As you begin navigating the waters of estate planning, you will hear the term probate mentioned frequently. In fact, you may even be warned of it, as though it’s something dreadful that should be avoided at all costs. Work hard, plan ahead, take this route, not that route, all so that you can avoid probate. If you aren’t familiar with the probate process, it might seem a bit perplexing. Why avoid probate? Is it really so terrible? Let us explain.
Why Avoid Probate?
What Is Probate? First, let’s talk a bit about what probate is exactly. After a person dies, their will must be reviewed, authenticated, and validated. This process is known as probate, and it involves courts, attorneys, a lot of time, and (inevitably) expenses. Although in rare cases (and on movies and TV shows), there are major conflicts and contesting parties during probate, this isn’t common. Most of the time, probate only involves a lot of clerical work, forms, and filing deadlines. First, the executor, also known as the Personal Representative (acting on behalf of the deceased) deals with the probate court. Validating the will should move quickly, but the following steps, which are concerned with administering the will, may take some time. Beneficiaries and creditors are notified, taxes and debts are paid, and the deceased person’s assets are secured and distributed, amongst other administrative duties. The length of this process and the work involved will depend greatly on the deceased person’s estate, of course, but the average estate remains in probate for about 18 months. In very rare cases, probate can last a decade or more. Why Avoid Probate?
Avoiding probate is advisable for several reasons. First, you’ll minimize the burden you place on your family and friends after your death. Second, in doing so, you will help your beneficiaries save time and money. If your will goes through probate, after all, your estate property will be tied up for months and possibly years, leaving your beneficiaries waiting and waiting . . . Third, you’ll be able to protect your estate, because your executor won’t have to use estate funds to pay for the pricey probate process. The fees involved include executor fees (which are often waived), attorneys’ fees, appraiser’s fees, and court costs, amongst other expenses. Fourth, probate is a matter of public record. If you would prefer to keep your estate’s administration private, avoiding probate is the way to go.
Of course, every estate is different. For some, probate won’t take much time and will involve only modest costs. If you aren’t sure whether or not it will be worth it for you to avoid probate, discuss your estate plan with a knowledgable attorney.
How Can I Avoid Probate?
Luckily, there are ways to minimize the complexities and costs involved with probate, and sometimes, you can even avoid probate entirely. To do this, you may need to use a living trust, establish joint ownership of property, or create pay-on-death bank and retirement accounts. The key is working with an attorney who is experienced in estate planning and can help you confront all of the legal and financial complexities involved.
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As you can see, there are several important reasons why you might choose to work with an attorney to avoid probate. If you live in southwest Missouri, consider contacting the attorneys at Parks & Jones. We can help you build a new estate plan or update your current estate plan, and we would be happy to help you reduce or eliminate the probate that will occur after your death. Give us a call at 417-823-9898 to learn more, or click here to schedule a free consultation.