When you use a last will as your primary instrument of vehicle transfer your estate must pass through the process of probate.Many people are not aware of the fact that the probate court is involved and that it is going to examine the will to attest to its validity. The court then supervises the administration of the estate, with the actual “legwork,” as it were, being done by the estate executor or personal representative.
The above sounds well and good, but there are pitfalls involved in the probate process that lead many people to go a different route in an effort to avoid probate. For one thing, because probate is an open and public proceeding it provides a forum within which disgruntled parties could choose to challenge the will. Many people would prefer to keep this avenue closed so that their wishes will be carried out to the letter without the involvement of the court.
Another reason why people often avoid probate is because it is time-consuming. Depending on the complexity of the case, the specific jurisdiction and the caseload of the court it can take anywhere from several months to several years for the process of probate to run its course. The heirs to the estate do not receive their inheritances during this time, and this time lag is something that many people would rather avoid.
Lastly, there are significant costs associated with the probate process. The executor is entitled to remuneration for his or her time and effort. The executor is going to have to bring in a probate attorney and in many cases an accountant will be necessary as well, and of course these professionals charge for their services. Plus, the probate court itself charges a fee so when you add it all up probate can consume a significant percentage of your estate.
The good news is that there are probate avoidance strategies available to you, and the best way to learn more about them would be to arrange for a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gary Hicks
Experienced estate planning attorneys of the Ryan Hicks Cumpton & Cumpton LLP offer estate planning and business planning resources to residents of Mobile AL.