How can I protect my assets from taxes, lawyers, courts, and discontented heirs?

Famed entertainer Sonny Bono died without a will. Twelve years later, his heirs were still contesting his estate. Marilyn Monroe left ¾ of her estate to her acting coach. When he died, his share passed to his third wife whom Marilyn didn’t even know. Brilliant 60s guitarist Jimi Hendrix died without a will. His brother, with whom he was close, received nothing after probate finished.

There are many such celebrity stories, famous people with tons of money, but you don’t have to be famous to be concerned about your estate. A hundred or so acres of farmland could be worth nearly $1,000,000 these days. If you have no will or trust to say how you wish it and your other assets distributed (and more than half of Americans don’t!) the State will decide for you. This is the probate process. It costs an average of 2-3% of your estate’s value and could drag on for years. 

The simple solution is to prepare an estate plan and keep lawyers, courts, and discontented heirs from making distribution decisions for you. Many lawyers want you to go through probate (“Oh, your heirs can afford it.”) because it means more money for them. Keep your money. Plan your estate.