Why Is It a Good Idea to Avoid Probate?
Avoiding probate is an important estate planning goal for many individuals. But do you know why it is beneficial to avoid probate? In the discussion that follows, we explain the reasons to establish an estate plan that avoids the probate process — and how you can accomplish that goal.
What Is Probate?
The term probate (or probate administration) refers to the court-supervised process for administering and distributing the property and assets of a person who passes away. Arizona laws provide for different types of probate, depending on several factors relating to the nature of an estate. Some estates must go through a detailed process, other estates may qualify for a shorter process, and sometimes probate is not necessary at all.
Generally, property and assets that a person owns solely in their own name remain in the estate after a person dies. Those assets cannot be distributed to beneficiaries or heirs until the estate completes the applicable probate process. That is true even when a person has a valid last will and testament that designates the beneficiaries of the estate. A will must go through probate before those assets can be distributed. If a person dies without a will, the estate assets also must go through probate before distribution to the heirs.
An individual can ensure their estate does not go through probate by creating a carefully structured estate plan with assistance from an experienced estate planning attorney. There are several reasons why avoiding probate is an important estate planning goal.
Probate Is Time-Consuming
Regardless of what type of probate Arizona law requires an estate to complete, the probate process takes time. The amount of time depends on a number of factors relating to the estate. The personal representative of the estate, who usually has assistance from a probate lawyer, follows the legally required probate process for the estate.
Even in a relatively straightforward estate without any significant issues that need to be resolved, the probate process generally takes at least six months to a year to complete. If there are complex assets or issues — such as disputes among beneficiaries or significant creditor claims — the process can take much longer.
Due to the time-consuming probate process, an estate that goes through probate takes longer to settle than one that does not go through probate. Avoiding probate reduces the amount of time required to administer and settle the estate, which expedites distribution of estate property to the beneficiaries.
Probate Costs Money
When an estate goes through probate, various costs and expenses must be paid to complete the process. There are court fees, fees for the personal representative, and attorney’s fees, in addition to expenses related to administering the estate and settling debts and claims against the estate. All the expenses of probate are paid from the assets of the estate. That means beneficiaries or heirs ultimately receive a smaller distribution from the estate than they would receive if the estate is structured to avoid probate.
Saving money — and putting more assets in the hands of the beneficiaries — is another important reason for structuring an estate plan to avoid probate.
Probate Is a Public Process
Probate is a public process that requires filing specific documents with the court. Those documents — including the deceased person’s last will and testament, if there is one — are public documents. As a result, all the financial and personal details about the estate become public information. Anyone can find out exactly what assets are in the estate and who will eventually receive the property in the estate.
Due to the public nature of probate, maintaining personal and family privacy is the third important reason for avoiding probate. An individual can maintain complete privacy of their financial and personal information by establishing an estate plan that avoids probate.
How You Can Avoid Probate
An estate can be structured in advance to avoid probate with careful and thoughtful attention to your estate plan. But getting help from a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer is essential if you want to save time and money and maintain privacy for your estate and your loved ones.
While establishing a trust is one way to avoid probate, there are also other strategies and tools that can be used to accomplish that goal. To find the best structure for an estate plan that fits your financial and personal circumstances and create the legal documents to establish that structure, you should talk with an experienced estate planning attorney. Attempting to avoid probate on your own can cause a myriad of problems and issues, may not succeed at the ultimate goal, and can cause considerable legal problems for your loved ones.
Schedule a Free Consultation With an Experienced East Valley Estate Planning Attorney
At Peterson Law Offices, estate planning is a primary focus of our practice. If you do not have an estate plan, we can help you put one in place that avoids probate and fully addresses your personal and financial circumstances and goals. If you already have an estate plan, we can help with updating your plan to avoid probate and ensure that your estate plan meets all your other current estate planning goals.
We provide top-quality services at affordable prices and welcome inquiries from clients throughout the East Valley, including Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Gilbert, Mesa, and Chandler. Schedule your free initial consultation by calling 480-878-5998 or using our online contact form.