What is Probate?

Probate is a time-consuming process that requires:

  • Notifying the Court of the deceased person’s death.
  • An inventory of the deceased person’s property and appraising its value
  • Paying the deceased person’s debts and taxes
  • Providing the Court with the validity of the deceased person’s Last Will and Testament
  • Waiting to distribute the remainder of the deceased person’s property

This process does not change when a person dies without a Last Will and Testament, or “intestate.” For when one dies with no Will, the same probate process must occur according to your State’s “intestate succession” rules. Thus, when there is no Will stating your final wishes, then the court must decide who gets your stuff by applying the rules of intestate succession, or distributing your assets to your family according to state law.

Probate is Expensive

Probate is a long expensive process that simply does not have to occur. The death of a family member is a difficult time and the family should not have to be forced to endure the unnecessary agony of probate.

Probate will require a “personal representative” and an “attorney.” The personal representative is also sometimes referred to as the “executor.” In probate, both the personal representative and the attorney are entitled to substantial fees for their services.

The personal representative is responsible for making sure the wishes of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament are carried out. The personal representative often hires an attorney to handle the necessary paperwork.

Personal representatives and attorneys are allowed to charge “reasonable fees” for their services. Typically, where an estate has a gross value of $400,000., attorney fees will run in the area of $12,000. but could go much higher. These fees are paid out of the deceased person’s estate before any proceeds are distributed to the decedent’s family.

Also, additional fees, besides the attorney’s, incur with the probate including court costs, filing fees, appraisers’ fees, ect.

Most people seem to agree that probate is something to be avoided and a Living Trust can accomplish that goal.

Source: We The People’s Guide to Estate
Planning, Ira & Linda Distenfield, 2005, John Wiley &
Sons, Inc.