Probate is the legal process that takes place to determine the validity of a deceased person’s will and how that person’s assets will be distributed. Estate administration and planning can be a complicated process and sometimes people make mistakes. For this reason, it is critical to hire an experienced and reputable wills and estates lawyer. The following are some of the most common mistakes to avoid:
Not Updating Your Will
Wills must be regularly updated to reflect life changes. Getting married, getting divorced, having children and acquiring new property are all reasons to update your will. Certain life events affect how an estate is distributed or how the testator wishes for the estate to be distributed. Therefore, it is important for testators to periodically ensure that their wishes are reflected accurately in their wills.
Not Having an Estate Plan
Many people incorrectly assume that they do not need an estate plan as long as they have a will. While a written will is essential, it is not enough to ensure that all the testator’s wishes are carried out in the event of their incapacitation or death. Some documents included in a complete estate plan, such as power of attorney and advanced medical directive, may be needed prior to the testator’s passing if the testator becomes disabled and is unable to make critical medical decisions. If those documents do not exist, the court may appoint someone that the testator may not have selected to make the decisions on their behalf.
Not Considering Whether Probate is Necessary
The public process of probate may be desirable in situations where there are disagreements regarding how the estate is distributed. However, some assets such as joint tenancy property, retirement accounts and life insurance payable to the estate do not require formal probate proceedings. Generally, if probate can be avoided, it should be because depending on the state in which it takes place, probate can be a time-consuming and expensive process. In Pennsylvania, estates with less than $50,000 in assets may go through a simplified probate procedure.
Not Obtaining Legal Counsel
Experienced legal counsel can help the process run smoothly and correctly. Without knowledge and experience pertaining to wills and estates, it can be difficult to know how to proceed. Estate assets will need to be distributed properly and certain steps must be taken right away. Creditors must be given proper notice of the decedent’s death. Inheritance and estate taxes must be properly calculated and paid. An experienced wills and estates attorney can help develop strategies based on the client’s particular needs and avoid costly tax mistakes.
West Chester Wills and Estates Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Clients Avoid Estate Planning, Administration and Probate Mistakes
The experienced West Chester wills and estates lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. help guide clients through all aspects of probate proceedings and can help you avoid costly mistakes. From our West Chester and Media offices, we represent clients throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, including those in Delaware County, Chester County, Philadelphia County and Montgomery County. To arrange a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 610-565-3701 to discuss your case.