Amongst, estate planning circles, the word “probate” often comes with a starkly negative connotation. Indeed, for many people — especially those with larger estates — financial planners recommend trying to keep property out of probate whenever possible without fully explaining why. That being said, the probate system was ultimately established to protect the property of the deceased and their heirs, and in a few cases, it may even work to an advantage. Let us provide you with a brief look at the pros and cons of going through probate.
For some estates, especially those in which no will was left, the system works to make sure all assets are distributed in a fair manner outlined in state law. Here are some potential advantages of probating an estate:
- It provides a trustworthy procedure for redistributing the property of the deceased if no will was left.
- It validates and enforces the intentions of the deceased if a will exists.
- It ensures taxes and claimed debts are paid on the estate, so there’s a finality to the deceased person’s affairs, rather than an uncertain, lingering feeling for the beneficiaries.
- If the deceased was in debt, probate gives only a brief window for creditors to file a claim, which can result in more debt forgiveness.
- Probate can be advantageous for distributing smaller estates in which estate planning was unaffordable.
While probate is intended to work for somewhat to facilitate the transfer of property after someone dies, there are reasons to consider bypassing the process for these reasons:
- Probate is a matter of public record, which means personal family and financial information become public knowledge.
- There may be considerable costs, including court, attorney, and executor fees, all of which get deducted from the value of the estate.
- Probate can be time-consuming, holding up distribution of the assets for months, and sometimes, years.
- Probate can be complicated and stressful for your executor and your beneficiaries
Bottom line: While probate is a default mechanism that ultimately works to enforce the fair distribution of even small estates, it can create unnecessary costs and delays. For that reason, many people prefer to use strategies to keep their property out of probate when they die. Having a Will does not guarantee a means of bypassing probate.
A skilled estate planning attorney can help you develop a strategy to avoid probate and make life easier for the next generation. For more information about your options, contact us today to schedule a consultation.