When you get serious about the process of estate planning it is likely that you will do what most people do when they would like to delve into a subject that is new to them: research it on the Internet. One of the first things that you will take notice of when you do will be a lot of mention about something called “probate” and how you can avoid it.
For those who may not be aware of exactly what probate is, it is a legal process that your estate must pass through before your wishes are honored and your heirs receive their inheritances. The probate or surrogate court supervises the administration of the estate which is physically handled by the executor or personal representative. If anyone wants to contest the will they do so before the probate court, and any claims against the estate would be presented during the process of probate.
So probate does provide transparency to everyone who is receiving inheritances, and it also provides a venue for presenting arguments that challenge the validity of the will. But there are pitfalls involved in probate. For one thing, it is a public proceeding and there are those who would prefer that their last wishes be carried out in private.
In addition, probate can be costly. The estate is responsible to pay for the services of the executor unless this person was to choose to waive his or her fee. There are also probate attorney fees and fees paid to accountants, appraisers and estate liquidators.
Another aspect of the probate process that many people would view as a negative is the fact that it is time-consuming. Depending on the size and scope of your resources and how well the interested parties are seeing eye to eye it can take anywhere from close to a year to several years for the estate to close.
So in a nutshell it can be said that the advantages you gain by implementing strategies to avoid probate would be that you save time, you minimize expenses, and you enjoy an added layer of privacy.