As you prepare your estate plan, you may have received the well-meaning advice to try to avoid probate at all costs. And while avoiding probate through the use of instruments like trusts and beneficiary designations can be useful, you may not want to focus your effort on doing so. Why? Here are a few reasons to not be afraid of probate law.
Probate Can Be Simple
Contrary to popular belief, many probate processes are relatively quick and uncomplicated. If the will has been properly prepared and executed, it will likely pass through probate court without much incident. And unless you expect someone to contest it, probate may be more of a formality.
You Can Limit Fees
If it's the added costs of probate that you're worried about, you can still save money for the estate even if you don't skip probate entirely. For instance, if you leave a small estate outside a trust or beneficiary assignments, the estate may be able to pass through expedited—and less expensive—processes.
Not Everything Needs to Be Rushed
Many people who cite a desire to skip probate want to speed up the process of getting access to estate distributions. But is time really that much of a consideration for your estate? If you provide for family members in the immediate aftermath of your passing and have proper documents in place, things can continue to operate as normal even before probate is done.
You'll Need a Will Anyway
No matter how hard you try, you're likely to end up dealing with probate on some level anyway because other tools are limited to certain assets. A trust, for instance, only has control over assets transferred into it. But most people do not transfer every asset they own to a trust. So you will probably use a "pour over" will for what's known as the residue.
Probate Can Settle Issues
If you expect dissension among heirs or family members about the terms of your estate, probate could be a good thing. This is because a judge in a court of law independently settles questions of its legality and enforceability. If your documents are prepared to meet this challenge, probate could forestall family arguments that otherwise might fester.
Where to Start
What approach should you take to the idea of avoiding probate? How can you find a balanced path? With the help of a probate lawyer, you'll ensure a stable and healthy estate that's best for your loved ones.
Contact a local probate law attorney to learn more.