Ease family tension and avoid probate with an estate plan

A recent article about California estate law and probate highlighted the importance of estate planning for a number of reasons, whether or not a person has substantial assets. While most people may be uncomfortable thinking, and even planning, for their death and the distribution of their property, they should take the time to address these issues. Avoiding probate, saving many thousands of dollars and preventing family tumult are several reasons why a person should have a current estate plan.

Approximately 120 million people do not have an updated estate plan. This means that many Americans may be subjecting themselves and their families to a lot of uncertainty leading up to, and after, their demise.

The assets of a person without an estate plan may go into probate, which means that the state determines what property goes to whom. In California the probate process takes a minimum of seven months, and could go on for much longer. It is also quite expensive. For example, an estate of $1 million could accrue attorney and executor fees of $46,000.

The other important reason to have a sound estate plan is to prevent relatives from squabbling over property and assets after death. These fights, whether over tangible valuables or things with sentimental value, can take on a particular ferocity when complex family emotions enter the picture.

People may write their own will, and many choose to do so. However, it's still important to make sure that everything is updated from time to time and remains legally sufficient. Whether a person is starting from scratch or just looking to update a will, trust, advanced medical directive or a durable power of attorney, an experienced estate and trust attorney can provide the necessary guidance and expertise.

Source: Pressdemocrat.com, "Who will get your assets when you die?," Robert Digitale, Oct. 14, 2012

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