Probable… probably… PROBATE

“Probate” is a term that is mentioned quite a bit in the estate planning world. We’re always talking about the process of probate, the cost of probate, the list of “horribles” with probate, and how to avoid it. With all this talk of probate, a definition and description of the process seems in order.

Probate is the process in which the court determines the legal property of a person who has died, and decides to whom those assets will be distributed. It sounds like it should be simple, but even in the best of circumstances there are procedures that must be followed to the letter, and the actual process (especially in California) can take anywhere from 9 months to more than a year, sometimes more.

You may be wondering why probate takes so long, especially if the deceased person has left a Will making their wishes clear. A good Will helps to make the process easier, but even with a Will, there are certain steps that must be followed to complete the probate process, including the petition for the appointment of an executor or personal representative, verification of the Will, notification to beneficiaries, publication in the newspaper of the probate for a certain length of time, taking an inventory of assets belonging to the deceased, having the assets appraised, giving notice to creditors and paying valid claims against the estate, preparing and paying taxes, accounting of all the funds in the estate, and eventually distributing the assets to the beneficiaries or heirs. Whew!

If you think that just reading the above paragraph takes your breath away, imagine having to actually go through all of those steps—with all the “t’s” crossed and “i’s” dotted!

Fortunately, not every estate will have to go through probate. One way to absolutely avoid it is to hold your assets in a revocable living trust. A living trust is an entity that continues even after the grantor passes away, which means that the “owner” of the assets still exists, and probate is thereby avoided.

If you would like to know more about methods of avoiding probate, or protecting your assets for your beneficiaries with a revocable trust, give us a call today.