Compared to many states, probate in Vermont is straightforward. Just how smooth a process it ultimately is comes down to the one whose estate is being decided. This week, we take a look at a few of the dynamics that go into Vermont’s probate laws.
If you have a will in place, your estate is overseen by an executor. This is someone whom you trust to ensure your wishes are met according to the instructions in your will. When a will is specific in the final wishes of the deceased, the entire process is much easier on loved ones and leaves nothing open for interpretation. A qualified estate planning lawyer will make sure the details are covered.
Administered or Executed?
If, however, you don’t leave a will, your estate must be administered (versus executed if you do have a will) and in those instances, the courts decide how that estate is distributed. This often leads to confusion and hard feelings. Needless to say, a will is always preferred.
Vermont’s probate laws are classified one of two ways: either traditional probate estate rules or those associated with the various tax considerations. Probate estates include:
- property you solely own (if it’s jointly owned, the property reverts t0 the other owners
- insurance policies
- IRAs, pensions, annuities
Once the administrator or executor has an opportunity, their first step is to create an accurate inventory of assets and then provide the courts with a detailed list of outstanding debts. The courts then will require an intricate payments ledger for debt repayment and other financial considerations. Once those obligations have been met, the estate is then divided by either the will’s instructions or based on distribution for when there is no will.
No Reason to Avoid Vermont’s Estate Laws
There’s not an estate planning attorney anywhere that would not encourage his client to carefully consider creating a will and estate plan. It’s simply too much of a gamble to leave matters such as these to the courts. Many people think they can wait, as they’re not sure their minds won’t change in terms of beneficiaries. In Vermont, though, one can change his will as often as necessary. A living trust works nicely in most situations and allow for changes whenever you feel they’re warranted.
If, however, you prefer a more straight –lined approach, you can put your property and assets in a joint trust, naming your spouse or other family member as executor. In fact, many of our clients, when creating their estate plans, will often place their child as joint owner. While that works well in most cases, it’s important to not underestimate that sibling rivalry. It can be quite powerful.
The good news, as mentioned, is that Vermont probate laws are quite streamlined, especially when mirrored against other states that are sometimes quite overwhelming and intimidating. Still, that doesn’t lessen the need for a qualified Vermont estate planning lawyer. In fact, it’s strongly encouraged that legal representation is a part of this process for you and your family.
Our team of elder care attorneys work to protect the rights and wishes of our clients, whether it’s living trusts, will preparation, or other end of life details. The fact is, it’s never easy. The one thing that can at least not add to an already difficult time is ensuring the logistics don’t get in the way. And to that end, it’s up to each of us to make sure those details are handled before our loved ones are left to decide for us.