Probate. Some see it as a dreaded word, something to avoid at all costs. After all, going through court to sort out the distributions of assets sounds horrid. In some cases, it lives up to the reputation. But in others it works out just fine. With a little prep work and some patience, those who find themselves dealing with probate can increase the odds of an efficient process.
When does an estate go through probate?
Two main examples are estates that do not have an estate plan and those that only use a will. There are estate planning techniques that can reduce the odds of probate, like the use of a trust. However, even those that use a trust may have a need for probate if the trust fails to address the distribution of all applicable assets.
What can I do to make the process as efficient as possible?
Two tips that can help include:
- Put together an inventory. This should include all assets that make up the estate like real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, securities, vehicles, boats, and business interests. It is helpful to include life insurance policies as well, but keep in mind that some assets transfer on their own — outside of the probate process. These assets use a beneficiary designation to guide the transfer. Common examples include life insurance and payable on death bank accounts.
- Get organized. There is a lot of paperwork that goes with the probate process. Having it organized can cut down on the time it takes to keep the process moving. It helps to get multiple copies of the death certificate and have copies of the will if one is present.
With these steps, and if the beneficiaries are all on the same page, it is possible to navigate the probate process with less stress, potentially finishing in months instead of years.