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Probate: often a necessary step in resolving an estate

Many people shudder when they hear the word “probate” – which is the legal process of verifying your will by going through the courts. This process of settling your estate can be time-consuming, costly and rather awkward.

Realistically, though, your estate will more than likely have to go through the probate process. You will have to accept this situation similar to how you had to accept eating broccoli when you were a kid. A big key for surviving the probate process is to have a clear-cut, finely detailed will in place. This likely provides the best chance for your will to avoid hassles and additional expenses.

Some choose a living trust

Many people choose to go the revocable or “living” trust route. The main reason for choosing a living trust seems to be driven by people hoping to avoid probate fees. The expenses associated with probate include court costs; attorneys’ fees; and the fees of the executor or personal representative. A living trust allows a person to manage their estate and pass assets to beneficiaries while they are still alive.

A living trust may help you avoid the probate process regarding many facets of their estate, but not always everything. You still will need a will in order to leave property that isn’t covered by the trust. Other reasons you would need a will include naming an executor for your estate as well as a guardian for your children.

Typical steps in the probate process

The probate process really isn’t all that bad. It’s doable, and here’s what happens during probate:

  • Authenticating the will, which must be valid and signed by the decedent – the person who has died. The judge oversees this aspect.
  • Assembling the probate property of the decedent.
  • Determining the value of the decedent’s assets.
  • Appointing an executor or personal representative if one hasn’t been named in the will.
  • Paying the final bills and taxes owed by your estate.
  • Settling disputes, typically, among disgruntled heirs and beneficiaries.
  • Distributing the remaining estate to heirs and beneficiaries.

You need a will to control the disposition of your assets. By making these decisions in advance, you may minimize the grief and hassles that may be experienced by your surviving loved ones. Your heirs will have to accept the probate process if you have created a will. But things will work out in the long run.

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