By Libby Banks,
the Law Office of Libby Banks, PLLC
Probate is a court proceeding used to settle the estate of someone who has no will. However, a person that has a will may also end up in probate court. That’s because a will doesn’t transfer a person’s assets to his or her heirs automatically – it only asks the court to appoint your executor to handle your estate and tells your executor how to distribute your estate.
Probate is time consuming and expensive for a personal representative or executor. It can be an agonizing and long, drawn out procedure. But it is avoidable – with the right estate planning tools, and specifically with the Revocable Living Trust.
On your death, your heirs must settle your estate, and unless you have the right plan in place, that may mean going to court to file probate. Probate can be very burdensome for the person you have chosen to take care of your affairs (called the personal representative in Arizona, but similar to the executor, as it’s named in many states). So what should you do if you want to avoid court and make things easier on those who will wrap up your estate?
The best way to avoid probate is to use a Revocable Living Trust for your estate planning. A trust isn’t just for the wealthy. Everyday people who want to simplify their affairs after death can do so with a trust. In addition to avoiding court on your death, it can avoid court proceedings when you are alive and can no longer manage your affairs because of incapacity. In the trust, you name the person who will step in to manage your trust (your successor trustee), and when you are incapacitated, or at your death, your successor steps in to manage the trust.
Another reason many want to avoid probate is that it’s a public proceeding. I didn’t realize just how public and how easy it was to get information until I asked my administrative assistant to check on a case. A few minute later he came in and said, “Since it was only $2, I went ahead and got a copy of the will. The clerk will email it to me later today.” Wow. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want people to be able to get information about my affairs that easily!
In many cases, not only is the will public, but a list of assets and the appraised amount must also be filed. If maintaining your privacy and that of your heirs is important to you, you want to avoid probate with a Revocable Living Trust.
If you are ready to put a proper estate plan in place – one that avoids probate and makes it easier for someone to manage your assets if you are incapacitated – give me a call at 602-375-6752 or email me at Libby@libbybanks.com. As of this writing, we are offering our free initial consultations by Zoom, FaceTime, other online options, and by phone.