Helping Your Heirs by Avoiding Probate Court
The old sage Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Despite that adage, it’s reported that more than half of American adults don’t have a will or any kind of written plans allocating to whom their personal belongings would be transferred upon their death.
While some people may have heard of the probate process, most of us likely have no idea what it is or how it may affect us should an elderly loved one pass away without a will.
What is probate?
Probate is a court-supervised process that occurs after a person has died and authenticates that person’s will, if there is one, and, after paying bills and taxes, aims to ensure that the person’s estate and assets are distributed properly. When no will or guidance from the decedent exists, the court, after paying bills and taxes, distributes the assets according to state law.
Why should probate be avoided?
When no will is available, the process can be especially burdensome and result in:
- Unnecessary expenses. Legal and court fees can quickly add up to thousands of dollars when a will is not available.
- Endless Delays. When land or other property is in probate, it cannot be sold. The process of transferring to another family member can take anywhere from 1-2 years.
- Details Made Public. Details about the estate and a list of beneficiaries are often made public during probate.
- Assets Distributed Unfairly. Believe it or not, it’s entirely possible that a judge whom you’ve never met will decide who will receive your belongings.
Can a probate attorney help?
Yes, an experienced attorney can help you or a loved one avoid probate by taking steps now, through preparation of a will, adding a joint owner to a bank account, real estate deed or investment account, writing a revocable trust, and much more.
If your loved one has already passed, an attorney can assist he executor/administrator of the estate as named by the court and can help them navigate the probate process and oversee various actions to keep the process moving, such as collecting relevant documents, securing the decedent’s assets, managing the estate’s checkbook, arranging for property to be appraised, and more.