If you’re like most small business owners, you probably don’t have a lot of experience negotiating contracts. And that’s okay, most people don’t. Actually, the majority of people shy away from business contracts because they seem too complex. Therefore, it’s important to be careful when signing any agreement, no matter how minor it may seem.
That’s where having a lawyer look over your business contract comes in. With a little guidance, you can understand the basics of what you’re signing. If you’re starting a business, and you’re wondering if you need to hire a lawyer, below are a few telltale signs that’ll give you a hint. Just keep reading!
You’re Not Familiar With Legalese
If you’re starting a business, it’s important to have a lawyer look over your business contract. Though you may be familiar with the basics of business law, there may be clauses in the contract that you’re not familiar with. A lawyer can explain the implications of these clauses and help you negotiate more favorable terms if necessary.
Additionally, a lawyer can help you draft a business contract that will better protect your interests. Before signing any business contract, make sure to consult with a lawyer to ensure that you’re getting the best possible deal.
There’s a Lot of Money or Property at Stake in the Contract
If you’re entering into a contract where there’s a lot of money or property at stake, it’s vital to hire an attorney to review the contract before you sign it. Attorneys have the skills to identify legal mistakes in the contract and make sure that it’s fair for all parties involved. This is especially important for small businesses that may be at a disadvantage when negotiating with larger companies.
By hiring an attorney to review your contract, you can protect yourself from legal mistakes that could cost you dearly down the road.
You’re Entering Into a Partnership or LLC Agreement
When going into a partnership or LLC agreement, you must consult with an experienced business lawyer to ensure that the agreement is properly drafted and that your interests are represented. A well-drafted business contract sets forth the rights and obligations of each party. It can also help to prevent disputes later on.
Furthermore, an attorney can advise you on the tax implications of your business arrangement and ensure that your business complies with all applicable laws. By consulting with a business lawyer at the outset, you’ll protect your interests and avoid costly legal problems in the future.
You’re Starting a Business and Need to Draft Contracts for Services
When starting a small business, it’s essential to have clear and concise contracts for all of your products and services. Doing so helps to protect your interests and guarantees that both parties understand the terms of the agreement. When drafting contracts, include key details like the scope of work, payment terms, delivery schedules, and other relevant information.
It’s also important to make sure that both parties sign and date the contract. This provides a record of the agreement and helps to prevent future misunderstandings. Drafting a well-crafted contract provides smooth sailing for your new business.
You Want to Make Sure That the Other Party Is Held to Their Contractual Obligations
When two parties enter into a contract, they’re each obligated to uphold their end of the agreement. However, sometimes one party may breach the contract, or fail to live up to their obligations. If this happens, the other party may want to take legal action in order to enforce the terms of the contract.
However, before taking any legal action, consult with an experienced attorney. An attorney can help to assess the situation and identify legal mistakes that might have been made.
Additionally, an attorney can help to negotiate a resolution with the other party or represent you in court if necessary. By consulting with a lawyer early on, you can increase your chances of achieving a favorable outcome.
It Seems Too Good to Be True
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Get a lawyer to check out the contract before signing! A business contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties. Contracts can be oral or written, but it’s always best to get a lawyer to check out the contract before signing. This is because sometimes things that seem too good to be true probably are.
For example, an oral business contract may not be enforceable in court, or the terms of the contract may not be what you thought they were. If you are unsure about any contracts you are asked to sign, it is always best to consult with an experienced lawyer beforehand. This way, you can be sure that you are getting into a contract that is fair and legal.
Be Careful When Signing a Business Contract
As mentioned above, please make sure you fully understand the terms of a business contract before signing on the dotted line. Doing so could save you a lot of money, time, and hassle in the future.
At Rhodes Law Firm, our team of experienced attorneys can help you understand what you’re agreeing to and protect your interests if anything goes wrong. We have the skills and knowledge needed to back you up in any situation.
If you’d like to reach out, please contact us online or call us at one of our offices. We look forward to serving you soon!
Conditions and stipulations can be a great way to ensure your estate is properly handled after your passing. However, if you are too controlling or there are too strict stipulations, this could actually hinder your plans. So how do you find a good balance between conditions and controlling?
