Estate planning practitioners all across the Las Vegas valley urge their clients to get their estate plan together and to spread the word that there is a way to try to avoid probate (the legal process required to administer a decedent’s estate) and guardianship (the legal process to formally appoint a guardian over your person and estate in the event you become mentally incompetent). Some clients get right on it, they set up a revocable living trust, they fund it, and they make sure that everything and everyone is in place that would allow them control of their lives should they become incompetent and control from the grave. Other clients procrastinate, but always with the good intention that they will get it done “one day.” Sometimes that “one day” never comes and then their loved ones are faced with trying to figure out what is guardianship and probate and how do I navigate through these expensive and time-consuming mazes, which could have been easily avoided.
In Nevada, there are four different types of probate proceedings – all based on the overall net value of a decedent’s estate. Only one type of probate, however, strives to avoid going to court; this is referred to as a “small estate.” To fall within the realm of a “small estate,” the decedent must not have owned any real property that would be subject to probate and the estate assets must be valued no more than $100,000 if the claimant is the surviving spouse and $25,000 for any other claimant. Any other probate estate that includes real property and exceeds those “small estate” amounts require formal court involvement. And, the higher the value of the estate, the more drawn out the probate process can be and, in turn, the more costly. This does not take into account the emotional strain and mounting attorneys’ fees and costs that are incurred if litigation ensues due to others trying to lay claim to the decedent’s assets.
As for guardianship, if you do not have a valid estate plan in place, you could be subject to the whim of those people that you did not want to be in charge of your finances and health care decisions. Worse yet, your estate could be footing a large legal bill if a dispute arises over who should be appointed as your guardian – money that you intended to be used for your benefit and not to line the pockets of others.
Anyone who has been forced to experience and go through the probate or guardianship process always asks the same question, “Why didn’t he/she get their estate plan all squared-away so I could avoid this mess?” That is the million dollar question in the estate planning world. Nobody is promised tomorrow. Today is that “one day” to do what is right for you and your loved ones. Getting your affairs in order now will cost your estate much less in the future, an investment worth making. For a free consultation, please call (702) 656-0808.