Too many Americans die without a will. That is called dying intestate and almost 70% of Americans die intestate. That leaves the family confused and burdened. It also requires that all of the remaining property go through probate, an expensive and time-consuming process that drains resources from the family. Estate planning done in a timely fashion can relieve the surviving spouse and family from the strain of focusing on tasks and decisions that could be assigned through thoughtful and comprehensive estate planning.
What is an Estate?
Everything owned by a person is included within their estate—including tangibles and intangibles. The estate may be money, both cash and money held in a bank; brokerage accounts; personal property, such as clothing, books, jewelry, furniture, mementos; real property, a house, coop or condo, land; intellectual property, including copyrights and patents; a business depending on its form; and future interests from investments and contractual relationships. To adequately plan for the future, an inventory of property is necessary to decide how it will be preserved and distributed upon death. At Rushing & Guice, we understand the hesitancy some clients feel about even broaching the subject of future planning. We are here to ease you through the process.
What is Probate?
Probate is a court proceeding that authenticates a Will, if the decedent had one; approves the named executor so that the property can be inventoried and distributed according to the terms of the will; values the estate so that any taxes and debts can be paid; and oversees distribution of the estate to creditors and beneficiaries. Although Mississippi does not tax estates, there might be federal estate tax consequences that will be supervised by the probate process. If there is no will, then the probate process becomes more complicated. The estate still needs to be inventoried, with an administrator appointed by the court, and distribution of any assets is determined by the laws of intestate succession.
Protecting Your Assets from Probate
Estate planning to avoid probate is an important strategy. By providing ahead of time for ownership and distribution, there are several ways to pull a property out of an estate and avoid probate. Here are some of the strategies:
Co-own marital assets
By co-owning bank and brokerage accounts, motor vehicles, houses, and land, the surviving spouse maintains ownership of these assets without having to place them in probate.
Transfer funds to payable-on-death accounts
By designating a beneficiary to receive bank and brokerage accounts upon the death of the owner, these assets can be removed from probate jurisdiction. The beneficiary does not have any ownership or control of the assets before the death of the decedent.
Own property as joint tenants with rights of survivorship
A common way to avoid probate is to designate ownership, especially of real property, as joint tenants with the rights of survivorship. When the decedent dies, the remaining owner(s) receive the decedent’s share without having to place the real property in probate.
Create a living trust
When planning an estate, the testator places money or property into a trust that he or she manages and controls during their lifetime. Heirs are designated so that they become the successor beneficiaries of the trust.
Mississippi Will and Trust Attorneys Provide Protection from Creditors
Rushing & Guice helps clients to protect their personal and business assets from lawsuits and other creditor claims by working together to create different types of wealth preservation strategies based upon their needs, protecting them, their families, or their businesses from financial crisis, catastrophic judgments and future creditors. Our attorneys can work with you to implement appropriate strategies which can form a barrier between your assets and those who are trying to get access to them.
When Should You Plan Your Estate?
Every adult should have an estate plan as soon as he or she owns property or even opens a bank account. Unexpected things do happen. However, there are also trigger events to begin the process of estate planning:
opening a bank or brokerage account
purchasing a home or real property
starting a business
marriage, divorce, and remarriage
birth of a child
birth of grandchildren
Estate planning includes more than just anticipating the distribution of assets. Estate planning also includes designation of a health care proxy, drafting a living will, appointment of a power of attorney, considering life insurance, and arranging for care in the event of disability.
Any estate plan needs to be reviewed and evaluated every 3-5 years as the tax laws and financial and personal circumstances might change.
An ancillary probate proceeding is a probate proceeding conducted in Mississippi for the estate of a deceased person who resided in a different state at the time of death. Ancillary probate proceedings are usually necessary when a non-resident deceased person owned real estate in Mississippi. Our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of probate law and are available to consult with you and advise as to the options available for transferring title to real estate in Mississippi.
Rushing & Guice, P.L.L.C: Mississippi and Gulf Coast Estate Planning and Probate Attorneys
At Rushing & Guice, comprehensive estate planning and asset protection counsel on the Gulf Coast are a phone call away. Call us at (228) 374-2313 or fill out our online form to arrange for a limited initial consultation. We look forward to hearing from you and look forward to the opportunity to serve as your attorneys.