Probate is a lengthy and expensive process of distributing a person’s property and assets after death. The courts survey the estate, order debts to be paid and then hand over the remaining assets to the surviving family members of the deceased. In general, probate is a process that should generally be avoided since it can take upwards of year or longer if there are any issues or complications, and that is not mentioning the price, which can cost up to seven percent of the estate’s total value.
A will is a document that states a person’s final wishes on how their property should be handled and takes the decision making out of the hands of the courts. A will decides which family members and heirs receive any money or property left in the estate. The biggest issue with a will, however, is that the document must still be me administered by the courts and pass through probate in order to be validated. In the simplest terms: a will still has to deal with the hassles, complications and expense of probate court.
Why Should I Avoid Probate?
There are many issues and inconveniences with going through probate, the least of which is having to manage the deceased person’s affairs while also trying to mourn them at the same time. On top of that heavily emotional ordeal, probate can also put a strain on your family for many other reasons, which include:
Financial stress because of the price
The strain of dealing with a year-long process
Dealing with court dates and other issues
Figuring out a way to pay for the entire process
Probate court is a public process
Property tax consequences
In California, probate attorneys can charge a “stationary fee” which is a certain percentage of the gross value an estate. The price of probate can cost up to three percent for estates valued at $200,000. The trouble with this fee is that the value is taken from the gross number where debts and other money owed is not considered. An estate can be valued at $200,000 but be in the red because of the money owed to collectors. However, the probate process will still cost three percent of the gross value.
How Do I Avoid Probate?
Since wills do not avoid probate, is there any way to keep a person’s assets out of the court system? Yes, by skipping the will entirely and drafting a living trust. A trust is a document that already handles the distribution of property and other assets by placing them into a jointly owned trust with family members or close friends who will manage the estate once a person passes away. Trusts typically cost a fraction of the price that the probate process will, and also save time and unneeded stress when handling a deceased person’s affairs.
Who do I Consult with about Wills, Trust and Probate?
If you are currently involved with probate, or would like to draft a trust, or need a current trust updated, the best plan of action is to consult an experienced probate and estate planning attorney. At Elder Law Services our team specializes in estate planning and probate law. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone interested in our services and will sit down with you and your family to draft a plan of action that will protect your assets, or speed through the probate process, or update any current document you may have. Call us at (855) ELDER LAW to schedule a FREE consultation with one of our attorneys today! We look forward to serving you.