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What is the best way to avoid probate litigation?

Most of our Michigan readers know that one of the ultimate goals of estate planning is to avoid costly and time consuming probate litigation. Probate and estate administration can be difficult enough at times without having to worry about an heir or potential heir bringing a claim forward in an attempt to de-legitimize a will. However, what many of our readers may not know is that it is ultimately up to the estate planner themselves to stay on point in the effort to make sure a probate court fight does not ensue after they pass.

The starting point, of course, is having a sound, comprehensive estate plan to begin with. Most estate plans will consist of a will, the appropriate powers of attorney and possibly a trust or two. Accounting for all of the planner's assets and personal property and then making sure that those assets will be easy enough for the executor of the estate to locate and inventory are crucial steps. But, once the plan is complete, it is not wise to sign it and forget it.

As pointed out in a recent article, besides drawing up the original estate plan, it is absolutely critical to review the plan from time to time and make any changes when needed. For example, new federal tax laws were legislated this year, and that could have a significant impact on many people's current estate plans.

Although an occasional review of an estate plan is always a good idea, it is almost unavoidable when a major change occurs, whether it is the death of a planned beneficiary or new tax laws. With the ever important goal of avoiding a probate court fight in mind, the estate planner should always remember that it is part of their task to ensure timely reviews are conducted.

Source: The Colorado Springs Business Journal, "Good time to reconsider estate planning," John M. Stinar, Feb. 8, 2013

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