraisal charges, and liquidation fees the overall value of your estate can be reduced by perhaps 5% or more.
And finally, it takes a significant amount of time for probate to run its course, and your family members will not receive what has been left to them until the probate court closes the estate.
To gain an understanding of how you should proceed given the realities of probate, you need to be apprised of all of your options. This is why it is a good idea to retain the services of an estate planning attorney when you are evaluating your legacy.