If you're planning your estate, you may be doing it more for your loved ones than anyone else. Although you will benefit from having a power of attorney in place for your health care and financial concerns in the event of your unexpected incapacitation, a sound and well-thought out estate plan will be of great benefit to your family members after you're gone -- especially in terms of the probate process.
Here are two things you can do while planning your estate to ensure that your heirs and beneficiaries have the easiest probate process possible:
Reduce the amount of your assets that need to be probated: Through various estate planning strategies you can identify certain assets that don't have to go through the probate process. For example, assets in 401(k) accounts and IRAs don't have to be probated and they will be passed directly on to the heirs whom you named in the beneficiary designations of these accounts. You may also be able to set up joint assets with the right of survivorship so the assets bypass probate, or put certain assets into a trust that offers direction for passing them directly to specific beneficiaries.
Choose your estate administrator or executor wisely and only choose one: Although it's possible to name co-executors for your estate, this could be a recipe for difficult, expensive and time-consuming disagreements. It's best to choose only one person and name a backup person if your first choice cannot fulfill his or her duties. Make sure that this person is also capable and qualified to navigate the complexities his or her duties.
Are you ready to create a thoughtful estate plan that considers the needs of your loved ones? With the aid of an experienced estate planning attorney, you can learn about the various options for your estate planning as well as the most useful strategies given your unique situation and needs.