Attorneys Stephen Korshak and Lee Karina Dani

What is probate and should I avoid it?

On Behalf of | Feb 15, 2024 | Estate Administration, Estate Planning, Heirs & Beneficiaries, Probate Litigation |

Probate is the legal process that happens after a person passes away. A probate court looks at the person’s will to make sure it is valid and oversees the distribution of the person’s assets according to the person’s will.

If the person who passed away did not leave a will, the probate court will use state law to distribute that person’s assets.

Why avoid probate?

Now, you may wonder why you have heard people suggest you try to avoid probate. Great question.

Essentially, the alternative to probate is estate planning, which is a cheaper, faster and better way to distribute your assets after you pass away than going through probate court.

There are other benefits to skipping probate. For example:

  • Probate is public and estate planning can be a private process, so you can pass assets along to your loved ones with no one knowing, and no one must know who your beneficiaries are.
  • Probate can take a long time. Think one year or longer. Imagine the legal fees and court costs, besides the fact that because it is not a private process, anyone can contest your will, so people can come out of the woodwork and try to get in the will, which will cause your loved ones to have to hire attorneys and spend thousands of dollars trying to defend what is yours.

How do I avoid probate?

So you have decided to avoid probate. What’s next?

The first step is setting up an estate plan. You can speak with an estate planning attorney who will guide you through the entire process.

You can still have a will, but you can also make use of other legal tools that allow you to avoid probate, such as:

  • A living trust: this is a container for your assets. You can put your property in this container, designate a trustee who can manage the trust and make sure your assets go to the right people, according to your wishes.
  • Name beneficiaries when possible. On assets like insurance policies and bank accounts, you may name beneficiaries. By doing so, the money goes straight to them and does not have to go through probate court.
  • Consider joint ownership. While some people may not want to share their assets with their beneficiaries today, it is an option that helps avoid probate. If you put a beneficiary’s name on your house, for example, when you pass away, the house is theirs because they were also on the title.
  • Consider giving gifts during your lifetime so there is less to manage after you pass away.
  • Inquire about state-specific processes that can help you avoid probate, such as simplified processes for smaller estates, which is something that Florida offers.

Remember, planning is critical. You must prepare ahead if you want to avoid problems later. The best way to avoid problems is to consult with an estate planning attorney and create a holistic solution that considers your assets and your wishes.

While many people dread the idea of estate planning, having the right guidance makes it truly uncomplicated. Make sure you reach out to someone who can help you set up your estate plan, so you can have peace of mind and also give that peace of mind to your loved ones.