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Preparing Your Will – Avoiding Probate

This edition of the Koldin Law Center E-Newsletter is part of a series about the role of an Elder Law Attorney.  In this newsletter we continue the discussion regarding the planning process for preparing your Last Will and Testament

The Koldin Law Center, P.C. limits its practice to the specific field of Elder Law which includes estate planning and Medicaid law.

All prior newsletters are saved on our website. You can read them by clicking here.

The previous newsletter in this series compared how a general attorney would most likely handle preparing a Will versus how an Elder Law attorney would likely handle the initial client consultation discussion regarding preparing a Will.

Example:  Tom and Mary Jones are married.  They are 75 years old.  They have never met with an attorney before.  They have 2 children, Jim and Jan, ages 45 and 50.  Jim does not have any children.  Jan has 3 children.

Typical Will Consultation with an Elder Law Attorney

In addition to discussing the beneficiaries of your Will, the initial consultation at the Koldin Law Center would typically discuss:

(1) Options to avoid or minimize the need to Probate the Will

(2) Discuss if there are any special provisions that need to be included in the estate plan such as for family members with health issues or disability

(3) Accidentally disinheriting children and grandchildren

(4) Second Marriage complications

(5) Explain that a Will does not protect assets in the event of a long term illness and what planning can be done to accomplish protecting your life savings from the costs of long term care such as nursing home care.

Avoiding or Minimizing Probate

Probate is a judicial proceeding to determine the validity of your Will and to carry out the terms of your Will. The need for judicial involvement can cause delay and unnecessary expense.

There are many ways to avoid Probate where your assets are left directly to beneficiaries without passing through your Will.

One common way to avoid Probate is by adding joint owners to bank and brokerage accounts.  Most joint accounts have survivorship language.  This means that when one joint owner dies, the other owner then automatically keeps the entire account.

Another common way to avoid Probate is by adding beneficiaries to bank and brokerage accounts.  These accounts typically have language such as ITF (In Trust For), TOD (Transfer on Death), or POD (Payable on Death).

For example, an account could be written, “Tom Jones ITF Mary Jones.”  This account would be owned by Tom Jones and on his death, the bank would transfer ownership of the account to Mary Jones.

Probate can be avoided or minimized by making financial institution accounts joint with someone else or by designating beneficiaries on the accounts.

Avoiding Probate with real property such as your family home can be done by adding joint owners or by transferring the property now to your children or other family members and possibly reserving a life estate to yourself.

There are many disadvantages to adding joint owners or transferring real property to another person.  For a discussion of making gifts, see our website by clicking here. 

For a discussion of transferring real estate to your children and reserving a life estate, see our website by clicking here.

Both Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts are often a better or safer way to avoid probate for real estate. For a complete discussion of Trust planning, see our website by clicking here.

For more information about a Last Will and Testament, please visit our website by clicking here.

The next newsletter in this series will review special provisions to consider including in your Last Will and Testament.

At the Koldin Law Center, P.C., located in East Syracuse, New York, we have over 50 years of experience helping individuals plan for immediate crisis and long term care. Our attorneys are available to discuss your estate planning options, including the advantages and disadvantages of Revocable Trusts and Irrevocable Trusts, along with other estate planning considerations including a Will, Power of Attorney, and Health Care Proxy.

When the Koldin Law Center, P.C. handles a Medicaid case, we not only handle the entire application process, but we also review asset protection options with our clients. We review with our clients who are already in a Nursing Home options to protect some or all of their assets beyond merely establishing Medicaid eligibility.

We do not charge a fee for the initial consultation.  We welcome your children, family attorney, accountant, and/or financial planner to be present at the initial consultation.

There is something you can do.

Our Attorneys are available to speak to your organization

Our Attorneys speak to groups throughout New York State as a public service. If you would like to arrange for one of our Attorneys to speak to your group, please contact our office.

We appreciate your referrals

We have been told by many clients who are in a crisis that they wish they had known about our firm much sooner. We are proud of the many families we have helped in times of crisis.

We are also proud of the many families we helped avoid financial crisis by doing estate planning in advance.

We all share the responsibility for making our family and friends aware of the planning options available to them.

Your referral to the Koldin Law Center could make a major difference in the lives of your family and friends if they are someday faced with a long term illness.

Remember that the Koldin Law Center offers many services for clients of all ages. Our services range from basic estate planning such as a simple will to complex estate planning including asset preservation planning.


E - Newsletter

Practice Areas

Basic Estate Planning

Trust Planning

Medicaid Planning And MedicaidApplications

Planning For Individuals With Disabilities

Probate And EstateAdministration