Avoiding Probate Court Using The Non-Probate Transfer Laws
If you’re like most people, you spend more time planning vacations, birthday parties, weddings, and retirements than you do thinking about estate planning. It’s not especially fun, can be annoying for those that don’t like to plan ahead, and not especially uplifting as it requires thinking about your mortality.
“On the upside,” says attorney Bill Quitmeier, “estate planning offers peace of mind. You don’t want someone else deciding how to split up your assets or making end of life decisions for you. It’s not just about planning for your death; it’s also about planning your life.”
“Estate planning, simply put, is legal documentation of a plan you create to ensure your wishes are carried out in case of death, or even an illness or accident that might leave you unable to make financial, medical, or administrative decisions for yourself. In planning your estate, you designate whom you want and trust to make these decisions for you both in life and death.”
Quitmeier suggests these decisions are not ones you want to leave to be solved by your grieving heirs’ guesswork. A litigation and transaction attorney with particular emphasis in estate planning, real estate, and contracts, he has practiced law in Kansas City’s Northland for 40 years. He has prepared hundreds of estate plans for people of all ages and incomes. The common denominator remains the misperceptions.
Many believe only the wealthy need estate plans. That’s incorrect. If you own furniture, a car, a home, other real estate, financial accounts or personal belongings, you have an estate.
“Another common misperception,” adds Quitmeier, “is that a will is good enough. It’s not. A will is a ticket to probate court. If the assets are all jointly titled with someone that actually survives, you can avoid probate, but if both individuals should pass away simultaneously, the estate would have go through probate. A will is definitely necessary and important in designating guardianship for minor children, otherwise, a will is nothing more than instructions for a probate judge on how to divide your assets.”
“Probate can be costly and slow,” Quitmeier continues. “There are court fees, lawyer’s fees, administrator’s fees and time lost to work for court appearances. The role of the probate court is to ensure the debts of the deceased are paid and their assets go to those named in the will. Probate can delay heirs getting their properties and in some cases, much-needed funds. By creating a trust and utilizing non-probate transfer documents (TOD and POD and proper beneficiary designation) in your estate plan, you can avoid interference by courts if death or disability occurs.”
How about this one? Think estate planning is only for old people or retirees? Think again. Anyone over the age of 18 can consider estate planning. Accidents and disablement are not age-specific. Planning includes advance directives, power of attorney and release of information documents. If you don’t plan for yourself, someone else will plan for you after the fact, when you have nothing to say about it.
If the legal system sounds complicated, it’s because it is. There are do-it-yourself kits and online forms for wills, trusts, and advance directives, but part of knowing the right answers is knowing the right questions to ask. Quitmeier can guide you through the process to ensure your wishes will be honored during your life and upon your death.
Professional estate planning is one of the easiest and most important things you can do. The service is affordable and can be tailored to fit your needs. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for your loved ones. It’s a gift.
Quitmeier Law Firm is located near Zona Rosa at 10150 N Ambassador Dr #100, Kansas City, MO. For an appointment, call 816.891.6300 or email Bill@wmQlaw.com.