Creating a will doesn't necessarily prevent the probate process

Losing a family member is a stressful experience, no matter the circumstances. Between sorting through emotions and financial affairs, there is a lot to be concerned about. In order to prevent loved ones’ headaches, a person might create a will to spell out who they want to receive certain assets or property. However, wills alone may not be enough.

In Minnesota, estates must go through probate court after a person passes away. However, there are some ways to speed up this process and take care of many complicated steps before a person passes.

Certainly, it can be helpful to work with an attorney to create a will and enumerate beneficiaries in a specific, up-to-date legal document. Yet there are some other estate planning tools that can help make probate less stressful. For example, a person can establish a living trust in order to protect certain assets from probate. Trust law is quite complex, but taking the time to establish a trust can ensure that assets are administered according to a specific plan and may not be delayed by probate.

Another important point to remember is that some states have a simplified probate process for certain estates. Unfortunately, the availability of this process varies depending on the size and complexity of a person's estate.

The most important point to keep in mind is that effective estate planning can prevent stress and disputes among loved ones. On the other hand, a person shouldn't make assumptions about how an estate will be administered. Simply put, this is a situation where surprises probably aren't welcome.

Source: Forbes, "Estate Planning For The Rest Of Us," Liz Davidson, Sept. 12, 2013

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