This Kiplinger article helps navigate this tricky area of estate planning. Often, people making their wills want to set ground rules for how their estate is used. Concerns may arise that your child, if left to their own devices, may deplete their trust fund too quickly. One way you can set boundaries without being too controlling is by utilizing the HEMS standard, allowing distributions to be made for health, education, maintenance, and support. This standard allows them to be supported in a practical way.
It’s important to keep flexibility in mind, since life is often unpredictable. Imposing strict standards, such as “distributions may be made to my child after they have their first child” don’t allow for any flexibility or unpredictability. Your child may face infertility issues, or choose to not have children for a host of reasons. This restriction may seem more like a punishment than a form of support.
If you need assistance with creating guidelines for your estate, Rhodes Law Firm can help! Give our team a call today.
It’s never a pleasant conversation. It’s often filled with dread as the finality of death looms. Children in particular despise having this conversation with their parents, but it’s one that must be had.
Think of estate planning this way. You get to leave a lasting legacy for your children and for generations to come. Estate planning services help you protect your assets and your family’s future. Here’s how they do it.
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is the process of organizing your finances and property in anticipation of death. It’s a way to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of after you’re gone. Planning for the distribution of your assets after your death is a vital part of responsible financial planning.
Estate planning services help you to create a plan that takes into account your circumstances and goals. One of the most important considerations in estate planning is the selection of an executor. They will be responsible for carrying out your wishes.
The executor should be someone you trust to follow your instructions and make decisions in the best interests of your beneficiaries.
Another key component of an effective estate plan is asset protection. This is the use of wills and trusts and other legal mechanisms to safeguard your assets from creditors. It also prevents others from making claims against them.
By working with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can ensure that your assets are protected and that your family legacy passes on to future generations.
What Is a Family Legacy?
There are many different ways to define a family legacy. A family legacy is any property, real or personal, that passes down from one generation to the next. This can include homes, businesses, artwork, heirlooms, and even debt.
A family legacy can also take the form of intangible things like traditions, values, and knowledge. In some cases, a family legacy may be positive, such as a valuable piece of property or a thriving business.
However, a family legacy can also be negative, such as a history of mental illness or substance abuse. No matter what form it takes, a family legacy is an important part of one’s identity and should be treated with care.
Is a Will Not Enough?
While a will is an important part of estate planning, it is not the only tool available. There are many circumstances in which a will may not be the best option. For example, if you hаve have young children, you may want to consider setting up a trust to provide for their care and education.
A trust can also manage assets for disabled family members or minimize taxes. An estate planning attorney can help you determine which tools are best for your situation.
If you have a complex financial situation, or if you want to provide for someone who is not a direct heir, a trust may be a better solution.
An irrevocable trust cannot change after its creation. This means that once the assets go into the trust, they cannot be removed. This can be helpful in asset protection and estate tax planning.
Benefits of Estate Planning
While estate planning may seem like something that only wealthy people need to worry about, it is important for everyone. For one, estate planning offers peace of mind. Knowing that your affairs are in order and that your loved ones will be taken care of according to your wishes can help you enjoy your life more fully.
If you have a clear estate plan in place, it can help to avoid family disputes and disagreements about how your assets should be divided.
A well-designed estate plan can help to minimize taxes and other expenses, which can save your loved ones some money.
An estate plan can also help to protect your assets from creditors and others who may try to take advantage of your death.
These are just a few of the benefits of estate planning. If you have not yet done so, it is never too late to start planning for the future. Protecting your children, your assets, and your family legacy is an important part of responsible adulthood.
A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA)
This is an important part of your estate plan. A DPOA is a document that appoints someone else to make decisions on your behalf. This is useful if you become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for yourself.
A DPOA can manage your financial affairs, including paying bills and making investments on your behalf. They can also make healthcare decisions, such as choosing what treatments you receive or authorizing someone to speak with your doctors on your behalf.
While a DPOA is generally revocable, meaning that you can cancel it at any time, it becomes irrevocable if you become incapacitated. As a result, it’s important to choose someone you trust to act as your agent. For married couples or people in a long-term relationship, this is usually the spouse or partner.
However, for divorced couples or those in a second marriage, this may not be the case. In these situations, it’s important to have a conversation about your wishes and designate someone who you want to make decisions for you.
For parents with minor children, a DPOA can also designate a guardian if something happens to both parents. This is an important step in planning for the worst and ensuring that your children will be taken care of if something happens to you. While no one likes to think about these things, it’s important to have a plan in place in case the worst should happen.
