Is Probate Avoidance Key to Estate Planning?

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Some individuals prioritize probate avoidance in their estate planning.

Probate is a common estate planning term.

Many people talk about probate as if it is something inherently evil.

Perhaps this has been your experience.

What you have heard may lead you to believe that probate avoidance is essential to estate planning.

According to a recent The Daily Sentinel article titled “Estate Planning: Is Probate Something to Avoid at All Costs?,” probate avoidance is not necessarily foundational to estate planning.

Probate avoidance is not necessary for all estate plans.
Estate planning does not need to include probate avoidance goals.

What is probate?

Probate is simply a process created under state law whereby a court oversees the settlement of your estate when you die.

Generally, the judges and staff in the probate courts are supportive and understanding when it comes to families who have recently lost a loved one.

If the estate is simple and the decedent executed a legally valid last will and testament, the probate proceedings are fairly straightforward.

Of course, no court system is exactly the same.

Some states (and even counties within those states) may prove to be more challenging than others.

If you do not have a legally valid last will and testament in place, then probate becomes exponentially more complicated.

The court will apply the laws of your state of residence to distribute your assets to heirs, usually based on degree of family relationship.

This requires more time and is more expensive.

Are there times where probate avoidance should be prioritized?

Certainly.

If you prefer privacy, fear a will contest, have a large or complex estate, or have family issues, then using a funded revocable living trust and beneficiary designations may be a wise alternative.

When doing so, you should work with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure your entire plan works as planned.

Using probate avoidance strategies without professional help could undermine your goals and cost you and your loves ones emotionally and financially.

Reference: The Daily Sentinel (Oct. 3, 2020) “Estate Planning: Is Probate Something to Avoid at All Costs?”

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