Almost no one likes to go through probate. It is expensive, time-consuming, and publicly exposes a person’s finances to the world at large. What is probate, and why should it be avoided?
Probate is a legal process supervised by the court which may be initiated after a person has died. The purposes of it are to (1) identify a deceased person’s assets, debts and beneficiaries, (2) ensure proper payment of debts, and (3) distribute assets to the beneficiaries. People hate this process for several reasons. For example, probate can be very expensive (ex: a home worth $500,000 can generate $26,000 in probate fees). In addition, probate often requires a substantial amount of paperwork and accountings which must be filed with the court. Not only does the paperwork take a long time for the court to process (anywhere from several months to years), but the paperwork which identifies assets, debts and beneficiaries is also a matter of public record.
Having a trust is the best way to avoid the probate process. A trust is private – there is no required exposure to the public about what the person owns, how much money they owe, or who their beneficiaries are. Setting up a trust and administering it generally take far less time (and headache) than a probate. Finally, the cost to have an attorney prepare a trust is a fraction of the cost of probate.
For more information on setting up a trust, to evaluate an existing trust, or make changes to an existing trust, please contact attorney Lorilee DeSantis at (707) 542-2889 or our contact form.