When you first start to get serious about planning your estate you are probably going to poke around the Internet and do some research on the subject. When you do, you will invariably see quite a bit written about avoiding probate, and you may not know exactly what it is or why you might want to avoid.
When you pass away the law requires your estate to pass through a legal process during which the court will determine the validity of the will and supervise the administration of the estate. This is called probate, and during this process anyone who has claims against the estate has the opportunity to make them, and interested parties who may want to contest the will can make their case before the probate or surrogate court. So one reason why you might want to avoid probate would be to eliminate the possibility of anyone challenging your will.
The other reasons why it can be a good idea to avoid probate is because it is time consuming and it is costly. It can take anywhere from several months to several years for an estate to pass through probate depending on the complexity of the matter and whether or not there are any challenges to the will.
The costs involved in the probate process can typically eat up as much as 5-7% of the value of your estate. First off there is a fee that must be paid to the probate court directly, and the executor, who is entitled to a fee, will have to retain the services of a probate lawyer.
Clearly, the process of probate has its pitfalls, and this is why estate planning attorneys sometimes recommend strategies that can help you avoid it.