When you create your estate plan, you will probably focus on more than one goal. Deciding how you want your property and other assets distributed after you are gone may be your primary focus; however, you may also want to include probate avoidance as one of your secondary goals as well. A Murfreesboro estate planning attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains why you should worry about avoiding probate when you create your estate plan.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process that is used to administer your estate after your death. If you left behind a Last Will and Testament, that Will must be authenticated by the probate court. If someone challenges your Will, your estate could become involved in litigation. During probate, your probate assets must be identified and inventoried. Potential creditors of your estate are also notified and given the chance to file claims against your estate. Approved claims must be paid along with any taxes due. At the end of the probate process, any assets that are left are distributed to the designated beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of your estate.
If you executed a Will prior to your death, the person you named as your Executor in that document oversees the probate of your estate. If you did not leave behind a Will, someone will have to be appointed as the Administrator of your estate and will oversee the probate process.
Why Should My Estate Avoid Probate?
Your estate plan should be tailored to fit your unique needs and goals by working closely with your estate planning attorney. There are, however, some common goals that are likely to be part of your estate plan. Probate avoidance is one of those. There are several reasons why you might want your estate to avoid probate, including:
- The time it takes to probate an estate. For most people, the point of creating an estate plan is to make sure that their loved ones are provided for in their absence. Probate, however, can significantly slow down the process of transferring assets after your death because probate assets cannot be distributed to the beneficiaries until the end of the process. In Tennessee, creditors can have up to 12 months to file claims against an estate. Both valid claims and any taxes due must be paid before probate can be concluded. That means that your loved ones may have to wait for over a year to receive the assets you left for them if those assets have to go through probate.
- The cost of probate. Probate can also be costly. Along with court fees and costs, everyone involved in the process is entitled to a fee, including the Executor/Administrator, the probate attorney who represents the estate, appraisers needed to value assets, and the accountant who handles the tax returns. Probate expenses are paid out of the estate which can dramatically diminish the value of the assets that end up being passed down.
- Privacy is important to you. For some people, the biggest incentive to avoid probate is the fact that probate is a very public process. Once your Will is admitted to probate, it becomes a public record. As such, anyone can find out how you distributed your estate assets. If privacy is important to you, probate avoidance strategies should be part of your estate plan.
How Can My Estate Avoid Probate?
The good news is that there are many estate planning tactics that can help your estate to avoid probate. For example, some assets are considered non-probate assets because they are not legally required to go through probate. Converting as many assets as possible to non-probate assets goes a long way toward avoiding probate. Talk to your estate planning attorney about adding probate avoidance as a goal within your estate plan.
Contact a Murfreesboro Estate Planning Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding probate avoidance, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro estate planning attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.