Estate Planning Services You Can Trust
Estate planning is more than just a means to ensure that the distribution of your assets is in accordance with your wishes after you die. Properly planned estates can also minimize estate taxes, protect your loved ones from probate, and provide for long-term care needs.
At Rhodes Law Firm, we work with you to create a comprehensive estate plan that will provide for your family’s future and help you achieve your estate planning goals. Contact us today for a consultation and enjoy estate planning services that offer peace of mind and a solid legacy for your family’s future.
Have you just lost a loved one, and you’re not sure what to do next? Filing for probate can be confusing and overwhelming. There are many steps involved, and it’s easy to make a mistake that can cost you time and money.
Hiring a probate lawyer is the best way to ensure that your case is handled correctly.
A good lawyer will guide you through the process, answer your questions, and help you with planning for/protecting your children and protecting your interests.
If you are looking to hire a probate lawyer, you may be wondering how much they will charge. Probate lawyers typically charge by the hour, with rates varying depending on experience and location.
Read on to find out more:
What Is a Probate Lawyer’s Hourly Rate?
When someone dies, it’s important to have a plan in place for what will happen to their belongings. This may include hiring a probate lawyer. Probate lawyers specialize in the legal process of dividing up a person’s assets after they die.
If you don’t have a will or other estate planning documents, the court will appoint a lawyer to handle your estate and they will charge you for their services.
A lawyer can save your loved ones time and headaches if you hire the lawyer. Probate can be complicated and time-consuming, but with a probate lawyer, it doesn’t have to be.
How Much Experience Does the Lawyer Have?
The cost of a probate lawyer depends on how experienced the lawyer is and how complex the estate is. Lawyers who are more experienced will charge more than those who are less experienced.
If an estate is large and complex, it will take longer to resolve, so the lawyer’s fees will be higher.
However, many lawyers offer free consultations, so you should speak with a few different ones to get an idea of what they would charge in your case.
Is the Estate Complex?
The cost of probate typically depends on how complex the estate is. If the estate is small and easy to deal with, the cost will be lower. If the estate is large and more complicated, the cost will be higher.
There may be other factors that contribute to the total cost of probate, such as how many beneficiaries there are and how much time it takes to complete the process.
It’s important to talk to a probate lawyer to get an idea of what the total cost might be for your specific situation.
Will There Be Any Contested Issues?
Lawyers usually charge by the hour. The rate can vary depending on how complex the estate is and if there are any contested issues. You can expect to pay $100 to $500 per hour.
If the estate is large and complex, or if there are significant disputes among the heirs, costs can be much higher. In some cases, lawyers may charge a flat fee for their services.
This is more common when the estate is relatively small and there are no significant disputes among the heirs. Lawyers may also charge a retainer, which is an upfront fee that covers initial expenses and hours of work.
How Long Will the Process Take?
The process of distributing an estate after someone dies can be complex and time-consuming. This process is called probate. Many people choose to hire a probate lawyer to help them with this process.
These lawyers typically charge by the hour, and their rates can range from $100 to $400 per hour. In some cases, they may also charge a flat fee.
The total cost of hiring a probate lawyer will depend on the complexity of the estate and how long it takes to settle it. However, most people can expect to pay several thousand dollars for probate services.
What Are the Expected Costs?
The cost of hiring a probate lawyer can vary depending on the size and complexity of the estate, as well as the state where the probate is taking place. However, it is usually between 1-4% of the value of the estate.
For example, if an estate is worth $100,000, then you can expect to pay around $1,000-$4,000 for a lawyer’s services. Keep in mind that this estimate may vary depending on specific factors.
What Are the Risks Involved in Probate?
When someone dies, their estate must go through the probate process to be distributed to their heirs. This can be a complex and time-consuming process, so many people choose to hire a probate lawyer to handle it for them.
Probate lawyers typically charge by the hour, and their fees can range from $100 to $500 per hour. In addition, there may be other costs associated with the probate process, such as filing fees, appraisal fees, and bond fees.
While these costs can add up, hiring a probate lawyer can help to ensure that the process goes smoothly and that your loved one’s estate is properly taken care of.
What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Probate Lawyer?
