The probate process is something that is often misunderstood and feared by families in the United States. In reality, it plays an important role. It helps ensure that the desires of the deceased are honored, debts are paid, and that minor children are properly cared for. It can also help reduce the fighting that often rears its ugly head between family members during a truly difficult time. In this post, we’re going to look at X ways that you can make the probate process easier on your family by preparing your estate and your family for the process. This is crucial because we never truly know what could happen in the blink of an eye.
The Probate Process Is Tedious
Despite the fact that probate is meant to sort out details of an estate, it is a time consuming process. It’s tedious. It involves a lot of paperwork. This is why many people hire a probate attorney to help them get through the process. Of course, the issue with hiring a probate lawyer is the expense associated with doing so. Depending on the size of the estate and the financial well-being of the executor or administrator, hiring a lawyer may not be feasible.
The probate process can cake as little as a year, but many estates take much longer to close out. All of the property must first be catalogued. Sometimes, this requires bringing in experts to provide the value of certain assets. Creditors and heirs must be notified of the death. Creditors are also given a certain amount of time to file a claim. Property and financial disputes must be settled. Assets may need to be sold to pay off debts or taxes. The remaining assets must be distributed. Minor children must have a guardian named.
And in the midst of all of that? The executor or administrator (or their lawyer) must ensure that they provide certain reports to the probate court when they’re due. The good news is that there are some things that you can do now to make the probate process easier.
Minimize the property that is required to go through the probate process. Certain types of financial accounts (including retirement accounts and bank accounts) can avoid probate if you take the time to talk with someone from the financial institution and name a beneficiary. This person will be given access to your accounts when you die. Just ask for a beneficiary form. Consider placing certain assets in a trust. Many types of trust aren’t required to go through probate.
Consider just naming one person as your administrator or executor. While you’ll want to ensure that you designate a back-up just in case your named administrator or executor is unable or unwilling to serve, probate is generally much easier if you just name one person to handle the administration of your estate. This helps cut down on fighting, court delays if one of the administrators isn’t available, and the extra time and expense it could take to get the signatures needed to move forward.
Download (and use) an estates checklist. What is an estates checklist? It’s a form that ensures that you’ve completed all the necessary documents (such as a Last Will and Testament, a living will (or advanced healthcare directive, and power of attorney) to make the probate process faster and easier. You should also talk with an attorney to determine what you can or should do to minimize your tax burden and to protect your assets so that they can be passed on to your heirs.
Prepay your final expenses. While this doesn’t have much to do with the probate process, it still makes the time after your death easier on your family. Your final expenses are already taken care of and your family won’t have to worry about selling assets or using life insurance proceeds to ensure that your final wishes are honored.
Use ProbateSimple. If you’re in California, and you’ve recently lost a loved one, ProbateSimple can help you get through the probate process in a way that is affordable, convenient, and faster than doing it on your own. We provide free case evaluations that can be completed in five minutes or less. Just click here to get started.