The thought of leaving behind loved ones is a painful one, but the idea of putting them through the Probate process may be a harder pill to swallow. The truth is, Probate can be a long and emotionally draining experience that can leave your family feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, especially in the midst of grieving. Don’t you want to spare your loved ones this unnecessary and completely avoidable stress?
When you pass away, your family may need to sign certain documents as part of a Probate process in order to claim their inheritance. This can happen if you own property (like a house, car, bank account, investment account, or other asset) that is in your name only and you have not completed a beneficiary, pay-on-death, or transfer-on-death designation.
A common misconception is that if the decedent has a Will, there’s no need to go through Probate. Although having a Will is a good basic form of planning, a Will does not avoid Probate. In fact, it’s a one-way ticket to Probate court. This is because a Will simply lets you inform the Probate court of your wishes – like how you want your assets distributed. Your loved ones still have to go through the Probate process to make those wishes legal.
Now that you have an idea of why Probate might be necessary, here are three key reasons why you may want to avoid Probate, if at all possible.
#1 It Invades Your Privacy
One of the most significant downsides of Probate is that it is all public record. Everything that goes through the courts becomes accessible to anyone who wants to see it. This could include sensitive information about your finances, debts, and family members.
While the courts have at least taken some steps to reduce the risk of identity theft – like protecting social security numbers and bank account numbers – the value of your accounts and property, creditor claims, the identities of your beneficiaries, contact information for your loved ones, and even any family disagreements that affect the distribution of your money and property may be publicly available. Imagine strangers being able to access to this type of information as they please. Isn’t it enough to make anyone feel violated?
By avoiding Probate, you can keep your affairs private and spare your loved ones from having to share their personal lives with the public.
#2 It incurs costs your loved ones may not be prepared to handle.
As long as it is not contested, Probate is not necessarily that expensive in Texas. However, court costs, attorney’s fees, executor fees, and other related expenses can still add up. The price tag for Probate can easily reach into the thousands of dollars, even for small or simple matters, especially in other states. To add to that, if you have property located in multiple states, a version of the Probate process must be repeated in each state in which you hold property. All these may be costs that your loved ones aren’t financially prepared for.
Then, there’s the possibility of family disputes or creditor claims arising during the process – these can significantly affect the cost into the tens of thousands or more. Going through Probate with these kinds situation could have a significant portion of your estate going to the courts and legal fees instead. This is money that should be going to your beneficiaries.
Planning ahead and setting up an Estate Plan that avoids Probate can help ensure that your loved ones receive the full value of your assets. Although this step does incur its own costs, consider Benjamin Franklin’s words: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Putting a plan in place now can more easily control the amount you spend on getting your affairs settled rather than burdening your loved ones with uncertain costs in the future. It’s also important to consider that your loved ones may be making decisions while grieving. With proper planning, you can minimize the risk of costly conflict and also reduce or eliminate some costs. If there is no Probate case, there will not be any Probate filings fees or court costs.
#3 It can take a long time
Probate can also be a time-consuming process that can leave your beneficiaries waiting for months or even years to receive their inheritance. In Texas, a straightforward Probate process could take anywhere between six months to 18 months on average, but the time frame for Probating an estate can vary widely by state and by the value, amount, and complexity of the deceased person’s accounts and property.
During this time, your loved ones may lose access to assets they previously have access to, which could potentially affect their finances. This delay can be especially difficult for loved ones experiencing hardship who might benefit from a faster, simpler process, such as the Living Trust administration process. Then, there could also be dealing with creditor claims and managing family disputes to further complicate things. By avoiding Probate, you can help your loved ones avoid unnecessary delays and get access to their inheritance much more quickly.
How To Avoid Probate
A proper trust-based Estate Plan can help you avoid Probate, simplify the transfer of your financial legacy, and provide lifelong tax savings and asset protection to your family. The Law Office of Antoinette Bone, PLLC is well-versed in a wide variety of planning strategies available to help you convey your wishes and achieve your Estate Planning goals. Call our office today at (682) 428-3046 to request an appointment. Our experienced attorneys will be glad to help ensure that your Estate Plan will work for you and your family exactly as you intend.
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