Estate planning is essential to protect your assets and provide for your family upon passing. After you die, you still have responsibilities. Having a last will and testament in place enables you to secure your property and ensure your legacy remains protected.
What Does a Last Will and Testament Do for Me?
When you die, your estate will probably pass into probate, where a probate court attempts to ensure the estate is properly distributed. A cynical view is that the probate court is designed to ensure that your money pays your debts after you die and then distributes the money and assets to your heirs so that it goes back into the economy and the government can tax the money.
When you pass, your debts have to be taken care of, including your last medical bills, credit cards, the care loan, the mortgage, etc. That takes some time, and your heirs have to wait for this to be completed before receiving their inheritance. There is a period of time in probate when creditors can ask the Court to pay those expenses, and this process takes a minimum of sixty (60) days after a person passes away.
Without an estate plan, you are just trusting the government and the court to decide what to do with your estate after you pass away. You lose all control of who inherits upon death. If you do not have an estate plan, then the laws of the State of Nevada govern intestate succession pursuant to NRS 134.005 through 134.210. A basic last will and testament is essentially a set of instructions to the Court that control the distribution of your estate.
How Does the Probate court Handle Last Wills and Testaments?
The probate court will follow a properly executed last will and testament, and attempt to do its best to honor your wishes. You can ensure your children split everything equally. You can take care of that one child that has specials needs. You can disinherit that one ungrateful child or give it all to charity. A last will and testament lets you control your estate.
A last will and testament also enables you to designate a guardian over your minor children. You get to decide who will care for them if you are no longer around. Otherwise, the court will have to make that decision which can cause protracted and expensive litigation.
Ensuring you have a last will and testament creates a framework to reduce expenses and ensure your intent is carried out. The secret is to make sure the last will and testament is signed and executed properly. Each state has its own requirements for controlling how a last will and testament is properly executed.
A last will and testament that is not executed correctly cannot be considered or followed by the court. A last will and testament is one estate planning tool that may be utilized, but there are other options. A last will and testament requires probate in most circumstances. Probate is the process by which the probate court ensures that your wishes are carried out. Whatever estate planning tool you utilize is a step in the right direction for your family members during one of the most difficult times of their lives.