Newman Law Group

How does probate affect an estate plan?

Hopefully, when a person dies he or she has left behind a set of instructions for the survivors to disburse and distribute the assets. Unfortunately, some individuals die intestate, or without a will, and those assets are distributed according to California state law and not according to the individual's wishes. The estates of those who take the step to create a last will and testament will go into probate, a process designed to establish that the will is true and accurate. Others use methods to try to avoid probate. By keeping in mind the fact that wills can enter into a lengthy and challenging court process, individuals planning their estates can take steps to make the process easier. 

Probate is the official proving of a will -- certifying in a court of law that the will of the decedent is the true last testament of that person. Experts recommend that everyone have a will, even if he or she intends to pass assets along using methods that can help one avoid the court process. A will can help set guidelines for property that was overlooked or acquired after the will was drafted. 

By placing assets into trust, a person can avoid the court process associated with proving a will. Other means to avoid this court process are to have beneficiary designations and payable-on-death documents for bank accounts. Of course, a person should consider changing his or her will after certain life events such as a marriage, death of a beneficiary or the birth of a child. 

Since life can be somewhat unpredictable, having a will in place can be a good protection for family members that allows them to hold onto the family assets. Probate extends the timeline for the transfer of assets in California, which can be disruptive for grieving family members. Individuals entering the estate planning process may wish to consult with an attorney more help with creating an estate plan that ensures a speedy and smooth transfer of assets. 

Source: gvnews.com, "Wills and Probate -- What Does it All Mean?", May 4, 2018

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