When we discuss the benefits of Revocable Living Trusts with our potential clients, some of them respond that they own everything jointly with their spouse, so there is no urgency. They assume it will only be useful once the first of them goes, and want to wait until that happens to set up a Trust to avoid the Probate process. This is a very risky idea.
For starters, what is Probate and why is it important to avoid? Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies. It includes filing a deceased person’s will along with probate paperwork in the county the person was domiciled, identifying and appraising the assets, preparing court Inventory and Accountings among other things.
What goes through Probate? Anything that an individual owns that is in their sole name without any designated beneficiary.
We have over 18 years of experience helping families navigate through the Probate process. This, of course, comes at a cost, but that cost can be avoided through proper Estate Planning, namely establishing and properly funding a Revocable Living Trust.
What happens when you wait? We always see one of six scenarios with spouses, and only one of the six actually avoids Probate:
1. The loss of their decades-long best friend leaves them apathetic, completely disinterested in making any of the plans they thought they would;
2. “Death of a broken heart”, an all-too-true phenomenon where the surviving spouse is so devastated that they pass away within a few months (this happens a lot more often than you would think);
3. The surviving spouse was not the “financial person” in the relationship, and never really cared to understand the paperwork, finances, or the implications of leaving things subject to Probate;
4. By the time the first spouse passes, the survivor (similar in age) has dementia or has otherwise lost the mental capacity to prepare documents;
5. Simultaneous death, in a car accident, for instance; and
6. The surviving spouse actually creates/updates their documents.
While joint ownership of your assets does provide you with some protection, most of the time it is just not enough!
The sad part is that these are people who truly want to have their affairs prepared for their loved ones, but left things to chance until later on and were struck with terrible circumstances outside of their control. The best thing you can do for your loved ones is to plan ahead.
Please call us at 301-696-0567 or self-schedule at lenaclarklegal.com if you would like help protecting your assets and loved ones in the even of death or disability.
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