Why and How Should I Avoid Probate
When discussing an individual’s estate, one of the topics likely to arise is probate. Probate is the legal process of distributing a deceased person’s assets through the court system. The role of the court is to take stock of all of the individual’s assets, pay off debts, and distribute what remains to one’s heirs. If the decedent left behind a will, the court makes an effort to honor the will, but if there is no will, they will distribute assets according to state law.
There are conflicting opin
ions about the probate process. Some argue that the process is relatively straight forward while others complain that it is time-consuming and restrictive. The truth is that it depends on the size and complexity of your estate. For estates qualifying as small estates under Maryland and DC law, the process is relatively simple, but for larger estates, especially those with complex assets, the process can be much more burdensome.
For these people, it can ultimately be to their benefit to establish an estate plan and avoid the probate process entirely. Here’s why:
No Immediate Access to Cash
Until the appointment of the personal representative, the deceased person’s cash is generally not accessible. Even after the appointment of the personal representative, only certain payments may be made. Restricted access to the deceased loved one’s cash places increased burdens on family members who often end up paying the decedent’s household bills and funeral expenses out of their own funds until reimbursed. Some of these expenses may be reimbursed upon the appointment of the personal representative, but others such as taxes, storage fees, and property insurance may not be reimbursed until the probate process is complete.
There are, however, legal means of ensuring that your family can access your finances without probate. Learn more about your options for ensuring that your family members have immediate access to your cash after you pass by speaking with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer.
Probate Can Take a Long Time
The probate process is time-consuming and often lasts a year or more. Although some of the process may be unsupervised, at least in DC, typically there is substantial court involvement. While small estates may be settled within six months, larger estates may take several years, especially if there are complications or if any of the heirs contest the will. This may not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things, but it can feel like a lifetime when you’re waiting to inherit the home you grew up in or grandma’s car so that you can stop taking the bus.
Probate is Public Record
The probate process is a state court proceeding, which means all of your personal information such as your assets, liabilities, and beneficiaries are public record. Anyone can walk into the court clerk’s office and request to see all of the information regarding your estate. In some cases, the information is available online, making access even easier.
If a stranger can see that your nephew now possesses your valuable MLB card collection or that your daughter now owns your luxury car, it makes your nephew or daughter targets for scamming and burglary. Avoiding probate through efficient estate planning eliminates the potential for these adversities by keeping your financial and estate matters private and away from public view.
Protect Your Assets with the Help of a DC Estate Planning Lawyer
You can avoid going through probate altogether by seeking out a reputable attorney to create a living trust and estate plan on your behalf. The estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Clifford M. Cohen strives to help his clients create estate plans that help minimize the stress of navigating the complex court system.
Contact us today at 202-845-7036 for a free case evaluation to discover how we can help you plan your estate and stay out of the probate courts as much as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions About Probate
How do I avoid probate?
For some people, it can be beneficial to establish an estate plan so they can avoid the probate process entirely. Probate is the legal distribution of a deceased person’s assets through the court system. For larger estates with complex assets, the process can be long, burdensome, and costly.
What assets can avoid probate?
You can avoid going through probate by finding a reputable attorney to create a living trust on your behalf. A competent estate planning attorney can establish an estate plan that eliminates the stress of navigating the complex court system.
Can I get a probate advance?
A probate advance is a type of loan generally offered to the heirs of estates in probate or trust beneficiaries. There are usually no employment requirements or credit report thresholds to meet. It typically takes just a few days to be approved for a probate advance.
Do probate lawyers have any tips?
Avoiding probate altogether through efficient estate planning eliminates the potential for any adversities that make this process more complex and drawn out. It also keeps your financial and estate matters private and away from public view.