Estate planning in Mississippi and around the world differs for every client. An estate planning attorney will tailor the process to your specific needs and requirements. No two estates will be exactly the same because no two lives are exactly the same. The assets and loved ones you’ve accrued throughout your life will make every estate planning meeting unique to you.
That said, there are some typical things that each estate plan should contain. Understanding what is required for this process can significantly reduce the hassle and headaches that a project like this usually involves. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of estate planning and what actions you can take to make the process as smooth as possible. We’ll also define some of the terms you’d likely encounter, so everything is clear when the time comes to execute your plan.
A Will is the first and most important step in estate planning. A Will gives clear and concise instructions on exactly how you would like your assets distributed after your death. Your Will may also contain biographical information about you and your family, so the executor of your estate will have a clear idea of your specific wishes. Your biographical information may include the names and addresses of your beneficiaries, as well as the locations of necessary documents like your birth certificate, marriage certificate, or divorce decree.
Everything named in your Will is required to go through a verification and distribution process called probate court. In probate court, your assets and debts are examined and verified. Any outstanding debts are paid with liquid assets, such as money from bank accounts, or by selling investment assets like bonds or real estate. Whatever is left over after your debts are paid is then distributed to your beneficiaries in the ways outlined in your Will.
The entire probate process usually takes between six months to a year for the average person. Very large or complex estates can take considerably longer to examine and unpack. During the probate process, your family will have to wait for their inheritance to arrive. This could be a nervous time for them, especially if you were the family’s sole breadwinner. Funds for mortgages, bills, and insurance may be unavailable for your family to utilize while the court is processing your estate. Your passing will bring the pain of loss and grief to your loved ones, and probate court might add financial insecurity on top of that. To avoid this, there are a few ways to bypass probate so your family receives their money immediately.
Avoiding Probate Court
Avoiding probate may be necessary for certain items in your estate or for the estate as a whole. To do this, a little planning is required.
As a general rule, anything owned by multiple people is immediately transferred to the other owner(s) upon your death. That is, if you and your wife are both named on the deed to your house or as the account holders of your bank accounts, ownership of these items will transfer immediately to her in the event of your passing. The same can be true for your adult children or anyone else that you wish to maintain control of your personal assets. This is an excellent way to ensure your family is cared for once you are gone.
Another way to avoid the probate process is to use a living trust. After the Will, the living trust is the next most important part of estate planning.
The Living Trust
A living trust is a secondary way of distributing your assets to your beneficiaries in accordance with your wishes. A living trust is something you establish during the estate planning process that can ensure the assets contained within it are transferred immediately to your loved ones when you die. Anything named in the living trust will avoid probate court entirely.
It works by naming a beneficiary of the trust and then transferring all the assets they will receive out of your name and into the living trust’s name. So, for instance, if you wanted to ensure your son receives a prized hotrod from your garage, you would change the ownership of the title from “John Doe” to “The Living Trust of John Doe.” Likewise, if you wanted to award your granddaughter with an account that would pay for her college, you would name the trust that she is the beneficiary of as the owner of the account. You can also make specifications to a trust that ensure she only gains access to the account once she is college-aged.
If you are ready to start planning your estate in Mississippi, call The Law Offices of Rusty Williard at (601) 824-9797.