It is never too early to get involved with estate planning. Assuming that you have assets and/or a spouse and possibly one or more children, it is probably time to start thinking about what you wish to leave your loved ones after you are no longer here. An optimal time to start planning your estate is probably not close to the end. It is probably more sensible to plan your estate with enough time to think carefully about what you wish to happen so that your heirs get exactly what you want them to get.
If you plan your estate, you will have control over who gets what and how and when their inheritance is given to them. However, what if you never had a will and estate plan written that specifies all of the details that you want in those documents? Sadly, without a will and/or estate plan, things will become much more complicated (from a legal perspective) and you will not be around to change any of that.
What happens if your estate goes into probate after you have passed?
If you never had an estate plan or a will written that specifies your wishes and you pass, your estate may take a long time to settle, certainly longer than it would if you did have an estate plan. An estate plan will protect your loved ones and will save them the pain and struggle of allowing them to obtain what you wanted them to have in the first place.
If you do have an existing estate plan but you feel that it is too complicated, you may want to consider simplifying it so that it will be as easy as possible for your loved ones to take possession of your assets that are intended for them. At the same time, you can intentionally ensure that your estate plan is worded so that probate is avoided after your death.
Joint ownership and more
Some of the things that you can do to avoid your loved ones having to deal with a probate situation is to leave property that is owned jointly, outline beneficiary designations, and/or set up a revocable trust. If you have a named beneficiary or beneficiaries who will inherit assets upon your death, those assets will not be subject to probate. When it comes to a revocable trust, it will probably not go into probate if property is included among the assets named in the trust.
Valuable advice from an estate planning lawyer
When it comes to estate planning in general, it is probably wise for you to seek the advice of a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer who can guide you through the process and who can make sure that you have all of the relevant documents as part of your estate plan so that you can protect your loved ones and prevent your assets from going into probate.
If your intention is to pass down valuable (whether that is sentimental or financially valuable) assets, you will most likely want your beneficiaries to be able to enjoy their inheritance with as little hassle as possible.