3 Dangers of Probate You Should Know
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
September 6, 2021
When considering estate planning, you’ll hear a lot of talk about “avoiding probate.” But what is probate, and what are the dangers of probate you should know? Probate refers to the legal process through which a deceased person’s affairs are settled. It involves paying off your debts and distributing your estate to your heirs.
Generally after a person dies, his or her family will need to go through the probate process to formally appoint guardians of minor children, effectuate burial wishes and obtain the possessions that were left behind. This includes houses to vehicles to bank accounts to personal possessions.
But when individuals fail to plan their estates properly, it can have drastic consequences for their heirs in the probate courts. Not creating an estate plan leaves your possessions vulnerable. It can also mean your family will have to go through a potentially long, complicated, and expensive process to recover your assets. And that’s if they can recover them at all.
Here are three dangers of probate that can happen without a strong estate plan.
Disagreements in Court
If you have particularly valuable or desirable assets in your estate, your heirs may argue over who receives those assets in probate court. Probate can bring out the worst in people, especially since many people are still in mourning when they begin the process.
Family arguments over who deserves what from your estate can create long-lasting conflict among your heirs. But by planning your estate carefully and making your wishes known to your heirs, you can sidestep these dangers of probate. In fact, with careful planning, addressing these issues during life can avoid them entirely.
You may worry that the cost of hiring an estate planning attorney is prohibitive, but in the long run, a clear, thorough plan is a much less expensive process than going through the probate courts. One thing that many people fail to consider is that their family will have to hire an attorney for the duration of probate. And this is in addition to paying the numerous court fees associated with the process. Probate is typically many times the cost of an estate plan.
As a result, probate can be a frustrating drain on your estate, taking up to a percentage of the value of your total assets. It is far less costly to plan ahead and spare your family this expense.
An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to help you reduce the amount of money that your family has to spend in probate court.
One of the biggest inconveniences of probate court is the length of the proceedings. Any kind of legal proceeding will be drawn out and complicated. But probate can be especially complex and long-lasting.
First, the probate courts must identify and record all of your assets and identify and notify creditors. Then they may have to liquidate some of those assets to satisfy any creditor claims. If there are any conflicts, the courts will have to settle them before your estate can be distributed.
Each of these individual steps can take months. The typical amount of time that heirs spend in a simple probate administration is roughly 8 months. And it is possible that your family will have to wait even longer to recover your property.
Avoiding the Dangers of Probate
To spare your family the headache and hassle of the probate process, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney today to learn what options are available to you. The dangers of probate include a crunch of time and money on your estate so plan ahead and get started now.
Originally published 02/16/2020. Updated 09/06/2021.
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