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It is a common mistake to think that a will avoids probate.  Why is probate so bad?  Three words: time, money, and publicity.  And, if you have young children, you’ve probably left them unprepared and unprotected as well.

Probate is Expensive

Even a relatively small estate can face thousands in court costs, attorney fees and other fees.  An estate with a modest home valued at $300,000 can anticipate attorney and executor fees of $18,000 or more.  Court fees, probate referee fees and other fees are additional costs that the family may have to front while waiting for the court to distribute the estate.

If the heirs are trying to deal with real estate many people don’t realize the additional difficulty of selling a house inside probate.  It’s a different type of listing, and some agents won’t deal with it either because of unfamiliarity with the process, or because they are familiar and don’t want to deal with the headache.  If you wait until after probate distributes the house to the children, you will likely have multiple owners, always an additional headache to coordinate the sale, even if everyone works together well.

Probate is Slow

The court is required to go through certain processes before your children can receive their inheritance.  Those processes include things like notification of creditors by publication, and waiting months to see if there is any response.  Perhaps in 1940 you could reasonably expect people to pay attention to such publications, but it seems quite a stretch in today’s 24/7/365 internet world that we need months to find out who the creditors are.  Then there is the underfunded courts facing increasing workloads.  Your children should consider themselves lucky if they receive their inheritance in under twelve months.

Probate is Public

Maybe you want the court “babysitting” your family, but did you consider that anyone can pull the court records to find out exactly what your children are inheriting?  Are you comfortable publicizing your financial information for the world to see?  That is how probate works – it’s a public process, and the final accounting will detail exactly how much each beneficiary will receive.  It’s a scammer’s treasure trove.

Probate is A Disaster for Young Children

An unplanned estate leaving funds to young children is bad news.  The court is forced to supervise the use of the funds until the child turns 18, dramatically limiting the access to the funds.  Then, after the child reaches age 18 and is legally an adult, the entire account is turned over to their control.

Don’t fall for the mistake of thinking a will avoids probate.  A will must go through probate.  You can avoid probate with a properly maintained living trust.

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