What is Probate & Why Do You Want to Avoid It?

When someone you love passes away, the last thing on your mind is whether or not you’ll go to probate court. Unfortunately, many individuals and families have to deal with their grief while simultaneously sorting through legal issues, estate assessments, and wills. The probate process is complex, problematic, and very stressful, which is why you want to avoid putting those you love through probate court after you’re gone. To find out how to avoid probate, you need to learn more about how it works, what probate court does, and how it applies to your own estate.

Understanding Probate Court

In cases where the deceased person has not left a will, or the will is disputed, the estate will likely go into probate. The term “estate” applies to an individual’s assets, which could include funds, investments, properties, vehicles, collectibles, and other possessions. When the estate goes through probate, the court will supervise all administration of the estate in question. In other words, the court will handle all assets, expenses, and debts of the deceased, assessing the condition of the estate and determining how to move forward with the distribution process.

What To Expect in Probate

If your loved one’s estate goes through probate, the goal of probate court will be to determine succession. The family members and loved ones, and anyone who believes he or she is entitled to anything from the deceased person’s estate may attempt to become the executor of the estate. Usually, the executor is the person who was closest to the deceased person, such as their spouse, adult children, or parents. The executor, once approved by the court, will be in charge of handling all legal aspects regarding the estate, including valuing assets, paying bills and taxes, and distributing all assets. However, the executor will still fall under court supervision.

Even though it seems the executor has a great deal of power, they are also burdened with an immense responsibility. Estates can be very difficult to manage, especially if the deceased had a great number of assets and properties, or if there were debts that still needed to be paid off. In any case, the stress of settling all debts, appraising all assets, and distributing all of the deceased person’s assets can take months or longer and can be extremely stressful. Even if the executor manages to handle probate speedily, its likely he or she will have a more difficult time with the grieving process because of the added stress of the situation.

How To Avoid Probate

In short, avoiding probate is the best option, always. While there isn’t much you can do to avoid probate once a loved one has already passed away, there are things you can do to ensure your estate does not end up in probate. For the sake of your family and loved ones, make sure you establish a firm, thorough estate plan that makes your wishes clear after your death.

There are several things you can do to avoid probate, including:

  • Creating a living trust
  • Name beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and bank accounts
  • Joint tenancy
  • Convert your bank accounts and retirement accounts to payable-on-death accounts

As much as each of these moves can help, it’s important to find out which methods are best for you, given your specific situation. Everyone’s financial situation is a bit different, and your wishes and preferences might change which probate prevention methods you chose to employ. So, the best thing you can do is meet with an experienced probate attorney to create an estate plan and discuss your options.

Contact Chung & Ignacio, LLP to discuss your situation with our Rancho Cucamonga family law attorneys.