Probate is the process of interpreting a will. Probate Court is where that happens.
Always mind your words in Court. In Probate Court, always mind the decedent’s words (decedent = the person who died).
What is Probate Court?
- Where wills go to be interpreted.
- Where families might fight over your belongings.
- Where people have to go when their loved one did not have an estate plan.
- Where creditors try to get a piece of the pie.
- Where conservatorships and guardianships are established for loved ones who are unable to care for themselves
- Where you can research genealogy through death and probate records. Neato!
- Where nice lawyers with not-so-nice fees, and well-meaning Judges who don’t know you, help you wade through difficult topics left by loved ones when they pass.
You were responsible and had a will drawn up, but then you had only one witness attest to your signature.
Not knowing that this was a deficiency in the will, you went about your business for the next 10 years, maybe you got out of a rental unit and bought a home, you went on a few vacations and brought back Tahitian pearls and artwork from your travels. Tribal masks from Ecuador and Zambia.
You realized that travel was your life so you sold your home for a summer cottage and an RV. Sunsets on the beach one day and skiing in the Alps the next.
You got a little too extreme and hurt yourself on the mountain. I have bad news, you didn’t make it.
After an appropriate amount of time for grieving, your adult children begin to look through your stuff, looking through drawers and bank safe deposit boxes, only to find a dusty, tea-stained document under the floorboards of the summer cottage next to your passport and old photos of the kids – maybe it slipped through the cracks, maybe you put it there as an Easter Egg – in any case, they found your will.
They think they are saved from going to Court.
After discussion with an attorney they find out that the will is deficient.
There are not two witness signatures, the will is going to require interpretation from the probate Court. The house isn’t on the will, who is supposed to take the house? The Tahitian pearls and artwork are valuable, but the will doesn’t have a specific plan for personal property. Is everyone supposed to take one pearl? Sell them off and split it? Weigh their own portion of the estate against the pearls and let those go to the youngest girl? Even though there is a will, the issues that split families apart begin to pile up. The Court endeavors to divvy up the property in accordance with the law and the Court’s interpretation of your intent, which means nobody is happy.
Then, the bill comes due. The bill always comes due.
Probate Court is expensive. In Michigan, an average base price in attorney’s fees for assistance with a probate estate and filing is $2,500. The Court will take an additional $550 for an estate valued at $250,000, and almost $1200 for a $1 Million estate. Estates over $13.5 Million are subject to exorbitant Federal estate taxes. Medicare can take the cost of end-of-life care from your assets.
A Properly-Executed Estate Plan can avoid Probate Court, Estate Taxes, and Medicare Costs
There are many ways to get what you want, from a “Pour-Over” Will to a Revocable Trust, to a Ladybird Deed, a comprehensive estate plan can help you build wealth for the next generation, eliminate headaches, and plan for the future.
Before you launch into planning, it is important to have a grasp on the things that you own.
What do you own?
- REAL ESTATE
- EXERCISE EQUIPMENT
- MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
- LIFE INSURANCE
- HOUSEHOLD ITEMS
- BANK ACCOUNTS
- RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS
Classifying your assets
Most of your stuff will be classified as:
- Retirement Assets
- Personal Property
- Real Estate
- Business Interests
There may be other assets, but these are the big ones for most people. It may be the case that a Revocable Trust can handle all of these assets, but it may instead be the case that there are better options to pass each of these classes of gifts on to your beneficiaries using a different legal means. Some options are better than others for your goals.
An estate plan is a system for passing your property onto others efficiently and without added headache or heartache. I come alongside you and together we build the system that works for you. This can be easy, think of it as a game.
Guide to the Game
1. APPROACH THE GAME TABLE
Reach out to email@example.com to schedule an interview, or schedule a consultation through this website.
2. UNDERSTAND THE RULES OF THE GAME
Get the rundown in an estate workshop, or on the phone during an interview.
3. SET THE PIECES
Inventory your property and keep track of it using our predesigned worksheets, or on a document shared with an attorney for safe keeping, securely online.
4. STRATEGIZE YOUR MOVES
Plan your gifts in an estate planning session with an attorney
5. PLAY THE GAME
Collaborative document creation with an attorney.
6. AVOID BAD CALLS BY THE REFEREE
Update your plan whenever you make a big purchase.
We make it easy with online collaboration and payment options, flat fee payments and estimates so you know what you’re getting into, open communication between you and your attorney, and follow-up to keep you updated throughout the process. Everyone needs an estate plan even if they don’t have one. People fear death, and the uncomfortable conversations around it, but you don’t have to make the mistake of ignoring the inevitable.
Trust me, talking it out and crafting a plan is easier than you think, and actually can be fun.
Avoid probate – email firstname.lastname@example.org with your story, favorite morbid joke, or burning questions right now to start planning your estate today, so you can get back to skiing the Alps. You’re on your way up, don’t let worry about the future get you down.