What is Probate and Why Should We Try to Avoid it?

So many people do not know what probate is or may misunderstand just what it means. So, what is probate? Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies, involving paperwork and court appearances by lawyers.  The lawyers and court fees are paid from estate property, which would otherwise go to the people who inherit the deceased person’s property.  Generally, the probate process progresses like this:

Upon your death, your executor (named in your will) or a court-appointed executor (if you die without a will), files papers in the local probate court, proving the validity of your will, including a list of your property, your debts, and who is to inherit what you have left. Your relatives and creditors are officially notified of your death. The probate process generally takes a few months to a year.

If your will makes a number of cash bequests but your estate consists mostly of valuable tangible items (instead of cash), the executor may have such items appraised and sold to produce cash, so your outstanding debts and/or unpaid taxes can be paid. After your executor pays your debts and taxes, the remainder of your estate will be divided among the people or organizations named in your will, and your property will be transferred to its new owners.

Is Probate Right for Me?

Three key factors in deciding whether probate is right for you are: your age, your health, and your wealth. If you’re young and in good health, planning probate now may mean you’ll have to re-do it as your life situation changes. If you have very little property, your property may qualify for your state’s simplified probate procedure, in which case time and effort spent in estate planning isn’t necessary.  If you’re in your 50s or older, in poor health, or own a significant amount of property, you’ll probably want to do some planning to avoid probate.  

Additional Reasons to Avoid Probate:

1.         Probate Takes Time

2.         Probate Costs Money

3.         An Attorney is Usually Needed

4.         You May Open Yourself to Creditor Claims

5.         Your Estate can be Contested

6.         The Outcome is Uncertain

7.         Probate Increases Chances of Administration Difficulties

8.         Your Probate is a Matter of Public Record

9.         Your Personal Representative is Liable for any Administration Mistakes

10.     Additional Probate Actions may be Necessary if Minors are Involved.

Here is another great article with more explanation for these Top 10 reasons to avoid probate: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/top-10-reasons-to-avoid-probate.

When your family is faced with your death, you want to do everything you can to minimize their pain and grief.  The fact is, if you haven’t planned well, not only will your family be dealing with unavoidable pain and grief, but also with legal issues they aren’t emotionally equipped to handle such as:  dealing with insurance companies, locating the reading the will, money, assets, investment, contentious family members, etc.  Probate is key to your family’s peace of mind, as well as tying up your affairs. 

Hopefully we have been able to better help you understand what is probate and answered some of the questions you may have. Some elder law attorneys charge for an initial consultation, but some do not.  There is nothing to lose by signing up for a free consultation with an elder law attorney at Dillman Law Group to talk through ways to protect your parents’ assets.  Discussing these options and the future of your parents could save you money and stress later.

What is keeping you from scheduling a free consultation?  Give our office a call today to schedule your free consultation at 317-492-9569.