The death of a loved one is always difficult, but with a probate lawyer, you can have some help. Probate lawyers know all about the law and what needs to be done in the case of wills/trusts.
They can make sure everything is filed correctly and help in court. It may cost more money, but it can be worth it for the peace of mind you get.
How Can I Find a Reputable Probate Lawyer?
The cost of a probate lawyer can vary depending on the state you live in and how complex the estate is. However, most people will pay between $1,500 and $3,000 for a basic probate case.
If the estate is more complex, you may have to pay more. You can find a good probate lawyer by asking friends and family for recommendations, or by searching online.
Once you’ve found a few lawyers that you’re interested in, contact them, and be sure to ask about their experience and fees before making a decision and handing over durable power of attorney.
What Should I Expect During the Probate Process?
Making a will is important. It helps when someone dies. A person who dies wants things to go to the right people. This is called probate. The probate process can be hard, but with a lawyer, it will go more smoothly.
As you can see, the cost of hiring a probate lawyer varies depending on the experience and location of the lawyer. For more information about probate law and the costs associated with it, check out our blog for more articles like this.
It’s never too early to start thinking about your estate plan. When you’re in your 30s or even in your 20s, it can be wise to start planning for your future. After all, life is unpredictable and anything can happen at any time. It’s better to be prepared. This article explains several estate planning essentials every young adult should consider.
- Student Loans – While federal student loans discharge in the event of your death, if you took out a private loan or your parents co-signed with you, they could be on the hook for the loan in the event of your passing. If this is the case, you should consider buying insurance in the amount necessary to account for your debts. This should include your mortgage or any other outstanding loans you may have.
- Power of Attorney – Who will make decisions for you if you are medically or physically unable to? Assigning power of attorney can mitigate any unnecessary, additional stress for your loved ones during what would be an already difficult time. Look online for a template to set up a POA.
- Last Will and Testament – Life is unpredictable. If you passed away today, what would happen to your things? Without a will, a judge will decide that. Find an attorney who specializes in estate planning to help you create a solid last will and testament and name an executor.
- Retirement Accounts and Beneficiaries – while you may not have as many assets as older people quite yet, it’s important to name a beneficiary and keep these documents updated whenever you make a big life change. This includes getting married or divorced.
- Digital Assets – from cryptocurrency to social media accounts, list all of your digital assets and login information in a document with your estate attorney to help protect and preserve your accounts after your passing.
- Child Guardianship – It’s tough to think about, but critical to address. Help mitigate any additional pain or confusion by appointing a guardian in advance. If this isn’t done, the decision will be left up to a judge.
- Don’t forget about pets – Who will take care of your beloved pet when you pass away? Prevent more heartache by deciding this now. You can also create a pet trust to cover food costs and veterinary care.
In the United States, only 33% of people have a will or living trust. Many people that do not have a will or living trust say that they don’t have enough assets to leave behind. Even with very few assets, estate planning is an essential part of end-of-life planning.
If you want help with estate planning but don’t know where to start, finding an attorney that specializes in estate planning law can help! Because you are putting a lot of trust in their hands, you must find a reliable lawyer to work with.
Do you want to learn more about choosing an estate planning attorney that meets your needs? Keep reading this guide for the top factors you should consider when choosing an estate attorney.
How Long Has the Attorney Been Practicing?
Learning how long the attorney has been practicing is the first thing you must learn before hiring an attorney as your estate planner.
Make sure your attorney has several years of experience practicing in the areas of probate, wills and trusts, and estate planning law. This way, they will have the experience necessary to help you with your case and will be up-to-date on the current laws and regulations surrounding estate planning law.
Plus, attorneys that have been practicing for longer and have a great local reputation will be better equipped to handle your specific, unique needs for estate planning.
What Percent of the Practice Is Devoted to Estate Planning?
Next, you should ask your attorney how much of their practice is devoted to estate planning. There are many different types of specialization that an attorney can choose. Each of these specializations deals with different laws and requires different knowledge.
Because of this, you should find an attorney that specializes in estate planning. Make sure their primary focus is on estate planning and trust law in your state.
This way, you can feel confident in the legal advice that they give you and you can be sure that your estate planning will be done correctly. You will also be able to get help with any other end-of-life planning services, including durable power of attorney.
Is the Attorney Friendly and Easy to Talk To?
