If you are thinking it is time to plan your estate, you will almost certainly come across the term probate. What does this mean in the context of estate planning? Is it something to be concerned with? Should you try to avoid probate? While it is a relatively simple concept to understand, many people get hung up on probate unnecessarily. This guide will explain everything you need to know about the probate process.
What Is Probate?
Probate is essentially the courts acknowledging a will. When someone dies, the courts need to examine his or her will and ensure the person’s final wishes are carried out correctly. In other words, probate is the first step in the process of following someone’s will.
The most important matter that is addressed in probate is designating an executor of the will. The executor of a will is the person who ensures the will is carried out correctly, accurately, and according to the intentions of the deceased. The will itself should say who the executor is. If this is the case, the court will guarantee that the person designated is capable and has the deceased person’s best wishes at heart. If the will does not designate someone to be the executor of the will, or the person selected cannot be the executor for some reason, the court will have to assign someone, which artificially lengthens the probate period.
In addition to determining the executor, probate also:
- Resolves all administrative requirements associated with a will
- Resolves all economic needs associated with a will
- Determines and resolves all estate taxes
Can You Avoid Probate?
Ordinarily, probate is a very short process. It is very common for probate to only last a few days, or even only one day. However, the exact length of probate depends heavily on how well the will was set up. If everything is already in order and the executor is selected carefully, then probate will run smoothly. If problems arise, it may take weeks or months for probate to resolve.
Most estate planning attorneys recommend properly getting your will in order to minimize the length of probate, rather than try to avoid it altogether. That being said, if you really dislike the idea of the courts getting involved in your estate, you can choose to use trusts exclusively to plan your estate. Trusts avoid probate entirely, but come with their own disadvantages. You can speak with an estate planning attorney, like a probate lawyer in Folsom, CA, to learn whether using trusts would be a good option for you.
Thank you to Yee Law Group, PC for their insight into probate law.