Many people want to avoid probate, because they hear so many negative things about the process. It’s important to understand what’s involved in probate, so that you can better plan and decide whether you care if probate is avoided, or not. Take a look at the following information, to learn more. If you have any questions, or if you’d like to discuss probate avoidance techniques, contact an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney.
Settling an Estate
Probate is a lengthy process in which a number of events occur. This process allows for an individual’s estate to be settled, with assets being transferred to beneficiaries.
- The will, if there is one, is located,
- The will is lodged at the courthouse and its validity is determined
- A personal representative is appointed (i.e. executor, or “administrator,” if there is not a will)
- A probate bond must be purchased, unless waived and approved by the Court
- The personal representative notifies creditors
- Assets are identified and located, protected, and managed
- A probate referee appraises assets such as real estate and vehicles
- Debts and taxes are paid
- A formal Accounting is prepared, unless waived
- A Petition for Final Distribution is filed and heard
- Assets are distributed to beneficiaries
- The estate is closed upon approval of the court
Probate Takes Time and Money
Because of all that’s involved, it costs a lot of money; in fact, California has large probate fees that are based upon a statute. And, probate takes a lot of time and effort. In other words, the executor will go through many hoops in order to correctly settle the estate.
Probate is a Public Process
A will is lodged at the courthouse; so is beneficiary and asset information including names and addresses with a specific list of who got what. Most people like to keep their financial and family affairs private. Probate is public. In some counties, this information can be obtained via a home computer.
If you choose to avoid probate, there are many planning techniques such a fully funded revocable living trust, joint ownership, pay-on-death accounts, designated beneficiaries, and the like.
However, there are significant drawbacks to some of these techniques so absolutely consult with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney if you’d like to avoid probate.