California residents starting their estate plan have probably come across the term, “probate,” in their research. Many guides will talk about the importance of reducing time in probate court, however, it’s essential to completely understand the probate process.
What is probate?
Probate is the mandatory legal process that occurs after someone’s death. All the estate planning documents will be sent to probate court to determine how the deceased’s belongings should be distributed.
If the estate plan is updated and concise, the probate process can be very straightforward. If there are inconsistencies in the estate planning documents or no estate plan at all, then the process becomes more difficult.
Why people avoid probate
The probate process can take years to be finalized. During that time, family members and friends can’t take ownership of any part of the deceased’s estate.
This can be a huge problem if families are depending on the contents of that estate to settle debt, start funeral planning or cover the cost of their necessities. Even under the best circumstances, your family may have to wait months before they see any inheritance. It might be decades if it is a large estate with no will or other estate plan in place.
In addition, the probate court is all public record. This means anyone who makes a records request has access to the estate.
Probate can be costly
There are several fees that go into probate court. Your family will be expected to:
- Pay an executor to handle your estate during the probate process
- Pay attorney costs and other court fees
- Pay for any additional services, like appraisers or accountants
All this combined can make probate seem scary. While intimidating, it’s not hard to navigate the probate process with a detailed estate plan, significant patience and professional help.