Let's lay out the facts. Dying without a will makes your death harder on everyone around you. Not only does it increase the confusion of settling your estate, but it may also stress family members as they argue over who wants what--and who deserves it more. A will makes your wishes plain, simplifies your end-of-life plan, and helps friends and family cope with your loss.
A will is not, exactly, as you see it so often represented on television or in movies. It's a document written up by a lawyer, witnessed by two legal adults, and signed by the owner. A will isn't just for the elderly or the ill. Every day, people tragically lose their lives in the prime of life.
If you own anything at all, a will serves you and those around you. Charges for writing a will vary depending on your exact location, but they are typically one of the more simple law documents you will deal with during your life.
Though video wills are a very big fad as of this writing, remember that a traditional paper will must also accompany it. Otherwise, the video will be not a legal standard.
Probate court is entered into automatically if the total estate of the deceased is valued over $200,000. However, for those with less value in their estate, it may be avoided almost entirely with a self-proving affidavit attached to a will. Probate court's purpose is to verify the will if there is one present and the inheritor. Executors of wills are assisted with final expenses of the deceased such as taxes, fines, and creditor issues.
In general, this court is not a cheap way to go about settling a will or working through a will dispute. It may be necessary in some instances, but it is best to avoid long, drawn-out cases if at all possible.
This depends on the composition of the family, friends, and loved ones. If you have no next of kin evident in your household or nearby, the courts may search for them elsewhere. This may become a third cousin who has never heard of you. It may be a distant parent, an estranged spouse, or any other person in your past that has some claim to what you owned.
In most cases, they enter probate court to assume the estate and work toward finalizing your legal responsibilities to the state, creditors, and other incidents as mentioned above.
If you have many possible claims to your estate, things become problematic. These battles are usually waged in court, long after your passing. It adds stress to the family and tends to grow bad memories and feelings toward other family members. A will keeps this from happening and assures your wishes are carried out.
Without a will present, this is entirely up to the courts. Perhaps your aunt gets your car and your grandmother gets your house. You owed both of them money and this is how the court settles it.
As far as when that's an incredible question. Timelines differ depending on the complexity of your particular case. If the issues surrounding your estate are exceptionally complex, it may take months or years for your estate to be ironed out. A will, once verified, makes the process a snap. Though issues do occur on occasion when wills are verified, they are exceedingly rare. If a will is present, the estate is usually processed before the seasons change. It just depends on the court dates, the proceedings, and how far the court is backed up.
Probate court is painfully expensive. While we dislike cutting down the end of a person's life to their finances and what they leave behind, in the end, that is the concern of your loved ones. Whether you leave hundreds of thousands in riches or debt, it is up to them to clear up all the legal proceedings regarding it.
Lost time at work or with your extended family members puts pressure on those stuck in probate court. They're already mourning you. Don't make them mourn their free time, too.
A living trust functions much like a will, though it locks the government and debtors from attacking the new funds. Instead of paying them directly to the beneficiary, the funds are kept in the name of the living trust. This may also save large estates from going to probate court, avoiding estate taxes in certain states, and keep significant funds from appearing in credit reports. This is especially helpful if your estate is to be a windfall for the beneficiary. A lawyer can help you learn the ways a living trust may benefit you more than a will.