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Advanced Directive, Living Will, Power of Attorney. What are these documents and why do you need them? Legal jargon can be confusing, especially when you’re dealing with potential life-and-death health care decisions. Legal health care documents can help you plan for a time when you might be incapacitated or dying, but understanding how to use them can be complicated. In general, legal health care documents allow you to state your wishes in advance of becoming too ill or too injured to make them known.

Avoiding Probate

Probate is the court process of transferring your probate assets to your heirs after your death.  Only assets that are in your probate estate must go through this court process.  Therefore, probate can be avoided by making certain all assets are in non probate form.  This can be accomplished by various methods including beneficiary or payable on death designations, trust planning, joint ownership, and gifts

Small Estate Administration

If the total value of all probate assets in an estate are less than $50,000, it may be possible to transfer assets using a Small Estate Affidavit without going through probate court. If a person or institution holds property belonging to your deceased loved one (e.g., a bank, car title, investment account, etc.) is presented an affidavit and a copy of the death certificate, that person or institution should release the asset.


If your deceased loved one left assets in probate form and the total value of all assets is greater than $50,000, then probate is the only way to transfer those assets to the heirs.  Even if your loved one had a Will, it must be presented to the probate court and the assets distributed according to the probate statutes under the supervision of the court.

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