- Handling someone’s estate is something you may only do once in your lifetime and it can be a very emotional, daunting process.
- Estate plans can be executed during someone’s life should they become incapacitated, and upon a person’s death as well.
- It’s important to seek help from a professional when it comes to estate planning as it is a very complex area and because it can be a long process if probate is involved.
Like our birth and death, dealing with someone’s estate is probably something you will only do once in your lifetime. It may be an estate of a parent or grandparent, or for a sibling. It comes at an emotional time that is very difficult for us, and the positions themselves can be daunting. However, dealing with someone’s estate doesn’t just happen upon their death.
There are times during life when we might have to step in. For instance, with parents, you may become an agent for their Power of Attorney for healthcare, which means making healthcare decisions for them. Or you may be an agent for their property Power of Attorney, making financial decisions for them.
Then at some point, they pass away. At that time, the position changes again, and now you may be called upon to be an executor or a trustee, a personal representative. These roles tend to have a fiduciary requirement, which is the highest standard of care and means you are put in a position of trust.
As you will typically only do this once in your lifetime, you want to get it right. It’s important to do the planning first, and to seek out help as this is a very complex area. You can seek help from:
- Estate planning attorneys – These professionals help determine the specific distribution of your estate. They also provide counsel if you want to set up a trust, and they can help draft wills, powers of attorney and other estate planning documents.
- Wealth advisors – These professionals help you see a snapshot of your finances and couple that with your goals to tailor a plan for you to help you reach those goals. Estate planning is just one part of what they can do for your overall financial health.
- Accountants – These professionals are indispensable when it comes to planning your estate to ensure your plan is structured to make the most of accounting and tax regulations.
Another important reason to seek help from a professional is because of probate. Probate is a legal process through which a deceased person’s estate is properly distributed based on their will and any debt owed to creditors is paid off. It is handled through the court system and can take anywhere from 6 months to years, depending on if there are any legal challenges that arise during the process. This process is very detailed, with lots of decisions to make. If you are not up to the task, you can always resign, and the next person in line can take over some of those roles.
It all comes down to understanding the position, and seeking the help you need to ensure you make smart decisions about these estates. Eventually everything gets settled, you no longer have that position, and you continue with your life.
Until next time, enjoy. Gary