Distributing assets after a person passes away can be a painful, emotional process. Often, loved ones find themselves confronted with legal motions, financial obligations and difficult decisions, all in the wake of a devastating loss.
Considering this scenario, avoiding the probate process can be a considerable relief for a number of reasons.
- It can get contentious. Family conflicts can rise to the surface during a stressful event like probate. Old resentments can come back; disputes involving estranged family members can cause problems; people can have vastly different opinions on how to settle someone’s affairs. Because of the personal stakes involved, people can fight. They can take their anger out on each other and ultimately draw the process out and risk severing ties with each other.
- It can draw public attention. Avoiding probate can mean keeping details of your life, family and assets private. Probate is a public process, and it may invite scrutiny, especially when a person was famous or wealthy. For example, recently, the daughter of the founder of Boar’s Head passed away. Since her death, the two families who control the deli meat company have been embroiled in a public dispute. The primary argument centers on what to do with her share of the company. When a family business, millions of dollars and a legacy are on the line, public interest in the case can increase significantly.
- It can be expensive. The legal process can drain a not-insignificant amount from the estate. The longer it drags on, the more expensive probate can be. Court fees, executor fees, shipping personal property, and the cost of valuations and appraisals all require money that may have otherwise gone to beneficiaries.
Avoiding probate may not be your primary goal when you create an estate plan, but it can be an important one. Talking to an attorney about the strategies you can utilize to accomplish this can be wise.
Remember that an estate plan does not just protect your wishes and assets; it can also shield your loved ones from avoidably complicated and stressful situations, making it easier for them to cope and recover from a loss.