What is Probate and Why does Everyone Try to Avoid it?
Probate is the legal process of settling a person’s estate. Probate requires a court appearance and can take many months to complete. When an estate is in the probate process, a personal representative (or executor) must be named to represent the estate. Sometimes a personal representative is named in a will, and sometimes the court must appoint one because no one is named or because the named representative is not able to serve. In California the process is expensive as attorneys and the personal representative are entitled to statutory fees.
Creditors Participate in Probate
In the probate process, all (known and unknown) creditors of the estate are given notice of the person’s death and given a limited amount of time to make a claim for the debts owed by the estate. Once the time limit has passed, estate assets may be distributed to beneficiaries free of any further claims by creditors.
Why Avoid Probate?
Probate can be avoided by proper estate planning. Probate typically delays beneficiaries getting their inheritance and can delay access to assets needed for funeral or burial expenses. Probate documents are public documents and can be accessed through the court system for many years to come. If an estate can avoid probate, the estate documents can remain private and estate assets may be immediately available to pay for funeral expenses or other immediate needs.
Getting Legal Help
An experienced estate planning attorney can help you prepare your estate to avoid probate and to protect your beneficiaries from the time and expense it can take.