There are lots of myths, misconceptions, and bits of misinformation out there about probate. In fact, you might say it’s one of the most misunderstood legal processes out there. Unfortunately, believing false information leads many people to make estate planning mistakes like leaving their assets unprotected. In today’s blog post, we’re busting some of the most prevalent probate myths so that you will have the information you need to make the right estate planning decisions for yourself and your loved ones.
Myth #1: If you have a will, your estate won’t go through probate.
A will does not make it possible to avoid probate all together. For instance, when the judge validates a will, that is considered part of the probate process.
We think this myth stems from confusion about the difference between wills and trusts. Unlike wills, living trusts can sometimes help assets bypass probate. Everything is the trust immediately becomes the responsibility of the successor trustee when the original trustee dies.
Proper estate planning can help you keep some assets out of probate, but just a will certainly won’t make it possible to bypass it all together.
Myth #2: Probate never leaves any money left over.
It’s reasonable to be wary of the high costs associated with probate. However, assets that pass through probate will by no means always be completely drained. With proper planning, assets can pass through probate with minimal fees and expenses. Disputes in probate, however, do tend to become very expensive very quickly.
Myth #3: Probate always takes years.
There are certainly cases where people die without any estate plan in places and their assets get tied up in probate for years. However, it is more typical that probate will take just a handful of months. Larger estates take longer, as do complicated debts and family disputes. With good estate administration guidance from an attorney, the probate process doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out nightmare.
Myth #4: The oldest child is always the executor/personal representative.
Not true! The role of your executor or personal representative can be played by anyone you name as long as they are willing. While people often choose their oldest child, this is certainly not a requirement. You can choose another child, another relative, a friend, a distant relative, or even your CPA, your bank, or a trust company.
Estate planning is challenging and you need to understand the probate-related repercussions of each decision you make. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney. The Pence Law Firm, P.C. team is here to help. Contact us today if you need guidance regarding probate, estate administration, or estate planning.