Probate, and Reasons to Avoid It

Probate, and Reasons to Avoid It

Probate is a court-supervised process used to validate your will and distribute your property. The process takes anywhere from six months to over two years to complete, and may require that lawyers or other professionals be hired. Even if you die without a will, if your estate's value exceeds a threshold amount, your estate must still pass through the probate system. In such cases, the court decides how to distribute your estate among your relatives.

Probate procedures often include the following steps, in the following order:

  1. Your will is filed with the local probate court (and becomes public record)
  2. Your executor inventories your property
  3. Your property is appraised
  4. All debts, including death taxes, are paid
  5. The court validates your will
  6. Court costs, attorneys' fees, and executors' fees are paid from your estate
  7. Then, and only then, the remainder of your estate is distributed to your loved ones

A living trust can help you avoid probate. If your assets are placed in a trust, you do not "own" them: the trustee of the trust does. You control the assets as if they were yours. When you die, only your property goes through probate. Since you do not "own" the trust property, it will not have to go through probate.

As discussed earlier, a trust in itself may not be enough: you may need a simple will to cover property not included in the trust. If all of your significant property is transferred into the living trust, it should be a relatively simple process to probate your pour-over will, if necessary.

 
  • Introduction to Living Trusts
    A living trust lets you control who receives your assets after you die. However, this isn't the only reason to create a living trust. A living trust can offer many benefits to its creator. For example, a living trust can help your beneficiaries avoid the probate-related expenses and delay normally...
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  • Definition of a Living Trust
    A trust is an arrangement in which one or more people manage or take care of property for someone else's benefit. A living trust is a trust that is created during your lifetime. In other words, while you are still alive, you transfer title to your property from your name to that of the trustee of...
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  • Comparing Living Trusts and Last Wills
    Although living trusts and last wills are both used to distribute property to beneficiaries, there are some important differences between them. One of the key benefits of a living trust is that it limits the probate court's involvement in property distribution. Unlike a last will, which can be tied...
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  • Probate, and Reasons to Avoid It
    Probate is a court-supervised process used to validate your will and distribute your property. The process takes anywhere from six months to over two years to complete, and may require that lawyers or other professionals be hired. Even if you die without a will, if your estate's value exceeds a...
    read more
  • Transferring Property into a Living Trust
    You must transfer property into a living trust to take advantage of the trust's benefits. The person who transfers property into a trust is called the "grantor." In general, you should put your most valuable property in the trust. This may include your:
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  • Real Estate Placed in a Living Trust
    If you are the sole owner of a piece of property, you can include that property in your living trust. You will need to change the property's title to reflect the ownership change.
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