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Wills, trusts, and estates is the area of the law that covers estate planning and the probate of an estate after someone dies. A well-drafted, comprehensive estate plan goes a long way toward avoiding a long, drawn out, and costly probate process upon the death of the testator. A better understanding of the estate planning strategies and tools available may help an individual understand what estate planning can accomplish. Likewise, with a better understanding of the probate process an individual typically gains incentive to create a thorough estate plan with the assistance of the attorneys at the Robinson Law Group.

Estate planning provides the legal framework necessary to manage wealth during the lifetime of an individual and then pass down that wealth after death. Although the foundation of any estate plan is a Last Will and Testament, an estate plan often incorporates a number of other tools and strategies aimed at accomplishing a wide variety of goals. Some common estate planning goals include:

  • Retirement planning
  • Incapacity planning
  • Asset protection
  • Special needs planning
  • Long-term care planning
  • Business succession planning
  • Probate avoidance
  • Tax avoidance
  • Medicaid planning
  • Pet planning

To accomplish these goals a comprehensive estate plan may utilize additional legal tools such as:

  • Advanced directives
  • Power of attorney
  • Living trust
  • Testamentary trust
  • Buy-Sell agreement
  • Life insurance
  • Partnership agreement
  • Payable on death, or Transfer on death accounts

One of the most common secondary goals of estate planning is probate avoidance. Probate is the legal process that an estate must pass through after the death of the estate owner. The purpose of probate is to locate and value assets owned by the decedent at the time of death, pay creditors of the estate (including the federal and state government), and effectuate the legal transfer of estate assets to the intended beneficiaries or legal heirs of the estate. Even a relatively small estate can take months, even years, to conclude the probate process. The larger the estate, the longer the probate process will take if the decedent failed to leave behind a thorough estate plan aimed at decreasing the estate’s exposure to probate.