Justin, What is probate and why does everybody say I should be so concerned about it? – Shelly
Shelly, Probate is a court process just like divorce or bankruptcy. It starts with a formal legal document filed in court requesting that the judge appoint someone as executor to manage the estate. That court order is often the first of many in the probate process. The executor must go back to the judge for permission for almost everything he or she does throughout the proceeding.
Probate is a slow process. Once the court appoints an executor, that individual must run a notice in the newspaper to inform the public (and more importantly any creditors who may claim they are owed money from the estate) of the probate details. The probate must remain open at least six months from the date this notice runs in the paper but many stay open much longer.
Many feel like probate is a violation of privacy. Everything filed in a probate becomes part of the court record and is open to the public. That could include family information and details on how you divided your estate, information about all of your assets, and details about any debts or creditors you had.
Because it’s such a formal, lengthy process, probate is expensive. Something in the range of 3% of the total value of the estate goes to the probate attorney, but there are several other expenses that estate funds most cover as well. That’s money that could have gone to your beneficiaries instead.
For those who find themselves unable to wrap up the affairs of a family member without probate court, using the right firm can make it as low-stress as possible. Our firm would love to help you if you’re in that position. But it’s definitely worth the effort to plan to avoid probate, and a free strategy session with one of our attorneys is the first step. To learn more, pick up a copy of You Need A Plan at YourPlanMatters.com.