The much maligned, and rightly so, probate process occurs after death. Probate is the court supervised process of authenticating the will, gathering assets, paying bills, filing taxes, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. Any assets owned in your individual name or made payable to your estate will go through probate.
If you own assets in the name of your trust or other contract (life insurance, annuity, retirement account) – or – as joint tenants with right of survivorship, those assets will bypass the probate process.
Why avoid probate? Probate can be expensive, time-consuming, and public. Shocking to many of our clients, it’s actually less expensive to pay for trust planning and life-long maintenance than to pay for a cheap will and go through probate. It’s faster too – and much more private.
Many people don’t realize that probate takes months and sometimes years to meander through the courts. They certainly don’t realize that their assets, debts, beneficiaries, and beneficiary contact information will be listed at the courthouse for all to see. Unfortunately, probate is a public process that invites predators to flock in.
Our clients tend to want to keep their family and financial affairs private after their death just as they have done during their lifetime. We help clients meet these goals with trust planning and probate avoidance.
Of course, on occasion, an estate is so simple or small that probate is easy and a trust isn’t needed. And, sometimes, if creditors are an issue, we open an empty probate just to cut off creditor claims. You don’t have to worry about that. Littleton Legal PLLC helps clients like you determine the best estate planning path for them. It’s never a one-size-fits-all situation.