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Unless you execute a plan, you can't choose an estate heir

Do you ever hear people talking about someone in their 50's and think to yourself that 50 sounds light years away, then suddenly realize it's right around the corner in your own life? It's not uncommon, as people often feel younger in their minds than they are in reality. Since you don't go around thinking about your midlife age all the time, there may be other topics not forefront in your mind as well, some of which are very important, such estate planning.

The truth is, some Nevada residents are among many throughout the nation who do whatever they can to avoid talking about their own mortality. They go through life assuming that when their time on earth is done, their homes and possessions will automatically pass to their spouses, children or significant others. Many don't realize that if they don't execute a thorough estate plan before they die, probate courts will administer their estates.

What does that have to do with who inherits the estate?

If your estate becomes intestate, meaning you left no final will and testament to govern its administration, it is the court, not you, who decides how to distribute your possessions and assets. It's not an automated process, therefore:

  • Your spouse may not be the one who inherits your estate.
  • If you live with someone who is not your spouse, he or she will not inherit your estate unless you leave a will.
  • If yours is a blended family, how the court distributes your assets depends on whether your current spouse is the parent of your children. If so, your spouse will likely inherit your entire estate; if not, then the court may divide shares among your spouse and your children from a previous relationship.
  • When single people who are not parents die, their estates typically go to their parents.

State laws vary, so if you own an estate in Nevada, you'd want to clarify the laws of this state before deciding how to address the estate planning topic. The main point to remember is that if you do not execute an estate plan that includes final instructions, the person or people who inherit your assets may not be the ones you would have chosen had you made the decision ahead of time.

The probate process can be very time-consuming, expensive and stressful. The easiest way to help your loved ones avoid the process is to get your own affairs in order while you're still of sound mind to do so. An experienced estate administration attorney can provide guidance to help you customize a plan that best aligns with your personal needs and any financial, medical or inheritance goals you might have.

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