The probate courts primarily exist to take action on behalf of people who can’t take care of themselves. The probate courts oversee proceedings involving a person’s estate. They also approve guardianships and conservatorships for those who cannot act on their own behalf.
Most people trying to plan for their own estate will do their best to avoid probate proceedings. In some cases, people go to extreme lengths, so just giving their family members their inheritance early just to sidestep the probate process. Why are people so eager to avoid probate?
Probate drastically delays bequest of individual assets
In order for the executor or administrator of an estate to pass out property to beneficiaries and heirs, they must first resolve the outstanding financial obligations of the testator. Often, estate administration requires that the executor pay off debt and close accounts in the name of the deceased person.
The executor may have to hold assets for months in case a creditor brings a claim against the estate. Even if there aren’t debts or claims by creditors, estates that go through probate may have delays of months or even more than a year before family members finally receive the assets left behind for them. If someone wants their loved ones to receive an inheritance quickly, avoiding the delay of probate might be a planning priority.
Probate could substantially diminish how much beneficiaries receive
Going through probate court isn’t free. The estate will have to pay for the time of the courts, as well as for legal representation.
The longer and more contentious probate proceedings become, the more the costs of probate will diminish the value of the estate. Challenges against an executor or the estate plan itself can increase how long probate proceedings take and how much they cost.
There are many strategies available that can help someone avoid probate including diminishing the value of their estate, changing how they hold major assets like real estate and crafting an estate plan that deters family members from bringing challenges in court.