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Estate Planning Mistake #5: Unclear about Probate Assets

Do you know which assets are going to be part of your probate estate, and which assets are going to pass outside of probate? 

Fifth in our series about do-it-yourself estate planning mistakes, this article explores another common error we see among people who create their estate planning documents using forms downloaded from the internet.

Do you know which assets are going to be part of your probate estate, and which assets are going to pass outside of probate? 

Most people don’t. 

There are many assets that pass outside of probate, such as accounts that have named beneficiaries—think retirement accounts (401ks and IRAs), life insurance policies, and brokerage accounts. Assets that are jointly owned will typically pass to the surviving owner outside of probate as well. Your Will has nothing to say about those assets. They go automatically to the person named as beneficiary or joint owner. Everything else goes through probate unless you have employed a legal tool to avoid it.

This can cause problems. For instance, if you have more than one child and you add one of your children to your bank account, you and that child are both joint owners of that asset. If you die suddenly, the child named on the bank account will inherit the entire account because it passes outside of probate to the joint owner. This could result in the unintentional disinheriting of the other children.

The do-it-yourself approach to estate planning can cause many problems for families. Lacking legal knowledge, people do what they think is best, yet many make mistakes that can have devastating consequences. Reading an article on a legal site is not going to give you enough context to know which legal tools, documents, and language are right for you.

The only way to be sure that you avoid these innocent mistakes is to work with a firm like Kimbrough Law that specializes in estate planning. After we have a detailed understanding of your goals, we go over your list of assets and discuss what you want to happen to each asset after you die. If you want certain assets to bypass the probate process, we will determine what the law will and won’t allow. We will then use the most appropriate legal tools and techniques help you avoid probate—while also avoiding unintended consequences and collateral damage. 

If you have questions or need help creating a plan to avoid probate, Kimbrough Law is here for you. Call at 706.850.6910 to schedule your confidential consultation. 


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