When developing an estate plan, there are some things to keep in mind and there are some things to avoid. Typically, one is told they want to avoid high costs associated with the execution on an estate plan following his or her death; thus, they are told avoiding probate is a must. While avoiding probate can reduce costs, it is still important to understand what the process is, why it is necessary and why it is not such a negative procedure.
What is probate? In simple terms, it is the legal process designed to deal with the assets and debts remaining following the death of a person. When probate is initiated, the court, by default, supervises the process. The term probate is used not only to describe the process but it is also used to describe the court where the process takes place and the actual distribution of assets.
The probate process can include all aspects of the estate administration. This includes steps such as proving the validity of a will, choosing an administrator, executor or representatives, totaling all assets involved, paying all debts and applicable estate taxes, identifying all heirs and relatives and distributing any remaining assets as described in the will or intestacy statutes.
The main reason why people seek to avoid probate is the fact that it can be time consuming and expensive. In most states, there is a required waiting period that could last 30 to 90 days. And if a relative contests the will or the court's asset distribution, the process can take even longer. However, there are some benefits of the process, such as having a certain degree of certainty with regards to will validity or relatives and heirs involved.
Whether you are seeking to avoid the probate process for your heir or are going through the probate process right now following the death of a loved one, it is important to understand what options are available. Based on what your needs and goals are, it is possible to draft and execute estate documents to meet these standards.