When you pass away, your family may need to sign certain documents as part of a probate process in order to claim their inheritance. This can happen if you own property (like a house, car, bank account, investment account, or other asset) in your name only and you have not completed a beneficiary, pay-on-death, or transfer-on-death designation. Although having a will is a good basic form of planning, a will does not avoid probate. Instead, a will simply lets you inform the probate court of your wishes—your loved ones still have to go through the probate process to make those wishes legal.
Now that you have an idea of why probate might be necessary, here are three key reasons why you may want to avoid probate, if at all possible.
Of course, setting up an estate plan that avoids probate does have its own costs. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Like the “ounce of prevention,” costs you incur now to put a plan in place are more easily controlled than uncertain costs in the future, especially when you consider that your loved ones may be making decisions while grieving. With proper planning, you can minimize the risk of costly conflict and also reduce or eliminate some costs; if there is no probate case, there will not be any probate filings fees or court costs.
While the time frame for probating an estate can vary widely by state and by the value, amount, and complexity of the deceased person’s accounts and property, probate is not generally a quick process. It is not unusual for probates, even seemingly simple ones, to take six months to a year or more, during which time your beneficiaries may not have easy access to the money and property you intended to leave them. This delay can be especially difficult for loved ones experiencing hardship who might benefit from a faster, simpler process, such as the living trust administration process. Bypassing probate can significantly expedite the disbursement of money and property so that beneficiaries can benefit from their inheritance sooner.
If you have property located in multiple states, a version of the probate process must be repeated in each state in which you hold property. This repetition can cost your loved ones even more time and money. The good news is that with proper trust-centered estate planning, you can avoid probate in all of the states, simplify the transfer of your financial legacy, and provide lifelong tax savings and asset protection to your family. To learn more, call us to schedule an appointment. One of our experienced attorneys will be happy to strategize with you.