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What are some common issues with the probate process?

Despite what you might read online, you can't always avoid probate processes completely. You can, however, mitigate the negative issues related to probate with well-thought-out estate planning. Here's a look at some of the issues you can avoid by working with an estate planning professional.

First, probate can take a lot of time. If heirs dispute your will or argue among themselves, then it can take months or even years for assets to be distributed. Money you might have wanted to go toward someone's college education or other major life event might be released too late for that purpose. To avoid such issues, you might consider working with an estate lawyer to draft trusts or deploy tools such as life insurance, which can ensure assets are disbursed outside of probate.

The probate process is also usually public. Just look at some of the recent celebrity deaths and related probate processes. All of Prince's relatives are having what some might consider "dirty laundry" aired in the probate court as the court attempts to identify all potential heirs. You can keep some of your assets and related information private through trusts.

Finally, probate processes follow the law of the land, which does leave out some options for you. It's becoming more common for people to leave something to their pet, for example, or to provide for the care of their pet through estate planning. Courts will consider your pet as property and you can't legally change that. What you can do is create a trust where you establish guidelines for the care of your pet and appoint someone as the trustee who will take care of your pet.

Source: Money Crashers, "What Is Probate – Definition, Process & How to Avoid It," Kiara Ashanti, accessed Sep. 30, 2016

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