Avoiding Probate (and these four-letter words)
Updated: Nov 24, 2020
Probate, a court process that frequently requires the use of some of my favorite four-letter words also requires some four letter words that you can almost completely avoid with some planning: COST, TIME, CO(U)RT. Alright, I know I cheated with the last one-you can tell me all about it when we meet. Probate is used to essentially transfers assets to legal heirs if someone dies without a will or trust, or if someone dies with only a will or ineffective trust. You can read more about probate in my last post HERE.
You, like many others, may believe that a will can help you avoid the “P-word” but unfortunately, a will is not valid until it has been approved by the “P-word” court. A will simply acts as a way to inform the court of your wishes, but it, and your family, will still have to go through the process.
This article will focus on why you want to avoid probate and the three four-letter words that you can prevent by avoiding it.
Thanks to court costs, attorney fees, executor fees, and other related expenses, the price tag for probate can easily reach into the thousands of dollars, even for small or “simple” estates. These costs can easily skyrocket into the tens of thousands or more if family disputes or creditor claims arise during the process. This money from your estate should be going to your beneficiaries, but if it goes through probate, a significant portion could go to the courts, creditors, and legal fees, instead.
Of course, setting up an estate plan that avoids probate does have its own costs. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Like the “ounce of prevention,” costs you incur now to put a plan in place are more easily controlled than uncertain costs in the future. With proper planning, you can minimize the risk of costly conflict and also reduce or eliminate some costs. While probate may not be completely avoidable, there are ways to make it informal or to proceed as a small estate. I can help you avoid probate to the greatest extent possible through a customized plan for you with this goal in mind.
While the time frame for probating an estate can vary widely from state to state and by the size of the estate itself, probate is not generally a quick process. It’s not unusual for estates, even seemingly simple or small ones, to be held up in probate for a year to 18 months or more, during which time your beneficiaries may not have easy access to funds or assets. This delay can be especially difficult on family members going through a hardship who might benefit from a faster, simpler process, such as the living trust administration process. Planning for assets to bypass probate can significantly speed up the disbursement of those assets, so beneficiaries can benefit sooner from their inheritance.
If your assets are located in multiple states, the probate process must be repeated in each state in which you hold property. At this point, your heirs are going to be using more creative four-letter words. This repetition can cost your family even more time and money. The good news is that with proper trust-centered estate planning, you can: (1) avoid going through probate in other states and simplify the process in Utah, (2) streamline the transfer of your financial legacy, and (3) provide lifelong asset and tax protection for your family.
3. CO(U)RT – I KNOW, not a four-letter word, but the “U” is silent, so it counts.
Almost everything that goes through the courts, including probate matters, becomes public record. This means when your estate goes through probate, all associated family and financial information becomes accessible to anyone who wants to see it. Don’t believe me? The public has access to the court’s documents at the court house or by paying a nominal fee to access it online in Utah. Check it out here. What might be public record? Basically, everything but Social Security and account numbers. For example: the value of your assets, creditor claims, the identities of your beneficiaries, and even any family disagreements that affect the distribution of your estate will be available. Thinking about disinheriting someone? Everyone that wants to know, can know simply by looking at your will that is going to be made public record. Most people prefer to keep this type of information private, and the best way to ensure discreteness is to keep your estate out of probate.
Give me a call or text at 435-777-4740 and let me show you what it feels like to be your attorney’s top priority. We can talk about how you can prevent these four-letter words for your loved ones in the future.