When anyone meets with an estate planning lawyer, they want some assurance that the eventual process will be as smooth as possible. A bit of attentiveness is all it takes to improve the odds of a smooth process. Here is how to increase the chances that your estate will be orderly.
The executor is in charge of the estate's disposition. They will decide when to do specific things like file paperwork, pay taxes and debts, and distribute assets. Your choice of executor is important if you want the process to be smooth. Select someone trustworthy and diligent. Also, choose someone who doesn't have a stake in the estate's fate or creation.
Name a successor, too. A successor is a person who takes over as executor if the original one can't do the job. Perhaps the executor becomes severely ill, for example. If your estate doesn't have a successor to the executor role, a judge will have to appoint an administrator. That will slow the process considerably because the court-appointed administrator will have to get up to speed on the estate.
Circumstances change. This can radically affect an estate even within the span of a few years. For example, you might sell certain assets without updating your will. In the worst scenario, this could leave a named beneficiary without anything. Update your will at least every couple of years to reflect the changes in your living arrangements and wealth.
Whenever you have a major life event, contact your estate planning attorney. If you get married or divorced, the will should reflect the change. The same goes if you have a child. If your partner passes, do an update.
Consider updates when major asset changes happen, too. If you bought or sold a house, that's going to affect the estate.
Paying Taxes and Debts
Creditors and government agencies have the power to hold estates in probate until obligations are paid. Worse, they can petition the court to compel bankruptcy if the estate can't pay in full. Even if the estate can mostly pay, this slows things down significantly.
You want to be confident that your estate will have the resources necessary to pay all outstanding taxes and debts. You could maintain an untouched money account with interest to handle settlement. Many people also maintain assets so the executor can sell those to settle outstanding obligations. The executor can then distribute the unspent proceeds equitably among the beneficiaries.
Contact a local estate planning lawyer to learn more.