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Estate Planning Basics, Part 2 of 2: What is Probate, and Why Should You Avoid It?

Andrea Shoup

Have you heard legal experts recommend that you should avoid probate whenever possible? Unfortunately, the probate process has earned a bad reputation in the estate planning industry because of the time and cost it causes for the family. The good news is that advanced planning can help you minimize the risk of your estate going to probate after your death. 

What is Probate?
When a person passes away, their estate needs to be distributed to heirs, and all accounts and assets must be settled. Probate is a court-supervised process to finalize these steps. The overall probate process depends on the structure of your estate plan and will affect how much time and money goes into finalizing your assets:

  • If you have a will, then the court validates your will, and the executor is authorized to pay taxes owed by the estate and distribute your assets. Having a will helps to simplify the probate process. 
  • If you don’t have a will, then a long list of additional administrative proceedings must happen to determine how the estate is distributed.

The problem with probate is it is often slow and expensive. For example, assets without a good estate plan can get stuck in probate for years before the court finalizes the estate distribution. Over time, the costs add up because there are fees to pay for attorneys, executors, and other administrative expenses.

One other drawback is that probate is made public since it is a legal proceeding. So, everything that happens in probate can be accessed through public records.

Is it Possible to Avoid Probate?
Ideally, you can set a financial plan that directly passes your assets to your heirs without lengthy probate requirements. A straightforward solution is to create a living trust. Through this estate planning strategy, your assets are placed in the trust right away – you retain control over these assets for the remainder of your life. Additionally, you need to choose a successor trustee who will follow your instructions for the trust after you are gone.

Probate can also be avoided by having joint ownership for property, which means the other owner receives full ownership after you are gone. Additionally, you can designate beneficiaries on financial accounts, such as retirement savings, bank accounts, investment accounts, and life insurance policies. 

Estate Planning Advice for Your Family
With the right estate planning strategy, you can ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Our team at Shoup Legal is here to help you create the ideal will, trust, and overall estate plan to match your unique needs. Learn more by calling us at (951) 455-4114 or emailing us at info@shouplegal.com.

Written by Andrea Shoup

Shoup Legal, A Professional Law Corporation can be reached at (951) 445-4114.

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