As we age, we naturally begin to accumulate things. We buy a car. A house. Most of us start a family. One child gives way to two or three. If we are lucky, we have a little money left over each month to start a retirement. Before you know it, you’re one white picket fence away from living the American dream.
As the years pass we continue to accumulate things. A larger house. Our retirement grows. Some of us may be lucky enough to buy a second home. Generally as our assets grow, so too do our debts.
So what happens when the music stops? What happens when one of us unexpectedly passes away? What happens to your property? Debt? Most importantly, what happens to your children?
If you were to pass away unexpectedly, your assets (less expenses and debts) will be distributed to your heirs. If you have an estate plan, you choose who inherits your things. If you do not have an estate plan, then your state’s laws determine who gets your property. See here for more on the probate process.
Your debts are generally paid out of your estate—the property you leave behind. The rules covering which creditors get paid first and what property can be sold to satisfy your debts can be quite complicated. Whatever is left over, if anything, passes to your heirs. See here for more on the probate process.
If you have minor children, they will generally be cared for by their other parent. If the other parent is not available, a guardian will be appointed for their care. If they stand to receive an inheritance, the Court will also have to appoint a conservator. If you have an estate plan, you can choose your children’s guardian or conservator. If you do not, the court will choose someone for you.
Are you prepared?
Estate Planning Attorney
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About the Author: Aaron R. Shahan is an attorney at Atlas Law, PLC. Aaron dedicates his practice to virtually all aspects of estate planning, elder law and probate.