It isn’t uncommon for people to come to an estate planning attorney with little idea of what a judge does, what the legal process involves, or what goes on when you create an estate plan. While estate planning is not a single event or action, but rather a collection of decisions you have to make and tools you have to create, there is some basic information you should know about it. This week, we’re going to take a closer look at the role a court plays throughout the estate planning process.
Courts and Your Plan
The first thing you should realize about estate planning is that, if it is done correctly, it takes place outside of a courtroom. For example, let’s say that you decide that you want to create an estate plan tomorrow. You contact an experienced and qualified estate planning lawyer, set up an appointment, and go into your first meeting. During that meeting you and your attorney discuss your goals, your concerns, and outline a process that will allow you to create your plan. You and your attorney go about the process of creating the various documents in your estate plan. While all of these documents will have to meet certain legal standards, you create them on your own with your attorney’s assistance. Once you finish the process, you have an estate plan. Congratulations. You are now ahead of a majority of the population who never get around to taking this important step. Notice, however, that at no point in the planning process did you have to go to court. Most people who create a plan share this exact experience. While there are some cases in which you might have to go to a court, or in which you might have to file a lawsuit, these are not necessary parts of creating a plan. Courts and Your Plan
Courts and Wills
If you rely upon a Will as your primary estate planning tool and your estate exceeds $150,000 in value at your death, there is a good chance your estate will end up in the probate department of your local court. To avoid this, a better solution for many folks is the creation of a living trust-based estate plan.
Courts and Wills Challenges to Estate Plans
Not everything always goes as planned, and not everyone gets what they want. If a legal disagreement arises out of an estate plan, it will sometimes result in a lawsuit, or in a process that will have to be resolved in front of a court or judge. Broadly known as estate litigation, these types of lawsuits can address any number of estate planning issues. A good estate plan that includes a “no contest” clause can go a long way in preventing disgruntled persons from attacking your plan.
The costs, delays and other problems associated with court proceedings can be avoided. However, it will take a comprehensive and well maintained estate plan to do so. The best way to accomplish this goal is to work with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney.
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