Basics of the Probate Process
The legal process of approving and validating a deceased person’s will is called probate. The court will appoint an executor of the estate as part of this process and their job is to distribute and administer estate assets as needed. Debts that need to be paid, assets that need distributing, and heirs that need location all fall under the description of duties of an executor. If no will is left behind, then the court has more control over those duties.
What Goes through the Probate Process?
Assets that Go Through Probate
- The assets listed in the will
- The assets that are left without a will detailing heirs and directions for asset distribution.
Assets that Avoid Probate
- Property jointly owned is given to the other owner
- A living trust that names heirs
- Financial accounts left to named beneficiaries.
The Downside of Probate
Sometimes probate is necessary, but it is not often desired. There are a few reasons families wish to avoid the probate process:
- Probate cases are public records. The public can access all the documents and information from the probate process.
- The process can be expensive and the estate contributes to the payment of the court for the process, the lawyers representing family members require payment, and other unexpected costs arise.
- It is slow! It can take up to six months or more to go through the entire process.
- All assets are unavailable to heirs while the will is in probate.
Engage in Proper Estate Planning to Reduce Probate
Planning your estate details ahead of time is the best thing you can do for your family when you pass on. It can be a major setback for your family if they are left without a will or with one that is incomplete or unclear. Hiring an estate planning attorney can help you with organization and give you tips on how to avoid a lengthy and expensive probate process. They can help you with strategies that you may have never thought of, such as:
- Establish joint ownership over your property so you can leave it to the person of your choice rather than allowing the court to decide for you.
- Make sure all your financial accounts have designated beneficiaries, especially if you have close family and they are not the ones you intend it for. Typically accounts will go straight to the spouse or children unless directed otherwise.
- A revocable living trust is super useful because you can revise it as needed.
Call an experienced Scottsdale AZ probate lawyer and plan properly for the future. They can help you plan and organize properly and ensure your family does not get pushed into a painful probate process.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys for their insight into probate.