Probate: Understanding the Process
Probate is essentially a lawsuit filed in court after you pass away. In Latin, the word "probate" means "proving the Will." Simply stated, it is the legal process of settling your estate under the jurisdiction of the Probate Court.
Upon your death, your Will is admitted to the Probate Court, and becomes a public document. Your property is gathered and inventoried, your debts are paid, and everything left over is divided among your heirs. While your personal representative is responsible for "probating" your Will, the process is generally controlled by the court and probate attorneys.
Certain delays are built into the probate process. It can be cumbersome, time-consuming, expensive, and distressing during a family's time of anguish and exposure. As a result, many individuals desire to avoid this process.
Yes. Probate can be avoided with careful planning. There are several techniques available that enable your estate to avoid the time, expense, and public nature of a probate. But the most comprehensive and streamlined way to avoid probate is by placing your assets in a carefully drafted Revocable Living Trust, because trust assets, in most situations, can be distributed to beneficiaries almost immediately after the death of the trust-maker (i.e., grantor).