When a person dies, the will may have to go through probate court to establish validity and proper distribution of assets. The length and cost of the process usually give it a bad name, encouraging people to avoid it.
However, probate is not always a bad option. It can be a good thing for many reasons besides obvious ones such as the lack of a will, so discuss with your attorney if probate makes sense for your estate plans.
1. Establishing a standard of interpretation
You may think your will is clear, and if a lawyer helped you with it, it should be. Whether or not it is, contentious or disgruntled family members may challenge the meaning of certain terms in your will. Taking the matter to court to have a judge decide on the interpretation is easier and more legally binding than trying to get everyone to agree on a meaning. This ensures the following of your wishes.
2. Reducing personal liability
The fiduciary, or executor of your estate, holds many responsibilities and therefore has a higher risk of liability for errors. The probate process clarifies and supervises everything so that the fiduciary has no confusion over duties and is less likely to make costly mistakes. It also makes it easier to remove an incompetent executor.
3. Offering an alternative to trusts
Usually, people set up trusts to avoid probate, but this is not always the best choice. Trusts can actually be more expensive in the long run, especially when it comes to updating them. Neither can they protect all your assets. If you have a small estate, then you may not need a trust anyway, as most of your assets can escape probate and the rest will probably go through quickly.
4. Avoiding creditors
With probate, creditors have a time limit on when they can seek repayment. Without it, they can go after beneficiaries for years. If creditors do not take action soon enough, more money will go to your beneficiaries.