Delaware Estate Lawyer

If you are interested in making a plan for your estate so your assets and family are protected upon your death, reach out to an experienced Delaware estate attorney for help covering all of your bases.

When you have assets that could be distributed among family members when you pass away, making a plan that will determine who gets what is an excellent measure to take to guarantee that your desires for your property and finances are met.

Estate planning can involve a lot of complex details. When you’re looking for a professional to help you get your affairs in order, working with a Delaware estate lawyer at Barros, McNamara, Malkiewicz & Taylor can help you ensure that you understand all of the picky details and that your property and assets will be divided as you wish.

What Is Estate Planning?

The process of planning your estate involves going over everything you own and making arrangements for how your assets should be dispersed and divided upon your death. This is done while you are living in the hope of avoiding estate, income, and gift taxes and to prevent having your estate be dragged through probate court.

All About Probate

You can expect that your estate may need to go through probate when your assets exceed $30,000 or if you owned property. When your estate goes through probate, the court becomes involved in the settlement of your estate and the execution of your will unless you have assigned a designated executor.

In probate, your executor will pay any back taxes or bills, place a value on the items of your estate, and distribute the assets as assigned to the beneficiaries of your will—or as he or she sees fit, with court approval.

The purpose of probate is to prevent fraud and ensure that all of your debts are taken care of before your assets are distributed among beneficiaries.

The Creation of Your Will

One of the most important aspects of estate planning is creating your last will and testament. This can help speed up the probate process—particularly when you have your will notarized, although signing in front of a notary is not a legal requirement.  

Writing your will is a way for you to leave specific items to your family members, decide on an executor of your will (or someone who will make decisions for you when you are unable to do so), and name someone to care for your minor children and property.

If you do not have a will when you die, your property may be divided among your closest family members—or those the court is able to find. If none can be found, the state of Delaware can then take control of your property and belongings. This is why many people work with an estate lawyer in Delaware to ensure their will is in place and completely sound.

Will Disputes

When disgruntled family members believe there might have been a mistake in your decision to leave them out of your will, they may decide to contest it. This can be done within sixty days of the executor of your will opening probate.

However, you can avoid this if you and your Delaware estate and will lawyer include a “no-contest clause” in your will, which will bar any of your beneficiaries from contesting the will if they hope to receive the portion of your property that you might have left to them.

In addition, you can prevalidate your will before your passing, which demonstrates to the court that you were of sound mind when you made your decisions. A prevalidated will cannot be disputed by any of the beneficiaries named in your will.

What You Need to Know About Trusts

A trust is an agreement you enter with a third party, known as a trustee, who will hold your assets for you on behalf of the beneficiaries of your will. Setting up a trust can help you avoid having your will sent through probate and hopefully minimize the estate and federal taxes your beneficiaries will need to pay on what you have left for them.

Assigning a Healthcare Proxy

During your estate planning, it is often a good idea to have an advanced directive with a named healthcare proxy who will make medical decisions for you if you become unable to do so.

The proxy’s word does not supersede your advanced directive, but he or she will have the right to discuss your medical care with your physicians and make necessary determinations with regard to your treatment if you are unable to make these decisions for yourself.

It’s important that you are very clear in your advanced directive about which life-sustaining measures should or should not be taken and any other pertinent medical information you’d like to be known should it become necessary. You should also discuss this information with both the person you’ve designated as proxy and your Delaware estate attorney so your needs are known well ahead of time.

Your Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney holds essentially the same role as that of the healthcare proxy. The difference between the two is that the healthcare proxy makes decisions for you regarding your healthcare decisions, and a durable power of attorney will make these same decisions as they apply to your assets and finances if you become unable to do so.

Delaware Estate FAQ

Because there are so many moving parts in estate planning, it’s easy to become confused by all of the jargon and be unsure of what applies to you. Below, we have included some of the most common questions our clients have had about their Delaware estate planning process.

What happens when a person dies without a will?

When a person dies without a will, his or her estate is taken over by the court, and any assets are used to cover remaining debts and then dispersed equally among close family members or those who can be found. If there are no family members to claim the estate, the state of Delaware takes control of your assets.

What is a trustee?

A trustee is a third party assigned when you open a trust that will hold onto and become the executor of any assets you want to keep out of probate upon your death. The trustee will divide these assets as you requested. The purpose of a trust is to avoid probate court and the payment of back taxes or bills.

How should an inheritance be structured?

This is a very personal decision that only you can make. However, you will have a few different options on how you want your assets to be distributed among heirs. You can choose to leave your beneficiary property or other assets at the time of death, at which point he or she becomes the owner of the assets in question. The other option is to leave your assets in a trust, where you can choose to allow beneficiaries to withdraw assets once they reach a certain age.

Talk to a Delaware Estate Attorney

If you would like more information about estate planning or have questions that pertain specifically to your situation, contact a qualified attorney at Barros, McNamara, Malkiewicz & Taylor who can help you secure your assets and property for appropriate dispersal when you pass away.

You can schedule a consultation to discuss your case with a Delaware estate lawyer by filling out the contact form below or giving us a call at 302-734-8400.