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From Our “Ask a Question” Mailbag: “What steps can I take to make Probate easy for my son? Can you tell me how to make Probate boring?”
Estate Planning Lawyer, Peter Klenk
How to Make Probate Boring?
Since the beginning of ownership, humans have had Probate. Probate is the process we go through to divide up a deceased person’s things. In the beginning, Probate was deciding who got Grog’s club and loincloth. Since then, we have come a long way, but the core concept is still the same. Every country, culture, and even some religions have rules governing who gets their things when they die. The real trick is learning How to Make Probate Boring.
Probate in the United States.
Many countries, such as France and China, have a uniform probate system. That sounds simple. Why should the USA make things simple? Here we give that right to the individual states. This means we have 50 incubators making their own rules. There are overlapping similarities, but there are also unique rules in each state.
Straightforward Probate and Painful Probate.
Because each state is given the right to make rules, some states have made the probate process difficult. The examples typically given are California, New York, and Florida. All three have what I would call “challenging” processes. How to Make Probate Boring in these states? Use a Revocable Living Trust. These trusts cost more to prepare than a will, but they help avoid an otherwise painful process. These trusts are a whole article, so if you want to learn more, follow this link to learn more about Revocable Trusts.
Making Probate Easy for your Executor.
If you live in most states, the probate process is relatively straightforward. Good examples are New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In these states, you file the Will with the Register of Wills in Pennsylvania and the Surrogate in New Jersey, but if you set things up correctly, the process is painless. Here are some steps to take to Make Probate Boring:
Make an Asset List: In years past, when someone died, the family watched the mailbox for a few months, and the statements arrived telling them where the deceased person banked, invested, and had insurance. In today’s world, all this information comes via email. If your executor does not have your email password, the executor can’t access your statements. We provide a portal for clients to access a summary of their estate planning documents. This summary also includes a list of institutions to contact at death. This way, nothing is lost. When your executor comes to our office, we hand this list to them. They simply gather the assets by checking off the list. How to Make Probate Boring? Make sure your executor knows where your assets are located.
Pick The Right Executor. An executor has many tasks. Filing your final income tax return, filing Inheritance Tax returns, selling your house, dividing up personal property, all while keeping the heirs informed and at least somewhat happy. Not everyone is up for these jobs. Not all children make for good co-executors. We spend time with each client to ensure the executor has the personality and skills to take on this challenging position. How to Make Probate Boring? Pick the right executor.
Minor Children or Special Needs Hiers?
Special care is required if you are naming a minor child to special needs person as an heir. Setting up an appropriate trust, either a Dynasty Trust for Minors or a Special Needs Trust for a person on needs-based government benefits avoids trips to the courthouse. If you name a minor child as a beneficiary, the child cannot sign the paperwork. This may require a petition to have a judge assign a guardian to oversee the child’s inheritance. Further, if you name an adult person who is incapacitated as an heir, the same problem arises. This person cannot sign paperwork and may require an appointed guardian. All this can be avoided by setting up an appropriate trust. How to make Probate Boring? Don’t leave assets outright to a minor child or an incapacitated person.
I hope you found this short article responding to How to Make Probate Boring helpful. I have also included some links for more detailed information. If you want to know more or have an estate needing our help, contact us. Let our Probate and Estate Planning lawyers help walk you through what can be a confusing process. Feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.
It’s All We Do Wills, Trusts, Probate, and Estate Litigation!
Peter Klenk is the founding member of Klenk Law, a seven attorney boutique estate planning law firm. We serve clients in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Minnesota and Florida. Peter Klenk received his Masters in Taxation LL.M. from NYU Law School and his J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School. He served his country in the Navy JAGC during Desert Storm. Easy to talk to, feel free to call Peter for an appointment. We will make the process as easy as possible!
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I've worked with and known Peter Klenk and his associates for years. They are highly professional, diligent and truly experts in their field. By focusing on just wills, trusts, and estates, Klenk law has experienced every angle of estate planning and applied that knowledge to help prepare our clients with thorough and comprehensive documents.
Peter Klenk made a complex subject understandable and allowed us to move forward with our estate planning. He was patient with our questions and creative in the solutions he proposed.
Like another reviewer, I contacted Peter through his website using the free consultation link, for a question regarding PA inheritance taxes. The question was quite technical and difficult to explain, and the answer was nowhere to be found on the web. Peter grasped precisely what I was asking, and provided a clear, helpful response (with a touch of humor) the very next day.
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