By Libby Banks
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 states who should receive those assets.
Probate is time consuming and expensive for a personal representative (or executor, as it’s named in many states). It can be an agonizing and long drawn out procedure. But it is avoidable with the right estate planning tools, and specifically with a Revocable Living Trust.
Couples often own most of their property jointly, but on the death of the second spouse, the children or other heirs are faced with the settlement of the estate. It can be very burdensome for the person you have chosen to take care of your affairs. Before anything can be done to sell or transfer your assets, the Probate Court must be involved.
The Revocable Living Trust is valuable for many estate planning needs, but one of the most obvious is the avoidance of all the time and expense of probate. In addition, if you can no longer manage your affairs (either when determined incompetent or at death), your successor trustee (someone you have already named in your Trust) automatically takes over. A Will doesn’t help with incapacity planning at all.
In addition, probate is 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 $2.00, 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 know what my estate plan says!
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, then 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 [email protected].