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Probate

The much maligned, and rightly so, probate process occurs after death. It’s the court supervised process of authenticating the will, gathering assets, paying bills, filing taxes, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. Any assets owned in your individual name or made payable to your estate will go through probate.

If you own assets in the name of your trust or other contract (life insurance, annuity, retirement account) – or – as joint tenants with right of survivorship, those assets will bypass the probate process which is preferable to many folks.

Why avoid probate? Probate can be expensive, time-consuming, and public. Shocking to many of our clients, it’s actually less expensive to pay for trust planning and life-long maintenance than to pay for a cheap will and go through probate. It’s faster too – and private.

In addition, many folks don’t realize that probate can take years to meander through the courts – and – they certainly don’t realize that their assets, debts, beneficiaries, and beneficiary contact information will be listed at the courthouse for all to see. Unfortunately, probate is a public process and predators flock in.

Our clients tend to want to keep their family and financial affairs private after their death just as they have done during their lifetime. We help clients meet these goals with trust planning and probate avoidance.

We also use trusts and powers of attorney to avoid living probate as well. This arduous process isn’t talked about as much as the probate that occurs after death, but it’s just as important. If you become incapacitated during your lifetime and don’t have a trust with disability provisions and an up-to-date power of attorney, your loved ones will need to go to court and request a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding. The judge may or may not select a loved one to manage your assets on your behalf – sometimes – the court selects an attorney, a stranger, to act as guardian/conservator.

Just like the probate process after death, this probate process is a loss of control, expensive, public, time-consuming, and stressful – and just like the probate process after death, it can so easily be avoided.

Of course, on occasion, an estate is so simple or small that probate is easy and a trust isn’t needed. And, sometimes, if creditors are an issue, we open an empty probate just to cut off creditor claims. You don’t have to worry about that. We help folks like you determine the best estate planning path for them. It’s never a one-size-fits-all situation.