When people talk about estate planning, the topic of avoiding probate almost certainly comes up at some point. And often, people reach the conclusion that avoiding probate is essential.
Whether this is true or not, it can be helpful to understand why some people want to avoid probate before making any decisions about whether it is right for you.
Minimizing opportunities for conflict
Probate involves proving a will is valid and distributing a person’s property, which can spark contentious battles among beneficiaries. People can fight over the accuracy of the will or how to distribute property not specifically addressed in an estate plan. They can get overwhelmed by the legal process or distraught by unexpected terms in loved ones’ will. Each of these situations can lead to bitter battles and escalated conflicts.
Expediting the process
It is true that probate can take longer than people might expect. This is because, during probate, there are more opportunities for disputes and delays to develop. Beneficiaries can argue over property; the notification of heirs can take a long time; tax issues can be at the mercy of slow-moving government agencies; contests over a will or a personal representative’s actions can grind the process to a halt.
Probate costs money. There are fees for court costs, personal representatives, and attorneys as well as the costs for a property appraisal, storage, and insurance. The exact cost of probate varies widely, but it could cost several hundred or thousands of dollars.
For these and other reasons, people often take steps to avoid or expedite probate by creating trusts, wills, and other estate planning tools.
However, avoiding probate is not a top priority for everyone; every person has different goals and wishes with regard to their estate plans. If avoiding probate is important to you, then there are decisions you can make that allow your estate to do that. However, if you have other, more pressing concerns, then focusing on those could prove to be more critical.