When most people think about retirement planning, they tend to overlook estate planning which is key to avoiding probate. The probate process can be costly and can drag-out for months or years after a loved one passes and, although many people assume a will is all that’s needed for an end-of-life plan, that’s far from accurate.
A will allows a person to express his or her wishes but it can be superseded by beneficiary designations and won’t protect loved ones from probate. That means if an individual names one person in their will as sole heir to their estate yet another person or persons as beneficiaries on retirement accounts, life insurance, bank accounts, etc., the beneficiary designations take precedence over the will. The result will be the courts getting involved in the distribution of assets as well as attorney fees, executor fees, and lots of time spent stressing over the settling of affairs when you should be grieving the loss of a loved one.
There are numerous nightmare stories of probate on the internet but one that is personal to this blog writer comes out of Wilkesboro, North Carolina. When my father passed away my older sister was named executor. We learned after the fact that dad had an outdated will, no life insurance, no savings, no investments to speak of, a lot of debt, and a wife who was completely unaware of the fact their joint federal taxes hadn’t been filed for several years. It took my sister, one accountant, two lawyers, and three years to settle our father’s estate. After back taxes were filed and debts were paid, our stepmother couldn’t afford to keep the house and had to sell belongings before moving into a tiny apartment. She lost her husband and the life she knew because neither of them understood the importance of estate planning.
The best way to avoid a potential probate nightmare is to speak with an Alloy Wealth Management Estate Planning expert. We will educate you on your various options and estate documents in detail, then work with fee-based attorneys to create an efficient estate plan that enables you to manage your affairs during your lifetime and preserve your legacy. With ongoing estate plan reviews we will help you get your financial documents up to date and keep them up to date, then revise estate documents as family and goals change. Call 800-689-3935 to speak with a member of our estate planning team.