After you pass away, your family will have the responsibility of dealing with your assets and property. If you have not yet come to a decision about where the assets are meant to go, they might have to go through probate. This process of distribution is complicated and can take quite a bit of time. If you begin planning your estate now, you can hopefully prevent probate altogether. Here are some steps to include in planning your estate.
Write Up a Will
One of the first things you will need to do when planning your estate is write up a will. It does not have to be difficult or complex. Simple wills simply name someone as a beneficiary and list assets and property, plus who they should be assigned to after your passing. As long as you include all major assets, there shouldn't be a probate process after you pass. Just make sure you are specific in your will and that you choose backups. For example, if you are leaving your vacation home to your spouse, but you and your spouse are killed in the same car crash, probate might be needed to deal with the home since there is nobody to give it to. This is why you should have alternative people in the case the first person is not available or isn't interested in it.
Choose a Health Care Directive
In addition to the regular will and testament, you also need to have a living will written up. This is a will that names someone as your medical power of attorney. If you are still alive, but are unable to make your own health decisions, this person can make them for you. For example, if you have a severe accident that leaves you unconscious or in a coma, you won't be able to make any decisions. You may also not be able to make decisions if you get Alzheimer's or dementia, you have a major stroke, or your mental health declines so much that you can no longer make rational decisions. The power of attorney is often a spouse, parent or child, though you can choose anyone.
Give Your Children Extra Protection
While the will is going to include information about your children and what assets go to them, they might be minors when you pass. In this case, they will need an adult who can oversee their assets and make sure they get them when they become an adult. You can make sure this happens by selecting a responsible adult who knows them well and will look after them. Again, it can be a spouse or another close relative, or a family friend you trust completely.
For more information about or help with planning your estate, contact a lawyer.