Your family is the most important part of your life. Ensuring their happiness and wellbeing after you are gone is an essential aspect of proper estate planning.

The first step is understanding the importance of establishing and maintaining a Will.

Probate is the legal process through which the court makes sure that your debts are paid and your property is distributed according to your will.  The process averages 6 to 18 months, but can sometimes take many years, depending on the complexity of your estate and the state court system.

What is the difference between a will and a living trust?

A will is presented to the probate court to provide instructions regarding the distribution of your estate. The probate court actually transfers the assets to your heirs.

A living trust is similar to a will, except that it does not involve the probate court.

The living trust is a separate legal instrument into which all property is transferred from individual names to the name of the trust.  Legally, you no longer own the property; however, as trustee, you retain control over it.  In many cases, a living trust is a faster, more private and less controversial way of distributing your estate.

How reliable are “do-it-yourself” will packages?

These kits don’t account for individual state law requirements or personal concerns.  It’s like buying glasses at a drugstore – a cheap way to improve your vision, but in the long run, they often do more damage to your eyes. Doing it yourself may be cheaper, but the expense eventually catches up to you and your heirs.