The most common advice you may hear about probate is to do everything you can to avoid it. So what is this terrible process that so many dread after a loved one dies? Probate is the legal process of closing the estate of someone who has died and transferring ownership of the estate’s assets to someone else. If the deceased left a will, it is usually easy to determine where the assets will go. If there is no will, it can be more complicated.
Some factors can also complicate probate, making it an unhappy experience for all involved. For example, if someone objects to the will, claiming an invalid execution or that the deceased did not have the mental capacity to execute it, probate may become ugly and leave permanent scars on a Texas family. In most cases, however, the process goes smoothly, but it is still better to avoid probate if possible.
The top two criticisms
Time and money are the chief complaints about probate. Even with a simple estate and a valid will, probate may take several months to a year to complete. During this time, you and the other heirs may be waiting for your inheritance and anxious to get on with your lives. You may have to wait to wrap up loose ends, such as clearing out and selling the house. If you are the executor of the estate, probate can be even more tedious and time-consuming.
Money is another drawback to probate. Estate funds pay fees to the attorneys, advisors and executor, which means the expenses come out of your inheritance. Even if you are the executor and receive a fee for your service, it is not likely to compensate you fairly for the time, effort and personal risk you may bring to the job.
Once someone has died, there is not much that surviving loved ones can do to avoid probate. Heirs to the estate usually have to wait it out and cooperate in any way they can. However, it is never too early to plan one’s estate to minimize the impact of probate on their loved ones and the value of the estate’s assets.
To spare your loved ones the burden of a long and costly probate, it is wise to build an effective estate plan, including trusts and other tools that may cause some assets to bypass probate. It is also a generous move if your estate plan includes a fair amount of compensation for your chosen estate executor.