The word “probate” can have a negative stigma attached to it. Many people create estate plans that avoid the process altogether. The reality is that probate is not always bad. Your own situation and wishes should determine whether or not you avoid it. Here is what you should know when you are creating or reviewing your estate plan:
Probate can keep everything organized
Probate is really just a way for court to uphold all the terms of your will and resolve the distribution of your estate. Because it is a legal process, you can be assured that your will, which is a legal document, is followed correctly. Court will be able to handle any issues, such as a will contest. Probate also resolves the taxes and debts on your estate.
If your plan is set up correctly, everything should transfer smoothly anyway but probate might give you a sense of security about how your estate is handled.
You must review your plan and assets regularly
Everyone should update their estate plan from time to time as their life changes or they acquire new assets. However, this is even more crucial if you want to avoid probate.
A common way people avoid probate is through a living trust, which allows assets to be automatically transferred upon death. However, you must account for and pass everything. This means it can be tedious to set it up and you will need to keep adding new assets to the trust as you acquire them. Otherwise, anything you missed will need to go through probate anyway.
Probate can be long and costly
The main reason people try to avoid probate in the first place is because of the strain it can put on loved ones. In California, the process is quite complex and can last for months or possibly even years. This means months of your family attending court dates and making sure no conflict arises. It can have its benefits but it might be stressful for loved ones.
On top of that, the fees for the process get taken out of your estate. This means your estate’s overall value could be lowered or your heirs could receive less than you may have anticipated.
If you think avoiding probate might be a good choice for you, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. Ask about the benefits of each side and the best solution for your particular needs and goals.