You may have heard that, when planning your estate, you should do everything possible to avoid probate. While probate is very probably necessary for most people no matter what actions you take, the idea of avoiding probate is to keep estate property away from the hands of the probate judge. That is done using various methods like trusts, special deeds, and account designations. Many people wonder what the benefits of avoiding probate are. For the answer, read on.
Probate Avoidance Benefits
Privacy – When it comes to probate court, nothing is private. Wills have to be filed in the county probate court and will eventually become part of the public record. An irrevocable trust, however, is so private that even the other beneficiaries won't know the full scope of the plan. With a will, for example, one sibling may immediately realize that the other sibling received more property, and that might not only cause hard feelings but also create issues if they contest the will.
Expediency – Probate can be a long process. It can take months for probate to be completed with even the simplest of estates. Larger estates can take longer, and if the will is contested, things can go on for years. Things are much shorter with will-alternatives like a trust or a deed designation. For example, you can add others onto an existing real estate deed so that the home passes seamlessly to them without the home having to go through probate. Also, with a trust, you only have to wait until the death certificates are issued to claim property if you are a beneficiary. Death certificates are usually issued a week or two after the death. Another time-related issue revolves around keeping assets safe and secure. During probate, the estate is held in a state of suspension where funds must be spent to keep certain utilities running, the lawn mowed, storage fees paid, etc.
Costs – Since probate is a legal court process, filing and legal fees are inevitable. If you can keep much of the estate out of probate, the fees for expenses like the executor (or personal representative) are sure to be less. When very little property exists to go through probate, some states offer a shortened (and less expensive) probate process, or you may not have to go through probate at all.
Avoiding probate is a lot more simple than many think. In many cases, it consists of filling out a few forms and keeping them in a safe place. To find out more, speak to an estate-planning lawyer.