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What steps should you take to ease the probate process?

If our Michigan readers have a will, they are off to a good start with their estate plans. A simple will covers many basic estate planning needs, with many people simply leaving everything to their spouse and vice versa. Couples with minor children have an extra step to take, naming another person or couple to care for their children in the unfortunate event of the spouses' simultaneous death. Many of the steps taken in drafting a will go a long ways toward expediting the probate process, but are there other steps that can help? According to a recent article, there is a sort of "checklist" individuals and couples should look to when beginning to lay out their estate plan.

The first step is broad and may seem obvious: think about what should happen to assets and minor children upon death. It is a morbid thing to think about, no doubt, but a necessary topic to cover because it is inevitable for everyone. Thinking about alternate beneficiaries and the percentage of divides amongst those who will receive the assets is the key to avoiding contentious probate litigation.

Once this initial step is complete, another step is to gather everything that will be needed to list all assets completely and accurately. This could be time-consuming, but the time spent making exact details about financial positions and holdings will help the executor of the estate immensely, thereby also expediting the probate process.

One of the final steps is to actually take action and have all the appropriate documents drafted and executed. Thinking about the distribution of assets is one thing, but without putting pen to paper it can be meaningless.

Source:, "Shaw on the Law: Six-step checklist of your estate plan," Steve Shaw, June 21, 2013

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