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How you can make probate easier for your loved ones

Many people hear the word "probate" as a negative, as in "You want to avoid probate." Actually, probate occurs after someone dies whether he or she had a valid will or not. However, having a will and a detailed estate plan in place can save considerable money, time and stress on family members and other loved ones.

If there is a valid will, the court will review it. If all is in order, the person's assets will be distributed as he or she designated. If there is no will, a person is considered to have died "intestate." In that case, the court will determine how the assets are distributed, sometimes based in part on testimony of family members.

A not-insignificant portion of your estate can be lost to legal fees if heirs and beneficiaries need to hash out an estate in probate because there were no legal documents in place.

In Ohio, if the decedent didn't name an executor, the court will appoint someone to carry out those duties. He or she will determine what the assets are, pay any bills, debts, taxes and administration expenses and distribute any remaining assets to heirs in the order designated by the law. Even if the decedent didn't own a home, bank accounts, vehicles and other assets are subject to probate.

You can help your family avoid all of this by putting your assets in a revocable living trust and designating an executor to manage it once you have passed away or are no longer able to make decisions for yourself.

An experienced Ohio family law attorney can provide other recommendations for simplifying the estate administration process for your loved one after you're gone and help you have the security that your wishes will be carried out as you directed.

Source: Wealth Pilgrim, "What Is Probate? (And How to Avoid It)," Neal Frankle, CFP, accessed April 07, 2017

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