How does an Estate Plan affect probate?
Many people dread probate – for good reasons. It can be costly, time-consuming, and distressing.
An estate plan makes it easier, but to understand how, it helps to know first what probate is: it is a process, supervised by the court, to transfer your assets to beneficiaries after your death.
Having a thoughtful estate plan in place can structure, or even eliminate the need for, probate. When properly drafted, an estate plan eases confusion, frustration, and sometimes even the cost.
If you die intestate, meaning without a will, inflexible state laws take over the probate process, and beneficiaries are subject to the decisions of a judge. An estate plan, involving a will or living trust, prevents this from happening.
If you have a Last Will and Testament, it means that you have appointed an executor, the person tasked with following the instructions of your will. He will file a petition with the court and begin the proceedings. He will pay all your debts and distribute the remaining assets in a manner that you, and not the courts, have chosen.
If you die without an estate plan, a judge will appoint an administrator to substitute for the executor role, and the person he appoints may not be competent for it – or someone you would choose.
While a will is important, it is not the only part of an estate plan that affects the probate experience. Some people, by creating a living trust, allow their beneficiaries to dodge probate altogether.
In addition, distributing assets under a living trust is generally more cost-effective than doing it through probate. Speed is another factor; trust assets can be transferred to beneficiaries immediately, depending on your specific instructions.
As a bonus, the contents of a living trust may remain private, whereas assets listed in a will become public information after probate.
Both trusts and wills can ease the probate burdens of your beneficiaries. A qualified attorney can help you determine whether you need a trust as well as a will.
Call the Law Office of Richard Nevins to speak to an experienced attorney trained in estate law. He will advise you on what you need to plan your estate, according to your circumstances. Fill out the form, so that we will be aware of your situation before we meet with you.
We will do everything possible to see that your wishes concerning your estate are respected well into the future.