You can determine the disposition of their assets and personal property after your death by creating a will and a comprehensive estate plan in advance. Without these documents, assets will pass to heirs as determined by state law through the probate process. Having a will can both simplify the process and enable you to make choices in advance about the disposition of your assets and personal belongings.
Executing an estate plan is a necessary first step to ensure that your wishes are carried out. This can include creating a will and determining beneficiaries for assets such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies, as well as creating a power-of-attorney and naming a healthcare proxy in the event that you are ever unable to make medical and financial decisions in the future.
One important estate planning decision you will have to make is the selection of your Personal Representative (formerly called an Executor). This person will manage your estate, including the payment of creditors and transfers to your chosen recipients. The role can be filled by a family member, a friend, or a professional, such as an accountant or attorney.
Before naming someone as your Personal Representative, you should understand what he or she will be required to do.
· Initiate probate proceedings
· Inventory your belongings
· Notify beneficiaries, creditors and institutions of your death
· Locate and protect estate property
· File tax returns
· Complete legal filings
· Close financial accounts
· Pay debts
· Distribute property to beneficiaries
These duties can require a person to navigate complicated legal and financial matters. Often, Personal Representatives are also in charge of communicating with family members to keep them updated about the case and obtain any additional information.
Estate attorneys can help by advising Personal Representatives of the steps for this process, as well as providing assistance and communicating with creditors and beneficiaries on behalf of the estate.
Our Estates & Trusts attorneys provide estate planning, estate and trust administration, and related services. In addition to basic planning and administration, our representation includes gift and estate tax planning, family business planning, protection of family assets from exposure to future claims and liabilities (including divorce), elder law planning, and many other related areas.
Our attorneys have substantial experience in advising clients on techniques for tax planning, business succession planning, multi-generational wealth transfer, and charitable giving.