The bad news: probated estates are subject to a variety of costs from attorneys, executors, appraisers, accountants, courts, and state law. Depending on the probate's complexity, fees can run into tens of thousands of dollars. The good news:  probate costs can be reduced by avoiding probate. It’s really that simple. Here are...

Although estate planning has always had its complications, the digital age has added new twists. So much of our lives are now intertwined with our computers, cell phones, and tablets where we communicate and keep records of our assets as well as access to them. When we pass away, having a will may take care of certain property and interests, but what happens to our data on Facebook and Twitter? What about our Google accounts? Our emails? Our photographs? Our other documents stored in the cloud? Does a standard will account for these interests and issues?

A 2012 study by Ohio State researcher Jay Zagorsky found that about one-third of Americans who receive an inheritance have negative savings within two years of getting their money, and of those who receive $100,000 or more, nearly one in five spend, donate, or simply lose it all. If you...

Essay Topic: Imagine that you are 80 years old and you are only now planning your will.  What would you want your legacy to be? Write a letter from your ideal future self to your current self, explaining what you will accomplish over the next 10 years, how you will accomplish it, and what the continuing impact of those accomplishments will be after you are gone.

You may have seen a video will presentation in a Hollywood movie or on television.  Unvaryingly, you saw the lazy, greedy and aloof family members gathered around in the office of the estate planning lawyer to watch the curmudgeonly, but very prosperous, family patriarch or matriarch onscreen systematically castigate the various heirs before leaving them peanuts and then announcing that the bulk of the estate goes to the much maligned and now very wealthy downstairs maid. It is all very entertaining, comedic and, unless there is a written and signed will, totally irrelevant. If you do not have a written will, the court will not accept the video and you will be considered intestate regarding assets not in a trust or otherwise validly disposed of in other instruments or accounts.