We are often asked the question: What is Probate? No one likes to think about his or her death, but appropriately planning your estate requires you to do just that. And that means properly understand probate. If you die without a will or other estate planning documents, your assets will be subject to probate. Probate is the process by which your debts are paid and your estate is distributed according through the courts.
There are several reasons you won’t want to leave your estate to probate. First, of course, probate means that you won’t have a say in how your assets are distributed. That means your estate could go to people you didn’t designate – nor that you wanted to inherit your assets.
Additionally, the probate process is lengthy – anywhere from one to two years – and requires the payment of many fees. Probate fees are set by statute, and depend on the gross fair market value of the estate. These fees cover the costs of filing paperwork, appraising assets, notary fees, costs of certified copies of documents and newspaper publication.
In some cases, the laws are clear regarding the beneficiary of your assets. These cases include:
- Life insurance
- Retirement accounts
- Social security benefits
- Community property
- Joint tenancy
Estate planning can be confusing. But leaving your assets unprotected means giving up your say in how your estate is distributed upon your death. Just as you wouldn’t allow the courts to manage your wealth in life, so you shouldn’t leave it to them upon your death. An estate planning attorney can be an invaluable resource in helping you prepare for the future.
We can help you understand the minutia associated with probate and how it can affect your assets. Give us a call today so we can help you protect what matters the most – your family and your estate.