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Estate planning is not just about transferring assets after death

Every now and then the media jumps on stories of family battles that have erupted after a celebrity passes away with no estate plan in place. Not only relatives fight in court over how the celebrity’s assets should be distributed, but often claims from purported relatives who want a piece of the pie. In normal life, it may not be as likely for strangers to try to tap into a probate estate. However, minimizing disputes among loved ones is an important process that estate planning is intended to provide.

It is vital to note that estate planning covers more than what will happen to your assets after death. Many estate planning tools can play important roles for managing property and helping family members address your medical care should you become incapacitated. Estate planning tools can help you and your family avoid family stress during your life.

Trusts And Other Tools Can Help To Avoid Probate Court

Most people think that writing a will is the solution to creating an effective estate plan. The problem with just writing a will is that the document does not become active until after the person passes away. Moreover, creating a will does not avoid court. There are a wide variety of trusts and other tools available to accomplish the transfer of assets that are more beneficial in managing property during life and after death, while helping to avoid probate court.

A trust is a versatile instrument that can allow you to maintain control over the assets in the trust during your life, name a successor trustee that can manage your property during times of incapacity and transfer your legacy after death without requiring that your loved ones to go through the full probate process in court. Similarly, a transfer on death instrument can help your family to avoid going to court to transfer real property.

A Living Will Can Be A True Gift For Your Loved Ones

The New York Times recently ran a story that discussed one family’s frustrations when a man was injured in an accident. The man had no estate plan and no advance directive in place. The family rushed to the hospital, but had great difficulty in even learning the medical condition of their loved one. Without legal authorization the family found that they had no say in what treatment the injured man would receive. An estate plan, or at least a living will, could have helped that family during a tumultuous time. Eventually, the man regained consciousness and survived the horrific motorcycle accident, according to the Times. 

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