Estate Planning and Probate
Estate Planning, arranging for the orderly transfer of assets following death, can be a complicated process. The ideal estate plan minimizes taxes and expenses and assures that assets end up in the hands of the intended heirs. The attorneys of Rosen Hoover Sykes Brown P.A. work with each client to prepare an individualized plan based on the client’s unique circumstances. No two estate plans are alike, but all will require some or all of the following actions:
- Identification of beneficiaries
- Identification of guardians for minor children
- Preparation of an inventory of assets and liabilities.
- Examination of how assets are owned
- Preparation of a will
- Preparation of trust(s)
- Identification of trustees
- Identification of strategies to minimize taxes
Without an estate plan, if one dies without a will, not only is it likely that estate taxes and expenses will be higher, but it is also likely that at least some of the assets of the estate will benefit unintended parties.
In conjunction with estate planning, Rosen Hoover Sykes Brown P.A. attorneys council clients regarding actions that can be taken to minimize the effects on loved ones of a client’s disability and/or health care problems. These actions include preparation of general powers of attorney, living wills and health care advance directives. Each of these documents will be tailored to meet the specific needs of each client.
Probate is a legal procedure for settling the affairs of an individual who has died (the “decedent”) and for transferring the decedent’s property to the rightful beneficiaries. When an individual dies owning assets that do not pass by contract (such as a trust agreement, or a beneficiary designation on an insurance policy or individual retirement account) or automatically by law (such as through joint tenancy with right of survivorship), those assets are subject to formal probate proceedings.
Generally, the probate process requires the preparation and filing of legal documents and may necessitate one or more court hearings. The probate process usually begins with the filing of a Petition for Probate and the appointment of an individual as personal representative to collect, manage, and settle a decedent’s estate.
Rosen Hoover Sykes Brown P.A. attorneys will assist and guide the personal representative through the probate process for the proper handling and settlement of the decedent’s estate. The process will require some or all of the following actions:
- Notification of heirs and creditors of the probate proceedings.
- Taking possession of, inventory, and preserving the decedent’s probate assets.
- Determining the fair market value of estate assets through an appraisal or other suitable means.
- Filing of an inventory.
- Determining the names, ages, residences, and relationship of all beneficiaries and heirs.
- Collection of all income, such as rents, interest, or dividends, as well as debts owed to the decedent.
- Filing of periodic accountings.
- Representation of the estate in any challenges to the will and completion of any pending lawsuits in which the decedent had an interest.
- Preparation of any necessary tax returns and payment of all state or federal estate and income taxes.
- Payment of the valid claims of the decedent’s creditors.
- Selling of property when necessary to raise funds to settle claims and pay administration expenses and taxes.
- Transfer of title to real property and certain personal property (such as stocks and bonds) to those entitled to receive it.
- Distribution of the remaining assets to the designated beneficiaries or heirs.