Because you will be spending so much time with your estate planning attorney, you should find an attorney that is friendly and easy to talk to. This way, you will be comfortable discussing any of your questions or concerns about your estate planning needs.
Plus, estate planning requires a lot of personal information. You should make sure your lawyer puts you at ease and that you feel comfortable discussing your personal information with them.
Often, attorneys will offer a free consultation for potential clients. You can use this as an opportunity to meet with your attorney and see if your personalities match well together.
How Much Will You Pay For Your Estate Plan?
Legal fees can be quite expensive, which is one reason why many people have not started estate planning yet. To make sure you find a reliable estate planning lawyer that fits your budget, you should learn how much your estate plan is going to cost.
An estate plan can range in price from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Some lawyers will charge a flat rate for estate planning services while others will charge their clients an hourly fee.
If your lawyer provides you with a pricing estimate, make sure you ask for a written fee agreement. This way, you will know exactly what services are included in the price of your estate planning services.
Do They Require a Retainer?
Not only do you need to learn more about the legal fees your lawyer will charge for your estate plan, but you should also learn whether or not they require a retainer.
A legal retainer is a type of compensation that some lawyers will use as a way for clients to reserve their employment for the future. If your lawyer requires a retainer for their services, you may end up paying more for your estate plan.
If you schedule a consultation with your attorney, make sure you ask them if they require a retainer.
Is the Attorney Understandable and Good at Communicating?
Finding an estate attorney that is easy to understand and good at communicating is essential, especially when it comes to end-of-life planning. Estate law can be quite confusing for the average person. If your lawyer uses too much legal jargon, you may not be fully aware of what they are doing to help you.
Because of this, you need to find a lawyer that will take the time to clearly explain each aspect of estate planning to you!
Your attorney should also be willing to answer any questions that you have without making you feel embarrassed.
Is the Attorney Interested and Knowledgeable About Your Situation?
Finally, you need to find an estate planning attorney that is knowledgeable and interested in your situation. Every person will have different needs when it comes to estate planning. Because of this, you need to find an attorney that is knowledgeable about all the different areas of estate plan law.
You should also be sure that they are interested in helping you. If your attorney truly cares about your situation, they will provide you with better services. For example, if you were divorced, you may want your lawyer to help you with estate planning for 2nd marriages and planning for and protecting your children.
Make sure your lawyer cares enough about your estate planning needs that they get to know more about you and your unique situation.
Need Help With Estate Planning Law?
When you are looking for an estate planner, you must find one with the knowledge and experience to help you with your unique situation. Following these tips can help you find a reliable attorney to help you make an estate plan.
If you need help understanding estate planning law, Rhodes Law Firm can help! We specialize in estate planning and can help you protect your loved ones and your assets after you pass away.
Contact us today to learn more about our estate planning services and to get a free consultation.
One common misconception surrounding estate planning is that it’s something to worry about once you get older. This could not be further from the truth. It’s never too early to set up your will, especially if you have any pets, children, or even just a bank account. This article makes some great points regarding the importance of creating a will or estate plan sooner rather than later.
So, what happens if you die without creating a will? State authorities will assume control of your assets and dependents and distribute them in accordance with your state’s laws. Do you share a home with a partner? Without a will, your partner most likely has no legal right to remain in the home after you pass away. It’s vital to express your wishes in a will or estate plan to ensure your loved ones are taken care of after your passing.
Even if you are single, having a will in place can protect your assets and accounts. Here are just a few examples:
- Pets – you can ensure your pets go to a loved one or someone you trust to care for them.
- Financial Accounts – with a will, you can ensure your accounts are transferred to the intended recipient
- Heirlooms and valuables – Pass on your most treasured possessions to someone special
If you’re ready to set up a will or discuss an estate plan, contact Rhodes Law Firm today! We can help give you peace of mind and guide you through the process.
Your will is the cornerstone of your estate planning. Without it, your entire estate can become an afterthought to the courts.
Because you must follow the law with this planning, your will is often created first. It can also serve as a template for powers-of-attorney and any other required documents.
What comes after this is a discussion of proper estate planning. Your will is the start, with vetting by attorneys and perhaps drafting a living will or healthcare directive being the next level.
But what about the other half of estate planning? How much should you pay for your estate plan?
The answer is different for everyone, but it depends on how extensive your estate planning needs are. Keep reading to learn more about estate planning can prepare you for the future.
