In the current climate, as everyone across the nation continues to deal with the ramifications of COVID-19 and its effects on the market, the area of estate planning can take a real hit.
As they face the immediate concerns raised by COVID-19, many people put their estate planning on the back burner, which can have a long term effect on the probate process. Now, more than ever, it is important for you to keep long term planning in mind and consider how you’ll want your beneficiaries to approach probate.
What is Probate?
Simply put, probate is a legal process that your estate must go through after you die. At the time of your death the person or persons you designate as executor of your will must file papers in probate court. If you die without a will, a judge will appoint someone to act on behalf of your estate.
During the probate process, the executor presents papers to prove the validity of your will, the property of the deceased is identified and inventoried, the property is appraised, any debts or taxes are paid and the remaining estate is then distributed among the beneficiaries listed in the will. Depending on the size of the estate and the amount of assets to be managed, the probate process can take anywhere from a few months to a year.
The process can be further complicated if the will is contested for any reason. If there is a question about the validity of the will, including the mental state of the deceased at the time the will was written or if there was any undue pressure put on the deceased that will have to be settled by a judge before the estate can be distributed. In many cases, the executor of an estate may find it helpful to hire a probate attorney to provide the legal advice and guidance to help navigate through the probate process.
How Does the Market Influence Probate?
When the economy takes a downturn, as it has during the COVID-19 crisis, the thought of long term planning often gets pushed aside. But as difficult as it may be to consider, at times like these it is even more important to keep your estate planning in mind. When economic circumstances change, you should take the opportunity to reevaluate your finances and consider any changes you might want to make.
Continuing to make long term plans such as paying into trusts, life insurance policies and retirement funds can make the probate process easier on your heirs when the time to handle your estate eventually arises. What may seem to be discretionary spending now could have a serious effect on your loved ones down the road.
Lack of Planning Now Can Lead To Probate Increases
Another side effect of the market downturn is a potential backlog of the judicial system as probate cases increase. As Justin Isaac of Lawyer in Blue Jeans explains, “If more people are opting out of creating an estate plan, probates over the next 2 years will increase.” With an increase in cases going through probate court, the process for family members to resolve their loved ones’ estates can become more time consuming.
Plan Now and Avoid Complications Later
As tempting as it may be to put off your estate planning during these difficult financial times, it is more important than ever. With an estate plan in place, you can help your loved ones avoid probate court and make things easier on them in the emotional aftermath of your death. A little extra time spent now will mean that much less heartache for your loved ones in the long run.
Making the Probate Process Easier
The probate process can be complex and overwhelming. If you find yourself facing probate issues, hiring an experienced probate attorney can be your best choice, so that you don’t have to make your way through this legal maze alone. A probate attorney understands the process and will be able to facilitate the filing of paperwork and handle any claims against the estate that may come up.
As we face the COVID-19 crisis and its effect on the market, it can be tempting to put off the thought of estate planning, but making sure that you have your affairs in hand is more important than ever now. You can help make the complexities of probate easier on your loved ones by planning ahead. No matter how dire things may look right now, you can’t afford to take your estate planning for granted.
If you have any questions about the estate planning process, the experienced attorneys at the Lawyer in Blue Jeans Group can help. Give us a call today or fill out our contact form and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.