In this Elder Law Minute, Wes Coulson discusses the issues surrounding who gets your property after you pass away.
Hi! I’m Wes Coulson from Dent-Coulson Elder Law, proudly serving clients throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area and beyond. I’d like to welcome you to our Elder Law and Estate Planning Minute. We do these to help educate people, give them some little tips, and especially to let them know the questions they need to ask, things that they’ve maybe not thought of. Our thought on that is that we can help you best if you realize the things that you need help and that we can help you with. So I hope you enjoy. Thanks!
So I want to talk to you today about probate; so, what is it, and why is it something that we want to avoid, and why do the rules have to make it such a time consuming and difficult, and expensive, process? Well, probate starts with recognizing the simple fact that dead people can’t own property. So, after they die, that means that the ownership is going to need to be transferred to someone else. That’s where the probate rules come in.
If there weren’t any rules at all, I could just say “hey, this guy died, I’m taking it all now!”. Well, obviously, that shouldn’t be allowable, and so we have to have an organized process. We’re going to look and see if somebody has a will, if so, then the terms of their will are going to be carried out. Where we get into complications is we’re also going to have to give people a chance to say that’s not the will. Let’s say I found a will that somebody made 15 years ago and they left their entire state to me, except for 5 years later they made out a new will and they left it to 3 other people. Well, I shouldn’t be able to get away with just being the first one that gets there to court. The other people should have a chance to say “no, that wasn’t a valid will”, or maybe it’s just, maybe I just forged it, okay? So people have to have a chance to object to that.
The other thing that they want to make sure is, let’s say that I die and I have a $150,000 estate and $200,000 worth of unpaid bills. Well, it would be great if my family could just say “whoo hoo! We’re giving up the $150,000”, but again, it doesn’t and shouldn’t work that. My creditors have the right to get paid before anybody in the family gets a share of an inheritance. So if you recognize those things, you recognize why the probate rules are as they should be, because when the legislature made up the rules, they had kind of two choices. Either number one, they had to proceed on the assumption that everybody was a crook, and that if there weren’t rules in place then bad things would happen all the time; or they had to say “well, 999/1000 people aren’t crooks and we’re not going to impose all of these things that have to be done to keep crooks from getting away with it” and, unfortunately, if that had been the rules they had came up with they would’ve said “crooks, it’s okay to get away with it”.
The answer, simply, is to have a living trust because you avoid that court supervised process, and you can say within my family, I can trust that things are being done the right way. Thanks!
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Dent-Coulson Elder Law is dedicated to providing families in the St. Louis area with their Elder Law needs. Our practice areas include Asset Preservation Planning, Veterans Benefits, Medicaid Eligibility, Alzheimer’s Planning, Special Needs Planning, Estate Planning and more. We understand the financial challenges you may face as you and your loved ones grow older. At Dent-Coulson Elder Law, our clients’ well-being is our number one priority. For immediate help, call (618) 632-7000 (IL) or (314) 567-9292 (MO), or Contact Us and we will get in touch as soon as possible.