Estate Planning and Probate Law 

“Planning for your family’s future”


Why you need an estate plan


You may think you don't need an estate plan unless you have substantial assets.  But here are some reasons why everyone should have one.


  • Avoid a court ordered guardianship.  If you have an accident or medical emergency which leaves you unable to handle your own affairs, and you do not have an estate plan, your loved ones may need to go to court to get the authority to make decisions for you.  The guardianship process can be costly, time consuming, and extremely stressful. 
  • Avoid Probate.  Probate means "to prove".  Probate is the legal process which proves that a will is valid, or who a person's heirs are if there is no will, and transfers ownership of the deceased person's assets. Unless assets pass by operation of law (like joint accounts, or retirement accounts/life insurance with a named beneficiary) or are in a trust, they must go through probate.  Probate is public, and can be costly and lengthy - 6 months to a year, or more. During this time, your heirs may not have access to your assets.
  • Avoid unnecessary family stress. You can choose a trusted family member or loved one to be in charge of your assets and healthcare decisions in the event that you become incapacitated, and make your wishes known to them. When you pass away, you can spare your loved ones of the burden of trying to agree on what should happen to your assets or what your burial wishes would have been. You can also nominate a guardian for your minor children or other wards, and direct who will receive treasured possessions and family heirlooms. Without an estate plan, a long and costly court process is required and state law will determine who your assets are passed to.
  • Minimize taxes. Basic estate planning can help ensure that more of your assets are left to benefit your loved ones, and less goes to the federal and/or state goverment in the form of estate taxes. In the case of spouses, the surviving spouse may be able to avoid paying estate taxes altogether.
  • Protect your assets and your beneficiaries.  After your death, an estate plan can protect assets that pass to beneficiaries such as minor children and grandchildren, or adults who are prone to bad decisions, debt, or outside influence. Assets can also be protected from a beneficiary's ex-spouse and creditors.

A simple will, power of attorney and healthcare directive may be all that you need. Or, a more detailed estate plan including trusts may be right for you. A consultation with Hermann Law can help you plan for your family's future.