Justin, I keep hearing that I need to do everything I can right now to make sure my estate doesn’t wind up in probate court when I die. Is probate really that big of a deal? How much effort should I put into this? – James
James, I doubt my answer will surprise you since you’re writing to an estate planning attorney, but I can say without a doubt that planning to avoid probate is very much worth the effort.
In Arkansas, anyone who dies with an estate worth $100,000 or more is forced into probate court, as is anyone who dies with creditors (regardless of the size of the estate). This is bad news for at least three reasons—probate is very expensive, wastes a substantial amount of time, and can be embarrassingly public.
By statute, attorney fees alone cost between 3% and 5% of the value of the estate, and that’s just one of several costs involved in probate court. Also by statute, probate must last no less than six months from the date public notice runs in the local paper, but most probates take much longer than that. To top it off, everything that occurs in probate court is public record, open to everyone.
One of the main purposes of the probate process is to protect the creditors of a deceased person. When you consider that, and when you take into account those three main negatives associated with probate court, you can see why I spend the majority of my time helping families avoid probate.
Want more? If you’re interested in digging deeper into why planning to avoid probate is worth it, chapter one of my book, You Need A Plan, lays it all out for you. Order your free copy at yourplanmatters.com. And as always, a no-charge strategy session with one of our attorneys is just a phone call away.