While the primary goal of any estate plan is to determine who will receive your estate assets when you die, there are usually a number of secondary considerations that go into creating any estate plan. One of those goals is usually the avoidance of probate.
Probate is the legal process that most estates must go through when someone dies. During the probate process, your estate assets will be inventoried and valued, your estate and personal bills will be paid, and eventually the remaining assets will be transferred to the intended beneficiary or heir. In many states, there are simplified probate processes for small estates; however, even those can often take time and cost money. For a moderate to large estate, probate can take months, even years, to complete and can quickly diminish the value of the estate as the bills associated with probate add up.
While your estate is tied up in probate, assets are also tied up and unavailable to your loved ones in most cases. This can quickly become a problem if you left behind a family that must continue to pay the bills after your death. Between the time required to probate your estate and the costs involved, you have two very good reasons to create an estate plan that minimizes your estate’s exposure to probate. While you may not be able to completely avoid the probate process, there are numerous tools that can help you avoid it as much as possible, thereby freeing up assets in the short term and money in the long run for your loved ones.