We will begin by having you fill out an estate planning questionnaire to help us identify your assets and determine what tax consequences and other special circumstances need to be taken into consideration. This can be tedious and time-consuming but remember – we can’t help you plan for what we don’t know about!
Once we have identified your assets, we can distinguish between the probate and non-probate property. Non-probate property or assets will pass automatically to a designated person when you pass away. A common example is life insurance. The proceeds of a life insurance policy will go directly to the designated beneficiary of the policy without any court intervention or being bequeathed in your will. Other common examples of non-probate assets are retirement benefits, Payable-on-Death bank accounts (“P.O.D.”) or property held as joint tenants with the right of survivorship.
Any other assets that do not pass automatically to the designated beneficiary are considered probate assets. These assets must be “marshaled,” or gathered together, by the executor of your estate to pay off debts, pay legal and administrative fees, and eventually to distribute to your beneficiaries.
Often, our clients desire to minimize the proportion of their estates that pass through probate. Both probate and non-probate transfers have their pros and cons. We can discuss with you what options will work best for your goals. We will then work with you to determine your estate planning goals and what planning tools best fit those goals. We will draft all your paperwork in a meticulous and professional manner, so you can rest assured that your loved ones will be taken care of.