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Probate important topic to consider when drafting wills

Estate planning is an unspoken topic in many New York households, probably because few people like to think about death. However, planning for death is just as important as planning for life, including retirement and concerns about health care. Probate is one area of estate planning that requires careful consideration when making wills.

Probate is essentially a legal process by which assets are transferred to heirs according to state law. Every state has special limits for how large an estate can be without having to go through probate. In addition, probate is essentially a public death notice that allows creditors of the deceased the right to file claims against the estate. Once these creditors have been paid, then what is left over typically goes to designated beneficiaries.

Probate is inevitable and automatic unless something is done to avoid it. The benefit of avoiding probate is that loved ones do not have to go through the lengthy process, which can easily last half a year to a year or longer. In addition, they can avoid legal fees and unwanted publicity.

Fortunately, particular assets will immediately escape probate -- for instance, when a loved one is named as a beneficiary on a 401(k) plan or life insurance policy. For those assets that would not escape probate automatically, it can be helpful to establish a revocable living trust to hold them. This estate planning tool offers the convenience of being able to be canceled at any time while one is alive, but then avoids the time and expense of probate once the maker of the trust dies. An attorney in New York can help with creating wills and setting up trusts that will help with achieving one's unique estate planning goals long term.

Source: marketwatch.com, "Everything you need to know about estate planning", Richard Eisenberg, May 8, 2017

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