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Where There's a Will, There's Probate

Why You Don't Want To Be Caught Dead With Only A Will

Many Americans think that passing on their worldly goods is a simple proposition. They write out their final wishes with a simple WILL, assuming their wishes will be carried out. However, WILLS require PROBATE. And in many states, there's nothing simple about PROBATE. It's usually a highly technical, complicated and bureaucratic process that can drown your heirs in a sea of red tape.

In a recent interview with AMERICAN SENIOR TV, BRADLEY B ANDERSON, an attorney who practices primarily in ESTATE PLANNING, explained why you don't want be caught dead with only a WILL. "Most people we talk to want to avoid Probate. Going through Probate can be an expensive and lengthy legal process that has to go through the courts. "There are exceptions. In some states, small estates may be eligible for short-term Probate. However, Mr. Anderson cautions, that "not having much of an estate is always relative. I've had people who have $10 million dollars say they don't have much of an estate... many times people are surprised to see they have as large of an estate they [actually] do." None, if any of us would like the intimate details of our life to be accessible to the public. Certainly not our final wishes contained in our Will. This can also affect celebrities. Because Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis used only a Will to dispose of her assets, many of the details of her $200 million estate and the terms of her final wishes would be made public. Of course, they were.

For centuries, property holders used Wills to bestow their worldly goods to their loved ones after their deaths. However, in modern times, an entire legal process has risen up to govern the disposition of Wills. It's called Probate. Probate was created to assure that your wishes are carried out. That's the theory at least. In practice, Probate is often a long, drawn-out process that serves everyone but you and your loved ones. The attorney, your executor, the appraisers, the courts, the taxing authorities and your creditors get paid. Only after they've gotten their cut will your heirs be able to take their share out of what's left. Simply making out a Will does not mean things will go as planned. Disgruntled family members, creditors, "predators," and other would-be spoilers can throw a monkey wrench into the works. These are just a few reasons why you don't want to be caught dead with only a Will.

This article is intended only as a simple overview of the basic estate planning issues. We recommend you consult a qualified estate planning attorney to advise you on these matters.

See also: Avoiding Probate - The Living Trust

References: American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys/AAEPA and BRADLEY B ANDERSON, law offices of Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd. For more detailed information on Estate Planning, please visit www.probatebusters.com, or www.wealth-counselors.com.