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging someone’s affairs during their life if that person becomes incapacitated after death. These plans may eliminate the guessing and maximize the value of an estate by reducing the taxes and other expenses assigned to the estate after someone’s death.
The goal of an estate plan can vary. Estate plans exist to grant the wishes and meet the needs of the property owner. Estate planning includes:
- Advanced Healthcare Directive
- Power of Attorney
With an estate plan, you will have control over who will inherit your assets rather than the government. Instead of letting the state’s default laws pick your heirs, estate planning enables you to choose who will get your assets upon your passing.
Why Can Estate Planning Can Be Worth The Investment
Most individuals who have property or a family should create an estate plan. Depending on the size of your estate and other variables, you might or might not need an estate plan.
Estate plans are helpful if you want your partner to manage your finances and make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated and you want to leave your assets to them. You must have an estate plan to guarantee that your assets will pass to your partner upon your death and to formally designate your partner as your agent in your financial and medical power of attorney.
Be Proactive to Find an Estate Planner
You need to be prepared for the inevitability of mortality. That is why you need to be proactive about connecting with an estate planner and securing your assets for the future.
By discussing costs upfront, you can have an open conversation about fees and consultation costs. You need to attend your first educational meeting to talk about different aspects of an estate plan.
Once you choose an attorney, you need to put your deal in writing. By starting with a comprehensive contract, you will be able to keep the firm accountable as you entrust them with your finances and assets. It is necessary to research different firms to select the correct firm to manage your estate.
How Much Does Estate Planning Cost?
The cost of estate planning can greatly vary. When budgeting for your estate planning it’s critical to understand who will be working on your estate plan and what kind of plan you require. Estate planning fees are usually broken out into hourly rates, flat fees, or contingency fees.
Your lawyer will probably charge you an hourly rate if they are unable to determine a fixed price. Any time spent making your estate plan will be charged at an hourly rate.
If your lawyer charges by the hour, they may also need a retainer upfront. This retainer pays for onboarding costs and contributes to your bottom line. If your estate planner will take more time or work, they may opt for an hourly fee.
Your lawyer may charge a flat fee to cover the cost of their estate planning services and experience. Usually, this fee includes the creation of a will or a power of attorney.
If your attorney requests a fixed fee, you need to inquire what is covered in that arrangement. Your fixed fees may need to be paid in full before the attorney starts working.
In circumstances where you will get financial compensation, a contingency fee is used. For instance, you pay your lawyer a percentage when you obtain once a lawsuit is finalized.
Because payment would be circumstantial, lawyers rarely offer contingency fees as an option for estate plans. A probate lawyer could charge you this fee if they are going to settle an estate.
Before you invest in an estate plan, you need to inquire about different fees. These fees are variables that can impact the overall cost of your estate plan. You need to be proactive in scheduling an upfront consultation.
Use A Qualified Estate Planning Professional
An estate plan’s ability to reduce the costs, delays, and invasion of privacy associated with the probate procedure is one of its primary benefits. Estates allow you to provide for your family even after you pass. Many people find great comfort in the ability to care for their loved ones. This makes it essential to minimize the expenses and taxes and to ease the burden of loss on your family.
Interested in finalizing an estate plan for you and your family? Contact our team at the Rhodes Law Firm to get started on estate planning and securing your financial future.
If you have an estate plan or are in the process of creating one, it may be wise to ensure its language doesn’t unintentionally exclude an heir with disabilities. If you have a loved one with a disability, default probate laws may disqualify your disabled beneficiary from receiving full government benefits (Supplemental Security Income). Essentially, a direct inheritance would be considered an available resource and would reduce benefits and insurance amounts until these funds are fully used. This article offers insight on how to protect your disabled heir’s benefits.
Ensuring your funds are held in a Special Needs Trust (SNT) can help prevent any issues such as this from arising after your death. These trusts are just one of the various estate plan solutions for beneficiaries with disabilities. Other options include an ABLE account, a pooled trust, or purchasing exempt resources for your beneficiary.
If you would like to review your estate plan options and ensure all of your heirs will be well taken care of, contact Rhodes Law Firm today. Our team can discuss the various strategies available and make sure your estate plan will stand the test of time.
Memories come flooding in, emotions run high, and invariably drama can ensue. Family members whom you haven’t seen in years (or ever in some instances) are fighting over who gets to keep what.
