Ask most estate planning attorneys about probate, and chances are they will respond with a look of downright horror. Probate is time consuming. It is costly. It is public. You must avoid it at all costs. Or must you?
Probate gets a bad rap, but the truth is that the process is not as bad as many professionals make it out to be. In fact, probate is par for the course for most families, and it can effectively help them manage, settle and distribute all of a loved one’s property in accordance with his or her wishes. If you are not completely sold, ThinkAdvisor provides a few good reasons to get over your fear of probate.
It rarely takes forever
The distribution of most peoples’ estates is a fairly straightforward and uneventful process. Though there have been cases in which probate dragged on for years, the average time it takes to complete the entire process is six months. To ensure the proper and legal distribution of your loved one’s entire estate, six months is nothing.
Small estates may take less time
Many states have expedited probate processes for estates with a value that falls under a certain amount. For instance, California allows testators to pass up to $100,000 in assets to beneficiaries through a will and without ever requiring the assets to go through probate.
Probate takes care of debt
It is very rare that a person passes away without leaving some sort of debt behind. Without probate, heirs may find themselves subject to creditors’ claims for years. With it, however, creditors get a certain amount of time to make a claim against the deceased’s estate. If a creditor does not make a claim within the allotted time frame, it forfeits all rights to the money due, effectively relieving all heirs of any financial obligation.
Living trusts rarely account for everything
In an attempt to avoid probate, many people create a living trust. While living trusts certainly come with their fair share of benefits, the reality is that it is almost impossible for individuals to account for every last asset. Inevitably, a person will acquire something of value late in life and forget to transfer it to his or her trust, leaving that item unaccounted for.
The process protects the deceased’s wishes
Perhaps the greatest benefit of probate is the fact that it is thorough and that it occurs in a court of legal standing. Though the process can be lengthy and costly, at the end of the day, survivors can have peace of mind that the deceased’s property was distributed in a lawful and proper manner, and in accordance with his or her wishes.