At Hopkinson & Abbondanza, estate planning is a creative process where we learn and help define the clients’ goals, help clients become familiar with the planning options that will attain those goals, determine the best tool appropriate to accomplish each client’s unique goals, and then designing, drafting, and implementing a plan. Estate planning is for every person, or couple, who wish to provide a clear set of instructions to ensure that when the unexpected occurs, they and their loved ones are provided for. It is where the clients define what they give, to whom they want, the way they want. When done properly, estate planning should provide for the family efficiently, meaning that taxes are reduced or eliminated, fees are reasonable, and court costs are avoided.
At Hopkinson & Abbondanza, we are not in the business of selling documents. It is important to us that our clients understand their estate plan, and it is equally important that the plan be properly implemented. For an estate plan to work as designated and intended the property must be properly titled and beneficiaries must be properly designated on life insurance policies, annuities, and retirement plans. We believe in this so completely that we accept responsibility for and tend to these matters with most of our estate planning engagements.
When a loved one passes away, his or her estate often goes through a court-managed process called probate, or estate administration, where the assets of the deceased are managed and distributed. If the assets of the deceased were owned through a well drafted and properly funded living trust, it is likely that no court-managed administration would be necessary, though the successor trustee needs to administer the distribution of the deceased’s assets. The length of time needed to complete the probate of an estate depends on the size and complexity of the estate and the local rules and schedule of the probate court.
The probate process for each estate is unique, but usually involves the following steps:
- Filing of a petition with the proper probate court.
- Notice to heirs under the will or to statutory heirs (if no will exists).
- Petition to appoint Executor (in the case of a will) or Administrator for the estate.
- Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by Executor/Administrator.
- Payment of estate debt to rightful creditors.
- Sale of estate assets.
- Payment of estate taxes, if applicable.
- Final distribution of assets to heirs.