When the dispute becomes too intense with no clear resolution being reached from either side, the courts can step in and decide how a deceased person’s assets are divided.
This is called probate.
Whether you’ve been named the executor of a will, want a small trinket as a special reminder, or have yet to draft your own will, knowing what probate is and how it works can help you navigate this emotional time.
Keep reading to learn more about the probate process, how it works, and how you can avoid probate should you desire.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process where a probate court determines the validity and authenticity of a deceased person’s will. Whether the will is valid or not, or if there is no will, the probate court will also determine inheritors and prioritize paying off outstanding debts.
Wills are validated to ensure legitimacy. It’s not uncommon, especially with large estates, for multiple wills to start appearing after death. Most of the time the deceased drafted several wills over their lifetime and someone found an older draft.
The court will determine which of the wills is valid. The probate court has the final ruling on which will is valid and who the inheritors are.
How Does Probate Work?
Probate does not begin automatically when someone dies. If there is a will present then the will must be filed at the courts, if no will is present then paperwork must still be filed with the court.
With a Will
Typically the executor of the will file the document with the probate court. However, anyone in possession of a will may file it in court when that person dies.
After validation, the court will officially appoint the executor. The executor then has the legal powers to act on behalf of the deceased.
The executor’s responsibilities however are not so straightforward. The executor is responsible for distributing a deceased person’s assets to their heirs, and sometimes that means finding an heir or heirs.
Typically the executor is a family member so most executors are able to easily contact all heirs. However, there are times when there has been a falling out with a family member or a long-lost relative is listed no one has ever heard of.
In these cases, it’s important to note the executor cannot decide to who the assets go, but instead must execute the will as written by the deceased.
Without a Will
When no will is present an administrator is appointed over the estate rather than an executor. This also occurs when a will is deemed invalid and there is not another will to file.
Once the court has appointed an administrator the administrator executes similar duties to an executor. They are responsible for locating heirs and distributing the assets.
Again though the administrator does not necessarily determine who gets what The probate court will determine based on the hierarchy of heirs who gets what of the deceased assets.
If no heirs can be located and none come forward the state overseeing the estate can claim the assets for the state itself. However, there is a timeframe that must pass before that can happen.
Jointly Owned Property
Assets that are jointly owned can sometimes be tricky. Especially when one owner is still living while the other is deceased. The probate court in these instances uses a hierarchy of heirs.
At the top of the hierarchy is typically the surviving spouse. After that are any children the deceased may have had. Past that the courts will decide how the assets are distributed.
It is worth noting, however, that without a will friends of the deceased are not considered a part of the hierarchy of heirs.
Joint accounts are considered assets and are left to the surviving owner. In these instances the owner is a surviving spouse, however, any joint account with rights of survivorship will be distributed to the surviving owner. Regardless of the relationship with the deceased.
This also applied to co-owned property as well.
There are ways to avoid entering into probate. You may want to avoid probate in cases where you would like specific assets to go to specific heirs without writing a will.
It’s not a secret drama that unfolds when wills are discussed and brought up. Feelings can be hurt, and respect and loyalty can be turned into feelings of betrayal and rudeness.
Transfer Ownership Prior to Death
Rather than waiting until being deceased for an heir to take possession of an asset, you could transfer the ownership to the heir while alive.
This can be beneficial in certain situations where a person may be married more than once in their lifetime. Or possibly chooses not to marry the person they now share a home with (roommate, friend, significant other).
A living trust or trust fund holds onto the asset of the deceased. Trusts have designated beneficiaries and can specify how to distribute the assets.
When assets are placed in a Trust Fund the deceased is also able to dictate certain criteria for the heirs to meet prior to receiving their inheritance. This can include a child or relative attending college, using funds only to pay for a home, or reconnecting with the family.
Secure Your Heir’s Inheritance
Death is difficult to process. The loss leaves an ache that never really goes away. Many people handle grief differently and can react in extreme ways. Often this appears in the form of laying claim to a passed relative’s assets and can become aggressive.
To avoid these things and to help your loved ones grieve easier and remember the happier times you should understand the probate process. Whether in a will or without one, knowing how your assets will be divided can go a long way in helping your family through a difficult time.
Contact our team of experts today to help you with all your estate needs.