When you leave assets to your family and friends in probate, you’re thinking more about the enjoyment or benefits they will get from those assets, not how long the probate process takes. Mistakes could cause your assets to be distributed incorrectly or tie your entire estate up in probate for a long time. These are just some of the common causes of a lengthy probate.
Perhaps the biggest cause of probate that lingers for years is a lack of organization of the assets. An individual who is a significant property holder, for example, who failed to identify all the pieces of property acquired over the years, may find that their estate remains open as unexpected property is identified. This can be especially true if the property is scattered in different jurisdictions and under different names, making identifying all parcels difficult.
A difference of opinion among heirs can lead to a hang up in your estate while they argue about your intentions, whether they’re entitled to a share, or other concerns. A well-drafted will can help direct contentious heirs either by clearly and correctly writing someone out of the will or by indicating the reasons for particular choices. Nothing gets families fighting like a small pot of money left in an estate that they think, for whatever reason, was meant for them.
Writing a spouse out of your will is especially difficult and must be done with the knowledge and consent of the spouse. Generally, a spouse is entitled to a share of the estate even if they are not mentioned specifically in the will. This may mean that you need to prove the marriage was valid or petition the court to recognize the marriage.
Complicated directions in an estate plan, or an estate that is not fully executed, can lead to a lack of clarity for the family members left behind. Throughout your life, you may have conflicting goals, from taking care of minor family members to providing for education to caring for an aging spouse. Directions in your will, as well as the management of intestate assets such as life insurance, can become confused over time. When you re-make your estate plan, it’s important to do a comprehensive review of your estate, assets, and any intestate assets and bank accounts to ensure that they will be handled correctly.
Unclear directions also apply to end of life care and funeral preferences. The clearer you are in leaving directions and assistance for your family, the more likely you are to have your wishes honored.
The experienced trust and estates planning team from Dunn Law Firm have helped clients craft their estates to handle a wide variety of goals, family structures, and property interests. To learn more, reach out to the Dunn Law Firm by calling (435) 628-5405 to set up a free consultation today.